The Power of Words and the Wonder of God
- Monday, December 07, 2009
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is an excerpt from The Power of Words and the Wonder of God edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor. This chapter by Paul David Tripp (Crossway).
War of Words: Getting to the Heart for God's Sake
I don't know very many of you, but there are three things that I know about you.
Three Things I Know about You
1) You Talk
First, I know you talk. Oh, my goodness, do you talk. Some of us more than others—some of us have trouble stopping—but all of us talk every day. Yes, even though we aren't always aware of it, every day of our lives is filled with talk. Every moment is infected with talk. Every relationship and situation is dyed with words. We're word-ish people. You could hardly identify a more formative aspect of our daily lives than our world of words. Yet whenever I begin to think, speak, or write about this topic, I experience a bit of frustration. What frustrates me is the vocabulary of communication. The terms are so mundane—words, talk, dialogue, conversation, communication. They just don't seem to carry the freight of how profoundly significant and important this area of life actually is.
Think with me about the significance of this part of our lives. We have to start by acknowledging that the very first words ever spoken were not spoken by a human being. The very first words ever spoken were spoken by God. Perhaps one of the ways that I'm most obviously God-like is that like God, I talk. You and I will never understand the profound importance of words unless we start here. Words belong to the Lord. What this means is that whenever you take words as belonging to you, your words lose their shelter from difficulty. You have never spoken a word that belongs to you, because words belong to the Lord. We think that words are not that important because we think of words as little utilitarian tools for making our life easier and more efficient, when they are actually a powerful gift given by a communicating God for his divine purpose.
All of us are tricked into thinking that words aren't really that important, because they fill all those little mundane moments of our lives. Maybe that's exactly why they are profoundly important. I don't want to hurt your feelings, but you only make three or four big decisions in your life. Most of us won't be written up in history books. Several decades after you die, the people you leave behind will struggle to remember the events of your life. You live your life in the utterly mundane. And if God doesn't rule your mundane, he doesn't rule you, because that's where you live.
The book of Proverbs is, in ways, a treatise on talk. I would summarize it this way: words give life; words bring death—you choose. What does this mean? It means you have never spoken a neutral word in your life. Your words have direction to them. If your words are moving in the life direction, they will be words of encouragement, hope, love, peace, unity, instruction, wisdom, and correction. But if your words are moving in a death direction, they will be words of anger, malice, slander, jealousy, gossip, division, contempt, racism, violence, judgment, and condemnation. Your words have direction to them. When you hear the word talk you ought to hear something that is high and holy and significant and important. May God help us never to look at talk as something that doesn't matter.
2) The Saddest and Most Celebratory Moments of Your Life Have Been Accompanied by Talk
There's a second thing I know about you. I know that the saddest and most celebratory moments of your life have been accompanied by talk. When I stand up to speak or sit down to write, I feel like there's a company of a hundred people behind me who have all contributed to everything I know, everything I speak, and everything I think about the ways of my Lord. These people have written and spoken into my ears glorious and celebratory truths that have penetrated my heart and changed everything in my life. I'll celebrate God's gift of the words of these people forever.
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