The Power of Words
August 19th, 2018 sermon
By John Maiden, Associate Pastor
2 Timothy 3:16
“The Power of Words”, Selections from Proverbs
As we complete the Hidden Series, learning from Esther and Proverbs about how God is woven into the everyday moments of life, we focus today on the power of our own words to positively or negatively impact the lives of others (Proverbs 18:21). Although our first instinct is to wither under our failures in daily using our tongue, God offers us love, forgiveness, hope, & power through the Spirit of Jesus active in transforming our lives into who He created us to be.
I. Deceptive words lead to death but encouraging words lead to Life.(Prov. 26:18-19)
A. With deception, we lead people to believe things that are not true.
Perhaps we hurt others with our words by trying to cover up truth (“I was only joking.”, or tell half truths leading to a false conclusion, or embellish/exaggerate the truth to distort reality, or gossip just to make ourselves look better, etc. Deception is harmful to ourselves and ruins
relationships. It can start small and grow exponentially.
B. Encouraging words lead to Life. (Proverbs 12:25, Proverbs 10:11))
A kind word cheers up the heart, acting like a fountain of life. We have the opportunity to give life with the words we speak. May we keep our minds and hearts open, may we pay attention to the needs of others, speaking the encouraging Truth of God to those He puts in our paths.
II. Hasty words lead to death but timely words lead to Life. (Prov. 17:27-28 & 29:20)
A. WHEN you say things, matters. One who hastily blurts out words without thinking is worse than a fool. (Proverbs 17:27-28)
B. Timely words lead to Life.
Instead of hasty words, we might follow the wise man’s behavior to listen in silence. Silence gives time for the Holy Spirit to keep back unrestrained words from spewing hurt, even anger. Listening gives time for the Spirit to help us understand a situation and give us wisdom to withdraw or insights in how to speak with Truth. (Proverbs 29:30).
If we are shown that we SHOULD speak, the timing could be critical to help lead others to Life, and we need to speak as the Spirit shows us. (Proverbs 25:11-12…adding silver to gold). It might be a difficult conversation, but needed for growth and Life. (Proverbs 27:5-6) A believer should approach these conversations prayerfully (asking God’s help), humbly (with an attitude of you as a broken sinner as well), truthfully (using God’s Truth, not ours), and lovingly (with genuine care for souls to lead them to Life).
III. Our words lead to death but Jesus Christ’s words lead to Life. Proverbs 19:9
Jesus says our speech problems are actually our heart problems: “…the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Mtt.12:34). Solomon advises his son: “Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23) Our heart, the core of who we are, is faulty and Jesus offers to replace our sins with Himself, His LIFE…our new loved, forgiven Self (Romans 8:1)! He confirmed the work of creating our new identify in his death (John 19:30). Will we now turn to Jesus, continuing to surrender our hurtful ways of darkness, and reach out for His transforming power….especially in our words!
Words, we use them all the time. We speak them, we write them, we think them, we read them, we tweet them, got to stay millennial. Our whole day is filled with words, although some people’s words are more than others. All of us use a lot of words in our everyday lives. The average man speaks 7,000 words a day, compared to 20,000 words spoken by women a day. Men, amen. But regardless of how much we use words, all of us use them often.
A famous saying about words goes like this, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I don’t know if any famous saying has been more of a lie than this one. Words, whether spoken or written, have the power to hurt deeply. They have the power to destroy marriages, families, friendships. And the thing about words is that once they are spoken, they can never be taken back. Ever. Even as we speak of hurtful words now, some of you may be thinking of words that were said to you that you can’t get out of your mind.
Words have great power. The power that feel when someone says, “I Love You”, or “I am proud of you.” Or the power that is felt when someone says, “I hate you”, or “You are an embarrassment to me.” Our words impact lives, either positively or negatively
In the way that we use our words, we can lead someone to life or to death. In the ways that we use our words, we can bring death to us or life. I am sure that there are words that have been said to you in the past that always stay with you. Words from my wife have a way of bringing me life in ways that other people’s words do not. Because of that, I cherish her words and the encouragement she is to me – the book she gave me on our wedding day.
The tongue has the power of life and death.
– Proverbs 18:21
This morning, we are going to look at ways that words bring death and the ways that words bring life.
Deceptive Words Lead to Death, But Encouraging Words Lead to Life
Bottom Line: What you say matters.
There are so many different examples of how we can hurt people with our words in the book of Proverbs. We hurt others by lying, speaking hastily, arguing, slandering, gossiping, and betrayal. One that sums up a lot of these is deception.
“Like a madman who throws flaming darts and deadly arrows, so is the person who deceives his neighbor and says, “I was only joking.”
– Proverbs 26:18-19
The picture we get is someone who is crazy throwing fiery, deadly darts and arrows all over the place recklessly. This person has no concern for the destruction, the death, he is causing. This madman is shooting flaming darts. Fire is used often to describe the use of our speech in Scripture. Reason being, our tongue, like fire, can be very small, can be very destructive just a little spark catches quickly and will destroy everything in its path. When we deceive, when we lead people to be believe things that are not true, we are causing destruction.
Just the “I was only joking” cover up does nothing to bring back the damage it causes. I am absolutely amazed how practical this Proverb is for today. How many times have you found yourself saying something to someone that was not true or hurtful, only to follow it up by saying, “I was just kidding”. When if truth be told, you were not kidding at all. When we deceive others, it is hurtful to ourselves and those around us.
I love national signing day. As a big college football fan, I love to see who will be playing for my school in the fall. The kids will sit at a table and display the top school’s hats. They will then reach for the hat of the school they will call home for the next few years. In 2008, that day came for a high schooler named Kevin Hart. He grew up dreaming that one day he would play D1 football. A few years before that faithful day he had taken a visit to a football camp to Oregon. Even though the coaches there were not that interested in Hart, rumors began to circulate in the community that Oregon was looking at Hart. Hart then began to take this rumor and run with it. He began to spread the lie that he had offers from Oregon and Cal to play D1 football. He was known as the first kid in his high school to get a D1 offer, even though the offer was completely made up. The school is so excited that they called a press conference on national signing day. Before the whole high school and I guess any press that showed up, he announced that he was choosing to go to school at Cal University over Oregon. That night Cal called his high school coaches and told them that Cal had never offered Hart. Hart then tried to make up a lie and blame someone else for the misunderstanding but eventually the truth came out. For 10 months, Kevin Hart had completely deceived everyone in believing that he was going to play D1 football.
Hart’s deception wrecked his personal life, family, high school, and community. It didn’t only affect him, it effected everyone, literally everyone around him. Why our deception probably doesn’t seem to be as big of a deal as Hart’s, all forms of deception will lead to destruction and will ruin our relationships.
The way that we deceive include:
* How we exaggerate stories to make ourselves or the situation look better.
*How we tell half-truths and deceive ourselves by telling ourselves we are not lying, when we really are.
* How we say something hurtful only to follow it up by saying, “I was only joking,” when you really weren’t.
* How we embellish on our taxes or in that job interview.
* How we cheat in the classroom to get a better grade
* How we tell someone we did something when we really didn’t. There are all too common stories of husbands and wives deceiving their spouse as they live secret lives, only for things to come to light later and wreck havoc for years to come.
* How we speak falsely ill of someone to tear down their reputation or make us look and feel better.
This should not be the words spoken by those of us who follow Jesus. These are deadly and hurtful to those around us, as they hurt and destroy relationships, as well as deadly to us who speak them, as we will see later, it brings on the judgement of God.
We do not want to use words that lead ourselves and others to death, but words that lead to life. OK, deceptive words lead to death, but:
The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.
– Proverbs 10:11
The mouth of a righteous person flows out with life-giving words.
“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad.
– Proverbs 12:25
This proverb reminds us of a reality that all of us have experienced at one time or another. The anxieties of this world often weigh us down. Many of us, if not all of us at one time or another, can be weighed down by the worries of this world. But this proverb also tells us that there is a remedy for the heart that is weighed down by the worries of this world. That remedy is an encouraging word.
This is how powerful our words can be. The power to make a heavy, broken heart glad. By the way that we speak to others, we can give them life! What a great temptation it is for us to go about our busy lives and not stop to speak a kind and encouraging word to those who are hurting. As followers of Christ, not only can we speak encouragement to those who are hurting but we can speak to them the words of God that bring them life.
Brandon Heath came out with a song many years ago that speaks to how we miss opportunities to be to an encouragement, to be Christ, to those who are hurting.
“Step out on the busy street.
See a girl and our eyes meet.
Does her best to smile at me.
To hide what’s underneath.
There’s a man just to her right
Black suit and a bright red tie.
Too ashamed to tell his wife he’s out of work, he’s buying time.
All those people going somewhere, why have I never cared.
Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see,
Everything that I keep missing,
Give your love for humanity.
Give me your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach.
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten.
Give me Your eyes so I can see.”
What if we lived a life where instead of walking around with blinders on, ignoring those who are hurting and in need of encouragement, we stopped and spoke words to these people that give them life. Lord, give us your eyes this week!
This week I found myself praying that God would open my eyes to someone who needed an encouraging word.
There were many people who can to my mind who do this well. My high school baseball coach does a wonderful job of continuing to speak encouragement to his former players. Every year on my birthday I get a birthday card from him that speaks encouragement to me. I am 10 plus years removed from high school, and he doesn’t only do it for me. He does it to all his past players. He understands to power that words have to encourage us. He doesn’t just speak words, he speaks truth and he reminds me of scripture and God’s Words.
One person being at this church. What an encouragement it is to receive an encouraging note from Obbie Clemmons on your birthday or anniversary. Her encouraging words bring this church family life.
Pay attention to those people who God puts in your path this week. God wants to use you to speak life-giving truth to people’s hearts. I challenge, to Encourage Someone this week. I ask you to give this challenge to each other in your small groups. Who are you going to speak life giving words to this week? Who are you going to speak the Word of God to this week? Remind someone this week how much God loves them. Remind someone this week about a Scripture that means a lot to you. Maybe pray for someone in need. Whatever the Spirit is calling you to do, encourage that person this week. Send that email or Facebook message. give that person a phone call. Encourage that person with a letter – your Wife, husband, children, parents, friends, grandparents, teachers, pastors, small group leaders. Keep your eyes and hearts open to people this week that you might have the opportunity to bring life to their souls.
Hasty Words Lead to Death, but Timely Words Lead to Life.
When you say things, it matters.
Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
– Proverbs 29:20
“The one who has knowledge restrains his words and one who keeps a cool head is a person of understanding. Even a fool is considered wise when he keeps silent – discerning when he seals his lips.”
– Proverbs 17:27-28
We looked at the fool a few weeks ago. That was not a person you wanted to be, someone who attracts pain and is headed for trouble. This proverb says a fool is better off than a person who speaks hastily. Someone who speaks hastily is someone who doesn’t think before they speak. They are always quick to speak their mind without any regard for what comes out.
Shutting our mouth sometimes is tough. Listening is tough. But sometimes we are called, commanded to do just that. We are commanded to be silent, being silent and not speaking. Controlling our tongue is hard and can maybe feel awkward. But sometimes it is exactly what we need to do.
In the heat of an argument with your wife, your husband, your child, your parents, your coworker, your boss, maybe the best thing you can say is nothing, not to defend yourself, but to say nothing. Not to make excuses, but to say nothing. Not to speak all your thoughts that come to your mind, but to say nothing.
I was talking to a business man this week and one thing he says he does to avoid the dangers that hasty speech can bring is that he never responds to an email that makes him upset right away. What he does is writes it out, then he saves it, and then comes back to it the next day. He says that most of the time, after he has some time to cool down, he changes his email.
Whether we are speaking words or writing them, Proverbs reminds us to stop and think before we speak. Give time for the Spirit to work. Stop and consider if the words you are about to speak are honoring to God? Will they bring life to those who hear them, or will they bring death?
One of those moments that I wished I had said nothing happened on the golf course as a kid. I was playing a golf tournament against a couple of boys my age. I ended up tying for first place and made it into a playoff with another kid. This was a small country town in Alabama so there were like four people competing but still I was excited. My dad had to show up late because of work and made it just in time to see the playoff hole. I can still see my dad in my mind as I picture him standing by a tree, off to the side of the hole, as I missed a putt that lost me the tournament. I was very competitive, still can be at times, and was very upset I lost. In the heat of disappointment and frustration I decided to blame my dad for my loss. I then said these words that I immediately regretted. I told him that, “I wished he would have never come to see me play that day.” Even to this day, it makes me sad to think that I hurt my dad with my words that day.
Have you ever said something that you wish you could take back? Only if you would have stopped and counted the cost it would have alleviated a lot of hurt. All of us have. When we speak hastily, we can be more prone to hurt people with our speech. As we know, once we speak, write, tweet, those words, we cannot get them back. Be careful and think before you speak. Pray. Ask God for wisdom and discernment before you speak, so that you will not speak words of death, but of life.
So hasty words lead to death, timely words, lead to life.
Timely Words Lead to Life
“A word spoken at the right time is like gold apples in silver settings. A wise correction to a receptive ear is like is like a gold ring or an ornament of gold.”
– Proverbs 25:11-12
While the previous Proverbs told us that there is a time not speak, this Proverbs tells us that there is also a time to speak. Gold apples would be valuable but you add a silver setting and it is even more valuable. Meaning a word spoken at the right time is of greater value than just a word spoken. When you speak a word, it needs to be spoken at the right time.
So, when is it the right time to speak? A time that proverbs and all of Scripture tell us to speak up is when we see a brother or sister in Christ living in sin. Wait a minute, I thought the Bible tells us not to judge, many will say. Yes, the Bible does say that, but it is also very clear that we are to commanded to correct our brothers and sisters in the church. Why? Because by us speaking up, we can help lead them to life.
“Better an open reprimand than concealed love. The wounds of a friend are trustworthy, but the kisses of an enemy are excessive.”
– Proverbs 27:5-6
Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is speak a tough word to a brother and sister in Christ. If we see them living in a way that is counter to God’s word and don’t say anything, we are like someone who is an enemy and blows them fake kisses like everything is OK.
Sometimes it is hard for me to correct John Duke. It is hard work and it is tough. I know that he is not going to take it well, but I often have to remind myself it is for his good. I desire for John Duke and Sadie to grow up knowing what ways are good for them and what ways will lead them to destruction.
I was having a conversation with a man recently and we were talking about whether he thought he would be a strict parent or not. He said that he thought he would be more or the strict side. Reason being, he knows that this is his chance to teach his kids what is right and wrong. Once they are grown, they will then be on their own. He has seen how kids who grow up in an environment that doesn’t strictly emphasize right and wrong sets those kids up for failure.
In the same way, we desire the best lives for our kids, we should desire that for one another. When we don’t correct those that we love in their sin, we are setting them up for failure. Can you be that friend to other people and have those difficult conversations with them?
How do I have difficult conversations with others?
- Ask God for wisdom and discernment. Ask him if these is your responsibility. There may be some who would be a better fit for this conversation. Proverbs says, “A person who is passing by and meddles in a quarrel that’s not his is like one who grabs dogs by the ears.” Its dumb to grab a dog’s ears ok, but if God has given you this responsibility do it…
- Come seeing yourself as the sinner that you are and how you need God’s grace just as much as they do.
- Come not to speak your thoughts or opinions but God’s Truth. You are there to show them what God has to say and how what he says is best for their lives.
- Come to them out of genuine care for them. Show them that you care by the way you speak to them. This is not an opportunity for you to beat them down but to show them by your words that God’s ways leads to life.
Yes, can you be that friend to other people and have those difficult conversations with them? Do you have that friend in your life who can speak difficult truth to you? Are you the type of person who can receive that truth? Remember the second half of our verse?
“A word spoken at the right time is like gold apples in silver settings. A wise correction to a receptive ear is like is like a gold ring or an ornament of gold.”
– Proverbs 25:11-12
We have blind spots. I have blind spots, and we all need people in our life that speak truth in our own lives.
Our Words Lead to Death
A false witness will not go unpunished, and one who utters lies perish.
– Proverbs 19:9
Because of the way that we use our tongues, we deserve judgement. We deserve the judgement of God. Here is reality. We all struggle with the way that we use our words. We sometimes say hurtful things to others. We sometimes deceive others with our words, we don’t always speak encouragement, we sometimes speak hastily, we don’t always speak up when God is calling us to confront others in their sin, and we don’t always respond well when others confront us.
But the biggest problem our sinful usage of words is what it reveals about us. The problem is not others, our circumstances, or anything else external, the problem is with us. Our speech problems are heart problems.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
– Proverbs 4:23
Again, our heart in Scripture is the core of who we are. Everything we do tells us what the condition of our heart is. Everything we say, tells us the condition of our heart.
Jesus says this about our heart:
For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.
– Matthew 12:34 “
The sinful ways that we use our words show that we speak show us that we need a heart change. We can work on being kinder in our speech, which we should do, but if all we do is try to muster up in our own strength how to speak better we have not fixed the root of the problem. The core of who we are – the heart.
It’s like the illustration of someone who has a fruit tree in their backyard that grows nothing but rotten fruit. To fix the problem, the owner goes out and buys dozes of fresh fruit. He then grabs his staple gun and begins to stable the new fruit to the branches of the tree. While temporarily the tree may appear to be healthy, what happens over time. The stapled fruit dies and the tree still produces rotten, bad fruit. This eternal fix was not the problem, the problem was at the core of the tree, its roots. We can’t just staple ourselves with good speech because our root is still messed up. We will maybe temporarily fix things but our words still end up leading to death and punishment for the way that we use our words. Why because we have a heart problem. We need a heart change. Our speech is a good litmus test to our spiritual condition. So how is your speech?
Are you speaking more life or death to those around you and yourself? Do you find yourself speaking hurtful words to or about others? Do you tend towards gossiping about the lives of others? Do you find yourself so busy throughout your day that you fail to see the opportunities God has given you to speak an encouraging word to someone who needs it? Do you find yourself speaking before you think? Do you take correction well or loving help others out of sin through confrontation?
This stuff matters greatly. How we speak tells us where are heart is? The Spiritual condition of where our heart lies. If someone were to record what you say for a week and were to play it back, what would they say about your spiritual condition? And the only person who can fix the heart change that we need is Jesus. Yes, our words lead to death.
But Jesus’ Words Lead to Life
Life is found is the words of Jesus, as his words were perfect. Jesus never spoke a sinful word. He never spoke a hurtful word, He never spoke a hasty word. Where we fail in the way that we use our words Jesus did not fail.
As Jesus was hanging on the cross, after he had endured the beatings, the shame, the mocking, the piercing of his hands and feet, was lifted up on a cross to then bear the weight of the sin of the whole world. At the end of it all, he spoke these life changing, eternal altering words. “It is finished.” “It is finished.”
Jesus bore the punishment we deserve for the sinful ways we use our words. He then cries out that he has taken the penalty on himself. He says to you, he says to me:
“It is finished!”
– John 19:30
We all sin in the way we use our words at one time or another. I need Jesus’ grace in the way I use my words. You need Jesus’ grace in the way you use your words. And guess what? His grace is available! Because Jesus did not fail, forgiveness can be found in the way that we have sinned in our words. We deserve death and punishment for the sinful words we speak. That is truth! But Jesus has taken that death and penalty that we deserve on himself. All we have to do is place our faith and trust in him and forgiveness is offered!
He says, “It is Finished”! These words are true of those in Jesus,
There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
– Romans 8:1
This side of eternity we will never be perfect in our speech. But God is His grace helps us with our speech in the here and now. As we grow in our relationship with Jesus and our love for him, our hearts begin to change. And as a result, our speech will change as well. The healthier our heart, or the healthier our relationship with God is, the more life giving words we will have. Life giving words come from a heart ruled by God. So, live in His grace, forgiven of the sinful ways we have spoken and will speak, but grow in your relationship with Jesus and allow him, by His Spirit, to give you words that bring life to ourselves and those who hear them.