Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Power of Words, Day 5

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Some of us have tongues like rapidly moving rivers or babbling brooks. Particularly, when I have been in my study or alone for a while, I come out babbling—talking a mile a minute. Sometimes, often not soon enough, I catch myself and I think, You have done nothing but talk since you came out of your room or house! Invariably, I’m going to sin with my lips if I don’t let the Holy Spirit restrain and control. It really is true. People who are more measured in their words are thought to be wise.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, co-author of True Woman 101, for Monday, June 26, 2017.

Today Nancy continues in the series, "The Power of Words."

Nancy: I read an interesting article in USA Today some time ago about a New Jersey teenager who was nineteen years of age, and his name was Brett. One day this young man decided he was spending too much time talking and wasn’t listening enough to others, so he took a “vow of silence” for a year.

That is pretty astounding! I can’t imagine—for a teenager or a non-teenager—how that would be possible. But I was intrigued by the idea and decided to take a similar challenge myself, except mine didn’t last a year. I decided to try it for forty hours.

While I was working on this material, I had a period of time when I was studying, where I thought, I just want to go on a fast from words. So I kept from speaking words for close to two days. Actually, it wasn’t too difficult because I was by myself the whole time.

I didn’t have anybody else around—although I will confess that I didn’t quite make it. On two occasions, I did find that I was talking to myself out loud! So I didn’t totally succeed, but I don’t know if that qualifies. If you are just talking to yourself . . . is that talking?

Anyway . . . that experience reminds me of a monk who went to a monastery that had a rule: You could only say two words every ten years. At the end of ten years, when the monk had his opportunity to say his two words, he said, “Bed hard!”

Another ten years went by—ten years of silence. At the end of those long years, he had the opportunity for his next two words. He said, “Food bad!”

Ten more years of silence came and went. At the end of that thirty-year period, he spoke his last two words. He said, “I quit!”

His superior responded, “I am not surprised. All you have done since you got to this place is complain!”

So this man didn’t speak many words, but the words he did speak were complaining words.

I’m not suggesting that Scripture teaches that we should not speak for a year or for ten years. There are many words that the Scripture says that we ought to say—words of blessing, words of encouragement, and words that build up or edify others.

We have been looking at the book of Proverbs in the last several sessions. Specifically, what it has to say about the tongue.

I have found myself greatly challenged and convicted as I have walked through the book of Proverbs. I have tried to pull out all the verses that relate to speech, to see what God has to say to my about my speech through that book.

One of the recurring themes in the book of Proverbs is the danger of talking too much and the importance of restraining our words.

Let us look at some of those verses in this session. Proverbs 10:19 is one of the verses that is most familiar to us. It reads, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” 

Two verses earlier in that chapter, verses 8 and 10—have a similar phrase: “A chattering fool comes to ruin” (NIV).

Proverbs reminds us that in the multitude of words—too many words—sin is inevitable. Too much talking leads to all kinds of other sins: the sin of exaggeration, lying, foolish jesting, meaningless chatter, and criticism. You get in a group, start talking, and you say too much. Invariably, I find myself about to say something—about someone else—that is critical. I would have been better off if I had just restrained my lips and spoke less.

It can lead to saying things that are inappropriate or that are poorly timed—maybe something that would be acceptable to say in a different setting, but in that particular setting it is not appropriate.

It can also lead us to making comments that are insensitive or self-centered. Too much talking can lead us to murmuring or boasting and many other sins flow out of the sin of talking too much.

Proverbs 12:23 tells us, “A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims foolishness.” 

Over and over again in the book of Proverbs you see this theme: A wise man does not have to say everything he knows. Instead, he demonstrates restraint and humility and speaks at the appropriate time. A fool gushes—blurts out foolish things and has no restraint.

You see this same thought in Proverbs chapter 29:11, “A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.” 

Ladies, I have to say that most of us, as women, are particularly vulnerable to this kind of foolishness. If we feel it, we have to say it. And it is not always necessary or best to say it. A foolish person gives vent to all his feelings, but a wise man or woman holds it back. 

Proverbs 15:28, “The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth [or gushes out—literally ‘bubbles forth’] evil.”

Do you see how the mouth is connected to the heart? The wicked person has an evil heart—a foolish heart and an unwise heart—and he is going to gush out, bubble out things that are going to be evil words. Whereas the righteous person—the person with a righteous heart—carefully weighs his words.

This is one of the reasons that I don’t like doing live-radio interviews, especially if they are going to have call-ins. I do it sometimes, and I ask the Lord for grace to do it. But I still know that there is a good chance—if I’m speaking on the spot, without a chance to think before I speak—that I’m going to say something that I will wish I hadn’t said.

It is those “off the cuff” comments that get me into trouble. But the heart of the righteous carefully considers how to answer before he speaks, rather than just blurting out the first thing that comes to mind. It is so dangerous when someone says, “What do you think about . . .”  I’m quick to say, “Well, I think that . . .”

What I think may be very wrong, inappropriate, or it may not be the wisdom of God’s Word. That’s why I prefer time to think when a question is asked. I don’t always take time when I have it, but I do need to take time to think, What does the Word of God have to say about this specific matter?

Proverbs 17:27–28 says, “He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace [This doesn’t mean he is wise, but it means that his silence gives an impression that he’s wiser than he really is.]; when he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.”

He who has knowledge spares his words. A wise person uses caution in his speech. He doesn’t gab; he thinks before he speaks and measures his words carefully.

Some of us have tongues like rapidly moving rivers or babbling brooks. Particularly, when I have been in my study or alone for a while, I come out babbling—talking a mile a minute. Sometimes, often not soon enough, I catch myself and I think, “You have done nothing but talk since you came out of your room or house!”

Invariably, I’m going to sin with my lips if I don’t let the Holy Spirit restrain and control. It really is true. People who are more measured in their words are thought to be wise.

I have worked with two different men in this ministry who are men of few words. I think of them as men of great wisdom. I have been in staff meetings with these men on many different occasions. While discussing issues, most people are back and forth, throwing in their two cents worth. I frequently make comments, but in both cases I think of these particular men. Most of the time, they exhibit restraint and discipline enough to sit back for a long period of time, or so it seems to me. But do you know what happens when they finally do speak?

It’s like E.F. Hutton. Everyone listens and responds, “Yeah! Why didn’t we think of that?” People who hold their tongue are considered wise—and they are wise.

Some of you are frustrated about living with the feeling that your husband doesn’t really listen to you. Could it be possible that he might listen more attentively if you said less? I don’t mean that sarcastically at all. I think most people would pay more heed to our words if they knew that when we speak our words are careful, measured, and thought through before we say them.

Proverbs 18:13, “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is a folly and a shame to him.” 

I think that verse applies to jumping to conclusions. I say to those of you who are mothers, if you are quick to jump to conclusions, you will frustrate your children about the matter before you have heard the whole story. “He who answers a matter [or returns a word] before he hears it,” before he gets all the facts and hears it out, will come to wrong conclusions will look foolish in the end and will often frustrate others.

Part of having a wise tongue is the ability to listen—to listen! One area that I consistently violate holding my tongue is interruption. I grew up in a family with a lot of kids. Not only was it a big family, but the people in my family were strong-minded and rational, always wanting to interact and debate each other. In our family, if you wanted to speak you had to interrupt. That is not a good habit.

I thank the Lord for a lot of things about my family, and we did have a lot of great discussions. However, now when I stop and think, sometimes I realize that I haven’t even paid attention to what was said before I jump in with my own opinion. I sometimes speak before I hear the matter out.

Proverbs 29:20 puts it this way, “Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”

According to Proverbs, there is not much hope for a fool. A man who is hasty to speak—who blurts out thoughtless, insensitive, or foolish words that can’t ever be taken back—has less hope than a fool.

One of my favorite authors, Francois Fenelon, has ministered to me greatly through his book, The Seeking Heart. He was a spiritual advisor to women at the court of Louis XIV. During his service he wrote some letters of counsel to these women about issues in their lives. One matter he talks about is words and speech.

I read something in his book that recently spoke to me: “Try to practice silence as much as general courtesy permits. Silence encourages God’s presence, prevents harsh words, and causes you to be less likely to say something you will regret” (p. 71).

Although he wrote hundreds of years ago, it felt very pointed to me. He said, “You are long-winded. You want to say everything that has the slightest connection to the subject at hand . . . Try to be brief. Learn to get to the heart of the matter and disregard the nonessential . . . You could say what you mean in two words” (p.111).

I thought, He wrote that with my name on it. But, he concluded, “What you really need to do is to sit quietly before God and your active and argumentative mind will soon be calmed. God can teach you to look at each matter with a simple, clear view” (p.111).

Do you really want to know if you talk too much? I find that most of us who do talk too much don’t realize that we do. We have a hard time “landing our plane,” and there aren’t many people who love us enough to confront us about talking too much. If you do want to know, ask someone who knows you really well; ask your mate.

I was in a meeting recently where several individuals were involved in discussing some issues. After the meeting, I had an intuitive sense that I had said more than I should have; more than my share in the conversation. So I asked a man who was in the meeting, “Did I say too much in the meeting?”

He hesitated long enough that I knew I probably had. Then he said, “Well, the long story you told could have possibly been condensed a bit.” At that moment, I was so thankful to have real friends who would help me know when in this area or in other areas I’m not walking according to the Word of God.

Ask someone if you wonder if you are saying too much. Above all, ask the Lord. Say to Him, “Lord, am I saying more than what is pleasing to You? Are my lips being controlled and restrained by Your Holy Spirit?” Ask the Lord to give you wisdom and grace to speak to others after God has spoken to you. In that way you will know that the words you are speaking have come from His heart into your heart and then into the hearts of others.

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth just gave some practical advice you can put into practice today. Talk less! Her teaching is part of the series called "The Power of Words." She has covered gossip, slander, and lying. She has also inspired us to bless others with our words.

Some members of our audience have been listening along and Nancy asked them to share how words have blessed them.

Nancy: What are some of the spoken words that have given blessing, life, and encouragement to you?

Mary: Okay, I’m going to cry; I can tell you right now. I had a wonderful father. He was a minister. But that fact really doesn’t have anything to do with the words of blessing he gave me. He was just a wonderful example in many things. I was fortunate to have a father who loved me and thought enough to speak words to bless me. I will remember them all my life, and I want more than anything to share them with my children. I feel convicted today that I am not doing a good job of speaking blessings, even though he taught me by example as I was growing up.

He said, “Honey, I may get mad at you. I may discipline you. I may not even like you a little bit. But there is not one thing that you can do that will keep me from loving you.”

There was so much freedom in that, and I always felt it. I knew he meant it. I knew he would get mad at me, and I also knew that he would make true on the promise that he would punish me when I needed to be punished. But he always told me, “Honey, there is not one thing you can do that would keep me from loving you.” I want my children to feel that and to know that, but I also want my words to reflect that. His words were very much a blessing to my life.

Nancy: When your dad spoke those words to you, he was reflecting the heart of the heavenly Father who says, “Yes, I will discipline you, but I will never take My love from you.” Can you see by this example how our words can draw others to God?

Our words are an expression of His love and His heart and they create a climate—a soil or an atmosphere—in the heart of the hearer that makes them want to know the God reflected in your words.

Kathy: I want to say something about what Mary said. I knew her father, and he was a wonderful man. He also gave some very encouraging words to me once. When I went to the hospital and found out about my first brain tumor, he was the first person I called. He wasn’t even the minister at my church, but I worked with Mary’s mom and so her dad came and prayed for me.

He prayed, “Kathy, no matter what happens, you will be okay. You know the Lord, and He will bless you either here on earth or with Him.” Those words have stuck with me and they have become a byword for me. As I faced the second brain tumor and now some other things that are coming, those words just resonate with me every day of my life. That is the way I now pray: “No matter what happens, Lord, I know You! I will be okay.”

Susan: Sometimes blessings don’t come in words but are the way people react to things—like my father. My father was in Christian ministry all his life, and there will always be people criticizing those in fulltime Christian ministry. I can remember when someone would criticize my father, he would just say, “That is all right.” It never went any further than that, and he was fine. But I can remember lying in bed sometimes composing speeches that I wanted to give anyone who dared to say those things to him.

To put it all together: Sometimes hurtful words can be said to someone we love, and God gives them the grace to handle it.

My husband works in a church and is also a politician—I’m going to get it coming from two different directions! Just recently, some people at church met with my husband to tell him how he is wrong in this or that.

Some of what they said was not truthful. He told me about it and my first reaction was: “Oh, how dare they! They are just bitter, bitter, bitter people!”

In response he told me, “Susan, God really showed me that I need to respond [these were words of blessing to me] and listen to everything they say. I need to just be quiet and listen to them. If there is a small morsel of truth in what they say, then I need to fix it. I need to pray about it and ask God what I can do. But if there is not any truth, then that is okay, too.”

My husband is a great encouragement to me. It is not so much the words that I can recall, but it is his attitude that is an encouragement and blessing to me.

Leslie: That is a Revive Our Hearts listener who has been learning to use words wisely. She has been listening to the teaching series from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth called "The Power of Words."

To help you put these ideas into practice, Nancy has offered thirty-day challenges over the years.

Holly took this challenge while in the middle of a big conflict with her husband.

Holly: It just made me more aware of everything that came out of my mouth. I was more aware when I was about to say something negative, do something negative, or roll my eyes. It just made me so aware of everything that I just quit doing it. He, in response, became much more receptive to things and not so close-minded when he would talk about things when he thought he was right. He talked with me more, and I listened to him more. We just communicate a lot better now. He still doesn't know that I did it [the challenge].

Leslie: And during this current series on the way we use our words, we want to invite you to a new challenge. This isn’t just about how we speak to our husbands, it’s a challenge to watch our words with everyone for thirty days. Here’s how it works. Sign up at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Now, you need to sign up before June 30 to get in on this challenge. Once it starts, it’s too late. Starting on July 1, we’ll send you a daily email with a devotional thought from Nancy or our friend Mary Kassian about how we use our words. It’s a daily reminder to devote all our words to the Lord and His glory. You’ll get a lot more out of this challenge when you sign up with a group of friends or family. Then you can hold each other accountable and share what you’ve been learning.

The hurt caused by cruel words is real. How do you heal from those kinds of words? Nancy will address that tomorrow. I hope you’ll be back for Revive Our Hearts. Now, Nancy’s back to pray.

Nancy: Thank You, Lord, for Your incredible love. You loved us so much that you gave the best that You had. You loved us, knowing that there was no reason to expect that we would love You in return. Your love captured our hearts, and You transformed us; You saved us. You lifted us out of the pit of sin and self that we were in.

Your Word says that Your love has been shed abroad in our hearts by Your Holy Spirit, and You have put us in this world to love with Your love. We pray for grace, love, and Your healing, where it is needed. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the New King James Version. 

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