I’m not good at changing the world.
Don’t get me wrong – I’ve tried. I really have. I’ve listened to sermons about taking the gospel to the nations and about doing hard things and about taking the world back for Jesus. After listening to said sermons, I always get fired up. I make resolutions and declarations and proclamations. I officially put the devil on notice.
“No more sitting down for me! No more taking it easy. It’s time to kick some holy butt. It’s time for some spiritual roundhouses. Look out devil. Look out nations. I’m coming for you!” [cue Rocky fight music]
I’m finally starting to realize that I can’t change the world. At least, not in the big, global, I’m gonna do something that is going to make a difference in the lives of millions sort of way.
Maybe someday Jesus will use me for something “big”, but I don’t think that’s how God does most of his work. While he certainly occasionally uses one person to do big things (think George Mueller, D.L. Moody, etc.), he normally works through regular Christians who are simply being faithful to serve wherever God has them.
Additionally, I’ve been increasingly aware of just how limited I am. Some people seem to have an unlimited capacity to serve, but not me. Lately, it’s been a struggle for me just to do the “normal” things, like take care of my kids, stay on top of my work, and serve my wife, who’s been dealing with health problems.
Unlike Enrique Iglesias, I can’t be your hero. I sympathize more with Dave Matthews, who insists that he’s no Superman.
And that’s really okay.
One of the great lies of social media is that it makes us feel bigger and more influential than we really are.
But I can make a difference in the lives of those who are in my immediate circle of influence. My kids. My wife. The people at the coffee shop I usually go to. The people in my community group and Bible study.
And one of the simplest, yet most profound ways I can make a difference is through my words. I’m not talking gospel proclamation, although that is certainly important.
I’m talking words of encouragement.
People are desperate for encouragement. For words that build up. For words that affirm them and give them strength. For words of life.
Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
There is a whole lot of death being spoken every day. Curses. Angry explosions. Criticism. Derogatory comments. Backbiting, gossip, slander, hatred, and a thousand other variations on death. We all live in a wash of constant death-speak.
Getting on social media feels like wading through a toxic swamp. It’s a playground for people who want to vent about how angry they are. Every time I scroll through my Twitter feed, I feel gross and angry and unsettled.
Words are powerful.
That’s why words of encouragement are so life-giving. So refreshing.
Yesterday I went running in the 100 degree, 85% humidity weather. I felt like I was going to die. When the ice water hit my tongue, it was like a thousand symphonies suddenly began playing.
Words of encouragement are like that ice water.
How can I change the world?
One simple way is through my speech. My words can impart life to people.
James 3:5-6 puts it this way: “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.”
Words are fire. With a few sentences, I can engulf a person, setting them ablaze and ruining them. I can douse a person in verbal gasoline and then strike a sentence. Just as a spark can destroy a forest, my words can truly destroy a person.
On the flip side, my words can also impart grace from God to people.
Ephesians 4:29 puts it this way:
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Grace to those who hear.
Grace is from God. Grace is life-giving. Grace rejuvenates, strengthens, refreshes, and builds up.
I don’t think I can do anything world-changing. I’m not big enough or strong enough to accomplish massive things. I don’t have the strategic ability to take the gospel into a closed country.
But I can speak words of life. I can give grace to those who hear. I can focus on the words that come out of my mouth.
I can change the world…one word at a time.