Today I’m presenting the final installment of a three-part message on “Thanks-living.” We’ve looked at what we think and what we do—or, more accurately, why we do what we do. Today let’s give thought to what we say. There is power in what we say and every word we sow into the lives of others results in some kind of harvest being left behind.
As with the previous two messages, I’m only going to present one verse of Scripture. I encourage you to find others that will strengthen your Thanks-living for God’s glory and for the good of others.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)
Experience has taught me that this command is much easier to say than to actually do. Perhaps it is the same for you. Unwholesome talk seems to roll so easily off the tongue and leave a wasteland of hurting hearts in its wake. We say things without thinking that we ought not to say and prove that the old childhood saying—“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”— is so very wrong.
To be sure, sticks and stones may break some bones but those wounds eventually heal. However, the harsh, unwholesome speech we direct at others can and often does scar for a lifetime. Is there anyone reading these words who does not know this truth by way of personal experience? We have all been scarred and we have all scarred others. I’ve been involved in athletics as a coach and trainer for decades, and I have seen young people driven out of a life of sports because of insensitive coaches who could not control their tongues.
But this is not for you! Thanks-living is marked by language that builds others up and encourages them. I like to call it being a “good-finder” (rather than a fault-finder) and broadcasting the good we see in others. One of my best friends is quite gifted in this area. It is as if God has given him a mission to build others up according to their needs. He does this with me every weekend after the services at Cross Community Church, and I hear him doing it with everyone he comes in contact with as well.
The word encourage literally means “to give heart.” Those who are marked by Thanks-living look for every opportunity to speak words of life into others and strengthen their hearts. What they say is intended to help the hurting, bless the broken, strengthen the weak, lift up the downcast and always to encourage their brothers and sisters to continue to run the good race.
The only people who can lift others up are those who are secure in themselves. Insecure people tend to put others down, for fear that the spotlight may not shine their way. Some Christians have become so comfortable with this practice that they even weave their discouragement into their prayers, saying things such as “Oh, bless his (or her) heart” . . . right before lowering the boom of criticism or gossip.
As children of the Most High God, we have so much to be thankful for . . . and one of the greatest blessings is that God has called and equipped us for Thanks-living. I am often asked about the best techniques for evangelism; I reply that they are as many and as varied as the people who share the Gospel. But I always add that the way we live our lives will either make the Gospel attractive or unattractive to those around us. The best evangelists in the world are those whose lives are marked by Thanks-living through what they THINK . . . DO . . . and SAY.
And please remember this, beloved: Thanks-living shines the brightest light on the One to whom we should offer joyful thanks. That is a life worth living!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!