In the last week, I’ve noticed every time I’ve used or thought a “rotten word” (see Watch How You Talk). The battle for purity in our mouths begins with our hearts. In Paul’s epistle, he said “No rotten word must proceed from your mouth, but only something good for the building up of the need, in order that it may give grace to those who hear, and do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Eph 4:29-30 LEB) What I’ve been doing is replacing whatever word to “bummer”. The Lord showed me yesterday that is legalism, and doesn’t get to the root of my heart problem–pride and ingratitude.
When I use a “rotten word”, I am complaining. The Greek word translated “complainer” means literally “one who is discontented with his lot in life”. It is akin to the word grumbler. Complaining is certainly not a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and, in fact, is detrimental to the peace, joy, and patience that come from the Spirit. For the Christian, complaining is destructive and debilitating personally and only serves to make our witness to the world more difficult. Who, for instance, would be attracted to a faith whose adherents are dissatisfied with life and who continually grumble and complain?
Then the Lord took me to this Scripture: “Do all things without complaining and disputing that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the Word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” (Phil. 2:14-16) If my first response in a situation is to complain, what “sets me apart” (the definition of the word “holy”) from the world who doesn’t know Jesus?
God’s Word tells us more than anything else, in different ways, to “praise the Lord,” “do not be afraid,” “rejoice,” and “give thanks”. God wants us to know the kind of hope that has the power to produce joy in us even in painful places. He repeatedly commands us to be really, truly, deeply joyous. Repetition implies importance.
That doesn’t mean that the most repeated commands are necessarily the most important commands. We know from Jesus that the most important commandments are that we love God with our hearts, souls, minds, and strength and our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:29–31). But most repeated certainly means something important. And if we’re paying careful attention, we’ll recognize that the most repeated commands are means of obeying the most important commandments.
There is a direct connection between loving God supremely, loving others as ourselves, and our being authentically joyful. We don’t sacrifice one for the other. When God commands us to love Him with all we are, and to love others with the same care, concern, grace, compassion and patience with which we love ourselves, He is not commanding us to sacrifice real, lasting, true, satisfying joy. He’s commanding us to pursue our real, lasting, true, satisfying joy.
When God commands us to praise Him, what does He want? We know he’s not after our empty lip service while our hearts wander off somewhere else (Isaiah 29:13). He’s commanding us to look at Him, through what He’s revealed to us about Himself, until we see some aspect of His glory that transcends the paltry or corrupt things clamoring for our attention right now — glory that produces an awe-filled joy we can’t help but express in praise.
“Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty heavens! Praise Him for His mighty deeds; praise Him according to His excellent greatness! Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise Him with lute and harp! Praise Him with tambourine and dance; praise Him with strings and pipe! Praise Him with sounding cymbals; praise Him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” (Ps. 150:1-6)
When I go to use a “rotten word”, I am complaining instead of praising the Lord in thankfulness. I am thinking of me (pride) and I’m not focused on Him. I’ve not humbled myself realizing that I deserve Our Father’s wrath, and nothing else. The truth is that when I complain and grumble, I’m listening to the lies of the devil and focusing on myself and my perceived notions of what I think I deserve.
The focus of my heart and mind must be on the Lord, who He is, and what He has done in a humbling and awe-inspiring thankfulness. “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:4-8)
And THEN my thankfulness will shine like a light in the world. I’m reminded of the song “This Little Light of Mine” I’m going to let it shine. Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m going to let it shine! Don’t let Satan blow it out, I’m going to let it shine. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:14-16) My light can be seen by others when I praise Him in gratitude without complaining about things and circumstances that are just a vapor in compared with eternity.
I was also reminded of how to keep my thankfulness and praise ever in my heart, mind and on my lips by the old hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” – look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace!