The Power of Words

Proverbs 15:1–7, 23–33 – Proverbs: Wisdom for Life
Second Sunday in Lent – March 17, 2019 (am)

Speech is the communication or expression of thoughts by spoken words, and speech is the most effective means of revealing who we are and learning about who others are.  Speech, primary means of communicating with other people; by my speech I reveal what are my likes & dislikes; what I want to accomplish and what I oppose; what gives me satisfaction & happiness and what causes me to become angry.  Speech is how I express my ideas & convictions for how things ought to be done & also how I express my response to your ideas about how you’d like to do things.With our speech, by our words, we converse with one another – we’re exchanging information, telling a story, teaching math & science, telling jokes, singing together, and even arguing & fighting!  And many people earn their living primarily by speaking words – preachers, teachers, salesmen, politicians, lawyers, counselors and actors, just to name a few.

So much of who we are, and who others are – is communicated by our words, our speech.  And our words have great power.  This morning, we’re going to see (1) our words can do damage, and (2) our words can build up/edify – see the outline in your bulletin. And when we consider our speech, we should look at what God teaches us about how we should speak, how we’re to use our words.  We go to God’s word, the Bible

In revealing Himself and His will to the human race, God has primarily done that through the spoken word:

Heb 1:1,2 -> “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by his Son…”

God has been speaking to Man since Creation and the Garden, instructing Adam & Eve about how to please Him by their obedience – and also telling them what would be the consequences of their disobedience.  God has spoken both blessing and curse all throughout human history. Speech is a basic component of human life. 

Now -- much of our speech is just conversation where we’re exchanging information that is usually done dispassionately, or matter-of-factly, without much emotional input.  We may be teaching some subject matter, selling some product or service, talking weather & sports.  In those types of conversations, God simply instructs us to speak the truth.  Do not lie

But what about those situations when our emotions get heavily involved – conversations that can develop into arguments, or even vicious fights?

And what would be the situation that would lead you to inject a significant dose of emotion to your words?

1)   You’ve been ripped off, cheated

2)   You’ve been mistreated, disrespected

3)   You’ve been misunderstood, unappreciated

4)   You’ve been ignored, disregarded

5)   You’ve been rejected – either professionally (being fired or demoted) or maybe just your ideas or suggestions have been denied

These situations can easily lead to you becoming angry, resentful, even bitter -> this is going to present you with an opportunity to respond either in a gracious godly manner, or a fleshly selfish manner.  You can either trust in God’s sovereign justice and His care for you, or you can take matters into your own hands and try to use a heavily charged emotional response to get your way.  And Solomon speaks to this;

Prov 15:1,18 -> “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.  A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.”

Here Solomon instructs us that when we’re potentially moving into an emotionally charged-up conversation, we can either defuse the situation by being calm & gentle – or we can pour accelerant onto that angry fire by being harsh, feeding that argument and possibly doing some real damage. 

But why would you become angry to begin with?  Jesus says the following about the source of your angry speech:

Matt 12:33-35 -> "Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.  You brood of vipers!  How can you speak good, when you are evil?  For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”

Matt 15:18-20 -> “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.  These are what defile a person.” 

Our words, our speech, it all begins in our hearts – so the issue of our speech is a heart issue.  An illustration that we use in the Biblical Counseling world is this: When you bump a glass that’s filled to the brim with water, what will spill out?  Whatever kind of water is in the glass, right?  Therefore, you should ask yourself; what kind of water fills my heart – sweet or salty?  Because whatever fills your heart is exactly what will spill out when you’re bumped by the difficult circumstances of life.

James also teaches this same truth in his letter:

James 4:1-3; “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?  You desire and do not have, so you murder.  You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.  You do not have, because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

Speech is a heart issue!

Now -- you may rationalize your harsh angry speech by saying, “I’m just really tired, or hungry, or burned-out, or under lots of pressure.”  You may even believe that you’re just trying to achieve some righteous goal – but other people are just not cooperating with your righteous intentions.  And James speaks to this lame excuse:

James 1:19,20 -> Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

God will not use my angry words to achieve His righteous goals.  Charles Spurgeon also taught about this temptation to become angry -> "When you are in an argument for the truth, do not grow angry; for this would be to fight the Lord's battles with the devil's weapons."

So, there you are… you’re presented with a situation that just “chaps your hide” – it just severely irritates & frustrates & angers & even hurts you – and you want to lash out in anger either to get your way or get your revenge; but if you do respond in anger, your words will do great damage.  Your words can damage your own soul by feeding your anger – and they can damage the souls of others [Prov 15:4b -- A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.]; your words can damage your relationships with the people who are closest to you.

I’ve spoken mainly about anger – but lying, gossiping, slander, complaining, and grumbling are also sinful speech that can do damage.

What does God say to His people?  How should we speak?

Prov 15:1,18 -> “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.  A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.”

Prov 15:4a ->  A gentle tongue is a tree of life…

Prov 15:26 -> The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD, but gracious words are pure.

Pro 15:33 -> The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.

Application: ***Don’t do damage; be wise & be humble***

Now let’s look further at how God’s people should speak, how are we to use our words – what should be our purposes in speaking -> to edify others, for their benefit.

We’ve already seen some instruction from Prov 15 on this – we’re to give a gentle answer (v1) which is a tree of life (v4), we’re to be slow to anger (v18), and our gracious words are pure (v26).  But also look at;

Prov 15:23 -> To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is! ----- exclamation point

Prov 15:30 -> The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and good news refreshes the bones.

Our words should bring joy to others, our words should deliver good to them, our words should be refreshing to them.  Paul says this same thing;

Eph 4:29 ->  Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

God’s will is that we use our words to encourage, to instruct, and to edify others.  We’re to be commending one another for using their spiritual giftedness for the good of our church family, and we’re to encourage and urge one another to persevere in faith as we experience difficult trials.

We’re to express our love and appreciation for one another for all the benefits that we receive from knowing them – and we’re to assure one another that our love for them is unconditional – we love them for who they are, we love them for who God has made them to be.  As we follow God’s direction in how to speak, God will then use our words to powerfully build up our brothers & sisters in Christ.  Listen again to the Apostle Paul;

Col 3:16 -> Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

We see again that by our words we should be teaching & admonishing one another, so that all of us in the church will experience spiritual growth --- growth in our love for God & others, and growth in our faith & confidence in God.  And by our words we should be singing praises to our God from our hearts! 

We praise God that all these godly uses of speech are actually happening in our worship services, in our Sunday School classes, and in our FLOCKS & Bible studies & youth ministry & AWANA & small groups.

So, we must all make a conscious, concerted effort to use our words to build each other up – and use our words in praise of our Good God.

There’s another way to speak in a godly manner  that’s presented in Prov 15:29 -> The LORD is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous. 

Prayer, our speaking to God, our voicing praise & honor & worship & devotion to our God & confessing our sins, and asking for forgiveness, and laying our needs before Him.  God is our Heavenly Father; we are His children, the people whom Jesus has redeemed that we would be a purified people for His own possession, zealous for good works; that we would renounce ungodliness and worldly passions – seeking to live upright, self-controlled and godly lives in this present age. (Titus 2:11-14)

We need to beg God to make that happen in our own lives, in the life of our family, and in the life of our church; because this new life in Christ does not happen by our will power, it is the gift of God – and so we ask of Him that He would make us to be like His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Application: ***Speak wisely, to praise God and edify others***

Finally, we should not study on our use of words & speech without speaking of evangelism.  I don’t see a direct reference to evangelism in Proverbs 15 – maybe vv30, 31  ->  The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and good news refreshes the bones.  The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise.”

God has called His people to speak to the lost about the salvation that is available by grace, through faith, in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the Son of God, who took on human flesh & became Man, who died in our place for our sins – and there is salvation on no one else, for there is no other Name given by which we must be saved.

And alongside this teaching in Proverbs on speech, I believe that another statement from the Apostle Paul would be good to look at:

2Tim 2:24-26; And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome, but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

Notice: In our evangelism, we’re to be kind, patient, long-suffering, gentle – knowing that the lost are currently being held captive by the Devil.  You might be drawn into arguments, and you might receive evil treatment.   BUT, be kind, be patient, teach truth, endure evil, and correct gently.  And pray that God would grant them repentance & knowledge of the truth.  Remembering all the while that they’re ensnared by the Devil – and only God has the power to save them.  Pray, pray & pray.  Let’s pray…