The Power of Words

The Power of Words

When you’re sick and you visit the doctor, what’s the first thing he nearly always says?

“Let me see your tongue.”

It seems like a doctor is able to tell what’s wrong with you just by looking at your tongue, doesn’t it?

This is also true in a spiritual sense. Your tongue has the ability to spread poison throughout your life, and it can infect everyone around you.

That’s why James gives a solemn warning about the tongue: It is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. (James 3:6 NLT)

It doesn’t have to be that way. There’s a way to prevent — and sometimes reverse — the damage.

Instead of speaking words that belittle, you can make an effort to speak words that bless.

Instead of using words that hurt, you can offer words that heal.

Instead of resorting to criticism, you can aim for encouragement.

And when you miss the mark on any of these, you can say, “I’m sorry.”

The tongue is powerful, not only in its ability to wreak havoc, but in its ability to build up others in every conversation. And in the process, it has the power to create lasting change.

Those who control their tongues can also control themselves in every other way (James 3:3 NLT)

What if, today, we made it our objective to speak words of hope, healing and encouragement in every conversation?

1 Thessalonians 5:11

The Empowering Truth

God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah:

“…if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman.” (Jeremiah 15:19)

I could write 52 weeks a year about how weighty God considers our words, because it’s a truth encountered again and again throughout the Bible. You see it in the Psalms and the Proverbs, in the prophets and the epistles, and certainly in the gospels. What you say matters.

With every conversation, with every communication, we are called to speak Worthy Words … words that contain the empowering truth — truth based on faith in his promises.

Our tendency, all too often, is to drone on and on about the badness of a particular problem, how everything is coming undone, how nothing is getting better … and woe is me, because it’s not my fault.

Do you know what such talk can be called?

Worthless words. It’s speech that has no value at all.

We must remember that we are called to speak more than merely the partial truth. We are called to speak the empowering truth.

There’s a difference between the two.

The partial truth may be that this or that situation is a mess. Of course, anyone can see it and anyone can say it. The empowering truth, however, is that God can turn this mess into a masterpiece.

The partial truth may be that someone you know has made a myriad of mistakes, and now they are paying the price. The empowering truth is that God can restore their life, just as he has restored your life, and he can redeem any situation — because his great is greater than our sin.

Speaking the empowering truth means more than merely analyzing the way things are. It means that, through faith, we  proclaim what God can do.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)

Conversations (and sermons) that build others up and benefit those who listen — these are the worthy words that God spoke about to Jeremiah.

And when you fill your conversation with worthy words, his promise applies to you, too: “You will be my spokesman.”

If you have developed a pattern of speaking only what you feel, and saying only what your cynicism allows you to see … now is a good time to break the habit and start speaking words of faith.

It’s not that you’ll never call a situation dire, because dire happens, as we all know. It’s that you’ll learn to say: “This situation may not be good, but I know that God has the power to turn it around. He will change me, he will change you, he will change this circumstance, so that we will experience his glory in a new way.”

Is there someone you know … someone you care about deeply … who needs to hear the empowering truth today?

Philippians 1

Things We Ought to Say

Several years ago I heard someone ask: “If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say?

… And why are you waiting?”

In the movie Love Actually, Hugh Grant’s character makes the observation, “When the planes hit the twin towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge. They were all messages of love.”

Many of us spend too much time thinking of things we’d like to say — how we would like to tell that person what we really think, how he/she needs to get his/her life in order.

Or we think of things we wished we’d said — I always think of a snappy comeback about a month after the fact, but that doesn’t prevent me from rehearsing it a time or two, you know, for future reference.

Instead, we should be thinking of things we ought to say — such as: “I love you … I thank God for you … You’re special to me … You make a difference in my life … I appreciate you.”

The first chapter of Philippians gives us a good example to follow. As Paul was facing what could have been his final days, he made it a point to share his heart with his friends…

(1:3) Every time I think of you, I give thanks to God for you.

(1:4) I always pray for you and I make my requests with a heart full of joy.

(1:7) It is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a very special place in my heart.

The odds are that today isn’t your last day on planet earth. But don’t use that as an excuse to put off saying that most important thing to one who needs to hear it.

Refreshing Others

Three verses in Proverbs 11 address what has been called The Law of the Harvest (i.e. you reap what you sow).

• When you’re kind to others, you benefit yourself. (11:17)

• When you give freely, you gain even more. (11: 24)

• When you refresh others, you yourself are refreshed. (11: 25)

Conversely, Proverbs says that cruelty leads to trouble, and stinginess leads to poverty.

There’s no question that God wants to bless us; the Bible is full of such promises. But, first, God wants us to learn to give. That’s the key to the harvest: you give first, receive later.

Let’s forget for a moment how this may or may not apply to our finances, and think about how it applies to other areas of life.

There is so much you can give to others. For example, you can give your family an uplifting start to each new day. Even if you wake up in a rotten mood, you can speak words of encouragement and thoughtfulness (or at least put a lid on your complaints), so that everyone else in the house has the chance to begin the day pleasantly. The same goes for your employees, staff, and everyone else that crosses your path.

Let’s practice this kind of generosity. Regardless of the kind of day you’re having today, freely give a good day to everyone you encounter. Offer encouragement. Share a compliment. Say what you have to say with gentleness. Speak words of faith, hope, and love.

It won’t just change the direction of your day, it will change the direction of your life.

A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. (Proverbs 11:25)

Watching Our Words

I took a retreat at a monastery a while back. Their custom is to observe total silence during the morning, and speaking only when necessary throughout the rest of the day. This took some getting used to, but I found it to be beneficial.

The following week I led the music at a camp in which the leadership team stayed together in the same cabin. We had a great time, laughing and joking with one another.

Our conversations were, for the most part, uplifting, but it wasn’t long before I noticed something. The more I talked, the more likely I was to say the wrong thing.

I also noticed that as I filled my days conversing with others, I had less time to converse with God.

Thomas A’ Kempis, in encouraging others to silence, said…

We often talk vainly and to no purpose; for this external pleasure effectively bars inward and divine consolation. Therefore we must watch and pray lest time pass idly. When the right and opportune moment comes for speaking, say something that will edify.

I’m not suggesting that we all take vows of silence, but it will do us good to watch our words carefully, with the goal of saying only things that will edify others.

Maybe today you could give yourself a challenge. Before speaking, ask yourself: Is what I’m about to say necessary? Will it build up those who are listening?

When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. (Proverbs 10:19)

Bill Watterson

Think Twice. Speak Once.

Cartoonist Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes) said, “Sometimes when I’m talking, my words can’t keep up with my thoughts. I wonder why we think faster than we speak? Probably so we can think twice.”

His words remind us of Solomon’s…

He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.  (Proverbs 21:23)

Do you want to eliminate some trouble in your life before it happens?

Learn to think twice and speak once.

Talk Less. Listen More.

Slow Down. Listen More.

“Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.” — Bernard Baruch

Baruch’s words bring to mind a verse from the book of James:

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry… (James 1:19)

Can you imagine what might happen if today — for at least one day — we determined to talk less and listen more?

By the way, something I’ve noticed about James’ exhortation: When I listen more than I talk, the “slow to become angry” part is much easier to manage.

Called to be a Craftsman

Called To Be a Craftsman

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up others according to their need… (Ephesians 4:29)

The Greek word translated building up means, in its most literal context, to construct a house, or repair a house, or remodel, renovate, and restore a house.

Paul is saying, then, that in every conversation we should strive to say only that which will build and repair — only that which will make the other person stronger and the situation better.

My Job in De-Construction.

Years ago I took part in a ministry project that involved the renovation of an old house.

Actually, my role wasn’t in the renovation side of things. I was in the group that went in with sledge hammers. It was our job to tear down walls and bust out floors. A lot of fun, I must admit.

When we were finished, the place was a shambles — because that’s what sledgehammers tend to leave behind.

Then came the guys who really know something about construction to begin making the place look new.

When their work was done, it was a marvel to behold.

Of course, I never kidded myself into thinking that I really had anything to do with the end result. I was just a lug with a sledgehammer — the extent of my construction skills.

It was the craftsmen who turned the shambles into a showplace.

Here’s my point.

There are many who think it’s their job, in conversation, to be the sledgehammer. They imagine themselves to be foreman on God’s verbal demolition crew.

But that’s not who you’re called to be.

Your job, rather, is to be a craftsman: to rebuild and renovate with the words you speak.

Solomon said…

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise bring healing. (Proverbs 12:18)

It takes no skill at all to swing a sledge hammer. Neither to tear people apart with your words. They’re both about the same.

But a craftsman knows how to build. And rebuild. And renovate and restore.

That’s our job.

Connie Mack

No Matter What You Talk About

Connie MackHere’s another good Connie Mack quote.

“No matter what I talk about, I always get back to baseball.”

He said this in an interview with the Sporting News magazine in March 1951. He was 88 at the time, retired from the game, and yet he still couldn’t stop talking about baseball.

We’ve all known those whose every conversation inevitably arrives at the same destination. Some to an off-color joke, others to a bit of gossip, or a complaint about this or that, or a vein-popping political rant. No matter where the conversation begins, it always comes to the same ugly place.

And then there are others whose conversations always lead to an uplifting thought … a prayer request … a praise report … a word of encouragement.

It has a lot to do with what’s on your mind all the time, and also what’s in your heart.

That’s why Jesus said, “What you say flows from what is in your heart.” (Luke 6:45)

What does your conversation always get back to?