Words can be true and false.
Words can heal and kill.
Words can build up and tear down.
Words can encourage and discourage.
Words can be shouted and held in silently.
With just a word, “fire”, I can instill panic into a building full of people and cause them to empty it out.
With just a word, “smile”, I can cause nearly everyone listening to me to smile.
With just a word, “now”, my children know that I mean business.
With just a word, “go”, Abram wandered off into an unknown land, Noah entered into the ark, Moses lead the Israelites from Egypt, Jonah and the city of Nineveh repented, Joshua removed the enemies from God’s promised land, and we, Jesus’ disciples, continue to transform the world as we know it today.
With just a word, God created all that exists.
With just a word, our lives can be radically shaken and changed; for better and for worse.
The problem with words, however, is that we are able to so easily generate them… James wrote about this problem in this way:
2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
Now, the title of this message is, “Just A Word”, however, God’s direction for us this morning is actually far, far less about our speech. Most all of us are well aware that our tongue holds the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21) and that our mouth speaks what our hearts are full of (Matthew 12:34).
Knowing just how powerful and impactful our words are and just how divided and impure our hearts are should lead us toward the next step; wisdom. However, we often stop ourselves short by being careful to speak words of life and not words of death. However, there is further wisdom that we can apply given this knowledge; the wisdom of silently listening.
We were created by God to have one mouth and two ears. We were also created by God to only be able to either speak or listen; not both simultaneously. The way in which God communicates with His people is to speak to them. Yes, we have all been commissioned to proclaim the good news of the gospel everywhere we go to all people, but we would be wise to listen to the Holy Spirit with our mouths shut as to know where to go, when to go, and how to proclaim it.
Most of us, myself probably more guilty than most, have a tendency to take the revelation that God has already given us and speak it over and over again. We have a tendency to think that we know more than we really know. Like Jeremiah, if we keep our mouths shut, it burns within our hearts and bones like a fire that just has to be let loose (Jeremiah 20:9)! In the Lord, we will always know in part and could never have our fill of knowledge, wisdom, and revelation. There is always more, always greater things, always an abundance!
Therefore, we would be wise to understand that there is a time to proclaim God’s revelation from the rooftops. However, there is also a time to climb down into the upper room; into that quiet, secret place; into our prayer closet where we wait quietly and patiently to hear the Lord and to learn from Him.
Within our church services, we have fallen into the tempation to have the need to constantly have things happening in our services. Prayer, worship, teaching, and preaching. These are all good and Biblically founded, however, we also cannot foresake nor neglect God’s desire for us to corporately come together just to listen, just to rest in God’s presence.
1 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.
2 Do not be quick with your mouth,
do not be hasty in your heart
to utter anything before God.
God is in heaven
and you are on earth,
so let your words be few.
3 A dream comes when there are many cares,
and many words mark the speech of a fool.
4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. 5 It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. 6 Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? 7 Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God.
It’s never wise to tell God one thing and then back out on it. When we’re caught up in the presence of God and emotionally and intellectually overwhelmed by the goodness and faithfulness of God and the depths of our own sinful state, we must be very cautious not to make commitments to Him that we do not intend to keep.
When we worship and praise God, we do not want to become like Israel to whom God said:
These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
is based on merely human rules they have been taught.
We want to be the ones that Jesus spoke of:
Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.
Truth. Our words can speak, proclaim, and declare it and we can worship God with it. However, before we can do all of this, our ears must first hear it, our minds be convinced of it, and our hearts be transformed by it. This keeps us walking in integrity and our words bringing forth pure water from the living springs given by the Holy Spirit within us. This keeps our words from becoming hollow and empty. This keeps our worship in truth and not a lie.
How many lyrics do we sing on a Sunday morning that we fail to follow through with? How many times has our worship to the Lord been a lie? For example, “I live for you alone. Every breath that I take, every moment I’m awake, Lord have Your way in me.” or “Where You go, I’ll go. Where You stay, I’ll stay. If this life I lose, I will follow You.” or “All to you, I surrender; everything, every part of me.” Ouch, yeah, I know…
If we spent more time listening to God and learning from Him, being transformed by Him, than we spend speaking to Him and about Him, then we wouldn’t need to be as worrisome about whether our tongues will bring death or life, we wouldn’t need to be as worrisome about worshipping in Spirit and truth. There would be less of us and more of Him. Our relationships with others would be more whole and fulfilling. Our integrity would increase and perspective become more clear. Our focus would be transferred from our troubles and problems and become fixed on Jesus. Our words would not cause burdens and weariness, they would lift them!
Prophesying about Jesus, Isaiah wrote about His silence during His greatest time of opposition and about His lifestyle. Jesus trusted in God, knowing that His righteousness would be judged by His Heavenly Father alone and no other. He did not need to speak to defend His righteousness, through His silence, it was proven true. Let those who run their mouths against us run themselves weary doing so and our actions prove them wrong. Before God alone we stand or fall for our righteousness comes not from our own good works, but from our faith in Jesus alone!
4 The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue,
to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.
5 The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears;
I have not been rebellious,
I have not turned away.
6 I offered my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
I did not hide my face
from mocking and spitting.
7 Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
I will not be disgraced.
Therefore have I set my face like flint,
and I know I will not be put to shame.
8 He who vindicates me is near.
Who then will bring charges against me?
Let us face each other!
Who is my accuser?
Let him confront me!
9 It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me.
Who will condemn me?
They will all wear out like a garment;
the moths will eat them up.
We, too, can set our face like flint. We, too, can choose not to be moved or shaken! When we learn to open our ears, listen, and be instructed by the Lord instead of the world around us. When we choose to have a well-instructed tongue, our words will also speak life and sustain the weary.
Our words will be like the words spoken by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 37)! Like Ezekiel, they will give hope to the hopeless, they will bring life and healing into a valley filled with death and dryness. They will know that God alone did this for them as He places His Spirit within them, gives them new life, and trains their hands for battle! Our words can do all these things and more as we simply choose to speak in agreement with God’s word that we have heard.
Throughout our lives, we would be wise to remember the power of our words. However, we would be even wiser to remember to spend more time listening to the Lord and allowing Him to train our tongues and less time speaking. Listen to this wisdom from God’s word:
20 My son, pay attention to what I say;
turn your ear to my words.
21 Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;
22 for they are life to those who find them
and health to one’s whole body.
23 Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
24 Keep your mouth free of perversity;
keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.
27 Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.