The second theme that we find coming out of the condition of our heart is a theme of encouragement, transformation, and life-change through Jesus Christ. Proverbs teaches us that words from a friend are like perfume and incense, they are like water on a dry and weary land, they are like irons that sharpen one another, and although we can create a lot of pain for one another we can also speak powerful words of truth to one another:
Encouragement: We can send emails, texts, phone calls, notes, or in person and say things to people that are meaningful and important. Taking the time to speak specific encouragements to our spouse about their relationship with the kids. Telling our friends what we appreciate about them. Taking the time to appreciate a positive behavior of one of our kids.
Participation: Sometimes it is so easy to point out what people are doing wrong. My grandfather would always say, “Some people were raised nursing on a pickle.” Always see the sour things in life and for whatever reason we just always see the negative and as a result we remain really passive. Instead of being a passive observer, we can take active ownership and help make it better, and we can participate in our marriages, our children, our jobs, our friendships, our spiritual life and instead of sitting back and critiquing, get in the game and participate.
Compassion: Making time in our schedules to show compassion toward others. Sometimes our schedules are so busy that there is no room for compassion. We tell people to drink a six-pack of suck it up and move on. Sometimes we need to create some time in our schedules to show compassion toward others instead of filling up every hour of every day so that we can fill better about ourselves.
Challenge: I think, for the most part, challenging words have been lost on our culture because we are afraid to offend, afraid to over step our bounds and sometimes the Holy Spirit can use us to speak words of truth into our lives and sometimes they are hard words, but they can be done in love and with compassion, but they can be hard words. Instead, we will sit in small groups of friends, go out to dinner, hang out with each other and because we don’t want to say the wrong thing, we don’t want to look stupid, or we don’t know what to say so we will hold back our words, we will lack courage, lack boldness and miss out on speaking powerful words to one another. When it comes to negative and destructive words we don’t think twice, we just let them fly out of our mouths, but when it comes to positive and encouraging words then we are slow to speak and quick to listen.
In James 3 we see illustrations for the influence our words have on us and others and often times those illustrations have a negative connotation, however, there can be positive examples as well.
I remember when I was in the first grade and right before one of my first fights as a little kid at the playground, scared to death, and one of my friends looked at me and said, “You can take him.” I still remember his name till this day. I remember the first time I asked a girl on a date and was completely scared and my brother saying, “You just have to ask her out.” I remember when I thought about going to seminary after college and it costs over $300 an hour and a friend saying, “I will help you pay for it.” I have a friend now that I talk to every other week and he challenges me, encourages me, listens to me and just takes time to be that rudder, to be that bit that is described in the passage. We need those types of people in our lives.
We need those types and we need to be those types.