“Preach the gospel always, with words if necessary.” -St. Francis of Assisi
I have not come to baptize but to preach the gospel. And not with eloquent words, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
1 Cor. 1:13
The job and directive of a God-centered life is to proclaim the Gospel. But Paul says he preaches not with eloquent words. One does not have to be talking about God to have a God-centered conversation. Saying God’s name out loud is not the most practical way of communicating Christ by our speech. Nor is it the most effective, really. We say God’s name more times a minute simply by building others up.
Let no evil come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.
Consider that everyone has pain that they’re not sharing with the world- pain that’s hiding just below a fake smile. This is a pain we cannot reach, but which Jesus can most certainly heal. Whether they know it or not, they’re waiting to hear God’s name- as there is need. And whether we know it or not, our conversations are an opportunity for us to give grace to someone who’s hurting, even in the simplest way. Literally to bring Jesus to them.
We do this by encouraging one another. Be Loving. Patient. Kind. Inclusive. Polite. Constructive. Funny. Pleasant. Helpful. Build people up! Make them smile! Make them glow! God reaches the world through us. We convey His message when we build others up. The impulse to do this comes out of a heart full of the simple wish that everyone should feel the joy of God all the time.
We don’t have to fake smile in order to do this. We should never deny our own emotions for the sake of letting someone else have a good day. Paul tells the Ephesians “Be mad, but do not sin (Eph 4:26).” Whatever our mental state, we must first and foremost preach God’s name. And we shall be rewarded for this.
The wages of doing our job are that our hearts become God-centered. It’s a fascinatingly roundabout process (not to mention easy to the point of cheating). A mouth that worships God feeds the heart that worships Him. And the heart that wants to see God worshiped pours forth the words to get the job done. In what may be the most miraculous concept of the entire Bible, Jesus says:
The Word of God feeds you going in as well as going out.*
Short story: yesterday I rode my bike to meet a friend at a café. The place she chose was very far away. The long drive, cold wind, and bad traffic all put me in a terrible mood. In my anger I blamed her for picking somewhere so out of the way, along with a bunch of other things that were actually my fault. I rode along thinking how silly this girl was, imagining all the nasty things I would say once I got there. But then I remembered this sermon. “Saying something nasty to her won’t make either of us feel better,” I thought. “I don’t know what kind of hardship she had in getting here either. It just wouldn’t do any good to be negative. I wonder, if I bring God into our conversation by being encouraging, will my anger and pain disappear?” So I dug down deep, found what little positive vibes I had left in my heart, and poured them out onto her once I arrived. And you know what? It totally worked! I felt instantly better, and we had a great time! Both my heart and hers got filled by the Holy Spirit just as soon as I brought Him into the mix. It was extremely encouraging.
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
The power of the cross of Christ is that our hearts would be filled with good. A God-centered conversation blesses both the speaker and the listener by building them both up. The Holy Spirit works through a quick, positive word of encouragement in ways we cannot fathom. He moves out from the abundance in our hearts to ease the pain of everyone involved.
Such habits of speech can have no other result than to center our hearts onto God. If we focus our conversations on uplifting whomever we’re speaking to, we’re actually focusing on achieving God’s will and spreading His name throughout the universe. Whenever we concentrate our efforts onto the actions of the Holy Spirit, in any capacity, we are praying. Conversations, hearts, lives- all three will naturally flow toward God as we pray for them to do so.
Encouraging words are the physical manifestation of our desire for others to have God’s peace, and to live a God-focused life. They spring into reality out of the spiritual universe burning inside our own hearts. They lay onto our listeners like a warm breeze on a cool day- a blessing from somewhere else.
Tip #4: Build others up with speech, and our hearts will center themselves on God.
*I was in a rush and didn’t have time to cite this, but I know it’s in there! If anyone knows please write it in the comments
Happy Lent today, dear readers. I hope you find a great church service to go to. Or a beautiful Bible passage to connect you to Jesus’s sacrifice. If you falter in your Lenten resolution, just remember NEVER to beat yourself up over it. Move on and praise God anyway. Amen.
This post has been the new addition in the “Putting God At The Center” Series, a project of learning how we can bring our lives to focus on God. The three previous posts are: Mealtime Prayer, Worshiping God By Worshiping Our Bodies, and We Worship Whatever We Sacrifice To. Stay tuned for the final installment and please comment, like, and share!