By Mark Batterson, Crosswalk.com
When I was in seminary, I spoke to a gathering of men at a drug-rehabilitation program. I met a man who had made some mistakes that contributed to his addictions. He had gotten out from under the umbrella of blessing and paid the price in rehab. But I felt tremendous empathy for him when he shared his backstory. He told me what his dad told him every time he made a mistake as a child: “What the hell—you stupid?”
Words Can Wound Deeply as a Curse
Imagine those words ringing in your ears. It was obvious by the tears in his eyes how deeply those words cut into his soul. They echoed loud and long. I’m not blaming the father for this man’s mistakes, but they were more than careless words.
They were a curse that left an open wound.
Is it any wonder his son made some stupid decisions? He was simply living up to—or down to—his father’s words.
Death and Life Are in the Power of the Tongue
We all know the old adage “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.” And we all know that’s not true! Our words don’t just carry weight; they have the power to rewrite narratives. A curse can turn a comedy into a tragedy, but blessing can flip the script the other way.
During a fragile time in my teenage years, I was given the gift of life-giving words. I was kneeling at an altar when a missionary put a hand on my shoulder and started praying over me. Then his prayer turned prophetic: “God is going to use you in a great way.” It was only one sentence, but I’ve held on to those words through thick and thin. And I’ve tried to flip that blessing by speaking life-giving words to others.
That brings us to one of the meanings of the Hebrew word barak: “to speak words of excellence about.” And it deserves a little extra attention.
Well-Timed Words Are a Blessing
One of the most powerful blessings you can bestow on another person is well-timed words. Remember the woman who broke open her alabaster jar of perfume and anointed Jesus? Remember the way the Pharisees and the disciples criticized her? Jesus counteracted their criticism with the gift of life-giving words: “Wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Can you imagine the way those words buoyed her spirit the rest of her life?
Those are the kinds of words you have tattooed on your body or inscribed on your tombstone! Jesus blessed her with prophetic words, and they were fulfilled one more time with your reading of them!
As children of God and followers of Christ, we assume the mantle of the Old Testament priests who administered the blessing. You are part of that royal priesthood. So that lot falls to us! It’s our job to declare God’s praises and pronounce God’s blessings!
Be Careful Not to Overspiritualize Blessing and Cursing
Let’s fulfill our priestly duty, but let’s not overspiritualize blessing and cursing. These are not compartmentalized biblical concepts. Blessing and cursing are two very different ways of life, two very different ways of treating people.
If the transcript of your life were read aloud, what would your words reveal? How do you talk about people when they aren’t present? Do you berate them or brag about them behind their backs? How do you talk to people when they’re present? Do you put them down, or do you look them in the eye and compliment them to their faces?
I have a three-inch-thick file that is filled with kind notes and thoughtful letters that I’ve received from readers of my books and from people I have the privilege of pastoring. Why do I keep them? Because every word of encouragement is a keepsake! Life-giving words are to the spirit what oxygen is to the lungs!
Whose words are in your file?
And whose files will you fill?
Like apples of gold in settings of silver, so is a word skillfully spoken.
Your Words Are Life-Giving
A number of years ago, I hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. When we got to Dead Woman’s Pass, I had a throbbing headache caused by oxygen deprivation. At that elevation, the atmosphere has 37 percent less oxygen. Fortunately, our guide pulled out a can of pure oxygen.
As I inhaled, the headache went away. Life-giving words are pure oxygen. There are a lot of headaches and heartaches caused by a lack of life-giving words. And there might be 37 percent less oxygen in the atmosphere where I live in Washington, DC.
But the right words at the right time can change the game. They can even change a life!
This adapted excerpt is from Double Blessing: How to Get It. How to Give It. Copyright © 2019 by Mark Batterson. Used by permission of Multnomah, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
Mark Batterson is the author of 17 books including Double Blessing: How to Get It. How to Give It. and Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God, winner of the 2018 ECPA Christian Book Award. He’s the founder and lead pastor of National Community Church (NCC), one church with seven campuses throughout Washington D.C. NCC, known as one of the most innovative and influential churches in America, also owns and operates Ebenezers Coffeehouse, the Miracle Theatre, and the DC Dream Center. Batterson has a doctor of ministry degree from Regent University and lives in the Capitol Hill area with his wife and their three children. For more information, visit him online at markbatterson.com and @markbatterson.
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