Proverbs 18:21 (NKJV) says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” The words we speak are a spiritual gauge, showing how much of our soul we have surrendered to God. A life surrendered to God and filled with the Holy Spirit will produce speech full of grace, mercy, love, and power.
With words, God spoke the entire universe into being. Words and language were His idea, and His words are literally life to us. Because God created man in His image, our words have power. Every time we open our mouths to talk, we either advance the kingdom of life or we advance the kingdom of death. When we were saved, we weren’t taken directly to heaven because we are Jesus’ body—His hands, feet, heart, and mouth designed to reach the lost and make a difference in this world.
Our words can either tear others down or build them up. God desires for us to speak words of life that build up, bring healing, and offer encouragement.
To be able to speak words of life, we need to guard our hearts. We must control what bombards our ears and saturates our souls. We also need to gauge our tongues. A gauge is a tool that determines the maximum amount of something. We need to decide that our words will not cross a specific line and manage that decision daily. Speaking words of life also requires garnishing our speech. At times, we need to say things
that are difficult or may appear negative, but we can still speak in a way that will bless and encourage the other person. If you have been on the receiving end of destructive words, you can truly be healed and set free from the effects of those words. Pray through these steps:
Application from Week 7:
Here is an idea that can create a powerful moment during discussion: Provide pieces of paper for your participants, and have them write down any words of death that have been spoken to them by others or that they have spoken to themselves. Then, let each person tear up the pieces of pa- per as a tangible illustration that the participants no longer have to carry these words. Remind them to use God’s Word to replace the words of death with truth. In this moment, either close in prayer as a whole group or with individual prayer.
Pray that participants understand the power of their words. Pray and break off any words of death that have been spoken over each participant.
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” PROVERBS 18:21 NKJV
The words we speak are a spiritual gauge, showing how much of our soul we have surrendered to God. If we have allowed our minds to be renewed by the Word, our conversation can’t help but reflect what we have learned. If, on the other hand, we are hesitant to release our old habits and beliefs, our words will betray us and reveal our true spiritual condition. If our souls are not in submission to God and we haven’t surrendered everything to Him, our tongues will be the first to sell us out.
Matthew 12:34–35. What does Jesus say about the relationship between our hearts and what we say?
Ask Yourself: What does my day-to-day conversation say about my spiritual condition? Do my words reflect that God lives inside of me?
Jesus tells us that a life consumed with the cares and treasures of the world will lead to fruitless talk that will bring judgment upon us. A life surrendered to God and filled with the Holy Spirit will produce speech full of grace, mercy, love, and power.
“By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now >see did not come from anything that can be seen.” HEBREWS 11:3
With words, God spoke the entire universe into being. With words, He communicates to us. Through the Bible, with its thousands of words, He reveals Himself to us. John 1:1 says that Jesus is actually the living, breathing Word of God. Words and language were His idea, and His words are literally life to us. Because God created man in His image, our words have power. Since Jesus is our example in everything, and we are to follow in His steps, let’s look at a few verses that demonstrate the power of His words. In the following verses, underline what happened when Jesus spoke.
Matthew 8:26 – Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then He got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.”
Matthew 8:32 – “‘All right, go!’ Jesus commanded them. So the demons came out of the men…”
John 11:43–44 (ESV) – When he said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out.” As you can see in these verses, the spoken Word of God can bring healing, peace, deliverance, and life!
Isaiah 14 recounts the fall of satan. Verses 12–14 say, “How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning! You have been thrown down to the earth, you who destroyed the nations of the world. For you said to yourself, ‘I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars. I will preside on the mountain of the gods far away in the north. I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High.’” (NKJV) Through the power of satan’s spoken words of rebellion, the kingdom of darkness was established. And he actually spoke the first words of rebellion in his heart. Satan and his demons continue to speak words of rebellion to our minds. If we aren’t enlightened to this truth, we will be his advocate in hurting others and even ourselves with the words that we speak. Every time we open our mouths to talk, we either advance the kingdom of life or we advance the kingdom of death.
When we were saved, we weren’t taken directly to heaven because we are Jesus’ body—His hands, feet, heart, and mouth designed to reach the lost and make a difference in this world. But we can’t advance the Kingdom of Heaven on our own.
Knowing we would need help in order to represent Jesus to the world, God set us up for tremendous success by sending us the Holy Spirit. Jesus told His disciples it would actually be to their advantage if He left and went back to heaven. ( John 16:7) Though Jesus was fully God, He was also fully human—He could only be in one place at a time while He walked around in a human body. We can be filled with the Holy Spirit and have Him as our personal guide through life no matter where we are on the earth. Jesus said, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on
His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” ( John 16:13 NASB) In other words, through the Holy Spirit, God will disclose to us all the guidance we will need, including what to say.
Ask Yourself: Am I intentional to use my words to promote the Kingdom of God and to minister to others?
In the Garden of Eden, satan spoke to Eve to entice her. Eve didn’t know it, but when she and Adam had a conversation about satan’s idea, she advanced the kingdom of death through her spoken words. God said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.” (Genesis 3:17 NASB) Satan didn’t bring death to Eve by biting her and releasing poisonous venom or by wrapping his coils around her and squeezing the life out of her. He talked her to death. She then proceeded to talk Adam to death by discussing the evil idea. Can you see how important it is to control our words?
Controlling what we say requires us to tame the part of ourselves that contains the power of life and death: our tongues.
“We all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.” JAMES 3:2
Some of our greatest hurts and heartaches come from what people have said to us. Conversely, some of our greatest memories center on positive things that people have said to us, like the phrase, “I love you.” Those are wonderful words to hear, but for some of us, they are hard to say, even to those we love. Our words can either tear others down or build them up.
Think of all the conversations you have in a given day. Are the words that come out of your mouth reflective of what you say you believe in your heart? As Christians, our words and actions should reflect our love for God. If they don’t, it’s important to look inward and see where our hearts and our words are not matching up. Jesus’ brother James makes the argument that if you say you are a Christian and that you love God, but your attitude and actions reflect something different, you may fall into the category of the deceived. In James 3:2, he says that we can control ourselves in every way if we can control our tongues.
Read the statements below and consider the effect these words of life or words of death can have on someone’s life.
Words of life I love you. You’re such a blessing! You look great. I see potential in you. You’re smart. You’re so thoughtful. You can do it! You did your best. I forgive you. I’m committed to you. Life is better because of you.
Words of death I hate you. I wish you had never been born. You’re ugly. You’ll never amount to anything. You’re stupid. You’re selfish. You shouldn’t even try. You’re a failure. I never want to see you again. I want a divorce. You were a mistake.
The book of James goes on to talk about the power of the tongue, our spoken words. In chapter three, James tells us that the tongue can defile the whole body, and he uses three vivid images to help us see his point:
Thousands of acres of forest can be destroyed by a fire that hundreds of firefighters cannot extinguish. Similarly, the tongue can cause destruction beyond belief. While at times words can be petty and seemingly insignificant, they can be poisonous. Careless words often cause great harm. Imagine a child struggling to read and a frustrated and worried parent
listening to the child twist the words day after day. Finally, after losing all patience, the parent screams, “What’s wrong with you? You can’t read!” Those words have the potential to make the child feel stupid and give up even trying. Thoughtless words can have a lasting effect that could change the course of a person’s life and cause widespread destruction.
“Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the >image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers >and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? >Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from >a salty spring.” JAMES 3:9–12
Ask yourself: Do I say things about myself, or others, that I quickly regret?
We need God’s help to change the way we speak, but know this: Change is possible. Because we were made in God’s image, we were meant to speak words of life that build up, bring healing, and offer encouragement. Let’s take a look at a few principles that will help us use words that advance the kingdom of life.
The Proverbs are full of teaching regarding how we should use our tongues.
Read the following Scriptures and write the instruction given.
Sometimes, entire families are characterized by certain words. “They’re just a bunch of losers. None of them even finished school.” “They’ve always been that way—they say even her grandmother had a bad temper.” Sin can be passed from generation to generation, and so can the consequences. (Exodus 20:5) If your family has generational sin in any form, the good news is that you can be freed from it! You can be the first generation to walk in freedom and begin a flow of God’s loving kindness and blessing to a thousand generations after you. (Exodus 20:6) Ask God to shine light on words that should never have been spoken to you.
Write down any words of death and cursing that have been spoken to you by others.
Write down any words of death and cursing that you have spoken to yourself.
Write down any words of death and cursing that you have spoken to others.
If you have been on the receiving end of destructive words, there is good news: You can truly be healed and set free from the effects of those words. Below are four steps you can take to be set free from harmful words that have been spoken over you. Pray through these steps as you begin to identify any lies you have believed.
Read these words aloud, and receive the truth from God’s Word:
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