How to Use Your Words for Good
How to Use Your Words for Good
If you include scientific words, there are over 1,000,000 words in the English language. The average person knows about 20,000 words and uses 2,000 different words a week. Women and men both speak about 16,000 words a day on average.
Your words matter. However, what matters most is not the number of words you speak but the kind of words you choose and the purpose for which you use them. The apostle James tells us that although ‘the tongue is a small part of the body’ it is extremely powerful (James 3:5). In the passages for today, we see how your words can be used, just as the apostle James describes, for good or evil. Each day you have great potential: either to destroy or to build.
In our passages for today we see six keys to using your words for good.
1. Listen to wise wordsProverbs 4:1-9
I do not want to get to the end of my life and look back with regret at the decisions I have made. Wisdom helps you to make decisions now that you will be happy with later.
In this passage we see the value of learning from the wise words and teaching of others: ‘Lay hold of my words with all your heart… Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them’ (vv.4–5). A willingness to learn is at the heart of wisdom. Although it requires hard work, it is of immense value: ‘Wisdom is supreme: therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding’ (v.7b).
Here the focus is on the young learning from the old. A father teaches his sons, ‘Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction…’ (v.1). Children are encouraged to learn as much as they can from their parents. Parents have a responsibility to pass on as much wisdom as possible to their children.
All the way through your life, value learning, esteem it and embrace it (v.8). As my grandmother used to say, ‘The day I stop learning, I wish to die.’
It is not enough to listen to wise words; live them out (vv.2,4,5b). Put God’s words into practice and you will acquire wisdom.
If you gain this wisdom and understanding, ‘She’ll make your life glorious. She’ll garland your life with grace. She’ll festoon your days with beauty’ (vv.8–9, MSG).
Lord, help me to grow in wisdom and understanding by reading and listening to wise words – and putting your teaching into practice in my life.
2. Hold on to the words of JesusMatthew 24:1-31
When will the world end? How will it end? Jesus’ words here to his disciples are about the future. He answers their questions about the fall of Jerusalem (which took place in AD 70), and about the end times (the question is in Matthew 24:2). The passage can seem confusing, as it is difficult to disentangle the two themes. Jesus’ purpose was not to give a specific schedule for the future, but to help his disciples not to worry or be distracted by what will happen.
Jesus says, at the end of this section (which starts today and ends tomorrow), that ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away’ (v.35). There is a lot of uncertainty about the end times. However, some things are clear:
There will be lots of false claims (vv.4–5,23–26)
There will be upheaval, persecution, division and even falling away (vv.6–12)
The love of the great body of people will grow cold (v.12, AMP)
When it does actually happen, it will be obvious to everyone (vv.27–31).
The first time, Jesus came in weakness. The second time he comes, he will return in power (vv.27,30–31).
As you wait for Jesus to return, hold onto his words and refuse to allow your love to ‘grow cold’ (v.12). It is so important to keep your heart on fire with love for him, remembering your first love (Revelation 2:4). As Joyce Meyer writes, ‘Stir up love in your life – towards your spouse and towards your family, friends, neighbours and co-workers. Reach out to others who are hurting and in need. Pray for people and bless them. Grow to the point that one of your first thoughts each morning in your heart is about how you can bless someone else that day.’
3. Discern prophetic words
‘Prophecy’ is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Listen carefully to the words of the ‘prophet’. This passage reminds us of the importance of genuine prophecy (although no modern-day prophecies will have the same level of authority as those in Scripture).
We need to distinguish between true and false prophecy. Jesus warns against false prophets who ‘will appear and deceive many people’ (Matthew 24:11). He warns that the false prophets will try to deceive people by claiming, ‘I am the Christ’ (vv.4–5). People will say, ‘‘‘Look, here is the Christ!” or, “There he is!”’ (v.23). Jesus warns us not to believe them. They are ‘Fake Messiahs and lying preachers [who] are going to pop up everywhere’ (v.24, MSG).
On the other hand, Jesus affirms the words of the true prophets. He announces that the words ‘spoken of through the prophet Daniel’ (v.15) will be fulfilled (see Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). He quotes from the prophet Isaiah (see Isaiah 13:10; 34:4): ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken’ (Matthew 24:29).
In fact, in his description of his return (v.27 onwards; see especially v.30), he is making an implicit claim to be the messianic Son of Man prophesied by Daniel (see Daniel 7:13).
4. Speak life-changing words
The words of Jesus totally changed my life when I was eighteen years old. Since then I have watched with joy, and often astonishment, the power of his message to transform the lives of other people.
Between the first coming of Jesus and his second coming, we have been given the task of taking this life-changing message of the gospel to the whole world. ‘And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come’ (Matthew 24:14).
The words of the gospel are powerful and life-changing. The apostle Paul wrote, ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes’ (Romans 1:16). Never give up on the proclamation of the gospel. You have the great privilege of being entrusted with words that have the potential to change people’s lives in a radical way – for this life and into eternity.
Lord, thank you that your words are eternal. Thank you for the immense privilege of being able to use the most powerful words in the world to see people’s lives transformed by Jesus. Help me to take every opportunity to get this message out to as many people as possible.
5. Avoid speaking empty wordsJob 35:1-37:24
Elihu’s verbal attack continued with his usual mixture of falsehood and half-truths. He said, ‘Be assured that my words are not false’ (36:4). Actually, they were. He suggested that our sins do not affect God (35:6). In fact, our sins do have an effect on God as we see supremely in the cross of Christ.
Ironically, he said something about Job that, although not true of Job, was actually true of himself. He said, ‘So Job opens his mouth with empty talk; without knowledge he multiplies words’ (v.16). (‘Job, you talk sheer nonsense – nonstop nonsense!’ v.16, MSG). This is a perfect description of Elihu’s own speech. It is empty talk without knowledge. Elihu ‘multiplies words’, criticising Job.
The fact that we are all capable of talking nonsense does not mean that we should be silent. Rather, we should realise the enormous potential that every human being has to affect the lives of others through their tongues. You may or may not have the power that comes from money, fame or position, but you have the power and the potential that come from being able to communicate with words.
6. Put God’s words into practice
Elihu said a number of things in this passage about God’s words (37:4–13). Thankfully, the Lord is about to speak himself. What a relief! We have had chapter after chapter of false comfort and empty words. We live in a world like this. It is such a relief when God speaks. The words of God are like manna from heaven, and water in a desert.
Lord, may the words I speak today be guided by the Holy Spirit. Put a guard over my lips and a watch over my tongue.
Thank you that you speak to me and that your words are so powerful and life-changing. Help me to hear your words, speak them and put them into practice.
I find Elihu a bit of a bore!
Verse of the Day
‘Never walk away from Wisdom – she guards your life’ (Proverbs 4:6, MSG).
Joyce Meyer, Everyday Life Bible, (Faithwords, 2009) p.1536.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.