New Hope Notes
The Bit and The Bridle
Pastor Wayne Cordeiro
This summer, I was reading Psalm 32 and it led me to where I felt like the Lord was really touching my heart.
“I shall teach you and I shall instruct you in the ways to go.” This line struck a chord with me because I’d been saying to God that I needed to know His ways. Sometimes, His ways are different from mine, and if I don’t know His ways, I may summarily dismiss them because I am not used to them.
But, when I know God’s ways, I’ll be more able to cooperate with them.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.” (Psalm 32: 8-9 NIV)
The Lord was saying, “Don’t be always like a horse who needs a bit or a bridle otherwise they won’t obey.”
At the time, I was training an unbroken four-year-old horse. She’d only been ridden for about six months and was basically still brand new. I was working with her with halter and a rope when I realized that this was also what God was saying to me.
Both God and I were thinking, “I’m going to teach you through this rope” because the only way the horse understands is through the tug of the rope, and the movement of the rope plus the way I move my body.
After awhile, the goal is that I don’t have to pull on the rope. I just move a certain way and she moves because she knows if I had the rope, I’d be pulling it a certain way. If I just move my body in that direction, the horse will likewise move. Taking the rope off is what they call “liberty” in the horse world. I just walk and she just follows me.
Now there’s obedience and a relationship. It takes awhile, and I thought, “Wow, God does that with us!”
So, today I want to talk a little bit about the restraints of God – restraints that we sometimes fight against – and why he puts them on us.
God’s goal is not to keep the restraints on us; it’s His hope that one day we’ll find liberty and closeness with Him.
To tell you the truth, I don’t know if animals will be in Heaven. Some people tell me that horses will, because of Revelation 19 where it says that Jesus rode in on “a white horse.” It doesn’t say a Lear jet or even a motor cycle.
There’s also a great story about a preacher’s horse. He had to sell the horse because he was moving to another church. When he sold it a few days later, he wanted to instruct the new owner about the certain unique “cues” the horse was used to.
“To stop, you don’t say ‘whoa,’ you say ‘hallelujah.’ If you want him to go, you don’t say ‘giddy up,’ you say ‘praise the Lord.’”
Well, the new owner thinks this is crazy, but it is a preacher’s horse, so he got up on her for a test-ride and he says “giddy up.”
Nothing, not a movement.
“You’ve got to say ‘praise the Lord.’”
Well, he does so, and the horse takes off like a bolt of lightning. The new owner tries to slow the horse down by shouting “whoa, whoa,” but as he races past, the preacher calls out “don’t forget, you have to say ‘Hallelujah.’”
The horse stops immediately.
The new owner now thinks this is pretty cool, and he says “Praise the Lord” and off bolts the horse… right toward the edge of a cliff.
He starts saying “whoa, whoa,” and the thing keeps riding toward the edge of the cliff.
Finally, he remembers to say “hallelujah,” and he does so – with great gusto.
The horse stops at the edge of the cliff, and the man wipes his brow, looks around at how close he came to disaster and says “praise the Lord…”
Horses can teach us a lot. Here in Psalm 32, it tells us some very good lessons in the restraints of God.
You see, one of the primary training aids is the halter and a lead rope. It’s like a bit and bridle and it holds the horse in check when they have a mind to do something else – other than what they’re supposed to.
Now, horses can have temper tantrums, too, which is why a good rider will use a halter and a rope to guide them back. A horse can weigh around 1,200 pounds, most of which is sheer muscle, so you don’t want to stand in their way, or jump on them without any notice.
If you do, you might make the mistake of saying “praise the Lord” instead of saying “Hallelujah” and you end up meeting your maker shortly thereafter!
But the halter, although it’s a restraint, is not something to fight against. When the horse fights against it, he’s only going to wear himself out.
They say that the goal of the trainer is for the horse to give into pressure rather than push against it, and when he gives into that pressure, he will learn the lessons necessary so both horse and trainer can move forward.
I enjoy working with horses and watch closely how a horse responds in a round training pen. If he runs around with his head tilted up and away from me, I know he’s still resistant to my leading, but when he gives into it and lowers his head, I know he’s coming to understand and accept my leadership.
I also try to move their feet in different positions, if you can get his feet to move, instead of your own, you win. Soon after, he will begin to respond from within – from the heart.
Psalm 32 also tells us that God sometimes uses restraints like a bit or a bridle on us as well, and if we fight against them, we can lose our sense of closeness to Him.
Read again what the message says:
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. (Psalm 32: 8-9)
You have to understand that the goal of restraint is not to restrain the horse, but to somehow transfer the external choice of the trainer into the internal choice of the horse. The goal is to have your choice eventually becomes the horse’s choice. Otherwise, he may resist you all the way.
The result of that transfer - the trainer’s choice becoming the horse’s choice – is that this helps to birth a freedom; a mutual trust and a closeness that was never there before.
And, it all starts with a bit and a bridle, or a halter and a rope.
For example, this type of restraint can be witnessed in the making of a great pianist. You can see it in the life of the new musician. Later, you can see the liberty and freedom in the way a master pianist plays and their seamless transitions.
Of course, all this freedom and liberty in playing did not come from simply running their fingers up and down the ivories, making believe, like a child that they could play.
No, the true grand concert pianist’s freedom and fluidity came from endless hours of discipline – the discipline of playing scales. Their fluidity is the result of submitting to the rigidity of scales, one after another, over and over again.
And, then allowing their instructor’s wishes to become theirs. The teacher’s posture and the teacher’s movements become theirs. In fact, the instructor’s desire is to divest everything into the student.
At first, the teacher might appear strict and demanding in wanting fingers to be placed in exactly the right position, or wanting the scale to be measured but over time the external disciplines of the teacher – the restraint of remaining true to each scale – is converted or changed into a skill – an ability – where it becomes natural.
This releases a liberty. A freedom in motion is art and is what leads to the beauty of playing or interpreting compositions that delight each and every audience.
I remember learning that same lesson as a high school sprinter. It was back in the day when we had cinder tracks and old-school methods. In order to build up my muscles – or what the coach called my “quick twitch” muscles – he used a harness which is a restraint system. It was a special “vest” with a pulley system built into the back, and it was secured to a pole with ropes, so he could control the ropes and thus the speed of my run.
He’d stand at the starter’s block, pull the trigger of the gun and I would jackrabbit out of the blocks, cinders flying and my veins popping – but yet I was running at only one mile an hour because the coach was holding – or restraining me, and slowly letting the rope out until my thighs started to burn.
After covering a few yards – and getting covered in cinders and perspiration, he’d reel me back in, and we’d do it all over again.
These weren’t fun afternoons, but when I later asked about this type of restraint, he said it was done to build up sprinting muscles and my stamina, so that in the real race, not only would I start more quickly, I’d have the endurance to finish strong.
God knows what He is doing, because He knows what races you are about to run. When things don’t go quite your way, are you still able to finish the race? Or do you drop out because you haven’t built up the spiritual strength under the harness – under the restraints.
It all comes back to how well you accepted the bit and the bridle. You see, true liberty only comes after we are able to accept the bit and bridle of God, instead of fighting against them. How often, in our society, do we throw off all our restraints and we make up rational excuses such as “Well, if God didn’t want me to have sex with my girlfriend, he wouldn’t have given me this desire.”
And so we throw off any restraints and we go headlong into it, but that’s when things break down. Or we use excuses like “God wants me to be happy, so why should I listen to my boss or my parents when their requests don’t make me happy?”
We throw off the restraints of God and fall into a wild heart, which is never able to be tamed or submitted to God.
The Greek word for “obedience” is the word “hupakouo,” which means to come under or submit to, or willingly give in to. Obedience to God is simply understanding the ways and the language of God – that willing submission will lead to liberty.
We understand the ways of God and know that submission to God does not lead to slavery, but to closeness – not to distance, but a relationship of trust rather than distrust.
Have you given God permission to restrain unnecessary anger that wants to burst out but could damage relationships? What about the restraints that God puts on you with regards to your sexuality? Your morals? Do you throw them off, or do you submit to them?
What about in your thoughts? Remember, giving into or submitting to God’s restraint births freedom and liberty – not slavery and restriction.
The greatest restraint system in the world is the word of God. Now, remember, this is a gift to build our character, so that we’re able to finish strong.
As the Bible says,
Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and
training in righteousness…” (2 Timothy 3:16 NIV)
There’s a false gospel out there that says you can follow Jesus, but at the same time reject the Bible. You’ll hear people say, “Oh, we love Jesus,” but then they live lifestyles that are in total contradiction to the Word.
They say they love Christ, but they live immorally. We see it all around us, where Jesus is becoming a figurehead, or a symbol of peace and love, but He has no authority to restrain us, to coach us, to train us so that we will one day transform into His likeness. That’s false gospel – don’t buy that myth that you can follow Jesus while rejecting the Bible.
Instead, submit to His restraints because, when you do, it opens up closeness and a lifestyle of relationship – one for which Jesus died. It’s the restraints of God that will bring us to that point.
Don’t reject it, and don’t shake it off – instead allow it to come in. Then, closeness will begin.
Sometimes, it’s good to stop and inventory ourselves. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 13:5,“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?”
So here’s the question: How are you doing with the restraints of God? Remember, He might use a boss or a spouse, a pastor or a friend to check you but most often He uses His Word. If you’re able to understand that His restraints are for liberty and closeness, you won’t fight against them. Instead you’ll accept them, and when you do, it’ll be the beginning of a friendship and nearness, as well as a trust that will only come when you understand the ways and the restraints of God.
The restraints of God are like those put on a horse, and it is through restraint that God communicates to you via humility or submission – taking your flesh and putting it away.
We’re growing up in a society that’s telling us to throw off and get rid of our restraints. But if you do, you will never understand the ways of God, and how He communicates to you.
God is saying don’t run away from the restraints –give in to the restraints – understand the restraints. Submit to it, because one day, those restraints will come off and the likeness of the Master will be on the inside of you. You won’t need external restraints because you’ll have internal discipline and a heart that has been transformed into His likeness.
There’s something I’d like to say to parents: Sometimes our children decide to rebel against us and the restraints we have placed upon them. Say you don’t want to fight with the kids, so you take off the restraints and tell them they can do what they want.
Unfortunately, this develops a poor future for these children. The Bible says foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but discipline will remove it.
When we don’t use discipline, the results can be life-changing. That’s why we still have fifty-year-old people with a core of foolishness still in their hearts. They’re destroying families and futures – including their own.
The Bible says that those whom the Lord loves, he disciplines or restrains. But, if we give in to the desire to be popular, we drop the restraints and continue to develop generations of people who are unbridled in their lusts, in their sexual immorality, and you see that everywhere, and its destroying societies.
If we’re not careful, as leaders, especially with a Legislative session coming up, some may say “let them do whatever they want to” and these leaders could destroy the future of Hawaii because they don’t understand – and I want us to understand the restraints of God.
Recently, I flew to Oregon to resolve a problem at the New Hope Christian College. While there, I decided to ride one of my horses, Annie. I don’t normally use a saddle on her, but this day I decided to use an Australian saddle. Problem was, I can’t cinch those things up real well, so it was loose, and I forgot to take into account that Annie’s only been ridden for six months, so she still has a real attitude.
We went out in the field, where she was spooked in and around some trees and she turned on me, so I started pulling her back, but the saddle started to go to the side. I began riding her nearly sideways and I’m saying, “whoa, whoa” and then the whole saddle slid underneath and I hit the ground as she ran off. With the saddle now on her stomach, Annie was all scared and tangled up in the ropes of the bridle.
But – with her training – she listened to me when I let out a loud “whoa” and she came to a halt right there in the middle of this field. I was able to catch up with her, take off the saddle and unleash all of the ropes. Then I led her to the barn and fixed up several cuts on her leg.
I was happy that the hours and hours we’d spent training in the round pen meant something. When Annie was about to possibly seriously injure herself, she listened to my command. Something internalized in her made her stop and wait – she knew she needed help.
When we understand the restraints of God, we could be off and running in some direction, but God knows we need help. He’ll say “whoa,” and we’ll stop, even if we don’t know why.
But, when we don’t understand the ways of God, we won’t be able to understand the restraints of God – and we’ll keep running – even if it’s over the edge of a cliff.
Look back on this message and you’ll understand the restraints of God here, and when you give in to that, there will be a day when you’re running the wrong way and about to kill yourself and God will say “stop!” and you’ll stop and your whole future will be brighter, because you understood the restraints of God. And it wasn’t something to fight against, it was something that built trust in God so when He speaks, I listen because of the restraints of God.
Don’t get caught up in the society where they throw off restraints of God - not even if your buddies and friends are doing it. Be wise, understand the ways of God – and when you do - you’ll understand you’re not just people of Hawaii, you’re the people of God.
Let’s pray. Father, thank you for the restraints of God, and we ask for your forgiveness for the many times we have fought against it – and thrown off the restraints of God. But now, we understand the importance of it, because there’ll be times when we know we’re going to hurt ourselves and we need to hear your voice and trust you to come and release us from what would have damaged us.
Thank you for teaching that there’s lots of good restraints put on us, even now. Help us to not fight against them, but to submit to them, until we become just like You.
In Jesus’ name we pray.
· How are you doing with the restraints of God?
· Can you internalize his commands, instead of throwing them off?
· What challenges lay ahead of you that may prevent you going the distance in your marriage, your job, your ministry; your relationships with others.?