Can We Talk? Learning to Communicate and Solve Problems

Steve Viars April 21, 2007 James 3:1-18

- This morning I’d like to begin by asking you a question...and to keep it simple, let’s make it true/false...

- True/False – Sometimes communication can be a challenging thing.

- This spring we’re doing a Community Assets Series entitled Building Strong Families and Relationships...

- that terminology is taken from an ongoing conversation in our town about what is known in the secular world as the 40 developmental assets...described in the bookWhat Kids Need to Succeed by Dr. Peter L. Bensen.

- the thought behind the book is that adults should give careful consideration to whether we are creating an environment where young people are best positioned to develop well...

- now, almost immediately we have to throw out the caveat that this is not an exact science...it’s not as if when adults push the right buttons, well-adjusted children always come out the other end of the tunnel...

- that would be a very simplistic way to view human life, as if there are only 2 options...

- children who have a good environment do well...

- children who have a poor environment do poorly...

- there are at least 2 other options...some kids are raised with all kinds of positive reinforcement and stimulation and still grow up to make very bad choices as adults...

- and thank the Lord some kids grow up in very poor environments in many different ways and somehow grow up to be very capable and productive adults...

- so we recognize that every human being is made in the image of God and therefore possesses a soul, and the ability/responsibility to respond to his/her environment...

- however, having said that...we would all agree that adults should try to do everything we can, whether we talking about this from the perspective of a parent, or a neighbor, or a teacher, or a coach, or a youth leader...we certainly ought to try to do everything we can to put young people in the best position to choose well..

- As we said, the book What Kids Need to Succeed is a secular book, but it is amazing when you read it how many times you have reason to conclude...

- that is a very biblical concept...

- and the church, and biblical Christianity is in a wonderful position to provide those developmental assets to the kids growing up in our community, and to challenge and equip adults to be a growing part of that effort...

- now, it probably won’t be a surprise to learn that you don’t get very far into this book before the subject of communication comes up...

- one of the most important ways to help the young people around us is to teach them, and model for them appropriate habits of communication...

- so it was a great privilege to have Bill Stanczyiewicz here last Sunday from the Indiana Youth Institute to kick this series off by speaking about “They’re Our Future—Seeing Our Children as a Community Asset”...

- now this morning we want to build on that by asking the question...”Can We Talk – Learning to Communicate and Solve Problems”.

- with that in mind, would you please open your Bible to James chapter 3 [page 178 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you]

- we believe the most important community asset is a relationship with God and an understanding of His Word...we would agree with King Solomon who said...

- Psalm 127:1-2 – Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain.  It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.

- I realize that some here today might be surprised that the Bible would be of much practical help on a topic like communication...I think you’ll see that what God’s Word says on this subject is of immense value to every person in our town...

- read James 3:1-18

- in the time we have remaining, let’s scour this passage of Scripture to find 3 principles to help us grow in the way we communicate.

I. Recognize the Tongue’s Power.

- is it fair to summarize these first 5 verses by saying, God wants us to understand how significant our tongues can be...

- and of course that’s not literally speaking about the physical organ the tongue...it’s speaking about communication...what our tongues can produce...what they can do...

- our tongues are much more powerful than we sometimes realize...

- now, in what way is that true according to James?...it has power...

A. To direct.

- verses 2-3 use the analogy of a bit in a horses’ mouth...

- you can take an animal that is much bigger than you...and much stronger than you...and make it do exactly what you want it to do...with just that small little bit...

- of course that assumes that you can use it well...

- some of you know that I grew up in Gary...we didn’t have a lot of horses...except for the ones the policemen sometimes rode...

- but I had a friend whose aunt had a farm with some horses and cows...and one summer he asked me if I wanted to go out there with him and ride horses...

- and I thought, sure, nothing too it...I’ve seen it on TV...every so often you go “haah, haah” and say giidyup and all that stuff...there’s nothing to it...

- let’s just say that by the end of the day...I understood that there was a whole lot more to it than I realized...

- and this horse knew that it was my first time...and he was taking advantage of it...

- have you ever been on a horse when you just knew that they knew...

- and the last straw was when we were heading back in for the barn...and finally the thing started running like I had wanted to all along...and I’m thinking...I’m getting a handle on this...he’s doing what I want him to go [which of course was back to the barn, which was exactly where he wanted to go...]

- so I’m doing the haah haah thing to impress my friend and let the horse know who was boss...and we went around a fence post at the gate and I believe that horse purposely cut that thing too sharp and whacked my knee...as if I didn’t have enough body parts aching at that point...

- James uses that same picture to help us think about the power of our tongue to direct our choices and our relationships...if we use it well...

- then he changes to a rudder on a ship...same idea...very small compared to the size of the ship...but it can certainly make a significant difference in the direction...

- then the metaphor changes in the middle of verse 5...did you notice that...

- from a horses’ bit and a rudder of a ship...to a forest fire...

- the point is...the tongue has the power...

B. To destroy.

- in fact, we can all relate to the end of verse 5, can’t we?...

- James 3:5 – See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!

- have you ever been in a conversation that has just gotten totally out of hand...and it’s like...what started this?...the answer sometimes is...my tongue...

- and the principle is...forest fires are a lot easier to start than they are to...put out...

- the tongue is a powerful thing...it also has the power...

C. To control.

- just to be sure we get it in verse 7, James changes the metaphor again...

- it’s like a wild beast...and while you’re still trying to get over that analysis, James goes on to say...sometimes its actually worse than a wild beast...because some beasts can be tamed...your tongue?...well, how does verse 8 put it?

- James 3:8 – But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.

- I wish God would just come right out and say what He means, don’t you? (:

- by the way, you might wonder...what qualifies you to give this message?...the answer is, they gave me the mike...but I’d be the first one to say that I have plenty of growing to do in this area just like everybody else...

- what’s next?...the tongue also has the power...

D. To contradict.

- he says, at times we bless the Lord and we curse men...

- and the point is...how could that come from the same mouth?...

- James 3:9-10 - With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.

- now let’s back up for a moment and look at the big picture?...

- what is God trying to get us to realize here?...

- many of us need to take the way we talk a whole lot more seriously than we sometimes do...

- we can be very lackadaisical about this area of our life...

- we can be very careless about this...especially sometimes with the people we should be loving the most...[if you don’t believe that---se verse 8...]

- we can fail to recognize how powerful our words can be...

- that’s why Proverbs 18:21 says...Proverbs 18:21 - Death and life are in the power of the tongue.

- that whole thing about sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me is an absolute lie...

- now, can I ask you some evaluative questions?...

- how careful are you about the words you say?...

- is there a level of caution that governs what you do with your tongue?...

- are you ever grieved about what you have said to somebody else?...

- do you ever ask their forgiveness?...

- do you ever think...I need to pray about this, and seek godly counsel before I respond [not clamming up...but Romans 14:23]...

- now what impact does that have on our families, and our relationships, and the children of our community?...

- one of the developmental assets that God would want us to provide for the young people around us is a carefulness in the way we speak...a caution...modeling that we understand how powerful a thing the tongue can be...

- now, it doesn’t stop there...because the passage goes on to help us...

II. Recognize the Tongue’s Potential.

- a good question to ask at this point would be...why is this kind of information in the Bible?...

- it is certainly not to simply make us feel bad or cause us to lose hope...

- the idea is...it does not have to be this way...

- a bit in a horse’s mouth that is being directed by a skilled rider can be a very effective tool...

- a rudder at the control of a skilled captain can accomplish incredible things...

- even fire can be used in a very positive way...most of us will probably eat food a little later today that was heated...by some kind of controlled...fire...

- so sure, the tongue has the power to do great harm...but that’s not the end of the story by a long shot...

- now, you might say...where does handling this area of life well begin?

- the answer to that comes from the broader context...

- in the Bible, it is often very important to be familiar with the verses before and after the ones you are specifically studying because principles in God’s Word are not given in a vacuum...

- so what is the latter half of James 2 about?...The answer is...

A. The centrality of faith.

- now, it is important to compare James 2 with Romans 3-5 which in and of itself is a fascinating study...

- in Romans Paul explains that having a relationship with God is a decision that is made at a point in time...

- where a person recognizes his/her sin and how that sin has separated him from a holy God...

- and recognized that there is no way to pay that price by yourself...

- and then turns to what Jesus Christ did on the cross...believing on Him, trusting Him as ones Savior and Lord...

- the Bible uses the Word salvation to describe that process...that’s how significant the need is...and that occurs by grace alone, in faith alone, in Christ alone...

- and when a person makes that decision...before God, they are justified...declared righteous because of their new relationship with the righteousness of Christ...[cf. 2 Cor. 5:21 – God has made him...]

- but when we get to James...we read about what this looks like practically...it is an entirely different use of the word justify...

- and James says that you are justified by your works...in the sense that the genuineness of your faith is proven....it is demonstrated by the way you live...

- and the big point here is...it is impossible to begin communicating in a way that honors God without first having a personal relationship with Him on the basis of faith in Christ alone...

- and you might say, well that kind of sounds like an overstatement...actually not...Hebrews 11:6 - And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

- now what does that have to do with what we are talking about this morning?...a lot...

- because there’s assets, and then there’s assets....and one of the greatest things we can do for every young person in this town is to be sure that they have had an opportunity to hear and respond to the biblical gospel...[develop upcoming ministries in the community center, skate park—develop status, VBS, youth athletic leagues...]

- what does that mean then to the topic of the tongue...2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

- so please think of the points we made earlier...in reverse...

B. To direct...positively.

- as we said, bits, and rudders, and even fire can be very useful things...

- and yes, death can be in the power of the tongue...but so can...life...

- do you know some people where, the more they talk, the better the situation becomes...

- the more clarity is brought to the central issues...

- others have had a opportunity to be heard...

- the problems and challenges were articulated and explored...

- and then solutions...real, genuine, biblical solutions were given...

- life has been brought to a situation that seemed beyond help and beyond hope...

­ - can I ask you – would that be true of the way you communicate because of the depth and practicality of your faith?....

- would people view you as someone whose tongue provides positive direction and help?...

- what about the opposite of words that are like a forest fire that burn and destroy?...

C. To build up.

- that is what the word “edify” means...to build up...

- a great verse on that topic is...

- Ephesians 4:29 - Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

- now, does that mean that every conversation has to be positive, or pleasant?...

- no, that’s not real life...

- many of our communication problems involve dealing with problems...and we will always have problems...

- but please keep in mind, problems are for solving...and sometimes difficult things have to be addressed, and challenging concepts have to be faced...but that can be done in either a constructive way, or a destructive one...

D. To be tamed.

- now, you might say...but verse 8 says...it can’t be tamed...

- that’s true in the sense that you will never get to the place where you do not have some level of struggle here...

- but it can certainly become tamer....in the sense that your words are more and more under the control of the Spirit of God, and more and more pleasing to Him...

E. To be consistent.

- what did James say in verse 10?...

- James 3:10 - from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.

- why is that in the passage?...so we understand that there is a better alternative...

- consistency...blessing and blessing...and blessing and blessing...

- Let no unwholesome word...

- Colossians 4:6 - Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

- some people are very consistent in the way they speak...you can count on them, they are dependable...

- with others...you never know...

- is today going to be a blessing day, or is today going to be a cursing day...

- they feel like throwing the family cat in the door...wait 2 minutes, if the cat survives it’s safe to enter...

- and kids who grow up in that kind of inconsistent environment where communication is driven by the emotions of the moment instead of biblical principle out a heart that loves God are going to have much greater difficulty succeeding...

- so recognize the tongue’s power, and recognize the tongue’s potential...lastly...

III. Recognize the Tongue’s Purpose.

- we could summarize the last 6 verses of the passage like this:

God wants you to speak in such a way that you demonstrate “wisdom from above” that only He could give.

- 1 Corinthians 10:31 - Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

- it is possible to speak in such a way that others would conclude, “look what God hath wrought”...

- if time allows, deal with the heart issues of verses 14ff]

- and don’t you love the characteristics?...

A. Pure

B. Peaceable

C. Gentle

D. Reasonable

E. Full of mercy and good fruits

F. Unwavering

G. Without hypocrisy

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video