Words of Encouragement vs. Discouragement
From a Young Age
When Karen was 17 and I was 18, we committed our lives to Jesus Christ. Less than two weeks later, at that young age, we ran away and got married. We could have easily failed, both in our Christian walk and our marriage, had it not been for the encouraging words of Rev. Guy Bongiovanni and Rev. Roger Shaffer. They and others at Farrell Christian Assembly and First United Methodist Church of Sharon, Pennsylvania, as well as those from various denominations, encouraged our growth in our faith and knowledge of Scripture. As a result, we have served many years in various churches and ministries—most of those years here at Bill Rudge Ministries.
Have we faced times of discouragement and difficulties? Yes…a plethora of times! There were those whose goal, it seemed, was to discourage us from obediently serving Christ and to dissuade us from following Jesus’ call into ministry. But the encouragers (through God’s Holy Spirit) superseded them and God accomplished His work in and through this ministry, built from day one on God’s Word and the leading of His Spirit.
Peter and Paul; Nero and Herod
During the first year of my new life in Christ, I worked with two other young men, considering them Peter and Paul because of their strong commitment to Christ. By word and example they encouraged and strengthened me in my faith. However, after a few months, they moved on and were replaced by two men I regarded as Nero and Herod—constantly seeking, through lying words and dishonest behavior, to oppose and undermine my faith in Jesus Christ. Needless to say, it was a challenging time in my early Christian life! However, that year revealed to me the difference between the spirit of truth and the spirit of error—between those who love Christ and those who despise Him—and the deadly effects of discouraging words versus the lifelong benefits of encouraging words.
Impact of the Tongue
The average tongue is about four inches long and weighs about two ounces, yet it can be as quick as lightning, as sharp as a blade, and as devastating as a natural disaster. Friendships have been ruined, reputations tarnished, lives destroyed, families devastated, and churches split by the tongue. Social media can intensify and magnify the potential benevolent or malevolent use of the tongue.
Words are like arrows shot from a bow—once released they cannot be taken back. It may take months or years (if ever) to bring healing to a situation caused by careless or foolish words. That is why Scripture admonishes us to guard our tongues and speak words of wisdom and healing instead of foolishness and hurt.
While most Christians would never strike someone with their fists, many carelessly abuse and inflict pain on others with their words. Yet it is often more difficult for victims of verbal abuse and gossip to recover from a damaged reputation or a broken heart than from injuries caused by a physical attack. Virtually everyone has at times either spread or listened to gossip. Most people also know from firsthand experience the pain of being victimized by gossip—whether the information was true or not. So too we all remember times when we said something about someone else we later regretted. Gossip is like a stone thrown into a pond, sending ripples outward.
My friend and coworker in ministry, Jim Weikal, comments on the power of the tongue with the following words: A bullet fired from a deadly weapon can never be retrieved by the shooter. The speeding lead projectile quickly hits a target, hopefully not an innocent victim. In a similar fashion, a word fired off in anger toward any person cannot be retrieved either. The ears of the person send the voice to the brain where the content, intent and tone of the words are indelibly recorded to be played over again and again.
Anger is often the spark that ignites the tongue to spew its deadly poison. Words can be so hateful and venomous that no apology will erase the mental scars and emotional harm. Physical scars from a cut heal on our bodies leaving clean skin, but verbal scars caused by angry words don’t heal so easily, perhaps never. Remember, from our mouths come blessing and cursing (James 3:10). Ask God that your tongue be one known for speaking blessings.