Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Power of Words, Day 6

Leslie Basham: Here is author and teacher, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Do you ever have the feeling that if you don’t yell, your kids aren’t going to get it? Well, that’s the way it may seem in the short term, but in the long run, “sweetness of the lips increases learning” (Prov. 16:21).

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, co-author of True Woman 101, for Tuesday, June 27, 2017.

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

Nancy: "Death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Prov. 18:21). It’s amazing what great blessing and what great damage can be done by the words that we speak.

In the last several sessions, we’ve been looking into the book of Proverbs to get wisdom from God’s heart about our tongues. We’ve been talking about certain kinds of words that God wants us to speak, that wise people will speak, and we’ve been looking at certain kinds of words that foolish people will speak.

We come today to one that is really a conviction to my own heart as I’ve been reading through the book of Proverbs. It’s the difference between soft words and rough or harsh words. There are many different words in Proverbs that talk about soft words, gentle words, pleasant words, sweet words, and the contrast is with words that are harsh or rough.

We’re all familiar with that verse in Proverbs chapter 15, verse 1, that says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

There’s a powerful illustration of the contrast between these two kinds of words in the book of Judges. So let me ask you to turn in your Bible to Judges chapter 8. Then we’re going to turn over to chapter 12, so you may want to put your finger there.

In both cases the men of Ephraim, which is one of the tribes of Israel, were involved. You’re going to see in both these instances that the men of Ephraim were an angry, easily offended people. You’ll see that in both these instances.

Chapter 8 of Judges, verse 1: "Now the men of Ephraim said to [Gideon], ‘Why have you done this to us . . . ?’” Now Gideon had just won a great battle in the power of the Lord against the Midianites, and the men of Ephraim called him to task.

They should have been cheering him on for what he had done to help the nation of Israel, but instead they had a beef with him. They said, “Why have you done this to us by not calling us when you went to fight with the Midianites?” (Judges 8:1). They reprimanded him sharply. These were fighting words. They were incensed. They were offended.

So Gideon said to them, verse 2: “What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?” That’s where Gideon came from. So what was Gideon saying? “Look, I’m nothing compared to you guys.” They were chastising him. They were rebuking him.

Gideon says in verse 3, “God has delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. And what was I able to do in comparison with you?” So he takes the pathway of humility. He gives a soft answer. He defuses their wrath with a humble word, and the Scripture says in the end of verse 3, “Then their anger toward him subsided when he said that.”

Now turn over to Judges chapter 12. Four chapters later you see the men of Ephraim once again are upset. Verse 1 of chapter 12: “Then the men of Ephraim gathered together, crossed over toward Zaphon, and said to Jephthah, 'Why did you cross over to fight against the people of Ammon, and did not call us to go with you? We will burn your house down on you with fire!'” Jephthah responded differently than Gideon had. Gideon responded with a humble answer, a soft answer that diffused the wrath of the Ephraimites.

Now, watch how Jephthah responds. He says in verses 2–3, “My people and I were in a great struggle with the people of Ammon; and when I called you, you did not deliver me out of their hands. So when I saw that you would not deliver me, I took my life in my hands and crossed over against the people of Ammon; and the LORD delivered them into my hand. Why then have you come up to me this day to fight against me?”

You see the difference in his approach? He’s defensive. He’s attacked as Gideon was, but he comes back in attack mode. Now what do you have? Two people in attack mode. The outcome is inevitable. There’s going to be a battle and sure enough there was.

Verse 4: “Now Jephthah gathered together all the men of Gilead and fought against Ephraim.” There was now an enormous loss of life. You see the contrast here? In both cases, Gideon and Jephthah both faced harsh words. The difference was in how they responded to those harsh words. In one case—in Gideon’s case—he diffused the angry situation. In Jephthah’s case, it led to a war.

Now, are you more often like Gideon or like Jephthah when you respond to cross words, to hurtful words, to words that are said that are unkind or that attack you? All through Proverbs we see this emphasis on having words that are gentle, pleasant, and sweet.

I think this is one theme that women today particularly need to hear. If you watch any amount of television—and I hope you don’t watch much if you watch any. One of the things that just seeps into your system is the way that women talk in so much television programming today. It’s seeped into our culture. Women talking roughly and harshly and garbage talk, trash talk.

It’s even true, I find, of many Christian women today. Crude talk, loud, rough, domineering talk. Anything but gentle and sweet and pleasant words. Is it any wonder that we’re raising a teenage generation that is rough and ugly and unkind in many cases in their talk? In a lot of cases, they’re reflecting what they have heard in their homes from those of us who are the adult generation.

Proverbs 16, verse 21, tells us that, “The wise in heart will be called prudent, and sweetness of the lips increases learning.” Do you ever have the feeling that if you don’t yell, your kids aren’t going to get it? Well, that’s the way it may seem in the short term, but in the long run sweetness of the lips increases learning.

Some of you are home schooling your children, and if you’re a mother, you’re teaching your children no matter where they go to school. You’re teaching your children. It should be encouraging to you to realize that you can motivate your children to learn by speaking words that are sweet. You can create a climate in your home that’s conducive to growth.

I’ve only ever gotten two speeding tickets, and both of them were during my last two years of college when I lived out in Southern California. When I think about this now, it’s nuts. I was driving much too fast on the Pasadena Freeway, which is a very twisting and turning freeway with narrow lanes. The first time the policeman stopped me and he was kind of rough in his handling of the situation. I just paid the ticket but reacted in my spirit wrongly, I might add. He’s the authority. I’m not. But in my arrogance, I reacted wrongly to his roughness.

It wasn’t too long after that, I was still speeding. I had not learned a lesson and got stopped again. This time, the policeman had a whole different way of approaching the situation. He had a gentle answer, and he expressed concern for my wellbeing by driving like a mad woman on the Pasadena Freeway. Now, he was very right.

The first one was right in what he said, but I was so convicted by the spirit of that second policeman (not to speak of the fact that I didn’t want to pay any more speeding tickets) that something clicked inside of me, and I made a change of lifestyle. I’ve changed my driving. I don’t want to say I stopped speeding because I can’t say that I never speed. But I drive a lot differently today and have ever since. Sweetness of the lips increased learning.

Now, I’m not justifying my lack of response to the first policeman. I’m just saying the spirit of the second one really helped my response to be one of learning.  Proverbs 16, verse 24, tells us, “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.” Pleasant words are sweet to the soul and health to the bones. Pleasant words minister grace and help and strength and health and wholeness to those that hear them.

Proverbs 18:23 is a verse the Lord has used in my life many times over the years. It says, “The poor man uses entreaties." He pleads. He appeals because he knows that if he doesn’t, he’s probably not going to get what he needs; whereas, "the rich answer roughly."

Now, this can be true in terms of material poverty and wealth. You will find it true that often those who have the greatest material wealth are the most damaging at times with their tongues. They can speak roughly and feel they can get away with it. In a sense, in this country, we’re all wealthy. I think we have, in our prosperity, gotten to where we think we can just speak roughly.

But I think it’s talking about something even deeper than material wealth or poverty here. It’s to do with the poverty of spirit that Christ wants us to have. The humble person will use appeals, will use entreaties; whereas, the person who is arrogant in his spirit will speak roughly to others.

Then in this verse in Proverbs chapter 25, verse 15 (which would be hard to believe if it weren’t in the Word of God, but it is in the Word of God) there is an incredible promise. Proverbs 25:15: “By long forbearance a ruler is persuaded, and a gentle tongue breaks a bone.”  Now, think of a gentle tongue. A tongue in itself is not a very strong member of the body physically. How can a gentle tongue break a bone? A bone is something that’s hard.

Well, the proverb is saying here that by long forbearance, by long putting up with the other person, the person in authority can be persuaded. If you have patience and gentle words, soft words and humility, those are powerful weapons. You think of that authority at work or that authority in your home who just isn’t seeing things right. How do you come up against that person? Do you push? Do you demand? Do you insist? Or do you wait? Forbearance. Do you speak gentle words?

In time, patience and humility and gentleness can accomplish more than anger or force. The gentle tongue is a powerful influence. So the Scripture tells us that if we’re wise, we’ll speak words that are soft, that are gentle, that are pleasant and sweet.

What are some of those words? Words like, “I love you.” “I’m so proud of you.” “I’m praying for you.” I can’t tell you how many times those words have ministered grace and strength and encouragement to my heart. Those are sweet words. Words like, “Is there anything I can do for you?” Try saying that in your home more than you ask others to do something for you.

Words like “please” and “thank you.” Those aren’t just old-fashioned courtesies. Those are an expression of a sweet spirit. Those are pleasant words and they increase learning. Words like, “Please forgive me.” “I am so sorry that I dealt with you that way, that I wounded your spirit in that way.” Those are sweet words. They minister grace.

Words like, “I forgive you.” “I appreciate you.” When you tell your children or your grandchildren, “I’m so glad God gave you to us.” “I’m so glad God let you come and live in our home.” Those are sweet words. Those are pleasant words. Those are words that minister grace to the hearer.

Leslie: That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. Words of grace have great power. Nancy’s been explaining why.

Speaking words of grace doesn’t come naturally for most people. But you can learn to offer them. We hear from women all the time who have learned to speak words of grace to their husbands.

For example, we connected with a woman named Hannah. She learned about a 30-Day Challenge offered by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. Here’s the challenge. For thirty days, don’t say anything negative about your husband. And during that time, do something to encourage him. We provided Hannah ideas on how to encourage her husband. And it had a big effect.

Hannah: It really hit me hard one day that I noticed how negative I've been in the past with my husband. I've been very critical, overly critical. We've been married a little over five years. A lot of people look at us in the church and they think, "Oh, that cute little married couple. How sweet are they?" We were high school sweethearts. You have all these sterotypes that come flying at you. But I realize how hurtful and cruel I was with my words and my actions.

Leslie: One night Hannah was criticizing her husband and mentioned that he was lazy. Not long after that, she heard him tell someone else that he was lazy. He was repeating the negative words she’d said to him.

Hannah: Now whether or not he is, he should never have been picking that up from me. 

Leslie: The 30-Day Challenge opened Hannah’s eyes to see this. It showed her how influential her words were.

Hannah: It was amazing and hurtful all at the same time that I had been treating him like that with my actions and my words

Leslie: The challenge helped Hannah reverse this trend and encourage her husband. We want to invite you to a new challenge from Nancy.

This year, we’re asking you to broaden your challenge to include everybody, not just husbands. If you’re up for this challenge, sign up at ReviveOurHearts.com by June 30. Then starting July 1, we’ll send you one email each day including a devotional thought from Nancy or from her friend Mary Kassian, author of Conversation Peace.

You’ll get this daily email to remind you to carefully consider your words. And when you’re part of this challenge, you’ll be entered in some giveaways as well. To sign up, visit ReviveOurHearts.com.  

As we continue to explore the power of words, we’re about to consider the lifelong impact words can have. Some women in our audience have been listening to this series with us, and they’re going to tell us about the power words have had in their lives. 

Susan: Music has always been a part of my life. When I was five or six, at my first piano recital, I came back after playing a little piece and said, “Mom, didn’t I do a good job,” or something. I don’t remember the exact words. She said, “Well, you can always do better.”

Ever since then I’ve had a real struggle with never feeling like I quite could get there—and I’m forty-four today. We’ve discussed this. But then I find myself doing the same thing with my children, and that’s something that I need to work on and I need to pray about. Praise is more important than making sure—she always—oh, what she told me was, “Susan, I just always wanted to make sure that you did not have a proud heart. I wanted to keep you from being too prideful.” Like I said, I find myself doing that with my children even today, and it’s wrong.

Woman 1: This has been a battle for me to overcome all of my life. Here I am at fifty-seven, and I still hear, “Look at that big nose on that face.” “You’ve got the family huge nose.” “Look at this sweaty hair.” “You’re so sweaty and stinky.”

I wasn’t just a girl. I was a “split tail.” That’s a bad Southern term that your only purpose in life was for men. I can’t wear a short dress because I still hear, “Look at them skinny bird legs.” “Yeah, you go to that church with all of them hypocrites. You ain’t no better than us. That’s why you go, you want to be better than us.”

They would never listen to me about Jesus. There wasn't love, but they didn’t know any better. They hurt more than I hurt, and I’m sad that they hurt. They’re not living. Hardly any of them are. I don’t know if any of my words ever helped their hearts to change so I’ll see them again in heaven, but I hope so.

Words can terribly hurt, and I can even hear them in stores. Some mother will say, “Shut up, you brat kid.”  People just don’t even know how they’re hurting their little children. I find myself sometimes too critical, and I find myself following some of the patterns that were so exemplified before me. I’m so sorry for that. I so want to repent of ever sounding critical to anyone.

Janie: I became a mother when I was eighteen years old, and I had no idea how to be a mother. Eighteen years later when I had six children, I still, most of the time, had no idea what I was doing. I wondered if I ever would know what I was doing.

God sent a friend into my life who looked into my eyes one day and put her hands on my shoulder, and she said, “Janie, you’re such a good mother.” Nobody had ever said that to me, and I didn’t know if I was or not. It still makes me cry just to think about it. But those words were so, so valuable to me.

I have four daughters and a daughter-in-law now, and I’m really careful to tell them they are really good mothers and look for things to tell them that because it meant so much to me.

Nancy: Nobody is the mother they want to be. God can use those kinds of encouraging words whether it’s as a mother or any other aspect of our lives to strengthen parts of us that are still weak.

I think about years ago I was in a church service where the man who was leading the service asked us to find somebody in the service, to go to them and to tell them something that we saw in their life that reminded us of Jesus that we appreciated.

Well, there was a couple in that same service who came to me (they approached me) and the man said, “I want you to know that one of the things I and we appreciate about your life is we see a spirit of meekness, a gentle and a quiet, a meek spirit in your life.” Well, I was really taken aback because, first of all, if there were words (adjectives) I would use to describe me, particularly in those early years and even to this day, meek and quiet would not be ones that would come naturally.

I knew that this man’s wife (his wife was standing by his side) is a truly meek and quiet-spirited woman of God. I felt like the opposite of that next to her, but those words were spoken so sincerely. God used the encouragement of those words in an area where I felt very far off the mark to give me a sense that there was hope that those qualities (at least there were seeds of those things that I know are precious to the Lord) were in my life. It gave me a motivation to want to be that kind of woman so that really, truly could be said.

I mean we see it in—you wear a dress that six people during the day tell you how nice it looks. You want to wear that dress every day for the rest of your life! There’s something motivating about words of encouragement (even if you’re not being a good mother in the sense of the standard you know God has for you) when someone tells you, “I see God doing a work and making you a good mother” or “I see God developing that spirit of meekness and quietness in you.” You say, “Wow! Well, maybe God really could make me that kind of person that I want to be.” It encourages us to go further than we might have otherwise.

As you think about those people who have created an atmosphere and an attitude of blessing around you, then ask yourself, “Is that the kind of atmosphere that I create?” “Would the people who are around me say that I create an atmosphere of blessing?”

I was with a Christian leader the other day who is the head of a Christian institution/ministry, and I came away saying, “That man is—he’s just such an encourager.” He’s focused on other people. It just flows out of him, just naturally saying things that lift people up and encourage them. I like being around someone like that, and I want to be that kind of person.

Now, I’ll just tell you, I’m not. But I saw a model there of a servant of the Lord, and I said I want my life to create an atmosphere that people would come away saying, “I’ve been blessed.” “I’ve been encouraged.” They would say, “That’s the kind of person I want to be because that reminds me of Jesus.”

Leslie: That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth on the power of words. She’ll pick this topic back up tomorrow.

You shouldn’t watch that TV show. You shouldn’t listen to that music. You should park up there. You shouldn’t drive that fast. You can change lanes now. You know, you should really do your Bible study.

This is the way a woman named Maria talked with her husband. Find out why she decided to stop. That’s tomorrow, on Revive Our Hearts.

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

All Scripture is taken from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

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