April 11th Devotion

Gracious Words Flow from a Gracious Heart
By Jessica Van Roekel

“The hearts of the wise make their mouths prudent, and their lips promote instruction. Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
Proverbs 16:23-24, NIV.

Many years ago, I made a bad first impression because of the way I spoke to someone. My speech was the opposite of gracious. At the time, the words spewed from my mouth like a dam that had burst and nothing could stop the flow. Not only did I bring damage to someone else’s heart, I damaged my own with the regret I felt after the destruction was complete. It didn’t matter whether I felt justified by what I said, my words were out of control and filled with disgust, two characteristics that flow opposite of the fruit of the Spirit.

If I think I can guard my mouth and guide my tongue without addressing my heart—I am a fool. Remorse filled me after that incident. I repented. I apologized and sought forgiveness from the one I wounded, but I couldn’t heal the damage I caused. Only God could do that. But what I could do was address my heart. When we start with the heart, the body will follow because what is in our heart influences what we say and do.

How much of our hearts are surrendered to the Lord? We can allow him full access to redeem every little corner or we can hold part of ourselves back, thinking we can control what we say. However, those little judgmental thoughts that we don’t think impact anyone because we don’t say out loud eventually find their way to the surface. Stressors in our life are like riding over a bumpy road with an open cup of coffee. One of those bumps is going to hit just right and words we never dreamed we would say rush out.

The Old Testament law dealt with ceremonial laws and relational laws—how to relate to God, each other, and non-Jews. Focus on the “right” outward behavior rather than an inner heart position was the standard for holiness in the Pharisee’s minds. Defilement through unclean food or people was a huge part of their focus. They focused more on man-made interpretations of God’s law of what they should eat instead of knowing the heart of God’s law, which was a way to have a holy relationship with God. But Jesus flipped their understanding upside down. It wasn’t what they put into their mouths that defiled them, but what came out of them that defiled them.

Throughout God’s Word, the heart represents a person’s entire inner being. This includes our intellect, emotions, motives, desires, and free-will. An impure heart will corrupt our thoughts, feelings, words, and actions. When we follow Christ, we must live in a way that reflects a new and transformed heart, one that is different than before with its natural bents and desires. A heart that submits to the transforming work of Jesus Christ is one where true change begins.

Even though the world tries to tell us that we live in a bubble of “do what feels right to you,” we have the amazing opportunity to bring our feelings and thoughts in line with God’s word. What we see and read and listen to can help or hinder our inner transformation. We get to choose whether we will put off the ways of the old nature and put on the ways of the new. Our transformation happens in tandem to our spiritual maturity. What spills from our heart when we’re stressed or frustrated can bring life or destruction. It’s been more than two decades since my words ran away like an unbridled horse, but I’ve not forgotten the pain on the recipient’s face or the fear in their eyes whenever our paths crossed. Since then, I’m motivated to say yes to the Lord’s reordering and refining of my heart’s contents.

Intersecting Faith and Life:
What is in your heart that sometimes spills out? Is it gracious and healing or bitter and resentful? The different types of stress in our lives shakes the contents of our heart. There are days when we won’t extend a godly response and we can use the remorse we feel as an opportunity for God to do an amazing transformative work. Then, the next time something shakes us, a godly response can impact those around us and reveal how God has been at work in us.
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