The Power of Words

Dear Friends,

Words can have such an impact for good or for bad on our lives if we allow them to.  Today I want  us to look at 3 different types of words:

1. Words of encouragement
I am blessed to have people around me who encourage me in my ministry and my life.  Some may never realise just how much their words mean to me.  Although I believe God has called me to my ministry, there are some days when I allow doubts, questions and fears in.  This happened one particular Sunday and at the end of the morning a lady came up to me and really encouraged me by the things she said to me.  Now, whether she knew it or not, I believe it was God giving me encouragement through her.  He was encouraging me to keep going, he was confirming me in what I was doing and he was with me.  

God knows just when we need encouragement and he gives it to us through a variety of means, such as via another person, as we read his word, as we listen to his word, as we seek him in prayer.  He encourages us to keep serving him, to seek to please him, to have pure motives for what we are doing so that we bring him glory.

Ephesians 4:29 "Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them." (NLT)  Or as the Amplified Version puts it: "Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it."

Encouragement can have a great influence for good on us, but we do need to be careful, we need to be aware that it can also have the opposite affect on us if we allow it. It can feed our pride so that we begin to believe that people are praising us because we are so amazing and skilled, and we forget that we are only able to do the things we do because God has given us the gift and ability in the first place and he is the one who is enabling us to do it.  Or it can change our motive from doing what we do to please God who has called us to serve him, to seeking the approval of others, serving to gain their encouragement in order to feel good about ourselves. 

How do we prevent encouragement from having a bad effect on us?  I think by keeping in a close relationship with God, recognising that we don't always understand our hearts ourselves, that our hearts can deceive us, ("The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?" Jeremiah 17:9 NIV) so we need to ask God to keep our hearts and motives pure.  David asked God to "Create in me a clean heart, O God.  Renew a loyal spirit within me." Psalm 51:10 (NLT)  We also need to ask God to keep us humble, make ourselves available to be used by God as he sees fit, and seek always to give him the glory.  Living for him in such a way that pleases him, knowing we already have his approval so that we don't need approval from others.

2. Constructive criticism
Receiving encouragement can be a real blessing to each one of us.  Constructive criticism can also be a blessing to us, but is far harder to receive!

If I'm honest, I don't particularly enjoy these kind of conversations.  Just as there are people in my life who encourage me I also have some who will give me constructive criticism when it's needed.  It can be hard when someone sits you down and tells you that you could have done something differently or even better than you did.  I think I can find it hard because I always seek to do my best, I put a lot of effort into what I do, and then to be told that there are changes that can be made to improve it can hurt a little.  I have to remind myself that constructive criticism is not a personal attack on me, it's not done to belittle me or make me feel worthless.  That actually it is given because the person loves and cares about me, they want to encourage me to be all that God wants me to be.  I need to remind myself to always receive constructive criticism in the spirit in which it is given. 

Ephesians 4:15 "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ." (NIV)

When someone close to us, who we respect and who we know loves us, gives us some constructive criticism we should always be willing to hear what they have to say.  It's always worth thinking on, perhaps doing this alone in the presence of God, asking him if there is anything in what has been said, if there is then as we implement it into our lives it will become a blessing to us.  If perhaps they have got it wrong, never hold it against them, they were doing what they believed was right, they were saying it from right motives and we need to remember that neither do we get things right all the time.  At the same time, choose to let go of what they have said. What we do with constructive criticism we are given is always our choice - we can choose to accept it or reject it.

3. Words of criticism
" Sometimes it (the tongue) praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. 10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!" James 3:9-10 (NLT)

We can probably all remember the hurtful things that have been said to us in the past. The terrible things people have said to us and about us can be incredibly painful not only at the time but also years later because they can be hard to forget.  If we have allowed them to take root in our minds then they can have such a bad impact on us, they can shape our identity, who we believe we are, and we can start to have a wrong view of ourselves. These words can stop us from doing all that God has intended for us to do and as a result we can live limited lives.

Only God can heal us of the past hurts that have been caused because of the things people have said.  Will you give him all your hurts and pain and ask for his healing in those areas? 

When we are criticised and judged wrongly we need to be deliberate about rejecting it.  We need to ask God to give us the power to reject it.  And not only to reject it but to fill our minds and hearts with what God says about us, who we are in Christ and what he wants for us.  We need to keep reminding ourselves of God's truth and reject the lies that the devil would have us believe because he wants to bring us down, he wants to make us miserable and keep us from living the life God has planned for us.

Don't allow criticisms, harsh words, unkind words, insults, words that cause you pain to even have a foot in the door, learn to recognise them for what they are, don't allow them to have any influence over you, instead keep immersing yourself in God's word which can have such an influence for good on you if you will just allow it.  Decide for yourself today, make the choice now to always listen and pay attention to God and to ignore and reject the words from others that can cause you so much harm.

We have an English saying "like water off a duck's back", the duck is protected from water because of it's oily feathers, so he is not effected by the wet, so too may criticisms, insults etc. be "like water off a duck's back" to us because we are protected by the power of the Holy Spirit in us and by the truth of God's word.

To Think About:
Think about the times when you have been encouraged by the words of others.  How have they been an influence for good on you?  How can you use your words to encourage others?

Are you able to receive constructive criticism so that it too can have a good effect on you?  What do you think stops you from accepting it?  Is there someone you care about who would benefit from some constructive criticism?  If so, what would be the best way to give it?  Ask God to help you even though it may be difficult to say.

Are you allowing criticisms, unfair words, insults, destructive words to shape who you are and what you do?  What do you need to do to help you reject these words?  Can you replace them with God's truth instead?



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