logo Living Water Christian Fellowship logo
Home Recent Sermon Multimedia Sermons News & Events Our Vision Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!

“LOVING WITH YOUR WORDS”: 40 Days of Love #3

(adapted with permission from Tom Holladay, Saddleback Church, originally Sept. 27-28, 2008)

Oct. 8, 2017 James 3:2-8

Today on this Thanksgiving Sunday, we are thankful for many things. Yes we appreciate good food, of which there’s usually an abundance this weekend! We’re thankful for health, for merely being alive. But most of all we’re thankful for RELATIONSHIPS – God made us relational beings, and as humans we have big love tanks that need filling from childhood on up. And as Christians we are supremely thankful for the most important relationship of all – for the infinite personal God who made us and redeemed us, giving His only Son at the cross so our sins might be forgiven and our relationship with Him restored.

     In this “40 Days of Love” series, we’re looking at how God loves us and what that means about the way that we love each other. Today we’re talking about something that relates to every one of us when it comes to making love work in relationships: how do you love with your words?

     Let’s start with a confession. James 3:2 says “All of us often make mistakes.But if a person never makes a mistake in what he says, he is perfect.” So I will confess I’m not perfect: I often make mistakes; when it comes to my words, I often say stupid things. Especially when I’m tired. Anybody want to join me in that one?

     God wants to get involved desperately in this area of our lives and is willing to make a difference. You don’t have to face this alone.

     Here’s what James tells us about what the importance of our words really is: My mouth, my words, they direct where I go. The word picture James offers is that of a rudder on a ship: even a great ocean liner is guided by a rudder.

     My mouth also can destroy what I have. Because they’re so powerful, words can also be destructive. The picture that James gives us of that one is the picture of a fire: those can easily get out of control. Perhaps you’ve seen words burn up a job, burn through a relationship. That’s the power of words, why you need to be careful with them.

     And my mouth displays who I really am. Whatever I am on the inside – the way people see me on the outside is often through my words. The picture James gives of that one is a picture of a mountain spring. He says if you go to a mountain spring and you know it’s good water, you’re going to get good water out of it; if you know it’s a poisonous spring, you know not to drink there. But with our mouths, good water and poisonous water can come out of the same spring. One minute you’re saying the most beautiful thing; the next minute, the most ugly thing. That gets us frustrated.

     Jesus helps us to understand it. What’s He say about our communication? Matthew 12:34 “Words flow out of what fills the heart.” Whatever’s in my heart is going to spill out in my words. It’s inevitable: you can try to keep it bottled up but it eventually spills out in some little phrase. Further, Jesus says in Mk 7:15, “Your souls aren’t harmed by what you eat, but by what you think and say!” So not only does my heart spill out in my words, but those thoughts behind the words spill back into my soul. It’s an easy trap to get caught in. How do you change it? You ask, “Lord Jesus, will you change my heart? Because I want to say the right kind of words.” Ask for his help with both your heart and your words. And he will help. He’ll come and make a difference. God cares about our words because he cares about the way that we love.

     So we’re not in this alone. God wants to be integral to this part of your life.

     Let’s turn now and look at some specific ways we can love people with our words. One of the ways to love people is with honest words.

     1) Love people with honest words. That example comes from Jesus. In dozens of recorded conversations, you can read that Jesus was honest. It was a clear honesty, not malicious or brutal kind of honesty. Though to the Pharisees and religious legal experts He said, “You bunch of hypocrites.” That’s honest!

     Another time when Peter was struggling he said, “Satan, get behind me.” Because he was thinking so wrongly. Very honest tough talk. Or another time to his disciples he said, “Oh, you stubborn faithless people.How long shall I put up with you?” Would you agree that’s an honest statement?

     Jesus was honest – but in a different way than we sometimes are honest and seize an occasion to “lower the boom” or “tell it like it is”. He was responding out of honesty not out of irritation; not out of anger but out of love. So his motivation behind what he said in choosing those honest words was really important.

     Would you agree, sometimes it’s a lot easier to be nice than to be honest? If I’m just nice in a conversation then it doesn’t have to be a longer conversation. But sometimes if you’re honest then you have to talk it through! Whereas if you skirt around the landmines, if you just keep it “nice”, then there’s not going to be any difficulties.

     But nice doesn’t change anything, it doesn’t move the relationship ahead. Nice doesn’t change my heart or anybody else’s heart. According to Jesus’ example, if you want to impact lives, you’ve got to be lovingly honest. Ephesians 4:15 refers to “Speaking the truth in love.” (SAY THAT WITH ME) It takes truth and it takes love. Maybe you love being honest with people – that’s the easy part! But it can make them miserable. You also need love with it. People need to see you’re telling it because you love them, you care about them, not because you want to hurt them. It takes truth and love.

     Proverbs 27:5 says, “An open rebuke is better than hidden love.” We love to have people around us that flatter us, that tell us good things about us, making us feel good inside. But for true and close friendships, we want honest words – you want somebody who’s going to tell you the truth when you overreact and blast somebody and you don’t come across respectfully. Or when you’re just not seeing things clearly.

     1Cor.13:6 talks about where all this comes from. “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” It comes from this joy about the truth and what it does in my life and what it can do in other people’s lives. This is our memory verse for this week. Let’s say it together, with the reference fore’n’aft: 1Corinthians 13:6 “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” 1 Corinthians 13:6.

     Honest words have to start with honesty in my own heart. Are you genuine about this for yourself, before you preach to others? So first I ask myself, have I looked at this in my own life? Then I say to somebody else, how about this? When you ask yourself first, then they can see into your heart that you’re doing this because you care about them and because you truly love them.

     You love people with honest words. There’s a second way you and I love the people in our lives:

     2) Love people with careful words. Words are powerful so you have to be careful with them. Every one of us, we know the impact of the wrong word.  Here are three areas in which to be careful with our words.

     a) Anger: Ephesians 4:26f “In your anger do not sin.Do not let the sun go down while you’re still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Anger in communication can really make its way in and really ruin things, often in arguments. Can you remember what your biggest arguments in your closest relationships have been about? Now, looking back some time later, was the issue really worth the damage that was done, the pain that became inflicted? Probably not!

     People in arguments can respond like in a battlefied. Some people dig a foxhole: they say, “I’ll clam up and I’ll just wait for the right time to strike.” Some people store up, creating a munitions dump so that we can store up all the stuff that has hurt us and is bothering us and that kind of thing then one day we’ll just blast them all at once. Still other people seize the opportunity to haul out the artillery, bring out the big guns and let it all go: they don’t save anything up.

     What’s your favourite battlefield tactic? Too often all the parties lose – the devil is the only one who wins. Paul warns us to not give the devil a foothold when you get angry. Instead – (v26)“Don’t let the sun go down while you’re still angry.” Maybe you’ve heard this advice at a wedding: “Don’t go to bed angry.” That’s not just winsome advice, it’s God’s command that you don’t go to bed angry. God knows how we’re wired: that if we let it continue to the next day, anger starts to turn very quickly to bitterness and it gets even harder to resolve.

     The Bible doesn’t say you have to solve it immediately. Perhaps you need to count to ten, or walk around the block and calm down. If you’re really ticked, maybe you need to walk around a country block! But you deal with it before the next day. If you don’t, God warns you risk giving Satan a foothold in your relationship, a base of operations, a launching pad. That’s dangerous!

     Will Rogers came up with this little poem: “Be careful of the words you say; keep them soft and sweet./You never know from day to day, which ones you’ll have to eat.” Or as Ogden Nash put it, “To keep your marriage brimming / with love in a loving cup, / whenever you’re wrong, admit it; / whenever you’re right, shut up.”

     b) Gossip: you might suppose this is just a little sin, but in Scripture God lists it right up there with sexual immorality and murder. We can even trespass into giving too much information when it comes to prayer requests. When it comes to praying for Susie (say), we don’t need to tell all the gory details of what’s going on in her life. We don’t want to have National Enquirer prayer meetings. Sometimes a person may want to share stuff that you know you really ought not listen to. You can ask them if they’ve prayed with that person for this situation; or if they’ve been offended, suggest they go themselves and talk to the other party about what they’ve done to offend them. Deal with it directly rather than gossiping all around it.

     Perhaps you’re writing an email to a friend unloading about some bothersome third party; stop and ask yourself, “What if I were to copy the email to that third party? How might that cause me to express things differently?”

     c) [Anger - gossip - a third thing is] Saying too much. Words are so potent and dangerous that saying too much can very quickly get you in trouble. Proverbs 21:23, “Watch your words and hold your tongue.You’ll save yourself a lot of grief.” Also Proverbs 17:28, “Even fools are thought to be wise when they keep silent.When they keep their mouths shut they seem intelligent.” Say you go into a business meeting and you’re just quiet and you listen to other people, they may walk out going, “That guy was the smartest guy at the meeting; that guy was brilliant.” Just because you’re a great listener! That’s the power of keeping your mouth shut.

     Now, you’ve got to allow for different people’s styles of communication. Some people are like a jet: They take off, aim direct for their target, and land on the dot. Others are more like a helicopter: they take off and hover for a little while, then go over here and hover for a little while; touch down temporarily over here – hold on, it’s not where you’ll eventually land but you just touch down for a little while, then you take off again. Do you know any jets? Any helicopters? We’re wired differently in the way we communicate. And if you really love somebody, you’ll figure out and be patient with their style of communication. Maybe even learn to fly along with them.

     We love people in speaking by using honest words, by using careful words, and also a third way…

     3) You love people with building words – words that build up. Ephesians 4:29 says “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.” Are my words building other people up according to their needs? Words can build up OR they can tear down. Build a marriage, build a child’s self-esteem, or tear them down. Before you speak, stop and think: “Is this going to build up, or is this going to tear down? Is this what the other person needs from me, or is it just what I feel like unloading to make me feel better (justified) right now?”

     This verse also talks about not letting any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, any unhelpful talk. What’s that? Of course, swear words. Don’t let the F word pollute your discourse, it just brings the whole conversation down several notches. Also words targeted to demean another person. What about “trigger” words – ones that you just know are going to push that other person’s buttons? A person starting to get frustrated might utter “Fine!” to shut down the conversation. Let others know this is something you struggle with – then next time it happens, perhaps you can at least both smile about it, realizing it just happened again; and eventually they can help wean you off the habit.

     You’ve heard it said, “Think before you speak.” There’s an acrostic that goes along with each letter in the word THINK. (Even certain presidents could benefit from this before they post on Twitter!) (HM - would I want him copied on that little jibe I just said?!)

     T – is it Truthful? Is it the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Is it twisted a little bit? Has it been slanted to make you look better? Is it truthful?

     H – is it Helpful? Or is it going to harm?

     I – is it Inspirational? Is it going to build up or tear down? Is it going to give people hope and encourage them and prompt them to move forward in their life?

     N – is it Necessary? This is that thing of talking too much. Some things aren’t necessarily wrong to say – they’re just not necessary.

     K – is it Kind? As chapter 2 in 40 Days of Love has been asking – is it kind? Love is kind.

     So THINK. Think before you speak - truthful, helpful, inspirational, necessary, kind.

     Wrapping up, we’ve listed five specific powerful kinds of ways of speaking. Check off at least one you’re going to choose to work on this week. Jesus Christ wants to be a part of our words, to help us and strengthen us in this.

     For instance, it might be with kind words. The Bible says that kind words have the power to transform worry into joy. Proverbs 12:25 “Worry can rob you of happiness, but kind words will cheer you up.” William Barclay said, “More people have been brought into the church by the kindness of Christian love than by all the theological arguments in the world.”

     Also there are gentle words. Gentle words have the power to break through anger. Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Gentle words break through anger. They’re incredibly powerful. Harsh words are easy. But gentle words take courage and strength. In fact the word “gentle” literally means power under control. When you’re trying to do the right thing and somebody’s unkind to you, it takes real strength not to snap back at them but instead to say something helpful and kind. Gentle words.

     Or, pleasant words. Pleasant words encourage learning. Prov.16:21,“Pleasant words promote instruction.” Perhaps when you’re trying to explain something to someone, say they’re trying to learn something and not getting it, we start to speak more loudly as if that will help! But it just builds a barrier. Pleasant words promote instruction.

     Perhaps what you need most to work on this week is honest words. Honest words make us feel respected, treated with dignity. Flattery means the other person’s not being honest with me, so we’d rather not have someone flatter us – they’re not treating you “on the level”, just saying what they think you want to hear. But when somebody takes the risk to be honest with you, then you feel valued, not manipulated; you’re loved, trusted. Prov.24:26 “An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips” – like a kiss of friendship.

     Finally, let’s work on wise words. Wise words about God, about His word, His work... Wise words can bring spiritual and emotional wholeness, they heal a broken heart. Proverbs 12:18 “Thoughtless words can wound as deeply as any sword, but wisely spoken words can heal.” That’s the power in our words: power to heal a broken heart, to promote learning and growth in somebody’s life, to break through anger.

     Check one of those and think about which one you’re going to do this week. Invest your words wisely. You are pouring into other people’s lives by what you say: investing positively by good words, or robbing value by negative words. Jesus said that at the last judgment we will be called to account for every careless word that we’ve been speaking (Mt 12:36). That’s how long the investment of your words is going to last. Not only in people’s lives now, but all the way into eternity. That’s how powerful your words are!

     In light of that, we need God’s help, SO much.Let’s pray.