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The Words We Speak

Photo of Adam RiceAdam Rice | Bio

Adam Rice

Adam is an author and software engineer in Indianapolis. He enjoys weightlifting and writing plays and bad poetry.

How would your life change if the things you said came true? We talk plenty, but how many of those words motivate others to act—even ourselves? I came across this quote a year ago, and it stuck with me.

“It would be a convenient arrangement were we so constituted that we could not talk better than we live.” – A.W. Tozer (Discipleship: What It Truly Means to Be a Christian)

Think about that for a minute. How would your life change if your words had to be backed up with action? If follow-through wasn’t optional.

In a world where ambition is celebrated, everyone has goals—the bigger, the better. We hear it constantly. “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” “What gets measured gets done.” If you don’t have at least a few humble brags to toss around, you can feel like you’re drowning in a sea of serial achievers. Regret and failure are avoided and stifled at all costs.

Contrast that with the world Tozer proposes, a place where deeds done humbly reign supreme. Sure, some great achievers would still rise to meet their words, but for the rest of us, those guardrails would ground us in who we really are. Today, in this present moment. Not an abstract idea of who we’d like to be someday…hopefully. If we could only ____. If we could just get to ____ or had more ____.

“How would your life change if your words had to be backed up with action?”

I think it would be freeing to live as Tozer suggests, to honestly assess our time and energy and take a step. Instead of waiting for the perfect moment or the perfect plan, we’d be trusting God and allowing the Bible to guide our actions. The joy of accomplishment would trump the fleeting euphoria of sharing a dream.

You’d still have dreams. But—at least, at first—the big ones would stay between you and God until a foundation of character and faithfulness had been laid. (What better Advisor could we hope for?) As He grew you and shaped you, your capacity to speak and accomplish would grow, too.

Encouragement and community in the body of Christ would take on new meaning. Your words might be constrained, but nothing would stop the family of believers from breathing fresh life and fire into your soul. Just as lion tamers aren’t born with innate skill, our boldness would be fostered over time by others, tempered by the realities of the work at hand.

“Our boldness would be fostered over time by others, tempered by the realities of the work at hand.”

Tozer points out that such an arrangement would be “convenient.” To his point, that’s not the life we lead. We can’t will ourselves to be humble. And we certainly can’t tame our tongues without the Holy Spirit’s intervention.

James 3 paints a sobering picture of how our words shape our lives:

“Take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark….With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” (James 3:5, 9-10, NIV)

But God, in His mercy, imprints His Word in our hearts. He extinguishes the hellfire on our tongues and gives us chances to praise Him and bless and encourage others. Our tongue may be our rudder, but God is the wind and the tides.

“Our tongue may be our rudder, but God is the wind and the tides.”

How many of us look up at a tree covered in spiritual fruit and say, “I’m going to pick the one at the top,” when there’s fruit within reach? For that matter, how many of us bother to scrape our knees, climbing?

We’re tasked with serving and loving others as Christ loves us. Is the way you’re approaching that mission constructive, or are your words getting in the way?

I want to speak directly to the vision-casters and leaders in the church. We need your bold plans because they spur us on. And we need your humility when those plans have to change. The amazing thing is that, when the body of Christ yields to the Spirit, goals that seem like distant dreams can be realized to the glory of God.

Our Heavenly Father wants to use you. Will you weigh your words and look for chances to let Him?