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Words as Swords

By Pastor Phillip Howle
web posted January 29, 2014

RELIGION – We are studying the Book of Proverbs on Sunday Mornings at Antioch Baptist Church. This past Sunday the message was on words. Proverbs is not short on wisdom concerning our speech. One of my commentaries on the book of Proverbs lists around ninety proverbs counseling us about how to speak. In fact, the book of Proverbs has more to say about our words than anything else it addresses in our lives—more than money, sex, or family.
Think about it like this: I found research that reports that the average American speaks about 700 times per day. Now maybe you don’t run your mouth as much as me, so if that number sounds high to you, cut it in half to 350 times per day.  If you are quieter than a church mouse, cut it in half again to 175 times a day. There are very few things we do 175 times a day. I mean if you spent money 175 times a day, you will not do that for long because you will be broke!  So much like money, how we manage our words and our speech will determine the quality and the joy that we have in life.

I think back to phrases I was told in life. The first was by one of my high school football coaches. I was all confused as a senior and I did not know what college to go to, if I should try and play small college football, all those life type question. He said to me “for guys like you everything will always workout pretty much alright.” Hearing those words just changed my whole perspective. I relaxed. I made some choices and I went forward.  I have heard those words in my mind on many occasions when life has gotten tough.

Another phrase that stuck with me was by my Seminary preaching professor. After preaching a sermon for an exam, he told me that my voice was “Harsh, adversarial, and disengaging and that I would never be successful in ministry.” I have often had those words run through my mind as I left the pulpit after feeling like my words had fallen on deaf ears.

Two phrases, they each time about the same time to say, the same oxygen was used, but they had massively different effects on my life. One gave me confidence and hope, one called me to question my calling. One gave me courage to go forward, and one made me want to quit and sit on the coach and eat lots of foods that end in “itos.” You know Fritos, Cheetoes, Doritos, burritos, tostados and the other “ito” related food items.

Words have massive power. Proverbs 12:18 tells us that “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” This is saying words can have the power to do damage that can’t be remedied. You know this. When you say a word, you can never make it as if it had never been uttered. Words have a damaging effect that actually can’t be ever completely taken away. The verse says that words are like a sword. Look at the illustration. If you put a sword into somebody and pull it out, you haven’t pulled out the wound.  If you get in to an argument and you get made and stab a dude in the spleen, you can’t just be like “oops dude, I stabbed you in the spleen, my bad. In retrospect that was a bad call. Now let me pull the knife out and make it all better.”  If the person survives, the scar is there forever. What damage have the words of others done to you and what damage have your words done to others?

Jesus longs for us to hear from him. Jesus says in John 10:27-29 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  (28)  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  (29)  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.” You see Jesus knows that that only way to change our words is to have our heart be overflowed with his love. Matthew 12:34-35 tells us that “You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  (35) The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”

So listen for the voice of Jesus calling to you as you read the words of the old hymn
    Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
    Calling for you and for me;
    See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,
    Watching for you and for me.
        Come home, come home,
        You who are weary, come home;
        Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
        Calling, O sinner, come home!
    Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading,
    Pleading for you and for me?
    Why should we linger and heed not His mercies,
    Mercies for you and for me?
    Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing,
    Passing from you and from me;
    Shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming,
    Coming for you and for me.
    Oh, for the wonderful love He has promised,
    Promised for you and for me!
    Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon,
    Pardon for you and for me.

Praying you all hear and heed the words of Jesus calling you to himself!

Pastor Philip

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