“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 NIV).
Friend to Friend
It was a daunting scene. Over 1,200 miles of Alaskan shoreline covered with black slimy crude oil, more than 1,000 bodies of once bustling sea otters littering the coast, and over 100,000 grounded fowl groping for air. The Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1988 dumped 11 million gallons of crude oil into the Prince William Sound and disrupted the ecological balance of nature to kill many of its most beautiful inhabitants…including 150 bald eagles. The once glacier-fed waters teeming with life became an oily death trap.
Just as toxins in nuclear waste facilities, city dumps, and industrial accidents wreak havoc on the environment, so toxic words cause destruction to the hearts and souls of people. Paul wrote, “Let no foul or polluting language [ever] come out of your mouth” (Ephesians 4:29 Amp). Perhaps as you’ve read the previous five devotions that I have written about the power of the words we speak, you’ve cringed at words you’ve spoken and wish you could take them back. Words that have polluted the ones you hold dear. Can we clean up the mess and repair the damage? Absolutely! We can choose to dismantle the verbal weapons and break the patterns of toxic words. And to do so, we must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit within us.
Tongues…most animals have one. Some snakes have forked tongues. Lizards smell with their tongues. Some fish, such as salmon and trout, have teeth on their tongues. Frogs and toads have tongues that whip out at incredible speeds to catch flies and other insects. Their cousin, the chameleon, has a tongue that is as long as its body. An anteater’s tongue can stretch to the height of a two-year-old. A gecko uses its tongue to wipe across its eyes like a windshield, and a giraffe uses its twenty-inch tongue to clean its ears. The tongue of a blue whale is about the size and weight of a full grown African elephant.
Even though a human tongue cannot smell out dinner, reel in the catch of the day, or reach to the tops of trees to pick fruit, it can do something even more amazing. The human tongue can create words. Words are an incredible gift, and as we have seen, they have the potential for good or evil. How do we harness such energy and insure that it is only used for good? Unfortunately, James tells us it is impossible.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by human beings, but no one can tame the tongue” (James 3:7 TNIV). That’s the bad news. Now, here’s the good news. While no human being can tame the tongue…God can. It may be impossible for James, and for you and me, but it is not impossible for God. “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” the angel asked Sarai after announcing that her ninety-year-old body was going to bear a child (Genesis 18:14).
When we come to faith in Jesus Christ, God gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity who enables us to do all that God has called us to do. He gives us the power to change!
Jesus explained to the disciples: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). After Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the disciples waited for the Holy Spirit as Jesus had instructed.
“When the day of Pentecost came, a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest of each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:1-4).
Isn’t it interesting that the first manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit was words and the first visual manifestation was tongues of fire? The disciples were able to speak in the various languages of the men and women who were visiting Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost. The travelers heard the gospel in their own languages! Yes, that was astonishing. But even more amazing was the courage that arose in the cowardly disciples.
Just a short time before Pentecost, Peter had been so afraid that he denied he even knew who Jesus was. A mere servant girl’s inquisition had Peter shaking in his sandals and swearing he was no friend of Jesus. After being filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter stood up, raised his voice, and addressed the crowd with such a mighty sermon that 3,000 men and women accepted Jesus as their Savior and were baptized. That’s what the Holy Spirit can do for timid souls who believe. He can transform a cursing tongue into a confessing tongue.
It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to control this little muscle that rests between our teeth. However, change does require our cooperation. We must work in tandem with the Holy Spirit to reign in this feisty force. The Holy Spirit gives us the power, but our responsibility is to put God-given principles into practice.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You did not leave us as orphans, but gave us the power of the Holy Spirit living within us to do all that You have called us to do. I pray that the Holy Spirit will help me control the words that I speak and tame my tongue.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
God really loves it when we pray specific prayers. Make a list of ways that you need to change the way you speak. Cursing? Negative? Discouraging? Critical? Complaining? Sarcastic? Crude?
Make a list and pray that God will help you change specific “unwholesome” speech that comes out of your mouth.
Today’s devotion is taken from Sharon’s book In this book, you can explore the power you possess, the people you impact, the potential for change, and the profound possibilities. As you harness this mighty force, you will begin to use words to speak life to those around you. Get one for yourself, or gather a group of girlfriends to learn and grow together.