I recently encountered an acquaintance that I had not seen in awhile. “How are you?” I asked.
The lady first frowned, and then smiled somewhat ruefully. “I don’t guess I should complain” she responded. “It doesn’t do any good.”
She was correct, of course. What she did not know, however (until I told her, respectfully and humbly, I hope), is that complaining actually does much harm to the practitioner thereof.
“I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed” (Psalm 77:3).
Beginning with Adam, who filed complaint against Eve, who subsequently filed complaint against the devil, the human race has been prone to air grievance rather than express faith (Genesis 3:12-13). In so doing, we dig a pit with our tongue, jump in, and remain there until we acknowledge our verbal sin, repent for distrusting and dishonoring God, and reinstate godly utterance as enabled by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
We must confront the hard truth that our capacity to speak serves as a governing influence of the course of our lives. The Christ referred to by the Apostle John as “the Word” originally created the human race in His image, thus constituting words as central in our existence (John 1:1).
“Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!” (James 3:4).
James furthermore writes, “the tongue can no man tame” (James 3:8). This presents to us a seemingly impossible challenge, but one that must be faced and increasingly overcome if we are to consistently walk with God (James 3:8). We must speak well in order to live well, but we possess a wayward “little member,” the tongue, that naturally controls us rather than our controlling it.
Thankfully, the Psalmist comes to our rescue.
“I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue” (Psalm 39:1).
“Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3).
First, David makes the proper determination, to “sin not with my tongue.” He determines to obey God. Then he properly acknowledges his utter dependence on the Lord, deferring to the power of the only One who can “keep the door of my lips.” David recognizes his holy calling to commit himself to faithful obedience, in this case, concerning his capacity to speak. However, he also recognizes that he possesses no power in and of himself to execute such godliness. He therefore trusts the Lord to tame the tongue ungovernable by human strength. “Without Me ye can do nothing… I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (John 15:5; Philippians 4:13). This is God’s way concerning all obedience, namely, that we submit ourselves to His glory and will, while concurrently “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).
It is natural to complain; it is supernatural to praise, thank, and “speak the praise of the Lord” (Psalm 145:21). The former offers a dark and deep pit wherein unbelief overwhelms our spirits. The latter promises a “peace which passeth all understanding” and “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (Philippians 4:7; I Peter 1:8). The choice is obvious for God’s trusting sons and daughters in Christ. Let us therefore acknowledge that our tongues exist for His glory and will, while also affirming that God alone can empower us to “speak all the words of this Life” (Acts 5:20). Such commitment of heart and consecration of faith leads to our spirits overjoyed rather than overwhelmed, and more importantly, to the glory of the living Word Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”