Mark E. Hardgrove PhD, DMin
There is no denying the importance of, and the power of, the spoken word. Not because words go out like some magical incantation with endless and invisible effects. I do not believe that the mere articulation of certain phonetic combinations spoken into a vacuum have inherit power. For example, I do not believe that you can wake up every morning and speak the words “new car” and somehow a new car will materialize in your garage. However, it may be that as you wake up and speak those words each day that you are motivating yourself to seek for and obtain a new car. A positive result might be that you save up and purchase a new car. A negative outcome might be that you motivate yourself to go out and steal a new car.
The power of the spoken word is in the effect it has on those to whom we speak, as well as, the power the same words have on those who speak them. Sometimes our communication achieves exactly what we intended, and sometimes unintended results are achieved through something called “miscommunication.”
American advertisers are finding out how easy it is to mis-communicate. Even after spending millions of dollars to sell their products in other countries, giant companies still say the wrong things sometimes:
The name Coca-Cola was first pronounced “Ke-kou-ke-la” in China, which means in one dialect, “bite the wax tadpole,” in another Chinese dialect it meant “female horse stuffed with wax.” Finally Coca-Cola transliterated its name to “Ko-kou-ko-le,” using characters which mean, “happiness in the mouth.”
Pepsi had a similar problem with its slogan, “come alive with the Pepsi generation.” In Chinese it meant, “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.”
Seeing, then, how significant the use of words can be to billion dollar industries, which sell nothing more than flavored sugar water, how much more careful should we be in trying to speak the right words to the people we love, or to the people we are trying to lead to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? I want us to consider four aspects of the power of words spoken in due season. I want us to consider the power of our words of evangelism to the world, our words of healing in the Body of Christ, our words of encouragement spoken to ourselves, and our words of triumph and victory spoken to the enemy.
I A WORD FOR THE WORLD, IN DUE SEASON
There is never a question about how the gospel is to touch lives, it is to be communicated. The Apostle Paul asked the question, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:14, KJV). Paul then answers his own question saying, “. . . faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom 10:17, KJV).
The writer of Proverbs tells us that “a word spoken in due season” is a good thing and will produce positive results. The right words spoken at the right time have tremendous power to help and to heal. But the wrong words, words spoken at the wrong time for the wrong reasons have a terrible power to wound and to injure others. We must seek the mind of Christ in the words we choose, but the time to tell Good News is now.
When Jesus came from His wilderness temptation into Nazareth, He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day and read from the book of Isaiah. He opened to what we know as Isaiah chapter 61 verses 1 and 2. In reading this text Jesus was declaring that He was the Messiah. He was telling the people listening that the acceptable year of the Lord had come and was being fulfilled before their eyes. He is telling us today that “due season has come,” it is time today to tell the world, “Jesus saves, Jesus saves!”
Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom 1:16, KJV).
II. A WORD FOR THE BODY, IN DUE SEASON
The power of words is not limited to the telling of the story, of Jesus and His glory, to a lost and dying world. The power of words should be rediscovered in the church, in the Body of Christ. How many people would have stayed in church if only one person had not spoken a harsh word; or if only one person had spoken a healing word?
I’ve known people who were on the verge of giving up and going back into the world of sin, but someone listened to God and gave them a call. God knows when we are about to despair, and He is not silent. He will speak to us, if only someone will let Him use them to encourage us. Or perhaps He desires to use us to speak edifying words, words of hope and healing to someone else.
I’m not talking about getting “a word from the Lord,” or of prophesying. I’m talking about plain ‘ole compassion and concern. I’m talking about not being so wrapped up in our own problems that we are blind to the walking wounded around us. It doesn’t take the gift of gab, or a counseling degree to call someone whom we know is hurting and say, “I know you’re going through some storms and I just want you to know that I’m praying for. Let me know if I help you.”
When we listen to the Lord in our prayer time we may hear Him putting a name on our heart, or He may suddenly put a burden on our heart for someone. We may not even know what the circumstances are, but God knows and He may lead us to that man or woman with a simple question, “Is there anything going on in your life, that I can help you pray about?”
It sounds so simple and yet the truth is that there is great healing power in these words. Proverb 18:20 tells us that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Edification, encouragement and exhortation are all in the power of “a word fitly spoken.”
Marriage experts conducting seminars for the Southern Baptists found that the most frequently asked question at their marriage seminars is, “How can I get my spouse to talk to me?”
The effectiveness of marriage counseling is not in the diploma of the counselor on the wall, but in the counselor’s ability to get couples to communicate, to talk to each other using healing words instead of hurtful words.
III. A WORD FOR OUR “SELF,” IN DUE SEASON
I taught introduction to counseling for Barton College in Kansas and in my studies preparing for my lectures, I discovered something that I’d never known before. I found that the success rates of counseling are statistically the same regardless of which counseling technique is used. The question I asked, then, was what do all the various counseling techniques have in common? When you throw out the differences, what is it about counseling which helps people to cope with their problems? Proverbs tells us, “A man hath joy by the answer of his (own) mouth”
I believe that effective counseling involves getting the patient to talk. Some want to complement the counselor for being “a good listener,” but it isn’t really the listening which empowers the patient, it is the words of the patient that brings healing to him or herself. The job of the counselor is to say just enough to guide the patient into saying, and hearing himself say, things that are healing for the patient.
I believe that this is part of the power of prayer. Our words not only have power to touch the heart of God, but our words affect us as we say them and hear them.
In Psalm 31 the writer is lamenting his situation. He is under attack by the words of those around him. He says, “For I have heard the slander of many: fear was on every side” (v. 13). But then, just as it looks at though he will fall he writes, “But I trusted in thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my God” (v. 14).
He doesn’t just write it, He tells us he said it. He vocalized it and he heard himself say out loud, “You are my God!” Those words changed things for the Psalmist. He goes from almost falling to standing, to encouraging others. The last verse says, “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD” (v. 24).
I’m not one of those who thinks that you can just go around saying positive things and positive things are going to happen irrespective of your actions. But I do believe that our positive words will affect how we act, what we do and how we respond to the challenges of life. I believe with the Apostle Paul we ought to be able to greet every day with the words, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me” (Phil. 4″13, KJV). With the power of our own words we can talk ourselves into depression or we can talk ourselves out of depression. We can talk ourselves into divorce court or we can talk ourselves into a healthy marriage. We can talk ourselves into failure as a local church or we can speak words which remind us that we are here for a purpose, we are here by the divine will and plan of God and we will reach the lost whom God is bringing to our doorsteps.
Jesse Jackson used to go into predominately black schools and hold rallies. He told the students to say out loud, “I am, somebody.” He was teaching them to think, “Despite what society may be telling me, despite what some racist might be telling me, despite what I may think of myself at the moment, ‘I am somebody!'” It is a simple three word declaration, but they need to hear themselves say it because by saying it, they were empowering themselves to be somebody.
We live in a time when conservative Christians are being told that they are out of touch radicals who are dangerous to society. We are being told that we are superstitious relics from the past who are out of touch with reality. (And these are the nice things being said about us.) But we need to refuse to let those slanderous words stop us. We need to say loud enough for the atheist to hear, “I am a child of the Most High God!” We need to let those words empower us to act like and live like the children of God.
IV. A WORD FOR THE ENEMY, IN DUE SEASON
Not only do our words have power in the lives of others and of ourselves, our words–when born out of a faithful walk with Christ–also have power to cause the heart of our enemy to melt. After crossing the Red Sea and seeing the enemy defeated behind them Moses sang a song. He said: 11 Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? 12 Thou stretchest out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them. 13 Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation. 14 The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestine. (Exod 15:10-14, KJV)
How will the enemy hear? He will hear it because we’re going to be telling it, were going to be testifying. Our problem is that we do too much listening to the report of the enemy instead of the report of the Lord. We do too much listening to the drumbeat of defeat instead of raising our voice in victory. We need to speak a word of triumph so loud that it will rattle the gates of hell and send the enemy running for cover.
I’ve found that you can’t listen and talk at the same time. The best way to shut the mouth of the enemy and to silence his voice is to open your mouth and start telling him that you are more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus.
Goliath was doing all the talking, defying the armies of the God of Israel while they trembled in their fox-holes. Then David got there and the first thing he did after picking up the stones was start talking to Goliath. He said, “I come against you in the name of the God whom you defy, prepare to die!”
We need to open our mouth and tell the enemy, “Greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world” (1 Jn. 4:4). We need to make a joyful noise unto the Lord and shout unto the Lord with a voice of triumph because it causes the heart of the enemy to melt. Satan remembers that shout when it brought down his town at Jericho. He remembers that shout when Gideon and three hundred men defeated his armies. He remembers that shout when one hundred and twenty Pentecostals came down from the upper room and turned his world upside down. When we shout unto God with a voice of triumph, when we testify, when we declare the victory, then we are doing battle on a spiritual level. The enemy recognizes that shout of triumph and his knees begin to knock.
I went out to the parking lot of the church this week. I looked around at this beautiful piece of land and this little church. It occurred to me that we ought to be growing. We ought to be seeing the lost at our altars. We ought to be seeing the sick healed. As I looked at the trees that surround the property I saw demonic forces surrounding us. I saw hindering spirits, I saw principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in high places and I got mad.
The enemy tried to talk to me. He tried to tell me that we won’t grow, we won’t ever see the victory, and on and on, until I decided to shut his mouth. How did I shut his mouth? I opened mine. I started talking out loud and declaring to the enemy that the victory is already won. I didn’t want anyone driving by to stop and put me in a straight jacket so I put my cell phone up to my ear like I was talking to someone, and I was.
I looked to the east, the west, the north, and the south and I declared victory. I claimed souls for the kingdom. I declared deliverance to the captives. I told the enemy to that we are here to pull down the gates of hell, to storm his camp and take back what he stole from us. I told him that one little gray haired lady on her knees has more power than him and all of his demons put together. I told him that there is only one place for him in my life and that is on the bottom of my shoe. Then I danced on the devil’s head and praised the Lord for giving me authority over all the power of the enemy. I spoke words of triumph, words of victory, and I spoke them loud enough for the enemy to hear them.
Those words don’t have any magic power, but they do have the power to shut the mouth of the enemy. While I’m speaking victory, I can’t be hearing him speak words of defeat. Words of victory and praise have the power to prepare an habitation for the presence of the Lord, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
Church, it’s time that we lift up our voice like a trumpet, it’s time for the enemy to hear the shout of a King among us. We ought to be worshipping and praising God in this place like the King of Glory is in our midst, because He is.
Never underestimate the power of words: power to declare hope to a lost and dying world, power to encourage those around us, power to strengthen our own heart, power to triumph over the enemy.
It’s time to do a little less talking, and a little more speaking. It’s time to choose words that help, words that heal, words of victory and faith.
It’s time to speak to the mountain. Jesus isn’t talking about a mountain of dirt here. We’re like Nicodemus, Jesus is talking about spiritual things and we start arguing about carnal things. Jesus is telling us that we need to start speaking victory over anything which stands in the way of our spiritual progress. We don’t have to let anything stand in our way on our journey to heaven.
Our words have power when we speak them in faith and our confidence is in the Lord. Our words affect those around us, and our words affect us as we speak them.
I’m not talking about living in denial. If I’ve got a headache I’ll tell you I’ve got a headache. But I’m also going to tell you that healing was provided by the stripes on the back of Jesus and by His stripes I am healed.
Response to the Word
If you’re here today and you’ve been in a battle, I want you to stand and start speaking victory. Start praising God. Start telling the devil to get off your back and get under your feet.
You ask me if this is Scriptural? Jesus told us in John 13:15 that He came to give us an example. He shows us, among other things, how to triumph over the enemy. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus silence him by speaking the Word. On another occasion when Peter unwittingly became the mouthpiece of Satan, Jesus talked to the devil. What did Jesus say? He said, “Get behind me Satan!” (Mk. 8:33).
When I went to the Blue Springs Church of God in Cleveland, Tennessee we used to sing a little song that said:
I command you Satan in the name of the Lord
Pick up your weapons and flee!
For the Lord has given me authority
To walk all over thee!
Sing this with me!