Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Guard My Tongue

Dannah Gresh: If you’re thinking, Uhhh … the words I use can’t really hurt anyone! Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says, “Think again!”

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: What you say matters a lot . . . and so does your timing. When there’s something the Lord is calling us to say, we need to think, Does this need to be said now? 

Leslie Bennett: Today is October 29, 2019, and this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, along with Dannah Gresh.  

Dannah: Nancy, today’s topic is really a soap box of mine because I think our words are very powerful. We grow up programmed by this children's rhyme that we hear: “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That’s not really true, is it?

Nancy: It really isn't, Dannah. You know I’ve talked with so many women over the years who were wounded by words spoken to them as children and they’re still trying to unravel lies those words planted in their young hearts. It’s so important that we consider carefully the words we use. Words have power.

Dannah: And today we’re going to the Lord and consider how to make our words safe for other people.

Nancy: It’s something I ask the Lord for again and again.

In this current series I’ve been telling you about several prayers I pray for myself over the years. I call them “My Personal Petitions.” And as you listen I hope you’ll pray these for yourself. But also, if you're married, these are great things to pray for your husband. These are great things to pray for your children—maybe kids away at college, or grandchildren. Dannah, I know you little, newborn twin grandkids. They are things to start praying for them. Your can pray for your pastor or your church. In this way we really can become instruments to see these things happen in other's lives.

Dannah: Before we get into the next petition, let’s review the ones we’ve covered so far in this series. 1) Guard my heart. 2) Fill me with Your love. 3) Fill me with Your Spirit. 4) May I be clothed in humility. And then the next two flowing out of that. 5) Make me a servant. 6) Give me a grateful spirit.

Nancy: Wow! Just those first six are good reminders for me as we are having this conversation today. These are things I want the Lord to do in my life, and I know that's true for our listeners as well.

Dannah: And today’s petition I know it’s going to be convicting to a lot of us. Before I get to that teaching, I want to remind everyone of the beautiful wall calendar that we’d like to send you.

Each page features one of these petitions. It's our 2020 wall calendar just for Revive Our Hearts listeners. We are also going to include a beautiful bookmark to put in your Bible to remind you to pray these transformational prayers. You can get the wall calendar and that bookmark when you make a donation of any size, right now at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Nancy: Your gift will help us continue bringing you this kind of teaching, not only to your community, but to women around the world. I’m so grateful for everyone who supports the ministry in this way.

Dannah: Make sure you ask for the calendar when you call us at 1–800–569–5959, or when you make your donatation online at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Alright. Let’s get back to Nancy’s teaching. She’ll tell us about the next petition in this series.

Nancy: That's the prayer request, "guard my tongue."

Proverbs 18:21 says it this way: "Death and life are in the power of the tongue." 

And so, Lord, before I say anything else to these women, I just want to speak to You for a moment, in their presence. Realizing that death and life are in the power of the tongue. I pray for words that will honor You and that will edify the women in this room today and those who will listen through the radio and the podcast in days to come.

I pray that the words of my mouth right now and—even more importantly, what only You see and know—the meditation of my heart, may it all be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and our Great Redeemer. I pray in Jesus' name, amen. 

Death and life are in the power of the tongue. Words have power. Our words are powerful, and they have consequences. They have the power to cut, to wound, to crush, and even to kill and destroy. They can kill a relationship. They can kill a friend's spirit, they can kill someone's reputation or their future.

Words can destroy a community, a church, a workplace, a family, a marriage. All of us at one time or another, I'm sure, have experienced the devastating effect of harmful words. It may be, in some of your cases, something that someone said to you when you were a child—you were four, five, six years of age—and you still have those words playing. That record (if you remember what records were) is playing in your head, it's stuck with you for decades and you can't seem to shake it. You can't seem to break free from it. It's the power of words. Death is in the power of the tongue.

I want to hasten to say that we're not just victims of other people's words. Who among us has not spoken words that have wounded the spirit of a friend, a child, or a mate?

Let me also say that, not only do words have the power to kill, but death and life are in the power of the tongue. Words have power to give life, to heal, to nourish, to restore, to bless, to strengthen, to encourage. And of course that's what we want to be true of our tongues.

Let me encourage you, as you're praying through this request at some point or another, go through the book of Proverbs. There are other passages where you could do this, but Proverbs is where you have a lot of concentrated emphasis on practical Christian living, and the tongue is one of the topics that's emphasized in Proverbs.

Just list the different types of words that it talks about in Proverbs and the effect that those words can have on others. So, we have words that bless and give life, and we have words that kill and destroy. Let me also say that we have a couple of additional resources, that we'll link to at ReviveOurHearts.com. We have a four-week study called The Power of Words, a study of the tongue in the book of Proverbs. And then we have another entire Revive Our Hearts radio series we recorded some years ago that's just Proverbs on the tongue.

Those will be linked to on our website. You want to do more study and dig into this more. I think this is a topic that, as women, we need to come back to over and over and over again. Doing just this one program has been so good for me, and it's made me want to get back into some of those other resources.

You see, I said our words is a heart issue. And that's because our speech is a barometer. It reveals our hearts, our true spiritual condition. Because as Jesus said, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." So when I say something and then exclaim, "Oops, I didn't mean that!" The fact is, at some level, I did mean that.

Our speech is a barometer. It reveals our true spiritual condition.

Now I may be sorry I said it, sorry it came out, but what I'm really saying is that it was in my heart, and I'm just sorry that you heard what was in my heart. We don't like seeing what's in our hearts. And it comes out of the mouth.

You see this connection between a wicked heart and wicked words many times in the Scripture. Let me read you a few verses:

"Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. . . . The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit" (Ps. 36:1, 3).

He's got a wicked heart, and what comes out are wicked words.

Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the throng of evildoers, who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows, shooting from ambush at the blameless" (Ps. 64:2–4).

The wicked heart uses his tongue as a sword, as arrows to shoot at those they want to wound.

"For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues. They encircle me with words of hate, and attack me without cause. In return for my love they accuse me" (Ps. 109:2–4).

So here the Psalmist is saying, "I've been the victim of malicious words, lying words, hateful words, attacking words, accusing words." Notice what the Psalmist does in response, here: "In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer" (v. 4). You see, godly words can overcome wicked words. It doesn't always happen immediately or in the here and now, but there's a power of words to kill and to give life.

A wicked heart is going to bring forth accusations, lying, hatred, cursing, murmuring, whining, complaining, gossip, discouraging words . . . and other kinds of words. Proverbs talks about, for example, the problem of too many words (I think I just got a witness there. I'm not the only one in this room with this problem?)

What does Proverbs 10:19 say? "In the multitude of words sin is not lacking" (NKJV). You talk too much? You're going to sin. Which is one of the reasons, by the way, I rely on a whole team of praying people to pray me through days like this. I'm speaking a lot of words today!

We speak a lot of words every day, but I'm speaking a lot of words today as we're recording eight new Revive Our Hearts programs, and I know that in the multitude of words sin is not lacking. The more I speak, the greater is the potential for me to sin with my tongue.

So one of my prayers as I come into a day like this—as I prayed at the outset here—is, "Lord, let the words of my mouth be acceptable in Your sight." Help them be truthful. Help them to be kind and gentle and restorative and healing and life-giving. It's so easy to say words that will cut and wound, without even intending it or without realizing it . . . which is why we need the filling of Jesus' Spirit in our lives. Too many words.

Proverbs says in chapter 17:27 (NKJV), "He who has knowledge spares his words." Proverbs 29:20 (NKJV), "Do you see a man who is too quick to talk [hasty in his words]? There is more hope for a fool than for him." James 1:19, "Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger."

Then there are lying words and different kinds of lying . . . a lot of different ways we can lie. We can lie with exaggeration, with flattery, with slander, gossip, misleading, hypocrisy, guile, broken promises. These are words that can bring death and harm.

Impure words . . . Ephesians 5:4 talks about this: "Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place." They have no place coming out of the tongues, out of the mouths, of the children of God—no filthiness, no foolish talk, no crude talking.

It breaks my heart, it grieves me, to see how free women are today to speak crudely, roughly, with filthy foolish talk. This is why you don't want to fill your mind and heart with the way people talk on television or in the movies. There's such an overtness, an out there, just saying whatever you think with no filter on mouths. This is when we sin against God and against others, with impure words—harsh, cutting, biting words.

Oh, this is such a visual image in Proverbs 12:18 (NKJV): "There's one who speaks like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise promotes health." You have felt that sword come into your own heart when a mate, a child, a parent, a boss, a colleague, somebody at church said something to you or about you and it got back to you. "Oh, it hurt! It wounded me!"

A woman wrote us and illustrated this, and how it's a generational things many times. She said,

My mother constantly abused me verbally as I was growing up. She called me names. She accused me of things I had no intent of doing . . . until she suggested it. To this day (I will soon be seventy-four) she still haunts me from the grave.

She had a very critical spirit. After she died, I realized that her mother had treated her the same way. She made life miserable for our family. Words have been my destruction down through the years. I'm struggling not to be like her, but I find myself making degrading comments about overweight people, dirty people, people with too much make-up and on and on.

I so regret that it has taken all this time [for me to see] how much I have been like my mother.

Harsh words, rough words, cutting words, biting words, too many words, lying words, impure words . . . they come out of wicked hearts. They expose what's in our hearts—what comes out.

If you squeeze a lemon what's going to come out? Sour lemon juice! What comes out is a dead giveaway to what's inside. When those kinds of words come out, they expose our hearts in ways we don't always want to acknowledge.

So what happens when we have a pure heart? Well, our words will give thanks, they will encourage, they will bless, they will strengthen. They'll be words fitly spoken, as Proverbs 25 says; "words in due season," words that are well timed. Listen, here are some things that you need to say, but you don't need to say it now.

Your husband may need to hear what's on your heart, but he may not need to hear it when he walks in the door after a long hard day, and you just spew it. I always tend to think I'll feel better if I just say, and then you say it, and you feel a whole lot worse, right? Words that are well timed, that's so important.

Proverbs talks about a soft tongue and says it can actually break a bone. You don't want to, in a bad way, be breaking people's bones with your words. But a soft word can actually break down hard places in relationships. We think we've got to push it, force it, say it, be louder, be stronger. Proverbs talks about the power of a soft answer to turn away wrath.

A pure heart will use words to talk about the Lord. Psalm 71, "My mouth is filled with your praise and with your glory all the day" (v. 8). "My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day long" (v. 15). "My tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long" (v. 24). How much of our conversation in the course of a day is about Jesus? Or how little of our conversation?

How much of our conversation in the course of a day is about Jesus?

What about at church? Now, I know during the sermon there's a lot of talk about Jesus, but what about in the aisles before and after the service? What are we talking about? Now, does that mean we can't talk about the game last night, or we can't talk about the weather, or we can't talk about the kids' school?

No, those things are fine, but why do we talk so little about Jesus? If He's the One who fills our vision and our hearts, you'd think it would come out in our conversation. A pure heart will use its tongue to give thanks. Psalm 109:30, "With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord; I will praise him in the midst of the throng."

We use our tongue to share the gospel, Psalm 40:10, "I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation."

How about words that affirm and encourage and build others up? Such a powerful way to use our tongue! Ephesians 4:29, (Again, you know this verse, but this is one we need to read every three hours or so.) "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." What does grace do? It enables, it strengthens.

Our words are supposed to be good words, words that fit the occasion, words that are appropriate for the moment, words that build others up, and words that give grace to those who hear. So do your words in your home, in your marriage, in your workplace, do they destroy, or do they build up and give grace?

By the way, if you continue into the rest of Ephesians 4, you'll see again that these words, these good words, are the expression of a good heart, a forgiving heart, a loving heart.

Again, Proverbs talks about using our words to build up: "Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad" (12:25 NKJV). That's the best antidepressant there is, in some cases, just an encouraging word!

Some of your husbands need some encouraging. Every husband needs encouraging words. For some of your husbands it's been a long time since they've heard encouraging words come out of your mouth. So, they go into the workplace and they get beat up, and they're in this competitive world and they get beat up there.

What happens when they come home? Do they get beat up, or do they get built up? Proverbs 31:26, this virtuous woman, this noble woman, "She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue." I don't know about you, but I want to be a woman whose words are always wise and kind.

I'm not there. I'm 'way far from there, but that's what I aspire to! When I open my mouth, with our staff, with the people who know me best, people inside the four walls of my home, when I'm traveling, when I'm meeting strangers . . . Usually the trouble is not with the strangers, it's not with the guests in our homes, it's with the people who live in our home, right?

Do we open our mouths with wisdom (wisdom has a lot to do with timing) and with kindness? Proverbs 16:24 says that, "Pleasant (or delightful) words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones."

What are some of those words? Words like: 

  • I appreciate you so much!
  • I'm praying for you.
  • Is there anything I can do for you?
  • Please.
  • Thank you.
  • Please forgive me, I was so wrong.
  • I forgive you, is another sweet, pleasant word.
  • I'm so glad God gave you to me.
  • I love you. 

How often do those words get spoken from your mouth to your closest friends?

I love that verse in the Song of Solomon where the bridegroom says to his bride, "You lips drop nectar, my bride, honey and milk are under your tongue" (4:11).

Now you think about it, what does honey do? It strengthens that which is weak, and milk strengthens weak bones. Pleasant sweet words have the power to give strength to your man, to your children, to your parents. Honey and milk are under your tongue.

And, by the way, it doesn't say, "Her words are like a babbling brook." Honey drips slowly, right? And it's when my words become a babbling brook that I'm going to say things I'm going to regret and that are going to cause harm and damage. Honey and milk—words carefully measured, carefully thought through, spoken in love.

Nowhere is this thing of pleasant words more important than in the home, and nowhere more important than in the marriage. A woman wrote to us and said, "Our marriage is falling apart. My husband moved out several months ago. I pray it's not too late to appreciate him with words of encouragement!"

Ladies, speak the words before it's too late—while you're husband's there. This is why, over the years, we've issued this 30-Day Husband Encouragement Challenge to women (I see some heads nodding). Many of you have done this; maybe it's time to do it again.

If you don't know about that, go to ReviveOurHearts.com, pull up the 30-Day Husband Encouragement Challenge. Nothing that we have challenged women with has had greater response than that husband encouragement challenge. Let me read to you some of the response that we've received.

This one came from a husband; it's a sad one. He said,

I wish someone would encourage my wife to take the 30-day challenge. We've been married for thirty years. We argue a lot, and whenever I try to talk and reason with her she just gets mad and starts yelling.

Now I now "it takes two to tango," but I just want to tell you, from this husband's perspective, what he's feeling. He says,

She's spends hours every day on the phone gossiping and telling her friends and family what a sorry husband I am. Please pray for her, that she will stop speaking so badly about me to others and that she will seek God's advice for our crumbling marriage.

I love my wife and had hoped that my marriage would last a lifetime, but she is slowly killing my love for her. And please pray for me, that I would be the husband that God wants me to be.

Here's another one from a wife who says,

We've been married for two years, and our marriage has been rocky. There has been yelling, name-calling and constant fighting over stupid, small stuff. I know how important it is for a man to feel encouraged, and as a wife I want to encourage him and make him feel like he has someone in his corner.

I'm on Day Two of the 30-Day Husband Encouragement Challenge and my attitude toward him is already changing. [Imagine what it will be after thirty days!] I simply write the verse of the day [we have a little journal we send to you, if you're interested in this, or you can get it online] and a little note pertaining to it on an index card and I slip it into his lunch.

I also write encouraging things on the packaging of the stuff in his lunch. This morning, Day Two, he texted me to let me know that he loved the notes, and it was breaking his heart. In just two days I see us rekindling the relationship we had before all the garbage we allowed between us!

This woman wrote and said,

I've done a lot of damage with my quick-spoken, thoughtless words. How do I keep from blurting out angry words to people? How do I repair relationships I have damaged? 

Let me just suggest two things, and then the other resources we have talked about will be helpful. Number one, purpose to honor God with your words. "I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress," the Psalmist says in Psalm 17:3. I've purposed that my mouth will not transgress! And then, how do you do that?

Fill your with His Word. Instead of your words coming out of an evil heart, fill your heart with His holy Word. In the next verse, Psalm 17:4, ". . . by the word of your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent." His Word in you as it comes out will minister grace to the hearers.

Then, ask Him for help. Ask Him for help, the Lord. Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles. So we have this prayer in Psalm 141:3, "Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!"

And, Lord, that's my prayer, and I believe it's the prayer of my sisters in this room, that You would guard our tongues. May we speak only words that are true, words that help and heal, words that are wise and kind, words that honor Christ and build others up. I pray in Jesus' name, amen. 

Dannah: Guard my tongue! Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been showing us why this is such a powerful, necessary prayer request. It's part of a series, “My Personal Petitions.” Nancy’s shown us so many important things in this series How can we remember them all?

I'm glad you asked. Our team has developed the 2020 wall calendar that puts each of these petitions on display—one every month—for you to pray and remember. We’d love to send you this beautiful calendar. It's full of photography that will inspire your heart as you pray these petitions. It's our way of saying "thanks" when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount. You can call 1–800–569–5959 to make your gift and to request this gift. Or you can go to ReviveOurHearts.com. This calendar would also make great Christmas present! You can order additional copies at ReviveOurHearts.com.

How would you define wisdom? Nancy's going to help us develop a definition on the next program and learn how to pray for wisdom for ourselves. That’s tomorrow, here on Revive Our Hearts. 

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

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