When I first met her, she was already losing the winsome spirit that had influenced several people to come to the Lord and to the church. It was after the special service and she came past shaking hands. She had to say what she thought was going wrong with the church in general and hers in particular. The friend I was with told me later, “I can’t be around that kind of negativity very long.” The story as I saw it unfold did not turn out very well. The families the lady had brought to the church were still there when I returned some time later, but she was not there. When I asked about her, they said that she saw so much wrong she could not come any more. So she just stayed home. How sad, I thought, that a woman who had been so useful lost the grace that had been instrumental in helping others. She had by her negativity talked herself right out of personal usefulness and perhaps even personal victory.
Jesus said that what comes out of our lips is an indication of what we have been allowing to fill our hearts. “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh.” As I considered the case of the woman mentioned above, I realized the importance of keeping my inner meditations on things that build up myself and others. There is a limit to how much negativity we should allow in our hearts.
One young man was in an airport and saw an evangelist who was quite fluent in decrying the negative signs of the times. He said, “I looked up and here came a whole cloud of gloom and doom.” What a reputation! Preachers, of all people, should be known for giving the good news, not for majoring on what is wrong with everybody and everything. We are on this side of the cross and we have a wonderful message for a lost and dying world. Of course evil men and seducers will “wax worse and worse.” But we have the everlasting gospel! We have the message that Jesus’ blood can make the vilest sinner clean!
Contrast the pictures of negativity with the image of a retired elderly minister I recently visited with. He was reminiscing about the people who had come to Christ in his earlier ministry. His eyes shone as he recalled story after story of the grace of Christ that was available to sinners who heard about Jesus dying for them and rising again in victory. He did not lament the condition of the church or the problems of the world. He gloried in the grace that was made available to sinners who heard the story of Jesus and received Him. “I’m satisfied they got saved and went to heaven,” he said, with great gratitude to the Lord.
Yes, we can keep up with the news and see the slide of culture. But we should not allow that to dominate us. We are pilgrims and we seek a better country. This is the good old USA but it is not heaven. There are some good old boys doing some good work out there but it is not the kingdom we are part of. We have instructions in the Bible that show us how to be instruments of grace even as the world gets worse and worse. “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” (Col. 4:5, 6).
How often should our speech be notable because of grace? Always! There should always be a grace element to what we have to say. It should sprinkle our speech like salt seasons a fine meal. If you are getting discouraged by the news, sprinkle some grace in your thoughts. If you are worried about unsaved loved ones, allow grace to bring you hope and encouragement. If you are worried about those who you think may be somehow compromising God’s word, bring some grace to your thoughts and thank God for His divine constancy.
Allow your heart to be captivated by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Over and over in his letters, the Apostle Paul opened and closed with the blessing of grace. “Grace to you.” “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” What captivates your heart will be reflected in the words that you speak. If your words are graceless it is because you have been meditating on things that are graceless. It’s that simple.
Years ago I learned a painful lesson about allowing my words to be less than graceful. A friend and I picked up pastor’s son and gave him a ride. During our banter, we made a few references that would have been better left unsaid. Later, the pastor’s wife told us her son was disappointed. He saw us in the same light as anyone else in the world. I was convicted. Since that time I have tried to be careful about what I said. There have been jokes I’ve heard that were very funny, but have had a little twist to them that was less than what grace would allow. I’ve been tempted to repeat them, but then I’ve thought, “Is it worth a laugh to compromise grace just a little?” And different times I’ve thought of that pastor’s son. No. It is not worth it just for a momentary laugh.
The Bible confirms that our speech should be without anything questionable. “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Eph. 4:29). How much speech should we compromise with useless, worn out, unseemly things? None.
The words I speak should be words that build people up. They should not be discouraging words. They should edify those who hear what I say. When people go their way, are they better for what I have said, or worse? Have I built up their faith or torn them down? Have I elevated their thoughts with sprinkles of grace? That is the measure of how my words should be. It all starts in what I fill my own heart with.
Several days ago I was feeling quite depressed about my physical condition. I allowed my frustrations to bubble out and did some verbal complaining. Then the conviction of the Lord reproved me. I had been indulging a personal pitying session and it overflowed into our home. I asked my wife and the Lord to forgive me. We have grace! We have Jesus! We have the Holy Spirit! We can rejoice in Him!
Life is not always fun. It is a vale of sorrows. Yet we have grace. And we can be instruments to help others to that grace.
“O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee…”