Smoother Sailing Article – The Tongue Part 2
The Positive Power of the Tongue
By Pastor Barry Black
“Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast.” Hebrews 6.19
In a previous article, I wrote about the destructive power of the tongue. However, according to the scriptures, the tongue can also be used in a positive and healing way. Several passages in scripture refer to the healing power of our words:
Proverbs 12.18 “…the tongue of the wise is health.”
Proverbs 15.23 “A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!”
Proverbs 16.24 “Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.
Proverbs 25.11 “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”
Proverbs 25.13 “As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refresheth the soul of his masters.”
The following is certainly not a complete list of positive uses, but here are some of the ways in which our words can be powerfully positive.
Words of life
When we share the gospel with others, we are sharing the very words of eternal life and abundant life. There is no greater news than the good news of the gospel – that believing on Christ’s death, burial and resurrection for our sin; we have eternal life (1 Corinthians 15.1-4). Believing the gospel assures us of heaven, and gives the only genuine hope that anyone can have, both now, and for eternity. We are told in 1 Peter 3.15:
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”
And the Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 1.5:
“For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.”
There can be no greater, powerful, more positive use of the tongue, than to proclaim the words of eternal life (John 6.68)! The hymn writer Philip P. Bliss immortalized a wonderful description of the words of life in his well known hymn, Wonderful Words of Life*:
Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life,
Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life.
Words of life and beauty, teach me faith and duty.
Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life.
Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life.
(* public domain, source: cyberhymnal.org)
Words of truth
In dealing with everyday problems, it is important to stay with the issue and remember what is true. As Solomon wisely said, “That I might make thee to know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee.” (Proverbs 22.21) If we do not recall and rely upon what is true, then we are left to our opinions or emotions, or the opinions of others; or even ungodly counsel. Truth is what God has said in His word, not what we feel at any given time.
Ephesians 4.15,25 “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up in him in all things, which is the head, even Christ. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.”
When we speak words of truth to others, it must always be done in love. Truth without love is harsh. Love without truth does dishonor to truth. Love does not dilute the truth, or deny the truth. Love proclaims the truth faithfully, even when it hurts.
Words of Confession
In the New Testament, translated “confess”, is from the Greek word*exomologeo, meaning, to acknowledge openly, to profess, to promise, to agree”. The bible tells us in James 5.16:
“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
It is wonderful to have a close friend, or maybe more than one close friend in whom we can confide. Unfortunately, that may not be true of every friend we have; but there is something powerful in being able to openly confess our faults (including sin, failures, etc.) to a genuine friend. It can be the beginning of spiritual and emotional healing in our lives.
However, in the New Testament the word most often translated “confess” or “confession” comes from the greek word*, homologeo –meaning: “to say the same thing, or to say in agreement”. It means to agree with someone about something that has happened, or has been stated.
When we sin, we confess our sin to God in order to restore fellowship. At least to some extent, it is an act of apology; but more importantly, confession means that we are in agreement with God about our sin. John wrote in 1st John 1.8,9:
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
When we confess our sin to God, it is an act of the will which can be spoken or said in the quietness of our own heart and mind. We are simply agreeing with God and saying, “Lord, I agree with you that what I have done (the wrong thought I had, or the words I said, or the action that I took) was sinful and I agree with you about it. After that it would be very appropriate to thank Him for the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus Christ (1 John 1.7). Words of confession are a powerful, positive use of the tongue, and can also be an important part of words of apology. (*=source: blueletterbible.org)
Words of Apology
In Luke 15 we read the account of the Prodigal son who left home and spent all of the money that his Father had given him. While in the far country he found that he had become miserable, and ready to go back home; he realized that all that he really needed was at home after all. Before he went, he determined to apologize to his father, and upon seeing his father, he said, “Father I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” Luke 15.21. His father was far more willing to forgive than the son could have imagined. Unfortunately, not all offenses are that way. Due to their unpleasant nature, or their difficult, far-reaching consequences; some offenses may be quite difficult for the offended party to forgive. However, sincere and genuine apology is required by the offender; forgiveness is the responsibility of the offended party. (Also see our article: Forgiveness)
Words of Forgiveness
When the Prodigal son returned, his Father was more than willing to forgive. In fact, when the father saw his son making his way back home, the father ran to his son. I can imagine that the son was probably overwhelmed with his father’s welcome! The father told the servants in Luke 15.22-24 to bring out the best for his son, and that basically they were going to have a welcome home party! The same is true with our Heavenly Father, He is much more willing to forgive than we realize. In fact, He is probably more willing to forgive than we are willing to ask Him. Words of forgiveness bring healing in our relationship with God and in our relationships with others.
Words of Appreciation
It is amazing the effect that words of appreciation and gratitude can have on a person. And not only for the one to whom we express our gratitude, but to ourselves as well. Appreciation and gratitude usually bring pleasant results when communicating with others. It almost seems that appreciation is a lost art these days. William Ward put it this way, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
Interestingly enough, the Apostle Paul said that in the last days (2 Timothy 3.1), people would become more and more “unthankful” (2 Timothy 3.2). This is a quite accurate description of our times. A little gratitude and appreciation can go a long way; they can encourage and motivate others who could be very close to discouragement or “throwing in the towel”. Those who perform deeds and words of love and helpfulness deserve our appreciation.
Words of Encouragement
“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Ephesians 4.29
In the book of Acts, we read of a man named Barnabas. Barnabas is described as:
“The son of consolation (the greek word used here for ‘consolation’means, ‘encouragement’)” (Acts 5.36). To discourage means to take courage away from, or out of someone. To encourage means to place courage in someone. His influence upon his nephew, John Mark (also called “Mark” – Acts 12.25, and “Marcus”, Colossians 4.10) was probably a major influence in Mark’s return to the Lord’s service (2 Timothy 4.11) after Mark had previously left for home (Acts 15.36-40). (Also see our article: “A Very Hopeful Verse”) Words of encouragement can motivate others.
Hebrews 10.24: “And let us consider one another to provoke (to motivate or stimulate) unto love and good works.”
Words of Wise Counsel
Proverbs 27.9 “Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.”
Proverbs 18.4 “The words of a man’s mouth are as deep waters, and the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook.”
We all face problems in life for which we need answers. God’s word is the true great source of wise counsel. However, the Lord often places people in our life in which we can confide for wise counsel. Every automobile has “blind spots”. These blind spots are the result of the alignment of our windows or mirrors in such a way that a portion of our vision is limited. In a similar way, we have blind spots when it comes to looking at life’s problems or circumstances – we often see our problems through a limited viewpoint. There are times when we need the wisdom of someone we trust, who can see our problems from another perspective. A wise, godly friend can give much needed perspective for making decisions or solving problems.
No doubt, when we go face problems or decisions, there will be those who seem to have an answer, yet their counsel may not be godly counsel. The bible warns about that very thing: Psalm 1.1 “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly…”
Wise counsel is necessary for problems that can seem to be “larger than life” and for decisions that can determine success or failure, sorrow or joy. Proverbs 12.20 “…to the counsellors of peace is joy”
Words of Instruction
9.9 “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.”
There are some people who are eager to learn and apply truth. Those who are wise will desire to have more wisdom. Words of instruction will enable the listener to hear what God has to say. Listening is an important step in learning to be obedient to God, and God always blesses obedience. God’s word gives us instruction for us to know God’s will for our lives. A Christian who heeds what God has to say in His word will grow in understanding and will want to know more of God’s will for their life.
Words of constructive criticism –
Proverbs 27.6 “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”
It is human nature to dislike criticism. As the saying goes, “everyone is a critic”. Sometimes it is the criticism itself that is unpleasant, or even unappreciated. Sometimes it is the messenger – the critic – that seems unbearable. With any job, or any task we do in life, there will be critics to make an assessment of our words or actions, and give us “a piece of their mind”. As you probably have, I have had times when there were those who attempted to give me “a piece of their mind”, when they could not really afford to do so.
However when a genuine friend brings criticism our way, it is (hopefully) out of love and a desire for our best. Criticism from a person who does not have our best interests in mind is likely designed to hurt, and to simply point out our flaws (which all of us have by the way) and likely with no desire for our good. Solomon was right, “…the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”
However, criticism from a genuine friend will point out our flaws and “blind spots” with the motive of helping us to move forward and to grow through our flaws to correction and growth. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend…”
David put it this way in Psalm 141.5:
“Let the righteous smite me; and it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; and it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head…”
Words of rebuke and correction
“Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.” – Proverbs 26.4,5
Some have wrongly taught that this is a contradiction in scripture. However, careful reading and understanding will help us to see that not only is there not a contradiction here; it also helps us to understand that there are different ways to deal with those whom God calls a “fool”.
There are times when it is not wise to try to correct a foolish person; their pride and folly may keep them from hearing and heeding what you have to say, and you will seem just as foolish as they are (Proverbs 26.4). Then there are times when you “answer a fool” (i.e. attempt to correct them) so that they will at least see the pride (“conceit”) that blinds them. In those cases, it may help to open their eyes to the truth.
Solomon had more to say about trying to correct a foolish person:“He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame…Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee…” – Proverbs 9,7a, 8a
To their own peril, there are some people who simply will not receive rebuke and correction. They will not only despise your message of warning, they will despise you and your very attempt to warn them. Proverbs 15.12:
“A scorner loveth not one that reproveth him: neither will he go unto the wise.”
But there are times when a wise person will hear and accept your rebuke:
Proverbs 9.8 “…rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.”
Proverbs 15.5 “…he that regardeth reproof is prudent.”
Proverbs 25.12 “As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.”
Notice here that it is a wise person who is receiving the rebuke. Wisdom does not make us perfect by any means. Even wise people make mistakes and fail. However, real wisdom is shown when the one in need of rebuke receives it and appreciates it; and then he or she is the wiser for it. Seek out those who willing give you wise counsel; they likely have paid a high price for it themselves. As someone wisely said, “learn from the mistakes of others; you cannot live long enough to make all of them yourself”!
Words of Comfort/consolation
There are times when words of comfort mean more than you can know. During a time of grief or sorrow, sometimes the simplest, heartfelt words bring comfort and strength which may be remembered for a long time.
There is wonderful comfort for believers when a Christian loved one leaves this life and enters into eternity with our Savior:
“…and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4.17,18
Now that is comforting!