Evidently, God meant for words to have power. We know that God, filled with love, care, and creativity, spoke and different areas of the world came into being. And we know from Scripture that our own words have incredible power.
Scripture says, "A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver" (Proverbs 25:11, New International Version). That is a pretty picture - apples of gold set in silver. I remember an occasion when my son gently but bravely spoke words in defense of someone we both loved, and the words were so timely that I remember thinking, "Child, if you never do anything else right, this is enough for me." Scripture escalates a bit by saying, "Like as earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man's rebuke to a listening ear" (Proverbs 25:12). In this case someone has listened to wise words and apparently redirected his course. In this situation, two things had to happen: someone first had to be wise enough and brave enough to speak at all, and secondly someone had to be humble enough to listen and take heed.
Realistically, according to author C.J. Mahoney "On our own, you and I will never develop a competency for recognizing our sin. We'll always need help. Never forget that others see what you do not . . . . Others can exhort you, encourage you, and correct you. They are a gift from God in your battle against sin. And you never grow out of this need. Never. And don't be put off when a friend's observations may not be 100 percent accurate . . . there's truth to be gleaned . . . ." (Humility: True Greatness, p. 133-4). Does this mean you need to heed to every soul who is anxious to offer criticism? Certainly not! A key phrase is "a friend's observations," and I believe that infers one who cares about your spiritual growth. For you and for me, a key trait is to be approachable; and beyond that humble, desiring with your heart to willingly use your life and your words to be God's servant.
To a large degree we do have control over whether our words will be used for good or not, and a rather short study of the Book of Proverbs, for example, can help us control the thoughts that we have in our heart which could eventually lead to words we would rather not say. The heart is like a wild thing, a stallion that once tamed is a thing of beauty though it was once dangerous. King David wrote in Psalm 139:23 "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." How wonderful for God to know us and to show us how to live our lives to the fullest.
God has given us words for conversation and discussion as one gets to know another. He means for our words to be used wisely and for comfort and support of each other. He wants our hearts and, therefore, our mouths to be used by Him as a means of ministering to others. Thus, we need to know the words He has left behind for us. Dr. Roy Zuck, a former dean and professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, wrote: "Many of us have . . . difficulty with our Bible study. We begin the process but fail to finish the task. We have the knowledge, yet we neglect to apply the fruits of our labor to our daily lives. Or we try to live by Scripture without the labor of study. Either method short circuits the Word of God. ... We must apprehend Bible content and appropriate its commands."
God's words must be continually engrained on our hearts so that when temptation comes, when sadness comes, when the need for wisdom comes, we are prepared by the words of God Himself.
Proverbs 15:28 says: "The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil." Verse 31 of Proverbs 15 says, "He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise." And this next passage encourages my wayward heart: "A wise man's heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction" (Proverbs 16:23). And "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones" (Proverbs 16:23 & 24). Kind words do bring sweetness to our soul or someone else's and heal our aching bones. How powerful and incredible words are!
James 1:19 is a verse that should be engraved in our hearts and our minds. James writes: "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry . . . ." Of course this applies to all of our relationships in the world and in the church, but perhaps it carries the greatest worth as we bring this verse to life in our homes.
Do you want to leave a strong, vibrant legacy to your child or even your grandchildren? Words leave a legacy one way or the other, for good or for bad, years after we are gone and for as long as they live in the minds of those we leave behind. Any child will remember years later when you were angry or spoke harshly. We all have a tendency to remember the negative. But hopefully a child will also remember when you caringly listened, loved, played - and their hearts will be warmed and encouraged to do the same in their own family. It is interesting to me that we as believers will fight for the respect of the unborn child as we certainly should, but we forget that our children and our spouse also deeply need our respectful words.
My cousin, referring to her long deceased father, once said, "He was a mean man." Really, I thought - he adored his parents and his siblings; he tried to teach me how to ski, and he shared his beloved train room with us kids. But that is not what she remembered. She remembered only the harsh words and drunken state. You see nothing covers those things up but perhaps tears filled with repentance and humility.
On this earth there is no end to the healing and the wisdom that Scripture gives. Take just one verse like Ephesians 4:29 which says: "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."
It is, of course, wonderful to know a lot of Scripture; it is even more incredible to live the small bit you do know. I have found that if I will take a small passage of Scripture and let it soak into my heart and mind, I usually find some comfort and wisdom. Sometimes I use a Psalm or Proverb. Proverbs 3 & 4 have enriched my life many times. Chapters like Colossians 3 and Romans 8 & 12 have been a continual blessing to me. And since I am a person who ruminates too much, sometimes I greatly need Philippians 4. In my single years, in particular, I was drawn to James 1 which says what I so want to share with you: "Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."
We all have different stresses and areas of pain and discouragement. We sometimes get discouraged with ourselves because we may tend to think God is looking for perfection but as we see Him work and interact in Scripture, it appears that God is primarily looking for dependence on Him. He is well aware that we are the children and He is God. He is ever anxious to use His words in our hearts so that we feel fulfilled and become who He intends us to be. He wants us to think clearly and wisely so that we can help others to be all that He meant them to be as well. There is no greater Joy.