To Speak Or Not To Speak?

To speak or not to speak…that is the question? Since God has surrounded each believer with a sphere of influence, there are times we will have to ask ourselves this question. I despise confrontation so my natural reaction is to keep my mouth shut when I see a sinful pattern or thought process. Sometimes this is the right response, while other times my spinelessness only serves to hurt the other person and paint an improper picture of the Gospel.

God has given each of us the ability to speak into people’s lives, both believers and nonbelievers. How are we going to steward those opportunities? One of the primary ways the Lord speaks is through His people. God isn’t limited to speaking through the pastor’s Sunday morning message. He wants to use you and me as we interact with those around us. Scripture says, “To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is.” (Proverbs 15:23). How tragic if we miss the opportunity to give an apt answer that brings joy simply because we fear confrontation.

Yet there is another side to the coin. In his book, Whisper, which I quoted last week, Mark Batterson speaks to how God often speaks through His people. He says:

“One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is not just to pray for that person but also to listen to God for him or her. If you cultivate a prophetic ear, God will give you a prophetic voice. But it comes with a caution: what’s true of listening is true of speaking. Jesus said, ‘Do not…cast your pearls before swine.’ It’s the corollary to ‘consider the source.’ Simply put, consider the person. If someone isn’t ready, willing, or able to hear what you have to say, you’re wasting words. If you discern a lack of readiness, you might need to do what Jesus did: hold your tongue. Jesus said, ‘I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.’ The right word has to be spoken at the right time, or it can actually have the wrong effect.”

Mark Batterson, Whisper

So I’m asking God to give me a “prophetic voice” as well as the ability to “discern a lack of readiness”. As the Spirit guides, I’m praying He uses me to speak loving truth.

Always speak when the Gospel is at stake.

When anyone has a distorted view of the Gospel, as ambassadors of Christ we must speak up. For example, if someone believes “your truth” is as good as “my truth” and all paths lead to God, then we have an obligation to lovingly point them to the eternal truth of scripture in John 14:6. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.’” If someone believes they are too far gone to be forgiven, we have to tell them about Romans 5. “But God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). If we neglect our responsibility to lovingly share the truth of the Gospel, there are eternal consequences and we will have to give an account before our Heavenly Father.

Never speak out of selfish gain.

When I’ve been wronged I want to speak up. I want to point out the sin in their life, render a confession and secure a proper apology. That is speaking out of selfish gain. If my motive for speaking is to make sure that person knows how much they hurt me, I should keep my mouth shut. In fact, that is likely an excellent opportunity to model the undeserved mercy of the Savior. When our motive is truly a desire for the offender to grow in Christ or for the offended to be kept from further harm, then we can speak. Philippians 2:3 doesn’t just apply to actions. It applies to words as well. “Do nothing [say nothing] from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3 NASB, brackets mine).

Always consult the Lord before speaking.

I don’t know about you, but I’m guilty of forgetting to consult the Wonderful Counselor. Of course I seek His face before making a “big” decision, but the majority of the time I don’t pause to seek Him when choosing whether or not to speak. God is far more wise than I can dream of being, and He offers that wisdom to me. Proverbs 2:6 reminds me, “For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” If He lives inside of me, He can speak through me. Am I going to shut my own mouth long enough to let Him speak? I pray He changes my heart and brings me to my knees when I’m pondering the dilemma, to speak or not to speak.