I was 17 the first time I preached. The youth group I attended had a special night for young guys who thought they might go into the ministry to preach to the youth group. There were three or four of us scheduled to speak that night and we were given 10 minutes each. I still remember the message that I gave and I hate to admit it, but it was heresy! But when I was about half-way into the message, one of our youth leaders, who happened to also be my speech teacher, leaned over to her husband, who was my soccer coach, and she whispered, “He’s a good preacher.” I think she was surprised because I wasn’t very good in speech class. Even though I was in the middle of my first sermon ever, I had enough awareness that I could read her lips–I knew what she said. And it changed my life. Before that, I felt that God was calling me into some kind of ministry. After that, I knew what I was going to do for the rest of my life. And I’ve never looked back.
Maybe I got it wrong and she really said, “I have to go to the bathroom.” Haha!
Whatever she said, I at least thought her words were encouraging, and it set me on a course that I am still on forty years later. That’s the power of words.
How is that power being unleashed in your speech? Because the Apostle James wrote that the power of our words goes both ways. As they can be uplifting and encouraging, they often are destructive and damaging.
In a recent study of parents’ speech to their children, the participants in the study used 10 negative or critical words for every positive. This kind of overwhelming negativity not only destroys the effectiveness of constructive criticism, it creates an attitude of cynicism and defeatism in the home and children.
A good rule of thumb is, “Three spoons full of sugar for every spoon full of medicine.” There are times when we must tell difficult truths. Some criticism is necessary. But it is only constructive if it is well received. And few of us receive criticism in a constructive way unless it is coming from encouraging people.
Where can the power of your words be put to use? There are probably some in your workplace, certainly those who live in your home, who need your honest encouragement. They need the power of your words to be unleashed for them.
You might be the one, this very day, to be instrumental in setting a course for someone that will change their life. That’s the power of words!