RESTRAINT IN THEIR SPEAKINGPrint This Page.
Many people could be very useful in the hand of God; they could be a powerful vessel to the Lord. Yet they remain useless to God, or they are used by Him in only a limited way. One of the main reasons for their failure is a lack of restraint in their speaking. We must remember that careless words are often the source of a leakage of power. Our words are like holes: They can be an outlet for God's power, or they can leak away His power. Our mouth can be the outlet through which God's power flows, or it can be a hole through which the divine power leaks away. Unfortunately, many people leak away God's power through their speaking.
James 3:11 says that a spring cannot "gush forth the sweet and the bitter" at the same time. A worker of the Lord should send forth sweet and living water; he should be a conveyer of God's word. A water bucket cannot be used both for carrying drinking water and for dumping sewage. If the bucket for sewage is used to carry drinking water, it will become hazardous to health and life. In the same way, if our lips are consecrated for the utterance of God's word, then a solemn obligation is upon us to guard our lips for His service alone. If we employ our lips in things other than God's word, we cannot employ them in the utterance of God's word. Many people cannot be used by God, or they can only be used by God in a limited way, simply because their spring produces two kinds of water, sweet and bitter. They speak God's word with their mouth, and they also say many things which have nothing to do with God.
Brothers and sisters, before the Lord we should realize that once we consecrate our mouth to be God's oracle, we have a great responsibility upon our shoulders. It is a grave responsibility for God to entrust His word to us. In Numbers 16 we are told how Korah and his associates banded together to oppose Moses and Aaron. They took their censers filled with fire and presented them to the Lord. They all perished for their sin, but the censers remained holy and were beaten into plates for a covering of the altar (vv. 16-18, 33, 38-39). Whatsoever has been offered to God and used by Him is set apart for Him and cannot be put to common use afterwards. Some brothers and sisters have a wrong concept; they think that they can speak God's word one minute and Satan's word (lies being of Satan) the next. Brothers and sisters, this cannot be our practice. Once a brother opens his mouth for the Lord, his mouth is forever the Lord's. Many people leak away their power through the words they speak. Some brothers could have been very useful in the hand of the Lord, but because they spoke many things that were not for God, their inward power leaked out through their speaking. We must remember that a spring can bring forth only one kind of water. If our mouth has once spoken God's word, we have to realize that we have no right to speak just anything when we open our mouth again. Our mouth has been sanctified; it is separated already. Once something is consecrated to God, it becomes God's possession forever; we can never take back what we have given to Him. If we take it back, we become like Balaam's donkey; we are no longer God's prophet. We have to see the strong relationship between God's word and our word. Our mouth is separated; it belongs to God, and it can only speak God's word.
It is unfortunate that many otherwise useful men have become useless in the eyes of the Lord simply because their mouths have become a gaping hole through which God's power dissipates. Once a mouth speaks the wrong kind of words, power is gone from such a mouth. The trouble with many people is that they have too many words. In a multitude of words we can detect the voice of a fool (Eccl. 5:3). Many people lose their power through the multitude of words. They like to say such-and-such to So-and-so. They always have something to say about everything. Not only do they have much to say, they like to pass on what they have heard to others. Brothers and sisters, we have to pay attention to guarding our mouth. We have to guard it the same way we guard our heart. This is particularly true for those who serve as God's oracle. God is using them to be His mouthpiece and to convey His word. Their mouths are sanctified for His service; they are holy, and their mouth should be guarded as jealously as one guards his heart. The mouth cannot be loose.
There are several points connected with the matter of speaking, and we should take note of them.
First, let us note before the Lord the kind of talk we hear all the time. The kind of talk we hear determines the kind of person we are. Many people will not tell you some things because they know that you are not like them, and it would be useless to say that thing to you. If a person readily shares certain things with you, he does it because he knows that you are of the same kind, and that such things will produce a certain effect on you. You can know yourself by noting the things that people relate to you all the time.
Second, let us observe the kind of words we most readily believe. That which we are prone to credit reveals our own disposition. A certain kind of people will tend to believe certain kinds of words. We hear things wrongly and believe things lightly because we are blind; we are not in God's light. As soon as we are short of light or void of light, we fall into error. The direction of our ear and the degree of our gullibility often betrays our sick condition. Many people believe others' words even before they ever hear anything from them. Then when they hear something, they rejoice over what they have heard. The words may be incredible and ludicrous, yet a person can still be convinced that they are true. Hence, the kind of words that we believe show the kind of person that we are.
Third, next to listening and believing, there is also the matter of passing words on to others. This is similar in nature to the first two points. One may hear and believe a certain kind of words, but if he decides to pass them on to others, this indicates that he is not only the kind of person being portrayed by the words, that is, a person in darkness, but he is also willing to make others just like himself. His whole being is involved with the words he speaks. In listening, others are speaking; in believing, others' words are received; and in passing on words, one's whole being is put into the words. Many people love to speak and pass on words. Because of this, they lose all their power and are no longer able to be a proper minister of God's word.
Fourth, there are the inaccurate words. Some people are very inaccurate in the things they say. One minute they say one thing and the next minute they say something else. This type of person is "double-tongued" (1 Tim. 3:8); they cannot serve as deacons. They say one thing to one person and another thing to another person. They say something to a man's face and turn around and say something else behind his back. Such ones are useless in the work of God. Brothers and sisters, if we cannot bridle our tongue, how can we control ourselves and how can we serve the Lord? A man must bridle himself and buffet his body before he can serve the Lord in a proper way. We have a terrible member in our body—our tongue, which always leads us into trouble. Inaccuracy in words, being double-tongued, and vacillation in our statements are marks of weakness in character. Those who have such habits have no standing, and they are powerless before God. They vacillate back and forth because they are too easy going and uncertain. Such behavior points to extreme weakness in one's character! In the Lord's work, inaccurate words are a very sobering matter, and we must deal with them.
Fifth, there are those who are intentionally double-tongued. Some are double-tongued in a way that is more serious than others; they are worse than those who are double-tongued through ignorance; they are intentionally double-tongued. Some are double-tongued because they are ignorant. They say one thing at one time and another thing at another time. To them "yes" and "no" mean more or less the same thing. They do not have a sense of right and wrong, and they are completely in the dark. If you ask them if an object is black, they may say yes. If you ask them if the same object is white, they may say yes again. They are not clear about anything. To them black and white are just about the same. They live a sloppy and foolish life. They are ignorantly double-tongued. But with others, there is a conscious effort to be double-tongued. They purposely say something on one occasion and another thing on another occasion. This is not only a weakness in character but a moral corruption. Matthew 21:23-27 records that the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the Lord and asked on whose authority He was acting. He replied with this question: "The baptism of John, from where did it come, from heaven or from men?" They reasoned among themselves: "If we say, From heaven, He will say to us, Why then did you not believe him? But if we say, From men, we fear the crowd, for all hold John as a prophet." They answered the Lord saying, "We do not know." Their answer was a deliberate lie. In Matthew 5:37 the Lord said, "But let your word be, Yes, yes; No, no; for anything more than these is of the evil one." If something is yes, we say yes. If it is no, we say no. This is to walk in the light and in honesty. But if we stop to reason about the possible effect of our words on others and consider how we can speak with diplomacy, our motive and attitude are unbecoming of a worker of the Lord. If our words are framed in craftiness, we are making such words instruments of deceit! We would rather follow our Lord's example. When people sought to lay a snare for Him by their questions, He resorted to silence. If we have to say something, we would rather have our words be "Yes, yes; No, no." Anything more than this is of the evil one. A clever person has no place here. Paul exhorted the Corinthians, saying, "If anyone thinks that he is wise among you in this age, let him become foolish that he may become wise" (1 Cor. 3:18). Romans 16:19 says, "I want you to be...guileless as to what is evil." To be wise in these things gets us nowhere in the eyes of God. It is useless for us to maneuver. Our wisdom is in the Lord's hand. We cannot be double-tongued. This is the trouble with many people. Those whose words are untrustworthy have little use to God. If they give themselves to the work, sooner or later they will find themselves in trouble. If a man says one thing at one time and another thing at another time, wavering between right and wrong, yes and no, and vacillating between what can be done and what cannot be done, he is of little use to the work of God. Those with fluctuating and unreliable words are useless in God's work.
Sixth, we must deal with the very way we listen. A man may be somewhat gifted and talented. But as long as he is inaccurate with his words, there is a gaping hole in his character. This one flaw alone will cost him all of his power. How unfortunate that many of God's workers have become information centers! Brothers and sisters, as the Lord's workers we come into constant contact with people and have therefore many opportunities to hear others speak as well as to speak to others ourselves. If we are not disciplined and restricted in our words, it is very possible that while we are speaking God's word, we are spreading rumors and gossip at the same time. If our words are not disciplined, we may be building up God's work with one hand and destroying it with the other. Hence, we have to look to God to apply strict discipline to our ears. Brothers and sisters often want to tell us their personal stories. We should do our best to listen to them. We should be a good listener, and we should realize their problem and render them the proper help. When others speak to us, we should listen to them to take care of their need and solve their problem. But we must discourage them from going into any further detail once we are inwardly clear about their need. We should tell them to stop. We can say, "That is enough. You can stop here." It is wrong to listen with curiosity to what others have to say and to treat their words as stories or tall tales. All we need to do is to realize their problem. As soon as we know and have some assurance about it, we should say, "Brother, that is enough." We should not have a lust for information. Human beings have a lust for knowing other people's business; they have a lust for listening. There is a lust for knowledge, a lust for listening. But we must listen with guarded caution. As soon as we reach the limit, we should stop. Our listening is for the purpose of taking care of our prayer and for solving problems. We should listen only to take care of our brothers' and sisters' problems. At a certain point, we should stop listening.
Seventh, we have to gain and maintain people's trust. If anyone shares his spiritual problems with us, that is a trust he has placed with us. We must not speak about these confidences carelessly. Unless the interests of the work make it necessary, we should not repeat these things loosely. If we have never been disciplined in our words, we cannot participate in God's work. God's servants are entrusted with many things. They need to treat such confidences as a sacred trust and guard them faithfully. These words are entrusted to us; they are not our possessions but are objects entrusted to us in our ministry and our divine service. We cannot release them at will. We must learn to safeguard and protect every spiritual confidence placed in us by the brothers and sisters. We cannot spread these things irresponsibly. If our responsibility or God's work or human needs calls for their divulgence, that is another story altogether. At any rate, a multitude of words always brings in a loss, a great loss. Those who are wordy and who pass on words easily cannot be entrusted with the Lord's work. We should receive warning from the Lord. May He restrict our words, and may we not open our mouth rashly or speak lightly. Whether or not a person is disciplined is most easily seen from the way he controls his tongue. If a man is disciplined, his tongue will always be restricted. We should pay particular attention to this matter.
Eighth, we have to pay special attention to the matter of lies. The double-tongued person to whom we have referred is a close kinsman of the liar. All utterances that are made with an intent to give a false hope or a wrong impression fall into the category of lying. Sometimes a lie may not contain any false statement, but it is skillfully spoken to give others a false impression. This is in reality a lie. We have to remember that honesty in our speech is a matter of motive; it is not simply a matter of correctness in words. If a brother asks a question we do not wish to answer or are unable to answer, we should politely refuse to reply, but we should not deceive the brother. A false statement is a lie, and anything that gives others a wrong impression is also a lie. We want people to believe the truth; therefore, we dare not use words that are true in order to convey a false impression. For God's children, it should always be "Yes, yes; No, no." Anything more than this is of the evil one. The Lord once spoke very strongly to the Jews: "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father....When he speaks the lie, he speaks it out of his own possessions; for he is a liar and the father of it" (John 8:44). The devil is the author of lies. He was a liar from the beginning. Even today he is filled with lies. He is a liar and the father of it. It would be unthinkable for a child of God and, even more, for a worker of the Lord to lie. Yet some are indeed lying. This is too poor. There is no sickness more fundamental than this one. This is a very serious problem, very serious and very sobering! We must pay attention to the matter of lies. We should not think that everything we say is always accurate. The more careful we are, the more we will realize the difficulty of being accurate in everything that we say. Sometimes our intention is to speak the truth, but with a little carelessness we find ourselves off the mark. If we can so easily veer off when we are trying to be accurate, how much more we will be off the mark if we are not consciously trying. It is hard enough for us to speak the truth by carefully watching over ourselves. It is harder still for us to speak the truth when we do not control ourselves. Hence, we must guard ourselves, pay attention to our words, and never be loose. Otherwise, we will not be able to serve our God. God cannot use a person who is His mouthpiece one minute and a mouthpiece of Satan the next minute. No, He can never use such a person.
Ninth, we should pay special attention to another point, which is to "not strive nor cry out." The Bible prophesied of the Lord: "He will not strive nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets" (Matt. 12:19; Isa. 42:2). Paul said, "A slave of the Lord ought not to contend" (2 Tim. 2:24). This means that no servant of the Lord can strive or make a loud noise. Making a loud noise is an expression of rudeness. The Lord's servant should be under such control that he will "not strive nor cry out." He should not quarrel with anyone. Loud speaking usually indicates a lack of power, at least the power of self-control. No servant of the Lord should be so loud that his neighbor can hear his voice next door. No one could hear the Lord's voice in the streets. This is the pattern He left for us. This means more than a rejection of lies. Many words are indeed correct and true, but we would rather not strive or cry out. "A slave of the Lord ought not to contend." We can keep our mouth shut about many things. A brother or a sister has to be extremely loose before he or she can shout at others. He or she must have been living an undisciplined life for many years before he or she could shout with little restraint. We should restrict ourselves and exercise discipline over our own voice, like the Lord, whose voice was not heard in the streets. Let us learn to muzzle our mouth from unwarranted noise, shouting, crying, and clamor. This does not mean that we should try to act in a sober and quiet way. We have to be spontaneous, and when we meet others, we have to speak with them in a proper and natural way. But the fact remains that those who have never been disciplined in their speaking will face difficult times in the work. We hope that all the workers of the Lord will learn to be finer and more tender and that no one will be rough and uncouth. Our Lord is very fine and tender. He did not strive or cry out, and no one heard His voice in the streets. God's servants should give others the impression that they are fine and tender persons before the Lord.
Tenth, we need to pay attention to the matter of motive and fact. What we say is one thing, but our motive is another thing. God's children should not only pay attention to accuracy in words but also to accuracy in the facts. We should rather be accurate in facts than accurate in words alone. Many people only pay attention to accuracy in their words; they do not care about accuracy in the facts. Actually, even when we are very careful and accurate about the things we say, we may still be in error. Before the Lord we have to pay attention to accuracy in facts. If we do not pay attention to accuracy in facts, we will be of little use to the Lord even if our words are correct. Some brothers and sisters pay much attention to their words, yet we cannot trust them, because even though we have never found a mistake in their words, we know that they are only concerned about the correctness of their words; they are not concerned about the correctness of their facts. Suppose you hate a brother in your heart. This is a fact. As far as the fact is concerned, you hate him. But when you see him in the streets, you nod at him and greet him just the same. When he visits you, you serve him food, and when he is sick, you visit him. When he is in need, you give him money and clothing. Another brother may come to you and ask you, "How do you feel about this brother?" Even though you have no love for him in your heart, you still answer, "Did I not nod at him and greet him? Did I not visit him when he was sick? Did I not take care of him when he was poor?" It is true that you have the arguments. The law may be on your side, and your words may all be correct. But you are still lying because what you say does not reflect the facts. Some brothers and sisters pay much attention to procedures. You cannot find any fault with their procedures, yet their heart says something absolutely different. This is wrong. It is wrong to be correct in words but incorrect in facts. When we speak to others, we should not just pay attention to correctness in procedure and assume that we are telling the truth; we should instead pay attention to our motive before the Lord. This has to do with the fundamental issues that lie behind our words. Do not think that it is enough to use the correct words. Do not think that it is enough to be nice and cordial to others. You cannot say that just because you have these things, you do not hate your brother. We have to consider the facts. The proof is not in the words you speak. We should speak the truth, the things that are actual facts. If the facts are wrong, we are still lying even if we use all the right words. Unfortunately, this is the way many people live. In speaking, we should take care not only of the words themselves but should go deeper to our motive and care for the facts.
Eleventh, we should not speak any idle words. "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks....Every idle word which men shall speak, they will render an account concerning it in the day of judgment" (Matt. 12:34-36). Following this the Lord says, "For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned" (v. 37). When God's children come together, it is advisable for them to eliminate idle words. This does not mean that we should not greet each other or talk about the weather or gardens. Words of greeting have to do with maintaining human relationships, and it is proper to have them in our conversation. But idle words are gossip about this and that family; they have nothing to do with us directly. They are unnecessary. The Lord Jesus says, "Every idle word which men shall speak, they will render an account concerning it in the day of judgment." Idle words will not be spoken once, but twice. They are spoken once today, and when the day of judgment comes, they will be spoken once more. All idle words will be repeated; a person will have to render an account concerning them in the day of judgment. One day we will discover the many idle words that we have spoken, and God will justify us or condemn us based on these words. This is why we cannot speak any word in a light way.
Many jokes, light talks, and jestings have to be ruled out. It is of course a different story when some brothers and sisters make a few clever remarks once a while, or when they say a few amusing words to their children and grandchildren. Paul refers in his Epistle to the Ephesians to "obscenity and foolish talking or sly, filthy jesting" (5:4). These are frivolous words, and we should reject them and turn away from them.
Moreover, there should not be any scoffing among us. At the time the Lord was on the cross, men scoffed Him, saying, "Let Him be. Let us see if Elijah is coming to take Him down" (Mark 15:36). This is scoffing. Those who do not believe in the Lord's second coming scoff and say, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue in this way from the beginning of creation" (2 Pet. 3:4). Others may scoff and jest in all kinds of ways, but God's children should not allow these things to come out of their mouth.
There are many other kinds of unfitting words, such as words spoken behind others' backs or words of criticism. As for reviling words, they are sin and should be refused (Titus 3:10); they definitely should not come out of a Christian's mouth. We have to watch out for all these kinds of words and refrain from all of them.
A worker of the Lord must speak accurate words; he must not be careless with his tongue. He can only be a conveyer of God's word. If he is disciplined in his tongue, he will be spared of any entanglements. Our heart aches when we think of the lack of restraint among God's workers in the things they say. The brothers and sisters may be entertained by our gossip and interesting tales, but we will fail to command their respect when we speak for the Lord. Do not think that it is all right to joke and make fun with our brothers and sisters. There may be much fun in the joking and jesting, but when we turn around to speak God's word, they will consider our words to be of the same value as our stories, and our words will lose their weight. Some brothers can gain others' ears when they say something, while others may say the same thing yet not command any attention. We should consider the reason some have an audience while others do not. Their words may be the same. Certainly God's word is the same, but the way they speak at ordinary times differs. Let us pay attention to this matter. We may be the same as far as speaking God's word is concerned, but if we are different with our other speakings, we will be different when it comes to the power behind God's word. If we are used to loose words and always indulge ourselves in unrestrained conversations, the impact of our words on those who listen will be the same when we speak for the Lord as it is when we speak in a loose way. There will be very little impact at all. Brothers and sisters, let us remember that a spring cannot send forth from the same opening sweet and bitter water. It cannot supply sweet water at one time and bitter water at another time. The bitter water is always bitter. Its bitterness may be moderated sometimes, but it is still bitter. When clean water and filthy water are mixed together, the filthy water does not become clean; rather, the clean water becomes filthy. Many brothers have no impact in their speaking, not because they are wrong in the words they preach, but because they are wrong in their other speakings, the ordinary speakings outside the platform. When they preach God's word, nobody listens to them. We must remember that the words we speak on the platform are governed by the words we speak off the platform. If we talk foolishly off the platform, our words on the platform will be completely spoiled. The sweet water will become bitter. There is no need for laborious preparations before we preach, but there is the need for constant precaution in our ordinary, everyday conversation. We cannot expect to have any power in our service to the Lord if we are not restricted in our daily living. If we are loose and inaccurate in our words, confuse truth for falsehood, joke and jest all the time, and even lie, we cannot have any power in our service. We must begin by controlling our tongue so that we can preach God's word.
Accurate words have much to do with one's reading of the Bible. The Bible is the most accurate book in the world. God's word is the only accurate word in the world. If we do not have a habit of speaking accurately, we cannot read the Bible, much less preach the Bible. Some brothers cannot read the Bible in the condition that they are in. It takes a certain character to be a gospel preacher. It also takes a certain character to read the Bible. A sloppy person cannot read the Bible because God's word is accurate. A sloppy person will miss everything in God's word. In fact, he will understand it in the wrong way.
Let us give an example to show the meaning of being accurate. According to Matthew 22, the Sadducees did not believe in resurrection. One day they came to the Lord and posed a question, saying, "Teacher, Moses said, If anyone dies and does not have children, his brother as next of kin shall marry his wife and raise up seed to his brother. Now there were seven brothers with us. And the first married and died, and having no seed, he left his wife to his brother; likewise also the second and the third until the seventh. And last of all the woman died. In the resurrection, then, whose wife will she be of the seven? For they all had her" (vv. 24-28). Resurrection was unthinkable to them. They thought that it would be better if there was no such thing as resurrection, because it would complicate things. They preferred to believe that there was no resurrection. They came and reasoned with the Lord, coming up with a seemingly unsolvable problem. Jesus answered, "You err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying, `I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (vv. 29-32). The Sadducees certainly read the Scriptures, but the Lord said they did not know the Scriptures. They spoke so carelessly that it was impossible for them to appreciate the absolute accuracy of God's utterances. Our Lord only quoted a short passage from Exodus 3 to prove resurrection—God calls Himself the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. How does this short word prove resurrection? The Lord went on to explain, "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living." To the Sadducees Abraham was dead, Isaac was dead, and Jacob was dead; all three were dead. Would this not make the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob the God of the dead? Yet God is not the God of the dead. How can this be? Since God is not the God of the dead, Abraham must not remain dead forever. The same must be true of Isaac and Jacob. But how can dead men no longer be dead? They must be resurrected. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will all be resurrected because God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. The Lord Jesus answered the Sadducees this way. Our Lord was very accurate in the things He said. It exposed the inaccuracies of the Sadducees and their ignorance of the Bible.
If we are careless in our speaking, we will not appreciate how accurate God's word is. A sloppy character does not care for accuracy and is incapable of accuracy; it is not capable of holding and containing God's accurate word. The Bible is the most accurate book; it is accurate to the last iota and serif. The Lord said, "One iota or one serif shall by no means pass away from the law" (Matt. 5:18). God is purposeful in every iota and serif; He is never loose. Since God is so accurate in His words, His servants should also be accurate in their speaking. Brothers and sisters, God is never ambiguous in His speaking; He is never careless. His words are always firmly established; every one of them is sure and unshakable. The more we read His Word, the more we will realize that not a single word can be added or deleted. We must pay attention to this point: no one who is loose in his speaking can be a servant of God. A loose talker will have no impact among the brothers and will not even be able to handle God's word himself. Some brothers are a suffering to others when they speak from the platform. One only has to listen to a message from such ones and he will realize how sloppy these ones are. A sloppy person can only speak sloppy words. Even when God's word is before him, he will speak in a sloppy way. If he is sloppy when he walks off the platform, how can he be anything but sloppy when he stands on the platform? No sloppy person can read the Bible, and no sloppy speakers can speak for the Lord. May God be merciful to us. May we receive mercy to have an accurate mouth. We should offer up a prayer to the Lord: "Give me the tongue of a learner so that I will not be loose, careless, or flawed in words. I do not want to lose many things. I do not want to lose my testimony." If we are careless in speaking, we cannot read and understand God's Word. In studying the Bible, we have to dig out the facts. But a sloppy person cannot find any facts. We have to learn to speak carefully and cautiously before we can appreciate the accuracy of God's every word.
Every worker of the Lord has his specialty. He has his own special portion before the Lord, and God uses him by bringing out his special portion. Yet he should also have a balanced development in the other areas. A balanced development will eliminate any gaps or flaws in his ministry. If a brother is good at his specialty, yet fails in other areas, his ministry will be damaged by leaks. In the previous chapters, we covered various character traits such as listening to others, having a love for men, having a mind to suffer, buffeting the body, and being diligent. These are basic qualifications which we should have. No servant of God should be lacking in these character traits. The point of this chapter—being restrained in our speaking—is another basic qualification. A loose talker cannot convey God's word in an accurate way. Many brothers would have had a very bright and hopeful future had it not been for the fact that their tongues were too loose; they lost all their strength before God.
We have to guard our spiritual worth, our spiritual weight, and our spiritual usefulness before the Lord by every means. We cannot squander the special portion that God has given us. We should not deplete it a little here and a little there. In order to preserve our ministry, we have to plug all the leaking holes. The preservation of the ministry of the Lord's worker should be his most crucial concern. If we do not preserve our ministry, all the things and responsibilities God has given us will be lost little by little, and in the end they will all be gone. We cannot be careless with even a single word that we say. We have to receive the dealings, rebukes, and judgments from the Lord. Brothers and sisters, it is not enough just to receive positive things. We also have to pay attention to preserving the positive things so that they will not become lost. If we do not deal with our speaking, we will surely lose the positive things that we already have.
When we stand before the judgment seat, we may discover that the damage done by frivolous, loose talk exceeds that which was done through many other things, because this kind of damage does not stop with us. It works great havoc in the lives of others as well. Words do not stop with us. Once a word is spoken, it continues to spread. Suppose some brothers have said something improper. Once the words escape their lips, they cannot be retracted. We can repent of our folly, and we can ask for forgiveness. We can even bury ourselves in ashes and repent, saying, "Lord, I have said something wrong." The Lord's blood will cleanse us, but it will not remove the words that have gone out. The words will continue to exist on the earth. We can confess our sins to the Lord and to the brothers, and both the Lord and the brothers can forgive us, but the words that we have spoken will remain and continue to spread. Some workers may be lacking in having a mind to suffer. Others may have a problem with listening to others or a weakness in being slothful. But the problem of unrestrained words may be more serious than slothfulness, a failure to listen, or the lack of having a mind to suffer. Careless words release a deadly stream that flows on and on and spreads death wherever it goes.
Brothers and sisters, in the face of such solemn facts, we need to be careful about our speaking. We should repent before the Lord for many words that have gone out of our mouth. These words do not produce good fruit. In fact, they harm in definite ways. Many of the words we uttered in the past were "idle words," but they are no longer "idle"; they are spreading all over the earth. At the time we spoke them, they were idle words, but after a while they have become very busy and are working great havoc. We need to seek God's mercy to be cleansed of our past, and for the present we need to ask Him to deal radically with us and to burn us with a burning coal (Psa. 120:3-4). If He will deal with us and burn our tongues so that we will no longer open our mouth rashly, we will be spared many regrets in the future. Many mistakes are irreparable once they are done. Lot could repent and return to his former position, but Moab and Ammon are still with us today. Abraham could beget Isaac after he repented, but by then Isaac had an enemy. Abraham could send Hagar away, but the trouble he created goes on. Once our words go out, they will not stop, and the trouble they create will not stop. We have to pray for the Lord to burn our tongues with a burning fire so that they will not utter any idle words or lies and will be unbridled no longer. We should pray that our tongue would become the tongue of the instructed. Only when the Lord puts our mouth under strict control and it ceases to say things carelessly can we expect Him to use us as His mouthpiece. Otherwise, the one spring will never produce two kinds of waters. We cannot serve others with sweet water as well as bitter water. We may say that we are burdened to serve God and to share in His work, but we cannot speak God's word one moment and the devil's word the next. We have to look to the Lord to grant us the grace to terminate our history of having a "runaway" mouth. We should say to the Lord, "Let all my words be acceptable to You, just as my heart is acceptable to You." May the Lord have mercy on us!
The Lord Jesus said, "For their sake I sanctify Myself" (John 17:19). Every servant of God who desires to serve Him has to learn to sanctify himself, wherever he is. In order to serve others, we have to sanctify ourselves in our speaking. Speaking is a great temptation. When three, five, eight, or ten people are talking together, it is a great temptation to join in and be part of them. We have to learn to sanctify ourselves, to set ourselves apart from others, and to not mix with them. We should not speak lightly. We have to have the words of the instructed, the tongue of the instructed. Our tongues have to pass through the fire. We must never expose ourselves to temptation. When other brothers and sisters are engaged in improper conversation, the first thing we have to do is to separate ourselves from them. As soon as we mingle with them and become one of them, we become fallen. We have to separate ourselves from them and be set apart from their midst. Every time something like this happens, we must not give in to temptation and we must not associate ourselves with the others. We must always separate ourselves. I believe God will grant mercy to us and build us up with grace little by little.