Paul wrote: “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9 NIV).
Friend To Friend
It was hot. The traffic was heavy. I was young and distracted.
I was driving alone in the flow of traffic traveling to and from the North Carolina coast. I was in the group headed for home. The July traffic was bumper to bumper with everyone going faster than the posted speed limit. I had other things on my mind besides maneuvering in traffic and was paying little attention to the cars around me.
Traveling sixty miles per hour in my sporty two-tone Pontiac Sunbird, I felt my front right tire slip off of the asphalt and onto the gravel shoulder of the road. In a flood of panic, I heard the voice of my Driver’s Ed teacher from four years before, “If you run off the road, do not, and I repeat, do not jerk you car back on the road. Slow down to a stop and guide the car back onto the road gently.”
My mind knew the rule. I was even repeating, “Do not jerk the car. Do not jerk the car.” Then I promptly… jerked the car. I pulled the steering wheel to the left, jerked the car onto the road, and lost control. First the Sunbird flew across two lanes of traffic to the left and then, after overcorrecting again, she flew back off the road to the right. As if in slow motion, my car began a descent down an embankment. The weight of the car became unbalanced and began to roll. As the car somersaulted down the embankment, my body tossed and tumbled like a rag doll, bouncing around the car’s interior. I did not have on a seatbelt. When the car landed upside down at the bottom of the embankment, I was sitting on the ceiling of the passenger’s side.
Travelers watched with mouths aghast as the scenario played out before them. You can imagine how amazed they were to see me crawl out of the car’s opened window without a scratch. I knew, without a doubt, that I should not have lived through that accident. It was only by the grace of God that I survived.
Thinking back on that event, I am reminded how powerful reflexes are. When the car veered off the road, I knew what to do, but I did the opposite. I knew not to jerk the steering wheel, but I did it regardless.
When it comes to changing the way we speak, we may have some very powerful reflexes to overcome. The Bible tells us that when we come to Christ, we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). However, no one pushes the delete button to erase the old habits patterns that have been formed over time. That comes with practice, training and reprogramming.
I want to encourage you not to get discouraged if you make a mistake and use your words in a negative way from time to time. Satan would like nothing better than for you to simply give up on using your words for good. But even Jesus knew that sometimes a temple has to be cleaned out more than once.
Shortly after Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding of Canaan, he traveled to Capernaum with his mother, brothers, and disciples. It was almost time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went up to Jerusalem to worship. As he approached the temple, Jesus heard the bleating of sheep, smelled the stench of the cattle, and saw the gypsy-like haggling and exchanging of coins. The temple had become a free-for-all rather than a house of prayer.
“So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and over-turned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!'” (John 2:15-16)
Yes, Jesus cleaned out the temple that day, but it wasn’t long before the money changers began to creep back in with their wares. I imagine it all began with one man setting up his table. Then another and another until the carnival-type atmosphere once again polluted God’s house.
This incident recorded in John chapter two occurred at the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. But we see a similar scene toward the end. It was just a few days before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. He rode into town on a donkey as the crowd spread their cloaks on the road. “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” they shouted as Jesus passed by.
Once Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, He headed straight for the temple area to worship. Once again He was met with the mayhem and stench of the money changers and the animals they sold for temple sacrifices. As He had done three years prior, Jesus began driving out the money changers with their doves, sheep, and cattle scampering behind. “My house will be a house of prayer” Jesus proclaimed, “but you have made it a den of robbers!”
In the New Testament, God calls us temples of the living God (1 Corinthians 3:16). Just as Jesus cleaned the temple at the beginning and the end of his earthly ministry, so we may need to clean out our temples many times. Yes, we make a clean sweep of the sin in our lives on the day we accept Jesus as our Savior, but eventually, those bad habits tend to creep back in if the temple is left unattended. So check up on yourself often. Pay attention to your words and determine if you need a spring cleaning to keep the temple pure.
Psychologists tell us that it takes twenty-one days to establish a new habit. Here’s an idea, for twenty-one days, put five pennies in your left pocket. Each time you say an encouraging word to someone, move a penny to the right pocket. Make it your goal to move all the pennies from the left to the right and deposit encouraging words to those you come in contact with each day. You’ll be doing more than moving pennies. You’ll be investing in another’s soul.
James wrote, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless” (James 1:26). Although James uses the analogy of a horse when teaching on the tongue, he’s not horsing around when it comes to the impact it has on those around us. Let’s reign in our words and gallop on down the path to changing the way we speak.
Dear Heavenly Father, I know it will take practice for me to tame my tongue. And while James said it is impossible for man to tame the tongue, Your word also tells us that nothing is impossible for God. So today, God, I’m asking You to tame my tongue. I commit to participate and practice, as You provide the power.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Go back and read today’s truth. What did Paul tell us to do?
What is the result of practicing what the Bible teaches?
The verses that precede Philippians 4:9 are some of my favorite. Pull out your Bible and look up Philippians 4:8 and use this as a guide to what you think about today.
Today’s devotion is taken from Sharon’s book, . If you would like to learn more about how to tame the tongue and use your words to speak life into those around you, this is the book for you. It also comes with a companion Bible study guide to use in a group or just on your own.