Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Power of Construction

Leslie Basham: Proverbs 24 says an honest answer is like a kiss on the lips. Mary Kassian talks about what that means. 

Mary Kassian: If you love someone, you're going to give them an honest answer. You're not going to be deceitful, because honesty is a sign of love.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, January 26, 2015.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Last week, my friend Mary Kassian began a series here on Revive Our Hearts as a guest teacher. The series is called “Conversation Peace.” That’s also the name of Mary’s Bible study workbook that's all about our words. This has been such a helpful, practical, and might I also say, convicting series so far, and I’m looking forward to today’s teaching. Here's Mary.

Mary Kassian: I live in Canada in a province called Alberta. Alberta is above Montana. If you hit Montana and go north, you'll hit Alberta. There are provinces all across Canada. The province to the west is British Columbia. And Canada stretches out all the way out to Ontario and Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. It's a massive country. I think it is by land mass almost as large as Russia. It's a massive, massive country.

At the beginning of when Canada was formed, there was a fellow, our first Prime Minister, and his name was John A. MacDonald. He was the first leader of this fledgling country of Canada. He made a crazy promise. He promised the colony of British Columbia that if they would join the country, if they would join Canada, then he would build them a Pacific railroad joining together all the provinces, in less than ten years. At the time, Canada was not yet four years old. It consisted of six scattered provinces. It only had a total population in all of that land of only three-and-a-half million people. Yet Prime Minister MacDonald was committing Canada to construct the greatest of all railways in the world.

It would be longer than any line yet built. It would be almost a thousand miles longer than the line that the Americans had built, with its population of almost forty million people and a lot more resources.

Furthermore, a Canadian line would face greater physical obstacles. Its builders would have to forge their way west across a granite wasteland, muskeg, desolate prairie, and then somehow bridge the Rocky Mountains which are massive mountains. I think they get higher and more jagged the further north you go. They are more difficult to traverse. They had to get across that in order to get the railway to the coast.

Many Canadians agreed that Sir John A. MacDonald's dream to connect the East and West was one of the most foolish things that could ever be imagined. But on November 7, 1885, in the mountains of British Columbia, the last spike was driven on Canada's transcontinental rail line. It linked East to West, and it did it in a mere fifty-four months—almost six years ahead of schedule. It was an unsurpassed railroad engineering and building feat.

Today, we're continuing our series on the power of transformed speech. The Bible presents a vision for God's people connecting and being joined together with bonds that are far stronger than a steel railway.

I'm going to read from 1 Peter 3, verses 8–11. In today's program, we're going to talk about what it means to build tracks, to cross barriers, to get across gaps, to build railway tracks, as it were, to connect with one another.

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For "Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it."

Sir John A. MacDonald had so embraced the vision of a railway that he persevered and fought against all obstacles to achieve it. In the same way, as we embrace the vision for what can be accomplished in and through our words, we become determined to lay tracks and keep building toward that goal of connecting with others. This passage gives us a vision for what can be achieved in relationships: unity, harmony, sympathy, love, tenderheartedness, blessing, and peace. Does that sound attractive? That sounds attractive to me. I wish my relationships had more of that—unity, harmony. I think all of us would like more of that in our relationships.

The theme echoes the Ephesians 4 passage that we studied in the third part of this series when we looked at the power of exchange. Ephesians 4:25 says, "Speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another."

So in Christ we are members of one Body, we're neighbors. The verse points out that we are figuratively joined at the hip. I'm a member of you, and you're a member of me. We are members of one another.

Because we are members of one Body, the Lord wants us to connect with each other and experience relational unity, harmony, and oneness. He wants us to abandon our "its-me-against-you" posture. It's not me against you. No, we are in this together. We ought to work in cooperation with one another and communicate in a way that's healthy and reflective of the fact that we are members of one another. Our words can lay tracks towards deeper understanding, deeper intimacy, and deeper commitment—even with people who are very different than us.

Sir John A. MacDonald's vision was for a new country stretching from sea to sea. It was for unity, for all these people to be connected by bonds of steel. It was for victory. Most people thought it was just a pipe dream. But he believed it could be done.

Have you embraced the Bible's vision for your communication? Do you believe that in Christ, unity and harmony is possible, or do you think it is one of the most foolish things that could be imagined? Do you believe that God gives us the power to speak and interact in a way that's redemptive and restorative and markedly different than someone who does not have the power of God in their life? Do you believe that your words can actually get through barriers and can lay these tracks of unity—strong bonds of friendship and intimacy? Do you believe that with God's help it can be done?

Think about that relationship that is problematic for you. Do you believe that God can change that relationship? Do you believe that with His power you can start to lay those tracks and start to connect on a deeper level? I believe it. I believe God's Word is full of promises and His power is available for us.

Peter also believed the vision. He said, "Unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind."

In part four of this series, we talked about the importance of humility. Pride is a barrier to healthy communication. Humility opens the door to it. Today I want to group together the ideas in 1 Peter 3 and show you the types of tracks you need to lay in order to build unity. These are tracks you want to put down and you want to move toward other people and to build your relationships deeper and to go deeper in intimacy with them.

The first type of tracks are tracks of faithfulness. The passage says, "Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing." To revile is to speak negatively, to speak scornfully, to be contemptuous, to disparage someone, to say bad things about someone, even by innuendo.

Peter says that we are called to faithfully bless others with our words. We're not called to be revilers. We are called to be blessers. That's my calling. That's your calling. If you want to know what your calling is in Jesus Christ, it's right here. It says that our calling as followers of Christ is to bless and not revile. It's to use our mouths in a way that is constructive, and we build and construct relationships and not tear them down.

Any speech that does not bless others breaks faith. When we speak negatively of others we're being unfaithful to Jesus and to our covenant community. We're being unfaithful to that unity to which He has called us. Slander is one type of speech that falls under the category of reviling. Slander is speech that attacks and injures the reputation of another person. But it is only one of the types of unfaithful speech. It is certainly the most damaging, but it is not the only type.

The key characteristic of unfaithful speech is secrecy. Speech that is secret is normally unfaithful speech. Our speech is unfaithful whenever we say in secret what we would (or should) be ashamed to say in the open with the other person present. Some types of unfaithful speech are:

  • slander—talking about people behind their backs in a negative way (Eph. 4:31)
  • gossip (Rom. 1:29)
  • whispering (see Ps. 41:7)
  • talebearing (see Lev. 19:16) 
  • babbling or chattering—excessive speech
  • tattling (see 1 Tim. 5:13)
  • defaming (see Jer. 20:10; 1 Cor. 4:13)
  • repeating matters (see Prov. 17:9)
  • meddling (see Prov. 26:17; 1 Tim. 5:13)

These are all taken from Scripture, all these types of speech are unfaithful speech. The problem is not only with those who speak unfaithfully but with those who listen to this type of speech. According to Proverbs 18:8, listening to unfaithful speech is like savoring a rare delicacy. It's like someone offers you this amazing piece of chocolate, and you let it melt in your mouth. You savor it; you take it in; you mmm, mmm, mmm. The problem is, when you take it in, you do take it in, even if you don't agree with it, you spend time considering it. It taints your thoughts and your attitudes.

Perhaps suspicion and caution arise where previously there were none. Maybe you begin to see that person spoken of in a slightly different light. Maybe you begin to see faults that you never saw before. The ancient philosopher Horace once said, "Once a word has been allowed to escape, it cannot be recalled." Once you've spoken a word, you can't pull it back and retract it. You can apologize. You can do your best to make it right, but it's gone.

We know that don't we? We've seen that happen in people's lives. We've seen slander take hold and damage families and damage relationships and damage whole communities.

Do you say or listen to things in secret? That you would be ashamed to say in the open? If so, then you are not being faithful with your speech.

The second necessity is to lay tracks of honesty. "Whoever desires to love life and see good days . . ." And who doesn't? Who doesn't desire to love life and see good days? The Bible says here if we want to love life and see good days, we have to mind our mouths. We have to pay attention to the words coming out of our mouths.

"Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit" (1 Peter 3:10). Falsehood in speech is a huge barrier to communication. In Ephesians 4:25, Paul said, "Each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor." Unity depends on it. Building tracks depends on it. Connecting depends on it.

To build the railway, MacDonald and the people of Canada needed to work at overcoming many barriers. One huge obstacle was the sinkholes and muskegs on the Ontario-Manitoba border. The muskegs came in every size. They were dangerous because of their deceptiveness. There is a thick crust of moss and vegetable matter, so the ground looks like it is stable. It looks like it is firm and you can step on it. But if you put too much weight on it, all of a sudden, a sink hole forms.

Railway builders thought they were building on solid ground, but when the weight of the train and the track grew too heavy for the mossy crust, it gave way, and it sucked the tracks into this seemingly bottomless pit. Legend has it that an entire train with a thousand feet of track was swallowed whole in such a sinkhole.

Falsehood is like a sinkhole. We think we're building a relationship on solid ground, but the deception makes the track unstable. When the deception is discovered, when the pit of slime is discovered underneath, the relationship takes a big hit, and it starts sinking. There are few things that destabilize a relationship and erode trust like dishonesty. Those of you who have experienced dishonesty or has had someone who is being dishonest or who has lied to you knows how very hard it is to rebuild that relationship. It's extremely difficult. All kinds of dishonest speech fall into this category, like:

  • Misleading
  • Exaggerating
  • Obscuring the truth
  • Fabricating
  • Fibbing
  • Misrepresenting—not telling the whole truth
  • Twisting
  • Concealing
  • Distorting
  • Downplaying
  • Disguising
  • Pretending

All of those things are deceitful. We speak truthfully when we say what we mean, and we mean what we say, and when our words are based on God's standard. Truthful speech does not distort or hide or bend truth. I'm as guilty of this as you are.

Sometimes you think, Oh, I'll just share this portion, and I'll leave that other part out. Or, I'll share what casts me in a better light, and I'll leave the other part out. Or, I'll just kind of bend it a little bit to favor myself. The Lord doesn't want us to do that because when that happens, it destabilizes relationships. Truthful speech does not have multiple hidden meanings or unspoken expectations. It's pure. It's honest. It's open. It's free of deceit.

Proverbs 24:26 says "An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips." In other words, if you love someone, you're going to give them an honest answer. You're not going to be deceitful, because honesty is a sign of love. It's a mark of love. It's important to be honest and open in our relationships.

The third necessity is that you lay tracks of tenderheartedness. In 1 Peter 3:8, Peter encourages us to cultivate "a tender heart." The same thought is mirrored in Ephesians 4:31–32:

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Hard-heartedness usually shows up when we experience conflict or hurt. When someone says something against us or hurt us or slighted us in some way, it's very easy to become hard-hearted. But hard-heartedness results in wrong attitudes, wrong actions, and wrong words. When we are hard-hearted, the passage shows us how to respond to injury or offense.

Ephesians 4:31, we start off by having ill feelings. Ephesians 4:31 calls it "bitterness." We have bitterness in our hearts, so we harbor resentment and have a bad taste in our spirit toward someone. We feel injured; we feel assaulted. It's a whole ball of emotions.

Then we respond with ill thoughts. The verse uses the words "wrath and anger." So our thoughts and assumptions about that person emotionally inflame us. We mentally rehash the situation and become increasingly agitated. We start assigning motives to that person's actions. Do you know what I'm talking about here? Yes. I've done it, and I'm sure you have done it as well.

Our ill thoughts percolate over into ill speech. The verse says, "clamor and slander," so it starts bubbling up into our words. We have difficulty speaking to the person civilly, so we clamor; we make a lot of noise. Our discussions start off kind of way up at a high level of conflict. When we speak about that person to other people, we have nothing good to say, so that is slander. The words start getting twisted.

Finally, we have ill intentions—"all malice." We wish evil on the person who hurt us. We desire revenge, or we plot revenge. We rejoice when that person falls down and that person suffers. We gloat when that person has misfortune. We want to see her fail. We want to see her punished, and we want to see her suffer. Do you have ill feelings, or ill thoughts, or ill speech, or ill intent in your heart toward someone who has hurt or offended you?

Another formidable barrier facing Canada's railway builders was the wall of Rocky Mountains. It was very hard to blast the way through that rock to reach the other side. It took eighteen months to blast four tunnels at a place called Hell's Gate. The crews took a year and a half to get a mile of track down.  

Your relationship challenge may be like that. You heart may be hard like those mountains. You may have this barrier where you find it very difficult to lay track toward another person. But as you work to overcome your hard-heartedness and forgive, the Lord will be with you. It may be slow, but keep at it.

That is the final and most critical necessity when you are laying track into the life of another. That is the willingness to pay the price and keep at it.

Building the railway was far more expensive than they thought. It cost far more than they anticipated. In our lives when we want to build tracks to join and have unity with other people, it costs. We have to pay the price. Often that price is far more than we want or expect. And yet, Jesus paid the ultimate price for us to be joined in relationship with Him, did He not? Because He did, He gives us the grace so that we can continue to pay the price and we can continue to build tracks into the lives of others. Is it worth it? I think you know the answer.

What tracks do you need to work on building today? Do you need tracks of faithfulness? Do you need tracks of honesty? Do you need tracks of tenderheartedness? God will give you everything that you need in order to build into the lives of others.

Nancy: Are any of those tracks missing or broken in your relationships? I hope you’ll take time to ask the Lord to help you build those tracks and use your words to build others up. Mary Kassian has been our guest teacher here on Revive Our Hearts, and she’ll be right back to lead us in prayer. 

This teaching is so practical. All of us communicate all the time, so you’d think we’d be better at it. But our words flow out of our hearts. So we need to be daily surrendering our hearts and our words to the Lord. 

Mary wants to help you grow in using your words to build relationships with others. She’s written a workbook that will lead you through God’s Word and help you study this crucial topic about our communication. 

Mary’s workbook is called Conversation Peace. We’d like to send you a copy to say "thank you" when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount this month.  

You're able to hear practical teaching like you've heard today that’s rooted in God’s Word because of listeners who believe in this ministry and want to keep hearing the program. So they have invested financially to help keep us on the air in your area.  

If you appreciate the teaching you hear through Revive Our Hearts, would you ask the Lord what He’d want you to give to help support this ministry? When you call with your gift of any size, ask for Mary's workbook called Conversation Peace. We’ll send one workbook per household for your donation. The number is 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com if you'd like to make your donation online, and you can still get the workbook.

Leslie: Thanks Nancy.

Think about this: Do you ever get nervous speaking to strangers? Or speaking in front of a group? Mary Kassian says if you have a speaking problem, you actually might have a listening problem. She’ll explain why, tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts. To close our time, Mary Kassian is back to pray.

Mary: Heavenly Father, I pray You will make us willing to pay the cost and that You will help us to build those tracks of faithfulness, honesty, and tenderheartedness; that where there are barriers that we need to cross; that we will work at crossing them; that we will forgive; that we will be open and honest; that our speech will be faithful.

I pray that we may do this to bring You glory and to demonstrate that You love us and to demonstrate the unity of Your body and the power of Your Holy Spirit. I pray it in the mighty name of Jesus, amen.

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

All Scripture is taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

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