The Power of Words

Lessons we can learn from Bible verses about the power of words.

George Wright
Mar 1, 2020    33m
In this first message of a new series exploring the effects words can have on us, Pastor George Wright shares lessons we can learn from Bible verses about the power of words. Because of this power, he cautions us all to choose our words wisely. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

George Wright: 00:01 Well, what a privilege it is to have a day like today. And what a gift, kids, we're so thankful for you joining us today. Would y'all just join me in thanking our Shandon kids' ministry? So great to have y'all in here. Love what God is doing in our kids' ministry, it's such a privilege to see the way he's working in the lives of so many families. Let me encourage you now to grab your Bible and we're going to step into a new series here today that we're going to be in for the next few weeks. That's all about the power of our words, the things that we say, and the impact that our words can have on those around us. And so we're going to be in James chapter 3 this morning, and for the next few weeks in this series. And we're going to see very clearly in the Word of God how important it is to consider what comes out of our mouths, how important it is to think about the impact that is possible, both for the good and for the bad through the power of our words.

George Wright: 01:00 But before we step into the scripture, just in saying the word impact, I want to let the church know that next weekend here at Shandon is one of the most exciting weekends of the year as we have our Impact weekend in our student ministry. It's going to be incredible. Students, are you excited about Impact weekend? Anybody here excited by the American weekend? Can I hear something? Oh my gosh. All right, so we're going to back that one up...Students, are you excited about impact weekend? Come on! Somebody, all right, well hopefully next weekend we'll get a little more excited. But anyways, church, we're asking you to pray, because this is a significant weekend in the life of our church, and in the life of so many students. We're going to have hundreds of middle school and high school students here for Impact. They're going to hear about God's love for them in a very clear way. They're going to see the incredible gift of the gospel made available to them. And so we're asking you church right now to be praying. Because starting next Friday students will be gathering in homes around the city and hearing about the gospel, and interacting with one another, and with student leaders and we really are expecting God to move in power. So please join us in praying for this very important weekend, and we look forward to sharing all that God does next Sunday as we gathered together for worship.

George Wright: 02:29 Let's turn our attention now into the scripture, James chapter 3, and I want to read the first six verses because this really sets the stage for this great chapter and allows us to see what we'll be stepping into not only today but in the weeks ahead. So I'd like to invite you if you're willing and able to stand with me as I read the opening scripture for this message today. And if you're perhaps online now joining us for this service, and you're wondering why is the church standing for the reading of God's word. The reason we do this is so that we all can be reminded when we come together as a people of God, we are coming together on the foundation of God's word, believing that God has given us a word that we need to hear, a word that is right and good and true. So this is the word of the Lord in James 3 beginning in verse 1, it says, "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell."

George Wright: 04:35 These words are strong, these words are words that need to be heard. And so I'd like to ask you to pray with me that God would use this time to speak into our lives as we turn our attention to him. Let's pray. Father, as we stand now before you and as we turn our attention to the preaching and the teaching of your word, it is my prayer, Lord God and the power of your Holy Spirit at work among us, that you would say exactly what you know we need to hear. And the Word of God reveals to us that your word does not return void. And so we ask you to use this time for your glory, to change the way we think and process, to change our hearts, Lord God, and to change the words that come out of our mouth. We pray that our words will be a blessing. We commit this time to you in the name of Jesus. Amen. Amen. You may be seated. Thank you for standing.

George Wright: 05:48 Certainly, we all can recognize that words have tremendous power. I think that's something we're all aware of. Words have tremendous power, they can carry a tremendous weight in our lives, and yet the reality is we so often forget it, or we so often are unaware or not even thinking about the power of our words. I mean, how many times have you said something in a casual or flip it or frivolous way and thought, gosh, I probably should not have said that. How many times have you heard something from someone where you just want to believe, hopefully, they didn't think about that before they said it because that really stung. There is no question that words have tremendous power. They can be a beautiful gift. They can be incredibly destructive.

George Wright: 06:50 I can clearly remember the first time that Megan and I, as we were dating in college, the first time that she said that she loved me. Those were powerful, powerful words. I was trying to bring up the courage, muster, the courage to tell her that I loved her as I was dating. And so one night as we were dating I said those words, I love you. And she looked at me and she said, don't say it if you don't mean it. Come on, I'm trying to be romantic here, I'm trying to pour out my heart, and she's just putting me in my place for that. I said, I mean it then. Not too long after she told me, I love you as well. And those words forever changed my life. I remember as we were dating, the night of our first kiss, she also said some words that were very powerful at the time. We were walking on the campus of South Carolina and it was just romantic, one of those beautiful Columbia nights. The stars were out, the leaves were kind of rustling in the soft, gentle breeze on the horseshoe as we walked along, the romantic, historic horseshoe. And we stopped in front of the president's house and we were sitting on a little bench, and we were talking late into the night. And I so badly wanted to kiss her, but I wasn't sure if she was okay with that yet. And so I would start to kind of lean in a little closer, talk a little softer, and then I'd pull away, I chicken out. And then I'd lean in a little closer and talk a little softer, and then I pull away and chicken out. And finally she just got sick of that, she said, would you quit stalling? And so I went for it, and those words had a lot of power as I realized she was ready for that kiss, and I'm so thankful that you were

George Wright: 08:43 But you know, I also remember some painful words. And isn't it often the painful words that are seared the most directly in our consciousness, the painful words that can begin to define our lives, the painful words that can cast a shadow over us, that we try to get away from. But those painful words that seem to follow us everywhere we go, that can kind of haunt us and even begin to become a part of our identity. I remember being in the eighth grade just starting to work out for the first time in my life. I was playing football for the first time ever, and when I was in eighth grade, I'll just go ahead and tell you I was not a physical specimen by any means. In fact, quite the opposite, I was on the Husky side, I was a late bloomer, a slow developer. In fact, I grew almost 10 inches my sophomore year of high school. But leading up to that I was kind of short, and stocky, a little plump, so you know, not the cover of men's health by any means. And so as I started to work out, I was excited and I was praying and hoping that my muscles would start to grow, but really nothing was happening. But still I was pumped to be working out for the first time, and several of my buddies from the football team went with me on a youth retreat with our church. And we were having this youth weekend and it was exciting, and we were talking about football when we got there. We were talking about our workout plan, and how buff we were going to get. And one of our youth leaders just happened to walk by as we were having this conversation and he looked at me and he said, workout? George, what kind of workout plan are you on? Body by burger King. You're laughing? I'm wounded. No, those were painful words. I mean, who says that to an eighth grade boy? It was devastating, it crushed me. In fact, to this day, I will not stop at a burger King restaurant. Now I'm all about some fast food, I will crush some Christian chicken at Chick-Fil A all day long, but you're not going to catch me in a Burger King. All right? I don't want that body by burger King, right? Those words left an impression, they left a Mark.

George Wright: 11:11 Words can be a gift, words can be beautiful, but words can be destructive and devastating. And so the scripture is asking us to consider, what are the words coming out of your mouth? What are the things that you are saying? What do people hear when they listen to you speak? James chapter 3, go back to verse 1, we see the importance and the power of words in what James explains and describes for a teacher. He says this, "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness." That's a powerful statement to consider, before we begin to open our mouth and act like we have something to say from God, before you began to teach the Word of God, we must recognize that those who teach are going to be held in a stricter judgment for the things that we say. It is so important to consider, teaching the Word of God is not to be taken lightly at all, this is not something to be flippant about at all, and those who teach will be held accountable for that which we say according to the Word of God.

George Wright: 12:36 With that in mind, I just want to plead with you for a moment, would you please commit to pray for those who teach the Word of God here at Shandon? Would you pray for your Sunday school teachers, and your Bible study leaders? Would you pray for those who were teaching our kids, that just went back to the children's ministry this morning? Would you pray for those who open the Word of God, that we would not just be sharing the opinions of men, but we would be sharing exactly what the Word of God reveals. That we will not teach in such a way to try and elevate the teacher, but we would teach in such a way that it elevates Jesus and who he really is. Pray for those who teach. I beg of you, pray for me as I turn to the Word of God each week to prepare to present a sermon to the church. Please pray for those who teach. And here's why, verse 2 James 3 "For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body." I'm so thankful that the scripture is so honest, we all stumble, teachers stumble, preachers stumble, we all stumble in many ways. We have all been careless with our words, we have all spoken before we have thought about what we are saying, we have all had those times where words have come out of our mouth that we realize are doing damage and causing destruction. We all stumble in the things that we say.

George Wright: 14:26 And there has only been one who has been perfect in speech, that is Jesus himself, and we want our words to point to him. And when our words don't point to him, we are reminded of how desperately we need him, because our words are powerful, and our words carry a weight. And specifically, when we are speaking as one who has a follower of Jesus, for those who are following Christ, your words matter, because people are listening. Is this from God? Is this from God? Our words are so important. James then gives us some really practical, beautiful pictures if you will, of how powerful our speech can be. We look at verse 3 and following it says this, "If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also, though they are so large and driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder, wherever the will of the..." Pirate, excuse me, pirate. That's great for a ship, right? The pilot, let's pay attention to what the scripture says. "The pilot directs, so also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire." The pictures that the scripture paints here are so important to consider, and they really are a gift to us, because they drive home the point that the scripture is making about the power of our tiny little words that fly off of our small little tongue.

George Wright: 16:22 We're going to put some pictures up on the screen here that walk in step with what James has revealed. First, he talks about a horse. How many of you have heard of a horse called Secretariat? Anybody heard of a horse called Secretariat, infamoumized by the Disney movie? Yes. Secretariat has been called the greatest horse in the history of horse racing, certainly the greatest horse in the history of the triple crown. Secretariat won the triple crown in 1973, many said that Secretariat was the perfect racing horse, a true specimen of a creature. In every race of the triple crown secretariat set a record. And at the Belmont stakes, specifically, Secretariat ran that track, that mile and a half track, in 2 minutes and 24 seconds winning the race by over 31 links. A record that is yet to be broken, running the race at over 40 miles an hour. That's incredible. Secretariat was a large horse, a head taller than the other horses in the race, beautiful to look at, weighing in at over 1100 pounds. And when Secretariat won the triple crown, like any other horse in a horse race, Secretariat was ridden by a jockey, controlling this beautiful creature with a bit in the horse's mouth, that weighed less than a pound. It's amazing to consider.

George Wright: 18:01 We've got a picture, as well, of the USS Ronald Reagan, one of the largest aircraft carriers ever to sail in our fleet. The length of the USS Ronald Reagan is 1092 feet, that is roughly the height of the empire state building if it were laid on its side. The flight deck of the Ronald Reagan is four and a half acres large, that's a serious piece of real estate floating on the ocean. This aircraft carrier can carry over 5,600 men and women into battle, and it is piloted or steered by two rudders. And these rudders are larger than most, they weigh in at 50 tons a piece, that's a lot. Until you stop and consider that the USS Ronald Reagan weighs over a hundred thousand tons, and the rudders make up less than a fraction of 1% of the total weight of that aircraft carrier. That's a massive city on the sea being controlled by a very small rudder.

George Wright: 19:18 In 1871 a fire ravaged the city of Chicago, it burned over three and a half miles of the city, it destroyed over 17,000 buildings, and 125,000 people were left homeless because of the great Chicago fire. And no one knows exactly how it started, but the legend says it was started in a barn on the edge of the city when Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicked over a gas lantern and it spread throughout the city. And we don't know specifically if that's true or not, but what we do know is a fire that destroyed a city started very small, and then quickly took over and ravaged lives.

George Wright: 20:10 These pictures are so vivid, are they not? The scripture is such a gift here, is it not? To say, listen, this is the power that you hold in your mouth every single day. This small little tongue, that lays out these small little words, have tremendous power to either be a gift or to be a weapon of mass destruction. If you look at verse 6 of James 3 this is a haunting verse, but such an important verse to consider. It says, "The tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell." Listen, church, please don't miss this, the tongue is a small member that is no small matter at all. In fact, you can say according to the scripture that the most powerful weapon that you or I will ever hold or have access to is sitting in our mouth every single day. You're walking around with a loaded tongue. How will it be used? Is it a gift, or is it destructive?

George Wright: 21:44 The great 19th century English preacher Charles Spurgeon wrote this about the tongue, "Tongues are more terrible instruments than can be made with hammers and anvils, and the evil which they inflict cuts deeper and spreads wider." You and I are known for what we say. And certainly this is not taking away from the actions of our life, the scripture shows us our words and our actions should line up together. That's where a powerful impact is made, when our words and our actions walk the same path. But the scripture is highlighting the things that come out of our mouth, the things that we say. And the scripture is showing us, as James so wisely proclaims, that the tongue can set on fire the entire course of life. Just think about that for a moment, set on fire the entire course of life. That's saying that the tongue can literally alter the course of someone's life. Words can be spoken that can literally change the direction of your life or my life, it can literally blaze a path through our life, change our direction for the good or the bad. That's how powerful words can be. And if the tongue is not kept in check, it becomes a mouthpiece that is set on fire by hell itself.

George Wright: 23:23 So what do we do with this? In light of what the scripture is revealing, how can we speak in such a way that our words are not a weapon of mass destruction, but our words are a gift of encouragement and a blessing to those who hear them. We're going to be focusing more on this in the weeks ahead. Just by a way of wrapping up this message this morning, I just want to lay out three thoughts, three very simple, basic ideas about our words that hope and pray will be a gift to you specifically this week as you think about the things that you say.

George Wright: 24:01 The first thought is this, and it can't get any more basic than this, think before you speak. That's about as elementary as it comes, right? When it comes to our words and the things that we say, think before you speak, think before you tweet, think before you post, think before you text. How many times do we just fire off and just respond, without even stopping to consider what we are about to say? Chapter 1 in the Book of James, the scripture says this, "My beloved brothers, let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger." There are a lot of lives that could be changed for the better by heeding that one verse, slow to speak implies we think before we speak. Proverbs 21:23 says this, "Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble." It's interesting that the Proverbs, the Book of Wisdom in the scripture, talks about the power of our words 115 times. And of those 115 verses in Proverbs about the power of our words, over 70 of the verses are about the destructive power of our words, with the remaining 40 to 45 being about the gift of our words. The scripture is reminding us, whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble. Think before you for you speak.

George Wright: 26:02 But secondly, secondly, we must remember when we speak, the approach matters. The approach matters. We're going to talk more about this next week as we continue to walk through James chapter 3, but it needs to be mentioned here, the way we say what we say is incredibly important. Megan, my wife, has told me for almost 19 years of marriage, your approach matters. And she's right, and baby, I'm learning, I'm trying, I'm working on it. I'm working on, hopefully this series will help us a little bit there. Proverbs 15:1, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Isn't it interesting that this verse is not about the words we say, it's about how we say them. "A soft answer turns away wrath, a harsh word stirs up anger." Our approach, our tone, our body language, it's all screaming as we speak. I love this quote from Dr. Russell Moore, who actually will be with us in a couple of weeks here at Shandon. He says this, "We must not only speak Christian truth, we must speak with a Christian accent." There are times that we can say the right thing the wrong way, and no one hears it, it's called Facebook. You can say the right thing the wrong way, and your words will fall on deaf ears. Our approach matters. How different might your words be this week, if you started every day with just a simple prayer for discernment about your words? God, give me discernment to know when to speak and when to be silent, and when I speak, give me discernment to know what to say and how to say it. That short little prayer could change your entire day. Give me discernment to know when to speak and when to be silent, and when I speak, give me discernment to know what to say and how to say it. The approach matters.

George Wright: 28:37 Then third and finally for today's message is this powerful word, one of the most powerful words to consider in the power of our words, reconcile, reconcile. There is not a person among us who has not caused pain trough some words that they have said. There's also not a person among us who has never experienced pain because of the words that have been said to us. Please don't miss this, asking for forgiveness, and seeking reconciliation, are some of the most powerful words that we can ever speak. Reconciliation is one of the most beautiful expressions of the gospel in action, because the gospel is all about reconciliation. Look at what it says in Corinthians chapter 5 verses 17 and 18, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold the new has come." And then the scripture says, "Al this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation." You see the message of the gospel is that God has spoken words over sinners like you and me, inviting us to be reconciled to himself. "And the very word that he spoke became flesh, (John chapter 1) and dwelt among us" Jesus, God in the flesh, the Word of God living in front of us, according to the scripture. And the Word of God gave his life, Jesus gave his life for your sin and for mine. The one perfect man who perfectly bridled his tongue every time he spoke, gave his life for you and for me, that we might be forgiven of our sin and reconciled to God. This is the gift of the gospel, the very Word of God breathing life into us. And if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, one of the greatest indicators of a life that is a new creation and has been transformed by the power of the gospel, is a life that seeks and a life that speaks reconciliation. That's what the gospel does in a heart, it transforms a heart so that that heart begins to seek and speak reconciliation, because that's what God has done for us through Christ. So may the words we say if we say we follow Jesus, be words that reconcile.

George Wright: 32:05 And if you are here today, and have never experienced this beautiful gift of reconciliation, a God who loves you, pursuing you with his love and grace, so much so that he gave his very life at the cross so that we might live and be reconciled to him. If you've never experienced that in a personal way, it is our prayer that the word of reconciliation would on your life in a very heavy way, and the word of reconciliation that is the gospel would transform your life as you see what Christ has done for you even in the midst of your sin. May our words be a gift, may we consider the things that we say, and may we who are followers of Christ speak reconciliation. So that those who have yet to experience and believe the good news of what Christ has done, will see and hear our words, and know that there is a God who saves. Let me pray for us as we close this morning.

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206