A study in 2007 showed that both men and women speak approximately 16,000 words per day. According to Wikipedia, books written for children are about 16,000 words long and the average novel about 60,000-80,000 words long. Going by the average person’s spoken- words-count, each of us writes at least 8 books a month with our words—a staggering 96 books a year at the least! Not forgetting we each publish a booklet/novelette a day using our words!
The question is, what novels/stories are you writing with your words? If we were to read them, what effect would they produce on your readers? Would they edify, comfort or encourage? Or would they tear down, frustrate, or discourage your readers? Would they be full of gossips about other people perhaps? Would they be honest? Or how would you feel if all the words you’ve spoken—all the stories they tell—were rehearsed in a public forum, with all who know you and even those who don’t? What would they tell about you?
I definitely wouldn’t want my stories read out in the open. I am filled with shame at the very thought of it because deep in my heart I know that my words have not always edified my hearers. Many times, I have failed to glorify God with my speech or to comfort a weary heart who needed it or to speak the truth in love. I have failed to share the gospel with others, some of whom I may never meet again. The list of sins to repent of could be endless. And what about you?
In a striking way, our words reveal who we are deep inside. It was our Lord who said that,
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
No matter how much we may try to hide it, our words reveal our true character—who we really are on the inside. We may put on a charade before others, but taken together, our words in private and in public are tell-tale signs of the state of condition of our hearts. In the context of the verse above, Jesus had remarked:
“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. (Luke 6:43-44).
Simply put, by the fruit of our lips, we shall be known!
But the problem runs deep. The Bible affirms that none of us are able to tame our tongue! James reveals that “…every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3: 7-8). Horses have been tamed–we control them using bits; a ship, colossal as it is, can be steered by a small rudder and kept on course; however, no man has succeeded in keeping their tongue under control! This is true of even the best of us, without exception. So, what is the cure?
I believe our Lord provides the answer. His words in Luke 6:43-45 imply that if our hearts are filled with good things, our mouths will naturally overflow with good words, always gracious, seasoned with salt (Col. 4:6). Such a heart does not speak corrupt words, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (Eph. 4:29). The heart that I have just described, is a picture of that of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to James, none of us fits this bill. Jeremiah was blunt about us when he said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). On the contrary, it is recorded of Jesus that “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth” (1Peter 2:22). So how can we make the exchange?
First, we need to surrender to the Lord. We need to acknowledge to ourselves and to God that we can’t tame our tongues ourselves, no matter how hard we try. We need to confess that we fail miserably at it each time we resolve to do the exact opposite. The good news is, whenever anyone hands over the reins of their lives to the Lord, He gives them a new heart. The Bible tells us, it’s as if we get a heart transplant. The Lord creates in us a new heart, which the Bible calls the heart of flesh—one that is malleable in His hands (Ezek. 11:19, 36:26; Jer. 31:33; Hebrews 8:10). Then He puts His Spirit within us. This is what the Bible calls being born again. If you have not had this experience, you cannot hope to win the battle over the tongue.
Secondly, if you’ve been given new heat by the Lord, you need to keep the veins and arteries of your new heart supplied with life-giving blood, the type prescribed by the one who created it. This is critical because, God who created your new heart (if you’ve been born again), says it is renewed (supplied with life-giving blood) after the image of Him who created it. Let’s read from Paul as he expounds on this.
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator (Col. 3:9-10).
Paul says to not lie, in other words, always speak the truth (another way of re-stating what we have said above about always speaking words filled with grace) because we have put off the old self (another way of saying we have been given a new heart or been born again). But then he shares this extremely important information about the way in which the new heart works. The new heart, the new nature of the believer, is renewed in knowledge. This is the life-blood the new heart needs to model its creator, Christ. Renewed in what kind of knowledge? He says, in knowledge after (of) the image of its creator. What is this?
In the pages of the Bible, we find words that paint to us the image of Christ. As we look in those pages each day, the Bible records, we are transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another by the Spirit of the Lord (2Cor. 3:18). The Holy Spirit, whom we have from God, transforms our hearts and our words to be like that of our Lord, by using the knowledge we imbibe from His Word. This means we put the health of our hearts at risk if we neglect to imbibe the Word of God. The Bible gives this interesting analogy of itself as a mirror. Picture it this way. As we look in the mirror each morning (as we dwell in God’s Word), we see how we need to dress in order to look good. We also see if what we’re wearing doesn’t look so good on us, and needs changing. And as we do, the Holy Spirit dresses us up properly so we go away from the mirror of God’s word transformed into the good image we saw (Ps. 119:9, 11).
To conclude, we can’t write stories with our words that bring glory to God, if we don’t first allow Him to change our hearts. And after He’s done that, we need to daily fill our hearts with the good things that can only be found in His Word, then and only then can we constantly bring out of this good treasure, words that bring life and grace to all whom we come into contact with.