A Resolve to Use Words Well
As I was personally reflecting on Toby’s closing applications this past weekend, I appreciated the practicality with which he charged us to resolve to fight for God. Often times I can tend to want to make big “whole sale” changes when resolving to invest more in God’s kingdom – yet Toby’s charge over the weekend was quite the opposite. He encouraged us to start small – to think incrementally: to meditate on more grateful thoughts, to spend more time pairing Scripture intake and prayer, and to invest our time and efforts in things that have eternal value. One such thing I’ve been pondering is the simple means of words. They’re so small, and often times come out of us with little thought – but they are, more often than not, the most powerful source of good or evil we sow into the world from day to day. That thought in mind – this year, I am resolved to more frequently use my words to encourage and affirm those around me – and my hope is that you’ll resolve to do the same.
While we never want to cross the line into becoming idolaters in our speech – puffing up the pride of others, Jesus Himself sets the example for us of what it looks like to frequently practice affirmation. Among many examples, Jesus marvels at the centurion’s faith (Luke 7:9), He uses the generosity of a widow as a lesson to His disciples (Luke 21:3-4), and praises Peter for His faith in front of all of the other disciples (Matt. 16:17). Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, praises, encourages, and affirms others! That’s astounding – and it paves the way for us to follow suit in practicing the art of using our words to draw attention to the goodness and God-likeness in those around us. And, while the example of encouragement and affirmation set by Christ is reason enough to follow suit, here’s three more integral reasons to join me in seeking to make better use of your words in 2024.
The Practice of Affirmation Instills a Profound Sense of Humility
We are all tempted towards the idolatry of self. As we’ve all heard so often, “pride comes before the fall.” To combat our prideful tendencies, we must look outward – having our eyes open to the beautiful ways that God is at work in the world through His Spirit in the lives of others. And the more that you are on the look out for ways to verbally encourage God’s work in others, the more that your eyes and thoughts will be taken off of self.
The Practice of Affirmation Reminds Others of God’s Grace
Your words of affirmation to others are means that God uses to remind them that He is at work in their lives. Often, especially in difficult seasons, it’s hard to see exactly how God is at work. Think about the Corinthian church who had a myriad of issues that Paul addressed. Before addressing those issues, he starts his letter with, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge…” (1 Cor. 1:4-5). Like Paul, God uses us as a conduit in others lives to point out the sanctifying work that He is currently doing, and that which He has already done.
The Practice of Affirmation is an Act of Glorying in God
In the end, “every good and perfect gift is from God” (James 1:17). Just like a landscape photographer captures amazing stills of landscapes for others to awe at – when we affirm God’s good work in others we are drawing attention to the good and perfect gifts God has given, and enjoying them ourselves. As John so clearly reminds us in His epistles – we cannot love God without having a love for His people. This is because His image is reflected in humanity – and we ought to revel in God’s image as we see it reflected in His image bearers.
Church, over the course of 2024, may your words be filtered with gospel grace. May your eyes be quick to see the beauty in others, and the Spiritual gifts He’s given to His people. And may we all glory in God by speaking life giving affirmations to those around us.
In Christ’s Mercy,
Pastor Ryan A.