We all know that words can be really powerful. The old children’s rhyme ‘Sticks & stones can beak my bones but words will never hurt me.’ has a sort of simple logic about it, but we know that it isn’t true. At the very least, words communicate ideas which lead to actions.
The apostle James reminds us in James 3:5 “…the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” All of which means that we should be very careful what we say, or not!
So when the Christian refugees fleeing persecution in Jerusalem made their way north in chapters 8 to 11 of the New Testament book of Acts, it’s a great thrill to learn that they are speaking worthwhile words: they shared the Gospel wherever they went.
What’s apparent is that mostly these weren’t gifted evangelists stringing together compelling sermons, they were ordinary people trying to survive in a hostile world. As they found their way to a new town and tried to make a living, so they naturally just shared the good news about Jesus. In the market place, at the shop counter, over the garden wall, etc. etc… wherever they had the opportunity they just told those around them the good news. It may be that they did it on purpose – but if you really believe that Christ is the answer to life the universe and everything then so should you! As they did so, the Lord was at work and many (but not all) people turned to the Lord. They in turn began to share the good news.
In fact, so much was the name of ‘Christ’ on the lips of the growing group of believers in ancient Antioch that Acts 11: 26 tells they started to be known as ‘Christians’. That is, their identity in their community was completely associated with them talking about Jesus.
At first glance THAT may not sound very attractive. The reputation that the only thing someone has to say is about Jesus makes them sound rather intense – a much to be admired but must be avoided Bible basher! But that isn’t what they were like:
• Later in Acts 11 we see Barnabus, the great encourager (note his use of words!) tell them to remain true to the Lord with all of their hearts and then he went to get Saul / Paul from Tarsus so that he could speak more words to teach and build up the new Christians.
The results at the end of ch 11 speak for themselves: more and more people believed. NOT because the Gospel was shoved down their throats (people who have things shoved down their throats usually choke!) but because the life of these maturing believers matched their words and when a need arose for the church in Judea, they each dug deep to help. (vs 29).
So how does all of this apply?
• Well, firstly to take great care what I say. My words can make a huge difference to other people, and as a Christian I could be looking for every opportunity to talk naturally about my Saviour.
• Secondly to ask what it is I’m known for? Manufactured reputations are obviously false, but if I’m known for a whole lot of things that have nothing to do with Jesus, then there’s likely to be a problem!
• Thirdly, I need to be careful what it is that I’m listening to. Words can make a difference to me too. Am I exposing my ears to things that will help me or to things that will hinder me? Am I listening to and applying the priorities of a confused and broken world or to the Word of the God who graciously speaks?
• Finally, I must ask whether what I do and the priorities I set confirm or deny what I say. Does my behaviour match my mouth?
All in all, am I well spoken or not?