Guard your Mouth
Proverbs 21:23 says,“Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.” This is indeed a Bible truth worth heeding. Did you know that God “hates” things?
“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community” (Proverbs 6:16-19). Notice that our mouth and thoughts as well as resulting evil actions fill this condemnation list. Scripture has a lot to say about the tongue. In fact, I have been convicted about my own mouth while studying the Book of James. I have chosen a spiritual word or fruit of the Spirit for the last five years on which to concentrate, hoping to be transformed by listening to, hearing, meditating and doing it through the Holy Spirit’s counsel, comfort, convincing and convicting. James, Jesus’ brother wrote, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger, for anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:19-20). Listening is this year’s word, which I will probably write on often since it is not easy, even though chaplains are to be a “listening presence.”
What comes from our mouth first really comes from our heart or soul and spirit as Solomon wrote, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23). How do I both guard what and when to listen and speak? Do I watch others? Not usually, except to be respectful. By listening to people or even spiritual giants like Billy or Ruth Graham, John Stott, Spurgeon, Luther, Corrie Ten Boom, or Francis Schaefer, or anyone else we fall short of the true model to be more like Jesus Himself. “If you look at the world, you'll be distressed. If you look within, you'll be depressed. If you look at God you'll be at rest” (Corrie TenBoom). Now there is a strong answer, listen, and seek and rest in God first before opening your mouth.
Pause and reflect while listening and before speaking. First ask God for wisdom. You don’t need to be like Elijah taunting 815 priests of Baal in God’s name yelling, “Answer me, Oh Lord, answer me, so that the people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” (1Kings 18:37). Most situations are not life threatening like that. Remember God started the fire for Elijah, but as James 3 proclaims, the tongue can start forest fires and needs a bit to keep it from praising and cursing, poisoning or healing. God will judge teachers of the Gospel more strictly, so we need His wisdom on the subject to help find wisdom while listening and before speaking. “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness”(James 3:17-18). He goes on to say that it is the desires and battles within and our wrong motives that influence our tongues big time. We are to wash our hands and purify our hearts, as we come near to God and He to us. He lives within believers and so we must keep working on being still and knowing that as we, “Trust in the Lord with allyour heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways seek (be ever mindful of) Him and He will direct (make straight) your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Solomon admonished us to, “Write His word on the tablets of your hearts,then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man” (Proverbs 3:3,4). Then our mouth should think or and speak words of life. Staying quiet and listening works, but I wish it were easier.
I am continually reminded to “be still and know that I am God”(Psalm 46:10). God wants our discipline of silence, solitude, simplicity and sanctification. We do this by surrendering to Him and finding serenity. These spiritual disciplines can help us be quicker to listen and slower to speak. Author/Pastor Chuck Swindoll exhorts us to practice in his wisdom-filled Intimacy with the Almighty. Developing vital union with God requires discipline and spending, not wasting time with Him as continuously as possible with prayer, praise and gratitude. Remember, when we become angry we have taken over and lost control. God’s healing words will no longer be coming from us. I am talking about soul surgery here as serenity replaces anxiety or whatever negative human attribute jumps in to derail.
This is a strategic process toward slowing the pace and process of thought and speech so that we listen and reflect first as we become slower to speak. Stand still in mind and spirit; stop striving to be understood. Stephen Covey in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said of first things first, “Seek to understand first, then to be understood.” Listen to others and to the still small voice within you. If you are talking you will not hear Him. Elijah, who cried out for God’s help, also listened for God’s still voice that was not in the earthquake or the fire, but in the “gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12). The Prophet Samuel also said, “listen and obey the voice of the Lord”(1 Samuel 15:22). God’s voice both to hear and obey is repeated 100 times in the Old Testament. He does not always speak softly; moreover, as Job learned saying, “Listen! Listen to the roar of His voice, to the rumbling that comes from His mouth…God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; He does great things beyond our understanding” (Job 37:2,5). David cried out, praised and even pleaded through his pain, fear, joy and trials through his psalms. God responded lovingly and in thunder. Remember God is in the praises of His people. God speaks wisdom back if we will only listen and hear Him. Proverbs 8 reminds us of God’s wisdom, “Listen, for I have worthy things to say; I open my lips and speaks what is right, My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness. All the words of my mouth are just. Chose my instruction instead of silver…nothing you desire can compare to her.”
But it was the audible voice of God Himself speaking to me in a Christian counselor’s office that made all the difference in my life and set me off on full-time ministry when He said, “This is the way; walk in it.”(Isaiah 30:21b). God’s strong admonition to keep walking in His way has translated into my 2-volume book This is The Way, Walk in It. Yet, this walk is by no means easy, and impossible if we try to do it on our own strength.
While the seeming ever-speaking Apostle Peter was talking on Jesus’s Mount of Transfiguration, “a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”’ It is God’s voice in Christ Jesus and His living Word, the Bible that we must listen to, read, meditate on, and wait for Holy Spirit to illuminate. If we do this faithfully and increasingly, God will help us to listen more quickly and speak out more slowing or appropriately His will for us in Christ Jesus.