Our Daily Bread
I’d had the spot on my nose for the better part of a year when I went to the doctor about it. The biopsy results came back days later with words I didn’t want to hear: skin cancer. Though the cancer was operable and not life-threatening, it was a bitter pill to swallow.
God commanded Ezekiel to swallow a bitter pill—a scroll containing words of lament and woe (Ezekiel 2:10; 3:1–2). He was “to fill [his] stomach with it” and share the words with the people of Israel, whom God considered “obstinate and stubborn” (2:4). One would expect a scroll filled—front and back—with correction to taste like a bitter pill. Yet Ezekiel describes it being “as sweet as honey” in his mouth (3:3).
Ezekiel seems to have acquired a taste for God’s correction. Instead of viewing (tasting!) His rebuke as something to avoid, Ezekiel recognized that what is good for the soul is “sweet.” God instructs and corrects us with lovingkindness, helping us live in a way that honors and pleases Him.
Some truths are bitter pills to swallow while others taste sweet. If we remember how much God loves us, His truth will taste more like honey. His words are given to us for our good, providing wisdom and strength to forgive others, refrain from gossip, and bear up under mistreatment. Help us, Lord, to recognize your wisdom as the sweet counsel it truly is!
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” We all heard some variation of that question as children. Some of us continue to hear it as adults. The question is born in curiosity, and the specific answer is often heard as an indication of ambition. My answers morphed over the years, starting with a cowboy, then a truck driver, followed by a soldier, and I entered college set on becoming a doctor. However, I cannot recall one time that someone suggested or I consciously considered pursuing “a quiet life.”
Yet that is exactly what Paul told the believers in Thessalonica. First, he urged them to love one another and all of God’s family even more (1 Thessalonians 4:10). Then the apostle gave them a general admonishment that would cover whatever specific plow they put their hand to. “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life” (v. 11). Now what did Paul mean by that exactly? He clarified: “You should mind your own business and work with your hands” so outsiders respect you and you’re not a burden on anyone (vv. 11–12). We don’t want to discourage children from pursuing their giftedness or passions but maybe we could encourage them that whatever they choose to do, they do with a quiet spirit.
Considering the world we live in, the words ambitious and quiet couldn’t seem further apart. But the Scriptures are always relevant, so perhaps we should consider what it might look like to begin living quieter.
Samuel Mills and four of his friends often gathered together to pray for God to send people into the world to share the good news of Jesus. One August day in 1806, after returning from their prayer meeting, they got caught in a thunderstorm and took refuge in the shelter of a haystack. Their weekly prayer gathering then became known as the Haystack Prayer Meeting, which resulted in a global mission movement. Today the Haystack Prayer Monument stands at Williams College in Massachusetts as a reminder of what God can do in answer to prayer.
Our heavenly Father is delighted when His children approach Him with a common request. It’s like a family gathering where His children are united in purpose, sharing a common burden.
The apostle Paul acknowledges how God helped him through the prayers of others during a time of severe suffering: “He will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers” (2 Corinthians 1:10–11). God has chosen to use our prayers—especially our prayers together—to accomplish His work in our lives and in the world. No wonder the verse continues: “Then many will give thanks . . . [for the] answer to the prayers of many.”
Let’s pray together so we can also rejoice together in God’s goodness. Our loving Father is waiting for us to come to Him so He can work through us in ways that reach far beyond anything we could ever imagine.
When French villagers helped Jewish refugees hide from Nazis during World War II, some sang songs in the dense forest surrounding their town—letting the refugees know it was safe to come out from hiding. These brave townspeople of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon had answered the call of local pastor André Trocmé and his wife, Magda, to offer wartime refuge to Jews on their windswept plateau known as “La Montagne Protestante.” Their musical signal became just one feature of the villagers’ bravery that helped save up to 3,000 Jews from almost certain death.
In another dangerous time, David sang when his enemy Saul sent nighttime assassins to his house. His use of music wasn’t a signal; rather, it was his song of gratitude to God his refuge. David rejoiced, “I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble” (Psalm 59:16).
Such singing isn’t “whistling in the dark” during danger. Instead, David’s singing conveyed his trust in almighty God. “You, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely” (v. 17).
David’s praise, and the villagers’ singing in Le Chambon, offer an invitation to bless God today with our singing, making melody to Him despite worries. His loving presence will respond, strengthening our hearts.
Outside the Shibuya train station in Tokyo is a statue commemorating an Akita dog named Hachiko. Hachiko is remembered for unusual faithfulness to his owner, a university professor who commuted from the station daily. The dog accompanied him on his walk there in the morning and came back to meet him every afternoon just as his train arrived.
One day the professor didn’t return to the station; sadly, he’d died at work. But for the rest of his life—more than nine years—Hachiko showed up at the same time as the afternoon train. Day after day, regardless of weather, the dog waited faithfully for his master’s return.
When the apostle Paul wrote the Christians in Thessalonica, he commended them for their faithfulness, citing their “work produced by faith,” “labor prompted by love,” and “endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Thessalonians 1:2). Despite harsh opposition, they left their old ways “to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven” (vv. 9–10).
These early believers’ vital hope in their Savior and His love for them inspired them to see beyond their difficulties and to share their faith enthusiastically. They were assured there was nothing better than living for Jesus. How good it is to know that the same Holy Spirit who emboldened them (v. 5) still empowers us today to faithfully serve Jesus as we await His return.
In God’s Love Letters, Glenys Nellist invites children to interact with the Lord in a deeply personal way. These children’s books include a note from God with a space for the child’s name to be inserted after each Bible story. Personalizing scriptural truth helps her young readers understand that the Bible isn’t just a storybook. They are being taught that the Lord wants a relationship with them and that He speaks to His beloved children through the Scriptures.
I bought the book for my nephew and filled in the blanks in the beginning of every note from God. Delighted when he recognized his name, my nephew said, “God loves me too!” What a comfort to know the deeply and completely personal love of our loving Creator.
When God spoke to the Israelites directly through the prophet Isaiah, He called their attention to the heavens. The Lord affirmed that He controls “the starry host” (Isaiah 40:26), determines the stars’ individual value, and directs each one with love. He assured His people that He won’t forget or lose one star . . . or one beloved child that He’s sculpted with deliberate purpose and endless love.
As we celebrate our Almighty Lord’s intimate promises and proclamations of love within Scripture, we can fill in our names. We can trust and declare with childlike delight, “God loves me too!”
I once heard about a student taking a class in preaching at a prominent seminary. The student, a young man who was a bit full of himself, delivered his sermon with eloquence and evident passion. He sat down self-satisfied, and the professor paused a moment before responding. “That was a powerful sermon,” he said. “It was well-organized and moving. The only problem is that God was not the subject of a single one of your sentences.”
The professor highlighted a problem all of us struggle with at times: We can talk as if we’re the primary actor (emphasizing what we do, what we say) when in truth God is the primary actor in life. We often profess that God is somehow generally “in charge,” but we act as if all the outcomes depend on us.
The Scriptures insist that God is the true subject of our lives, the true force. Even our necessary acts of faith are done “in the name of the
So the pressure’s off. We don’t need to fret, compare, work with compulsive energy or feed our many anxieties. God is in charge. We need only trust and follow His lead in obedience.
After not seeing one another for a few months, my niece, her four-year-old daughter Kailyn, and I had a wonderful Saturday afternoon together. We enjoyed blowing bubbles outside, coloring in a princess coloring book, and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches together. When they got in the car to leave, Kailyn sweetly called out the opened window, “Don’t forget me, Auntie Anne.” I quickly walked toward the car and whispered, “I could never forget you. I promise I will see you soon.”
In Acts 1, the disciples watched as Jesus was “taken up before their very eyes” into the sky (v. 9). I wonder if they thought they might be forgotten by their Master or never see Him again. But He’d just promised to send His Spirit to live in them and empower them to handle the persecution that was to come (v. 8). And He’d taught them He was going away to prepare a place for them and would come back and take them to be with Him (John 14:3). Yet they must have wondered how long they would have to wait. Perhaps they wanted to say, “Don’t forget us, Jesus!”
For those of us who have put our faith in Jesus, He lives in us through the Holy Spirit. We still may wonder when He will come again and restore us and His creation fully. But it will happen—He won’t forget us. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:10–11).
My father-in-law turned seventy-eight recently, and during our family gathering to honor him, someone asked him, “What's the most important thing you’ve learned in your life so far?” His answer? “Hang in there.”
Hang in there. It might be tempting to dismiss those words as simplistic. But my father-in-law wasn’t promoting blind optimism or positive thinking. He spoke those words as someone who’d endured tough things in his eight decades. His determination to press on wasn't grounded in some vague hope that things might get better, but in Christ’s work in his life.
“Hanging in there”—the Bible calls it perseverance—isn’t possible through mere willpower. We persevere because God promised, over and over, that He is with us, that He will give us strength, and that He will accomplish His purposes in our lives. That’s the message He spoke to the Israelites through Isaiah: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
What does it take to “hang in there”? According to Isaiah, the foundation for hope is God’s character. Knowing God’s goodness allows us to release our grip on fear so we can cling to the Father and His promise that He will provide what we need each day: strength, help, and God’s comforting, empowering, and upholding presence.
As the story goes, in 1763, a young minister, traveling on a cliffside road in Somerset, England, ducked into a cave to escape the flashes of lightning and pounding rain. As he looked out at Cheddar Gorge, he pondered the gift of finding shelter and peace in God. Waiting there, he began to write a hymn, “Rock of Ages,” with its memorable opening lines: “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee.”
We don’t know if Augustus Toplady thought about Moses’s experience in the cleft of a rock while writing the hymn (Exodus 33:22), but perhaps he did. The Exodus account tells of Moses seeking God’s reassurance and God’s response. When Moses asked God to reveal His glory to him, God answered graciously, knowing that “no one may see me and live” (v. 20). He tucked Moses into the rocks when He passed by, letting Moses only see His back. And Moses knew that God was with him.
We can trust that just as God said to Moses, “My Presence will go with you” (v. 14), so too we can find refuge in Him. We may experience many storms in our lives, as did Moses and the English minister in the story, but when we cry out to Him, He will give us the peace of His presence.