This article is part of our series on The Power of Words. Words have always had the power to create life or to create death. Just like sticks and stones can break our bones, words can also break our spirit and our communion with God and others. Our hope is that this series will encourage and enable you to speak life-giving words to others by being rooted deeply in God’s Word. Read previous articles in this series here:
Speaking from the Overflow
“When my son is in elementary school, I’m going to teach him exactly how to study. It gives me great pleasure knowing that I will be able to control that.” I said these words out loud to not one but two friends. And of course, I repeated them to my husband, relishing in my control. When I remember these words, I cringe—they were ugly. They came from a place of helplessness and frustration as I tried to think of the ways I could help (read: control) the outcomes of my older kids’ grades.
The words I uttered—not once, not twice, but thrice—reveal a heart that isn’t trusting God. As a mom, I want the best for my kids. But so often, I want what I think is best, not what God deems is best for them. The way of the world is to believe that we are our own solution to the issues and heartaches we face. The world says that we can figure out anything that life tosses to us with enough willpower, self-help books, or connections. But God offers a life built on complete trust and faith in what we cannot see. Whichever path we follow will be evident in our actions and words.
Revealing Our Treasure
When I choose to dwell on how to arrange my life for my own comfort, my desires do not align with those of my heavenly Father. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” I once believed that this verse was telling me about all the things I should not do, such as watch inappropriate movies, read inappropriate books, or listen to inappropriate music. Allow me to nerd out for a second and enjoy some grammar—this verse begins with an affirmative verb, so the author is actually telling you what to do. He is giving you instruction about what God desires for you, not a list of dos and don’ts.
When I think of what it means to “keep your heart with all vigilance,” I think about a shepherd. The role of a shepherd is to keep watch over his flock, ensuring that no danger encroaches upon the herd. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, instructs us to keep watch over our hearts in the New Testament by building upon this proverb of the Old Testament.
He says in Luke 6:45, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Jesus spoke these words to the disciples. He exhorted them to remember that while the thoughts and intentions of the heart may seem like secrets we can keep to ourselves that don’t affect anyone else, what we dwell on will eventually come out in our words and actions. What we treasure in our hearts will always be revealed by how we speak.
Keeping Our Hearts
As the shepherd watches over his flock, we must do the same for our hearts. The soil of our hearts can be tender and open to correction or full of thorns and characterized by pride. Isaiah 26:3 states, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” The peace of our hearts is not found in another self-help book, an encouraging Instagram quip, the accomplishments on our resume, or our well-behaved children. A peaceful heart is a fruit of resting in Jesus. When we fix our eyes on him, our hearts soften to receive his loving-kindness.
We can all think of examples where someone completely changed our day—either for the positive or negative. A soft and tender heart will not speak words riddled with fear, anxiety, control, and anger. No, a heart centered on him will speak words filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control—the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22–23).
Change from Within
When we choose to dwell on the truth of who God is, it changes us by the power of his Holy Spirit. We cannot change ourselves, but we can grow in grace by working with the Holy Spirit as he changes us. By his power, our hearts learn to treasure his kingdom instead of our control. We no longer dwell on ensuring our comfort; instead, we consider opportunities to encourage others and help them see Jesus.
Sister, we must remember that our hearts are fragile. They are fickle and need nourishment that is only found in the living water of the Word. Let us come to the well, thirsty and ready to drink of the goodness that God has in store, that we may give to others who need to receive his sustaining grace through our words.