Yesterday I attended the Memorial Service of a man I used to attend church with many years ago. He was a godly man who loved the Lord and he and I had had some really wonderful and thought-provoking conversations in those years. A few months ago I found out that he had been diagnosed with cancer and that his wife was also suffering from ill health. On a whim, I stopped in to see them for the first time in many years and the Christian fellowship we experienced for the next hour during that visit is something I will always remember. A few months later, my husband and I stopped in for another visit. And then a few weeks later he was gone.
As I listened to two men talk of their memories of this man during the service, my mind wandered for just a few moments to my own memories of him. There is one very special memory that I want to share with you. It is truly a reminder of how powerful words are. I wish I would have shared my appreciation of this memory with him before he left this earth.
Before I share this memory, you need a little background. When I started attending that church so many years ago, I had some real obvious flaws. Unfortunately, I still have them, but they were much more pronounced at that time. I’d talk before I’d think. I’d sometimes sound harsh in my passion to communicate the truth of God’s Word. I’d use the wrong tone or say the wrong thing. I didn’t mean to do these things. I didn’t want to do these things. And after I’d say something the wrong way or said something I just shouldn’t have said, I would often pray afterwards for forgiveness and to ask the Lord to somehow give the person (or group) I had shared with no memory of my gaffe or at least an understanding of my heart as I said whatever it was I had said.
I still struggle with this, but not to the same extent as back then. How I thank the Lord for growing and changing me in this particular area.
Anyway, a few years after we had been there, I can still remember talking with this man in the hallway after church one day. I am not sure what we were talking about but at some point in that conversation he stopped and looked at me and expressed how he had misunderstood me. In other words, despite my blunders and missteps, he understood now that I truly loved the Lord and His Word and that, in my heart, I really wanted to do what is right.
I respected this man and for him to say that meant the world. To have him say that he understood my heart to do what is right was such a tremendous encouragement to me.
This memory reminded me so vividly of the power of our edifying and encouraging words. Those words we speak that build up. No doubt you, too, can think back over your life and remember moments where you were given some unexpected encouragement and the impact that it had on you.
It was a great reminder of the importance of encouraging one another in the Lord. These things can mightily impact us. God uses them to comfort, strengthen, and cheer us along life’s way.
Too often, we use our mouths to criticize and tear down. We don’t seem to have any trouble saying all of the negative things to or about people. (I am not referring here to the times it is necessary to speak the truth in love but to the petty criticism and lack of grace we afford one another as believers.)
Or we just speak nothing. Perhaps we pride ourselves on not speaking negative, critical words to others but we also don’t speak uplifting, edifying words either.
Why is it so hard to speak positive words to others?
It can go against the grain. Especially if you were raised by distant or critical parents. And, yet, by intentionally encouraging with our words, we have the opportunity to make a real difference in someone’s life. Those words I mentioned above were spoken to me probably close to thirty years ago and I still remember them. God used this dear man to encourage me at a time when I really needed encouraged.
May we, too, be used by God to encourage other fellow believers along the way. May we help strengthen and intentionally encourage them in the Lord. It’s a tough world out there. Let’s edify and build up. Let’s extend grace and loving-kindness. Let’s break the bad habit of not speaking of and, oftentimes, not even noticing the good things around us.
Proverbs 16:24 Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.
Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.
Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.
I Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.