Speak that I may know you

Dr. Anthony W. Adams
Dr. Anthony W. Adams

In his book, A Love Worth Giving, Max Lucado told this story about Nathaniel Hawthorn.  “Nathaniel Hawthorne came home heartbroken.  He’d just been fired from his job in the custom house.  His wife, rather than responding with anxiety, surprised him with joy. ‘Now you can write your book?’  He wasn’t so positive.  ‘And what shall we live on while I’m writing it?’  To his amazement she opened a drawer and revealed a wad of money she’d saved out of her housekeeping budget.  ‘I always knew you were a man of genius,’ she told him.  ‘I always knew you’d write a masterpiece.’  She believed in her husband.  And because she did, he wrote.  And because he wrote, every library in America has a copy of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.”

Proverbs 18:20-21 stated, “People will be rewarded for what they say; they will be rewarded by how they speak.  What you say can mean life or death.  Those who speak with care will be rewarded”(NCV).  This passage points out that our words can have a tremendous impact on ourselves and others.  Some of the ways that our words have consequence:

Kind and instructive words can feed others with wisdom“The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense” (Proverbs 10:21, ESV).

Saying the right words can relieve a heart that is burdened with anxiety and care. “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad” (Proverbs 12:25, ESV).

Well-chosen words are like medicine in that they provide strength to those who hear. “To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!” (Proverbs 15:23, ESV).  “The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips.  Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Proverbs 16:23-24, ESV).  “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11, ESV). In other words, it is saying the right thing at the right time.

The fact is, not everything that comes to our minds should come out of our mouths. Some people are so negative that they just drain the life out of everyone they come in contact with.  They say, “Well I just say it like I see it,” and that’s the problem; their entire worldview is negative and critical and they poison everyone that comes in contact with them. Socrates said, “Speak, that I may see thee.” Often our words betray who we really are. I want to be the kind of person that when I am with others, the words that I speak are helpful, uplifting, edifying, and timely. When a person leaves my company I want them to say that “This has been time well spent.”

Let me encourage you to be intentional in what you say; purpose to speak life and not death. Determine to be the encounter of a lifetime to someone.

Question: How can a person change their disposition from being negative to positive?

8 Replies to “Speak that I may know you”

  1. I believe there is only one way that a person can change their disposition from negative to positive and it’s done through the work of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise we are left in our sin filled hearts.
    2 Corinthians 3:16-18 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and we, with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with every-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the spirit.
    (Also 2 Corinthians 4:16 & Ephesians 4:29)

    Dr Adams, I agree and want my words to be helpful, edifying and timely as well. Your sermons and writings have done that and that is why you are one of my favorite pastors. Also, you go deep in God’s word.

    Our words sure do speak life of death (Proverbs 18:21)
    My friend and I were walking one day and she said, “My feet are killing me.” She knows how I am about “our words”, so I said, “your feet are what?” She responded, “My feet are living me.”

  2. Hi Rhonda,
    First, I do believe that a person must learn to follow the leading of the Spirit. Galatians 5:16 stated, “I say then, ‘walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh'” (HCSB). But I would also contend that we as followers of Christ have an active part to play.

    Some people are prone to look for every flaw in those around them. Negative people can find something to grumble about no matter where they are or who their with. Paul stated in Philippians 3:17 that Christians should search for constructive aspects of living in others so that we can find models to pattern our lives after. He said, “Mark them” or “notice them closely.” Their example is a ministry to believers. My friends we need to resist the temptation to be negative and constantly finding fault with others. I would also say this is something that we will have to purpose to do ourselves. If we begin I believe God will enable us to accomplish it, but it is up to us.

    Paul also stated that we need to protect our mind. We need to be careful of what we allow ourselves to dwell on. Paul says we are to think on these things and then he goes into a list (Philippians 4:8). He is not trying to get believers to live with their heads in the sand, but he is telling us that we need to take charge of our mental faculties. Not everything that comes to your mind needs to be entertained as credible. Paul said to “demolish arguments and every high minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, HCBS). Please notice our role: we are to take control of our thinking by taking these doubts and fears captive.
    Thank you for your insightful and inspiring post.
    Dr. Adams
    Question: What should be our response to negative Christians?

  3. I believe that a person can change when they become aware of how negative they are. I have met many negative people in my life, the thing that surprises me is that they have been that way so long they are deaf to it. They say what they want to others, however they are easily offended if people speak to them in the same manner. Most of the time something can’t be fixed if you don’t realize it’s broken. Negative talk is contagious, we need to realize we are not immuned to the disease. One word can set the mood for the whole day. Start your day talking to God, ask him to help you to be uplifting to someone you meet, to encourage someone that is discouraged. Ask him to help you make a difference in someone’s life today.

    1. Hi Tammy,
      John Maxwell stated that frogs have a tremendous advantage over humans. They can eat anything that bugs them! He went on to ask, “What “bugs” you the most about people? Is it inconsistency? Inflexibility? Inability to give and take? I am most bugged by people who- you guessed it- have bad attitudes. I can handle disagreements or differences of opinion, but negative attitudes really get to me” (2007, p. 127). I quoted this because I can relate to his feelings.

      The apostle Paul however declared, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18, NASB). Paul is telling us to do the best we can to get along with everyone. One way to accomplish this is to understand how perspective fits in to relationships. John Maxwell gave an example of this. “Just the other day I met with an unhappy man and his irate wife. I listened as she relentlessly spewed out bitterness and animosity toward her husband. When I confronted her with her anger and unforgiving spirit, she frantically pointed her finger at her husband and said, ‘I’m not the one who is angry and bitter, he is!’ She transferred her negative emotions to him. She saw her husband as she herself was” (2007, p. 129).

      The point is, people who see themselves in a negative light see others in a negative light. The opposite is true as well. When a person has scars from their past or a poor self-image, that person is likely to see and consequently communicate very negatively to others. Understanding this will give you stability in how you deal with others. We are responsible for how we treat others. We may not be responsible for how they treat us but we are responsible for our reaction to those who are difficult.

      Question: As a Christian are we obligated to be around negative people?

      Great post
      Dr. Adams

      Maxwell, J. C. (2007). Be a people person: Effective leadership through effective relationships. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook.

      1. I don’t believe we are obligated. There are lots of negative Christians and sinners. I think for the negative talker and thinker that is Christian they should consider a good dose of sanctification. For the sinner I believe we should always spread the good news. I don’t think we are obligated to spend time with negative people. But we are obligated to be uplifting to others, when we are around them.

  4. I think that wants we gave your heart and mind and soul to Jesus he send the holy spirit to help us. I agree with Tammy I thing we should spread the good news about Jesus.

  5. When I think of dealing with negative Christians, the parable about the “four soils” comes to my heart. Matthew 13:3-8. “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and chocked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop- a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.

    I do not have any negative friends, thank goodness but I have dealt with negative Christians at work. I would of course love them, by God’s grace I would pray for them or with them. If they continued to be negative, and many times they did, I just simply said, “Lord, I give so and so to you.” I kept giving them over to God and asked for my wellspring (heart) to stay guarded. I also did not let them stop me from singing out loud, or talking about the kingdom etc.
    The Lord is our vindicator, praise the Lord! Psalm 135:14 says, “For the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.” Last, if someone is dealing with negative Christians, I would encourage them to write the above verse down and memorize it and speak out loud daily. (Psalm 135:14) We know God’s word is living and active!

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