Small Thing Big Difference: Week Three - "Words Get In The Way"

This week we're continuing the sermon series that we started a few weeks ago entitled, "Small Things Big Difference."  And the central idea that we've been lifting up each week is simply this:  It's often the small things that no one sees that result in the big things everyone wants.

We all want abundant life.  We want to find joy in our work.  We want solid, life-giving marriages and relationships.  We want financial freedom.  We want a strong faith that will withstand the difficult trials of life...  And sometimes it seems that it will take more than we are able to give in order to change what we need to change so that we can live the life we want to live.

The past few weeks we have learned that it doesn't take much to begin life-changing transformation--just a few small steps in the right direction.  In fact, I gave you all homework to begin those small steps.  I asked that you begin by shaping your thoughts with your one word---a word that you feel deep inside is one you need to focus on in order to truly live.

Then I asked that you find a verse to go with your word--a verse from the Bible that would help cement your word into your heart.  Hopefully you found your verse and it has already begun to make a difference in helping your word shape your thoughts.

Last week I challenged you to take the next step--to find your one thought that would take your word, your verse and what you were learning from them and give you something strong and positive to think.  Because we learned that our life will always move in the direction of our strongest thoughts.

This week we are going to take yet another step as we begin to talk about how our thoughts can shape our words, and how important our words can be.  Thoughts become words, words become actions, actions can become habits and our habits can shape our destiny--for good our bad.

In Proverbs 18:21 we have the following incredibly wise saying from Solomon, the wisest man in the Bible:  "The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love to talk will reap its consequences..."

The things we say have the power to give life or to take it.  When we speak we can speak life---or we can speak death.  We can produce good, life-giving, beautiful things with our words---or we can produce evil, death-dealing, ugly things.

Thoughts become words.  Words become actions.  Our thoughts can become words that produce actions that not only shape our lives, but the very world around us...

I want you to pay close attention to the powerful truth that is imbedded in this verse--a truth that we will be lifting up throughout this sermon:

If you want to change the life you have---you have to change the words you speak.  Small changes in the words we speak can make a big difference in the life we live.  

A few weeks ago, we studied the book of James and I actually preached a sermon on the verses that I am about to share.  Some things are worth preaching on more than once... maybe even once a month.  Can I get a witness?

We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small
bit in its mouth. 4 And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever
the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. 5 In the same
way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny
spark can set a great forest on fire. James 3:3-5 NLT

We've been teaching for the past several weeks how small things can make a big difference.  What about what James is talking about here?  Our words seem insignificant.  Our tongue--to use James' imagery--is just a small part of the body, but it has the power to do incredible good and also incredible harm.

How we speak of things has the potential to shape them, give them meaning.

If in your marriage or relationships you use words of derision, disgust, revulsion--- "You always act that way...!" "That is just like you!"  "I can't stand to be around you!" Your marriage or relationship is going to be affected by those words--and not in a good way.  

On the other hand, couples who constantly compliment one another, communicate openly about the things they admire in their spouse, tell their spouse they love them--that kind of marriage or relationship has the potential to grow and last.

My wife is incredible at saying life-giving things to me.  This past Saturday she was hosting the Beth Moore event we held here at the church.  There were over 200 women at the event.  Merideth told me that she wanted to introduce me to the group and let me say a couple of words.  When she introduced me to those 200 plus women, she bragged on me something fierce and then she asked them all, "Isn't he cute?"

Now let's not debate the truth of that for a moment--let's just assume that it's true.. that she's right about the whole cute thing.  It doesn't really matter what you think anyway--what matters to me is that SHE THOUGHT IT.  When my wife speaks life giving words into my life it makes me feel close to God and close to her and those life giving words lead to life giving actions--which is why we have a four year old at age 45.  Come on now!

We have the choice to speak life taking words---or life giving words.  Our words are powerful.

There's another passage of Scripture from the book of Proverbs 12:18 that speaks into this as well.  It reads, "The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing."    Life taking words from reckless people can do incredible damage.  But life giving words from those who are wise can heal and give life.   Did you hear what happened to him?  I can't believe he did that?  or I can't imagine going through something so hard. I am going to pray for him. 

Again in Proverbs 15:4 we have this, "The soothing tongue is a tree of life but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit."  I can't believe you did that again, you are such a screw up?  or Everyone makes a mistake, let me help you figure out how to fix it.

We all know what it feels like to be on the other end of life-taking words.  To have our spirits crushed by the words of others.

"Did you mean to do that to hair?"  That can be pretty crushing--especially when you don't have all that much to begin with.  "Why aren't you married yet?"  "Why aren't you more like your brother?"  "I hate you."  "I never loved you."  "Your'e pathetic." "You're never going to amount to anything."

Those kinds of words crush the spirit.  They pierce the soul.  We've all felt them.  And truth be told, we've all dealt them as well.

When you contrast those kinds of words with their life-giving counterparts it's dramatic.  "I believe in you." "I am proud of you."  "I love you more and more every day."  "You are amazing!"  "You knocked that out of the park."  "I would marry you all over again."

In your notes you will see a little word audit I'd like for you to do.  How would you rate yourself in the following continuum?  Be honest.

When it comes to how you speak to others---do you tend to use life taking words or life giving words.  On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate yourself?

LT Others  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   LG Others

Now here comes the difficult part.  When it comes to how you speak about yourself---do you tend to use life taking words or life giving words.  On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate yourself?

LT Self      1    2   3    4    5    6    7   8   9   10   LG Others

Just like last week, unless you circled 10---this message is for you.  And chances are no one in here who is being honest circled 10 for either one.  But if I had to guess, you probably scored yourself a bit higher on the words you use for others, rather than for yourself.

We're going to talk about this in a moment...  But first, I want to share with you two small things that you can do to dramatically change your words---and change your life as a result.


The Apostle Paul wrote this in one of his letters to the early church:  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 

This is a hard verse for a lot of us.  I seem to remember the old King James Version of this verse saying, "Shutteth thy pie hole, if thou canst think of anything worthy to say..."

And don't be elbowing your spouse about their issues with this verse---just receive it.  God knows that I have to as well.

For the past two weeks my beloved Denver Broncos have blown big leads in the second half of the game and have left me sitting on the edge of my seat watching helplessly---and saying things I should not say about how I would like the earth to open up and swallow the entire Kansas City Chiefs team on national television as a sign of God's obvious distaste for them.

My wife said to me during the game--"I don't think this is good for you."  So this week, I am trying something new.  I am going to spend some time in prayer before the game.  I am going to pray that God would first of all let the Broncos win by a comfortable margin.  I am also going to pray that I have the strength to skip whatever unwholesome thing I may be tempted to say.

If this doesn't work---I need to turn the TV off as painful as it may be.

You might need to do something as drastic in your own context.  It might mean erasing an email, not leaving that phone message, shutting down gossip, avoiding that person...  If you can't say something helpful--skip it.


In Proverbs 16:24 we have this:  "Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."

How many times have you thought of saying something positive and life-giving to someone, but you didn't because you didn't want to seem--weird, pushy, awkward or any number of imaginary reasons?

Let me ask you a question---why would you want to rob someone of the blessing of hearing something life-giving?  Because when you keep silent when you think of something good to say to someone--you are robbing them of a blessing.

I love how my wife lives into this every single day.  She'll be at the drive through of McDonald's and will compliment the young woman at the window on how pretty her skin is.  She'll tell the waiter serving us in a restaurant how great he is with people, and then will leave a note of encouragement on the receipt she signs with the tip.

We need to also practice this with our family.  My son Jackson was at football practice the other day and he was involved in a vicious, manly, football hit that absolutely rung his bell.  He collided with the biggest guy on his team in a tackling drill and you could hear the sound of their pads hitting one another for miles.

Afterward, as we were walking away I told him things like, "That was the hit of the day... You were not afraid, you were awesome... I am so proud of you for not backing down... You are a warrior!"  He swelled up like a banty rooster.  And later that evening when he was saying grace at the table he said, "And God, thank you for the awesome game of football."  Hallelujah!  Thanks be to God!

Don't just encourage others with your words---you need to also encourage yourself.  There is this awesome story in the Old Testament of David, the great king of Israel.  Before he became king, however, things were bad.  People were trying to kill him.  He was freaking out.  And then we have this verse from 1 Samuel 30:6   "...but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God."

Speak life giving words into your own life.  Because if you want to see the change in your life---if you want to see transformation---if you want to see your life take a positive direction----then you need to say it.

If you want to see it---say it.  Say what you want to see.

Listen, I am not advocating any "name it and claim it" silliness when it comes to prosperity, winning the lottery, getting that new car or bigger house...  What I am saying is that when you speak life-giving words about yourself--it has the same effect as when you speak them to others.

Here's a way to begin practicing this in your own life.

At the end of every statement you make about yourself--add the words, "And that's the way I want it."  So, if you walk around saying about yourself, "I am such a screw up." You'll say, "I am such a screw up--and that's the way I want it."  or "I will never get any better at this--and that's the way I want it."

Ridiculous sounding, right?

Change what you say about yourself.  "I am an overcomer through Jesus Christ, I am not defined by mistakes---and that's the way I want it."  "I will be an encouraging and loving husband--and that's the way I want it."  "I will speak life giving words to my friends and family--and that's the way I want it."

That's life-giving to yourself, isn't it?

As we close today I have another assignment for you, too...  We started small and we've worked up a bit, but we're still talking about very small things that can make a big difference.

You should have your one word, your one verse, your one thought... Now I want you to find your one statement.  What words will you begin speaking that will give life to you and those around you?

My word was "peace," and I found a verse to help cement it in my heart.  My one thought was "Greater is the One in me than the one who is in the world."

The one statement that I want to lift up, to speak life into my life and to those around me is this:   I have peace like a river when the springs of my heart are pure.  This is the kind of statement that not only affects the things I say to others, but also to myself.  It also gives me an image of how my words can flow out into the world to pollute or to cleanse.

Maybe your one statement is:  "God is blessing my marriage with Christ's help it's getting better and better." "My children are growing in faith--God's hand of favor is on them."  "My body is a dwelling place for God--so I am getting in better shape."  "With God's power I will overcome."

Listen, if you want to change the life you live--you have to change the words you speak.  Small changes in the words you speak can result in big changes in the life you have.  If you can't say something--skip it.  If you think of something good to say--say it!

If you want to see it--say it.  Say what you want to see.  Words have the power of life and death.  These small changes can transform you life.

Because it's the small things that no one sees that result in the big things everyone wants.


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