Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Power of Words, Day 1

Leslie Basham: You can embark on a running regimen, lift weights, and eat right, yet still neglect the most powerful part of your body.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: I think this little member, the tongue, may be the most powerful, potent member of our body.

Leslie: This is Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy: In fact, the Scripture says that if we can control our tongue, we can control everything else about our body.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, co-author of True Woman 101, for Tuesday, June 20, 2017.

Nancy: You may remember reading a news report a few years ago about a wild fire in the Black Hills National Forest of South Dakota. Over 80,000 acres of valuable timber were destroyed, and the damage was estimated to be in excess of forty million dollars. How did that fire start?

Well, a forty-six-year-old woman admitted that she stopped by a road, lit a cigarette, and then tossed the still-burning match on the ground. Rather than putting out the fire—she saw that the brush was actually on fire—she got back into her car and continued on to her destination, leaving the fire to rage out of control.

As I read that account, I was reminded of James chapter 3, which tells us that the tongue is a fire, and it can be a wild fire. It is caused by that little member of our body called the tongue. James goes on to say, “See how great a forest a little fire kindles” (v. 5).

As I’ve been praying and studying and seeking the Lord on this subject of the tongue, I tell you, my heart is kind of trembling. This is one of those subjects I feel so highly accountable for what God’s been showing me and so desirous that the words that I speak would be pure words and words that would be pleasing to Him.

But I also shudder to think of how many times my words—words that have come out of this mouth—have been like that woman’s match; where I’ve thrown out the word without thinking, having no concept of the wild fire that was going to be started as a result, and then just walked off having created enormous damage.

I think this little member, the tongue, may be the most powerful, potent member of our body. In fact, the Scripture says that if we can control the tongue, we can control everything else about our body.

I’ve spent quite a lot of time recently in the book of Proverbs, reading everything I can read in that book about the tongue, the mouth, the lips, our speech. I’ve found over 110 references to the tongue in the book of Proverbs, and that doesn’t include verses that don’t specifically mention the tongue that are about things like quarreling and anger and gossip and things that have a direct relationship to the tongue.

Today we want to focus just on this general matter of the power and the impact of our words. In fact, the Scripture says that our words have power to kill and to give life. That’s pretty incredible power. The words that we speak—and it doesn’t have to be many of them, and sometimes ones that we weren’t even thinking about; maybe there was no intent to harm—but those words can actually take life; they can destroy life.

Conversely, those words can give life. Proverbs 18:21 is a verse that I hope you will memorize and write it down (at least the first portion of it) maybe several different places in your home. Put it on notecards, put it in your car, put it next to your telephone—that’s a place where we need to be reminded of this verse.

Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Death and life are in the power of the tongue. “And those who love it,” that is, those who love the tongue, those who love to talk, “will eat its fruit.”

What is that saying? The writer is saying that our words can do enormous good, and they can do enormous damage or evil. Our words can be life-giving, or they can be life destroying. He’s saying here that the words we speak—even the thoughtless and careless words we just throw off when we’re in a conversation not thinking—those words have consequences.

When this woman threw that match carelessly into the dry brush of that national forest, she had to live with the consequences. That was a federal crime, as it turned out, because it was federal land. When she threw that match out, she wasn’t thinking about the fact that her careless decision had consequences.

We so often don’t think about the fact that the words that we just throw out have consequences. When we throw out words that are not life-giving, words that are destructive, we’re going to live with the harvest and the consequences that result.

Those who love the tongue, those who love to talk, will reap the consequences, will eat the fruit of the choices that they have made and the words they have spoken.

Proverbs 10:11 tells us that “the mouth of the righteous is a well of life,” or as some translations put it, “a fountain of life.”

You see, the words we speak can be life-giving; they can spring up and give life to others. They can be like a spring to a weary traveler in the desert, to someone who is thirsty.

We know from Psalm 36 that with God is the fountain of life. If we want to speak words that minister life to others, we need to be filled with the Spirit of God so that He is the One motivating and enabling us to speak words that give life.

Our words have power to wound or to heal. Proverbs 12:18, “There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword”—sharp, cutting, reckless, piercing, hurtful words. Some of us just fling that sword around without any thought to who may be at the other end of it or the damage that it may be bringing to those who are at the receiving end.

“But,” he says, “the tongue of the wise promotes health.” You see, those piercing words, those words that are like swords, they are words that are not thought through. They are things we just blurt out, perhaps under the pressure of the moment. We may not intend to hurt, but with those carelessly thrown out words, we can inflict great damage.

On the other hand, that verse says that if we are wise, the words that we speak will promote health. Our words can minister grace and help and health.

I so thank the Lord for my parents and others, phone calls I get, people that speak words of encouragement into my life. I am so grateful for those people who, at a time when I’m discouraged, know how to lift up my heart with an encouraging word.

In fact, Proverbs 12:25 tells us that good words can actually help cure depression. You say, “No, not really.” Well look at it. Proverbs 12:25, “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.”

You’ve known what it is, as have I, to be at a time when you’re just really low and someone calls, or you pass somebody in church, or someone in your family just speaks a word of grace, a word of encouragement. “I know this is a hard time, but I’ve been praying for you, and I know you’re going to make it.”

Those words bring health and wholeness to our spirit. They can lift our spirits. Words of kindness, truth, blessing can be healing.

Proverbs 15:4 says, “A wholesome [or healing] tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” So there are some words that can crush or wound our spirits, can destroy morale.

As I’m speaking, perhaps you’re thinking of words that have been spoken to you, maybe words that were spoken when you were a little girl, but you’ve never forgotten those words. They still kind of ring and haunt you. Somebody told you you were fat, that you were ugly, or you were dumb, or they wished you’d never been born.

Even though you’ve grown to know that those aren’t true words and that the person who spoke them was the one who really had the issue, there are women who live their entire adult life in bondage to piercing, ugly, unkind words that were spoken when they were a little child.

Now, it’s easy enough to think about what words may have inflicted damage on us when we were little; but you know, we can’t do anything about those. We can’t help the words that were spoken to us.

What we need to focus on is, “When have I spoken words to someone else—to a child, to a friend, to a parent?” Isn’t that the place where we blow it—with the people we know the best? The people we live with?

I would not walk into this room and say ugly, nasty things to you. I'm going to be on my best behavior, and so are you when we come together for these Revive Our Hearts recording sessions. It's when I get back to my office. It's when I'm with my family. It's when I'm with people who know me the best that I let down my guard and I can start to say words that are discouraging, words that are impatient, words that wound rather than words that heal.

Proverbs 16:24 tells us that, “Pleasant [or delightful] words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.” Notice the interrelationship here between body and soul, between our physical condition and our internal spiritual condition. You can’t really separate the two. That’s why he says that words, sweet words, can minister physical and spiritual blessing and health to others.

Several verses in the Proverbs talk about how the words that we speak can bring destruction and a snare. You’ll see several verses through Proverbs on this theme.

First of all, we can destroy others with our tongues. Then we can destroy ourselves. Let’s look at some verses that speak about each of these.

First, the way that we destroy others. Proverbs 11:11: “By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted, but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.” Two kinds of people here: upright people and wicked people.

Upright people speak words that bless others. Godly people are blessed by God, and that blessing overflows to their community. A community will be blessed economically, politically, morally, socially by godly people because godly people speak out of the overflow of their hearts, and everyone around them reaps the benefit.

But a community—and that community may be your town; it may be a nation; that community may be your family—a community is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked. You see, the words and the behavior—and invariably those two are connected—the words and behaviors of wicked people are words of deceit and violence and slander and deception, and ultimately those words prove to be the downfall of a community, a group of people.

There are homes that are torn apart by this little thing called the tongue. People speaking words that are unkind and destructive. They end up overthrowing that family unit.

Proverbs 26:28 tells us that, “A lying tongue hates those who are crushed by it, and a flattering mouth works ruin.”

I’ve been to some of those places in other parts of the world where there are ancient cities that are in ruins. Those cities aren’t much use. Nobody can live in them; they are destroyed, ruined. And you think, Okay, I can see how armies could cause ruin. I can see how a nuclear bomb could cause ruin. But can you imagine that this little tongue in my mouth can wreak that same kind of havoc, can actually cause destruction and ruin?

It can crush people. “A lying tongue hates those who are crushed by it.” You see, the people who slander and lie are hateful people, and they destroy and tear down the lives and reputations of others. They flatter others. “A flattering mouth works ruin.” They do that in order to selfishly manipulate or gain advantage for themselves. But what they do is to leave wreckage and ruin strewn in their path. It's the ruin not of buildings, that wouldn't be so bad. It's worse than that; it's the ruin of lives.

Some of your lives have been ruined at points by things that were said to you as a child, and only by the redeeming grace of God has there been the bringing back to life of parts of you that were wounded so deeply.

Again, I have to ask not what has been done to ruin me with words, but what have I done to ruin others with the words of my mouth that were carelessly spoken. Not only do we ruin or destroy others with our tongues, but ultimately, if we’re fools—foolish people speaking foolish words—we’re going to destroy ourselves. That theme comes out in Proverbs a number of times.

Proverbs 10:14: “Wise men store up knowledge, but the mouth of the foolish is near destruction.” You see, wise people are restrained in what they say. They don’t just blurt out everything that comes to mind. We’ll see that theme again in the book of Proverbs. But foolish people just spout off without restraint, without thinking.

Scripture says the mouth of the foolish is near destruction. Eventually fools come to ruin themselves because of wrong things that they have spoken. Unfortunately, that often isn’t until after they’ve ruined a lot of other people in the process.

Proverbs 12:13: "The wicked is snared [or trapped] by the transgression of his lips, but the righteous will come through trouble." Those who sin with their lips—and this has happened to all of us—get caught. They get entangled with their own words, and they end up in trouble. Whereas, this verse says, the righteous person who speaks righteous words will be delivered from trouble.

Proverbs 18:7: “A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.” Again, we see a person who doesn’t control his words. He spouts off, and openly he self-destructs. His words are his downfall. His whole being is impacted.

Now, when we read verses like those, it’s easy to think of someone else. You may think of an angry man that you know, or a foolish teenager who is at that stage in life where they are not thinking what they are saying. They are spouting off hateful, ugly things, and you are so glad that you are not that fool. But as I’ve been pondering these verses, meditating on them, asking God to show me my need, God keeps pointing the finger back at my own heart and saying, “Many times you are this foolish person.”

Now, I may not do it as overtly, and you may not do it as overtly as someone else that you know whose words are really angry and profane and corrupt, but sometimes it can be just the simple little sarcastic statement that lodges like a sword in someone else’s heart; it pierces, it wounds, it destroys. And ultimately, we find ourselves caught in those words.

Our words are no small thing. Well, in a sense they’re small, but in another sense the impact that they have is enormous. Let me say that this is an area that the Scripture comes back to repeatedly as it relates to women.

Now, women aren’t the only ones who have an issue with our tongues, but I’m told that women speak—how many words is it a day compared to men? Women tend to be a little bit more verbal. Some of you are perhaps frustrated because you are married to a man who doesn't say much and you wish he would say more.

Let me just say that the makeup of men being less verbal also makes them less prone to sin with their tongues. That doesn’t mean that men don’t sin with their tongues, but it’s interesting that there are a number of times in the Scripture where specifically a woman’s words are referred to, and I think that’s because we speak so many more words. We have a greater chance of really doing damage with our tongues.

Our tongues, our mouths, as women, can bring great blessing. As a mother you can speak words of encouragement and blessing and grace and kindness to the lives of your children—words that you don't think are a big deal but that they'll remember. You can speak words that nurture and heal and strengthen to little, insecure thirteen year olds. But by the same token, those words that we speak in the heat of the moment without stopping to think can do enormous damage.

I have witnessed this take place, as you have, in many different settings. I’ve seen homes that have been torn apart, marriages that have been torn apart, children that have been devastated because a wife or a mom did not know how to control her tongue.

It’s really quiet in here. I can see that you’re thinking, and I’m thinking about my own family. I’m thinking about one of my siblings as I was growing up. I played the piano; she played the piano. There was something very insecure and competitive in me that I always had to be reminding her of how she wasn’t doing it right—to lift myself up, I guess; I don’t know. That thought crossed my mind as I was coming to this session.

She’s never brought it up and she’s doing fine, but I have such regret now as I think about it, about ways that I could have ministered grace and encouragement and security into my younger sibling’s life, but I chose instead to speak words that were put-down words, hurtful. Well, it didn’t wreck her life, but it could have.

I think of marriages that are blown apart today. It wasn’t any big issue; it was a woman who could not control her tongue—could not, would not. Now, that doesn’t mean the man didn’t sin, too. But as I’ve said, I think we women are probably more prone and more vulnerable to sin with our tongues.

In the workplace—the gossip, the evil reports, the negative speaking, the criticizing—how much damage has been done in the places where you and I have worked, in the ministry where I serve, by words that I have spoken or that you have spoken that have damaged someone’s reputation, have ruined their image in the eyes of others?

Why do I have to, when someone’s name comes up and I know something bad about them that no one else in the group knows, why do I feel compelled to point it out? It’s pride that makes me want to look better and wants to put them down.

But I’m destroying; I’m wounding, and ultimately I’m the one who’s going to be destroyed. I’m going to self-destruct if I let myself say those kinds of words.

I think churches are greatly influenced by the tongues of women. Again, not that men can’t sin with their tongues, but there are church splits and church squabbles and church issues that never would have had to take place if women had controlled their tongues.

Our critical spirits, our gossiping mouths, our complaining, murmuring, angry words, our petty words, our careless words are like that match that was thrown out into the national forest and lit a wildfire that destroyed 80,000 acres of timber and caused forty million dollars of damage. It happens in our churches if we don’t guard our tongues when we speak angry words, sarcastic words, cutting words, belittling words, slanderous, gossiping words.

Now, throughout this series on the tongue, I’m going to be calling you to do what the Lord’s been calling me to do over recent days, and that is to repent. All of us have spoken words we should not have spoken. James says we all sin with our tongues.

I’m not saying that you won’t sin; I’m saying when we do sin, we’ve got to agree with God about it, to confess it and repent of it, to come to Him and be honest and to be humble and to take responsibility for our words and for the damage that we’ve done with our tongues.

We can’t take those words back, but we can humble ourselves and go before the Lord and, where necessary, before others who’ve been affected by our words and say, “I’ve been so wrong. I’ve sinned with my tongue. I’ve used it as a sword. I’ve used it to wound rather than to heal. My words have not ministered grace and blessing to you. Would you please forgive me?”

As God brings those things to heart today and throughout the rest of this series, take them seriously and be willing to go before the Lord and say, “Lord, cleanse me, wash me. Give me a new heart, a new tongue."

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been encouraging you to pray and ask God for a new tongue. He will be faithful to answer that prayer. We hear from women all the time who have seen true change happen.

God often uses the Body of Christ to bring about that kind of change. Nancy’s here to tell you about an opportunity to work together with your sisters to learn to speak words of life.

Nancy: Over the years I’ve offered many 30-day challenges to listeners and I've heard back how transforming those challenge can be. During this series we’re inviting you to take on a 30-day challenge to use the power of your words for God’s glory. This challenge will begin about ten days from now—July 1.

Starting on that day and for the next thirty days, everyone signed up for the challenge will receive a daily email from me or my good friend Mary Kassian with a short reflection about the power of the tongue. We'll also connect you to some other resources designed to help you speak life-giving words. This is going to be a group challenge. Everyone who signs up will be going through it together for thirty days—the month of July.

So if you sign up with a friend or your family or a small group, you can encourage each other and talk about what you’re learning each day. To be a part of the 30-Day Power of Words Challenge during the month of July, you'll need to sign up at ReviveOurHearts.com by June 30. I hope you’ll take this opportunity to grow in your ability to speak life-giving words. Again, the web address is ReviveOurHearts.com.

The doctor asks you to stick out your tongue and say “Ahhh . . .” Whether or not you’re sitting at the doctor’s office, your tongue tells a lot about your true health each day. Find out more tomorrow when Revive Our Hearts returns.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you tame your tongue. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the New King James Version.

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