“We must not promise what we ought not, lest we be called on to perform what we cannot” is a quote from a speech given by Abraham Lincoln on May 29, 1856. In it, we are reminded that we should walk the walk when we talk the talk. Our sixteenth president was characterized by his integrity and there are numerous recorded instances where this is exemplified. An obscure one involved a stagecoach trip by “Honest Abe” with a military colonel, where the latter wants to share a drink of whiskey with the president, who declines the offer. Unshaken, he takes out two cigars and offers Mr. Lincoln a smoke, to which Abe agreed, not before sharing a story with his host. He recalled that when he was nine years old, as his mother was dying, she made him promise never to use alcohol or tobacco, and he vowed to do so. Up to that day, he had kept his promise, so he asked his passenger if he should break the promise and do as the colonel offered. The military man visibly shaken, recalling his numerous broken promises to his now deceased mother, humbly put the cigars back in the case, clearly deciphering that a man’s word should be his bond. This is rather lost in today’s world, but, as believers, the importance of our word is magnified in our walk with Christ.
The Power of Words
How about the importance of our words? Certainly Winston Churchill’s famous book The Power of Words attests to that. Although remembered mostly as the British Prime Minister, he was also the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, partly due to his masterful speech writing. He not only had a powerful delivery but also an uncanny use of short words to make his point. In the midst of War World II, as his country was being ravaged, his words gave confidence to a population in need of fortitude. “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat” was an honest assessment of what was to come. “Victory at all costs. Victory in spite of terror. Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival” gave the English hope that the battle would be won. And in his plea to President Roosevelt, “put your confidence in us, give us your faith and your blessing, we shall not fail or falter, weaken or tire; the shock of battle nor the trial of vigilance will wear us down; give us the tools and we will finish the job” Winston underscored the importance of cooperative alliance in defeating the Axis powers. Words have enormous consequences, and as I have sadly learned through my many embarrassing travails, “we don’t have a second chance to make a first impression.” As ambassadors of Christ, we must practice diplomacy with our words, for the world is not only looking but listening to us. I wonder if this will ever sink in with me.
Faithful to His Word
Eric Liddell was faithful to His Word. He was granted the gift of speed and ran to glorify God. He developed his skill to the point where he was selected to run in behalf of Great Britain in the 1924 Olympics held in Paris. However, the 100-meter race in which he was competing was scheduled for Sunday afternoon, so he refused to run due to his Christian convictions. Instead, he preached at the Paris Church of Scotland that day and ended by quoting Isiah 40:29-31, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.” Eric understood that Christianity was not a 100-yard dash but rather a marathon, with many problems and difficulties to be hurdled and a slew of
tough decisions to be made before the finish line. Through it all, he understood and kept God’s word and followed it despite the consequences. And in the end, “The Flying Scotsman” got his reward, for he was subsequently allowed to run the 400-meter race later that week and finished victoriously. As important as our word and words are, His Word stands above the crowd.
So, if we are to become what He intends for us to be, we must adhere to our bonding word, our heartfelt words and his healing Word. Until we do, we cannot become God’s representatives on earth with authority to speak for Him. But once accomplished, we become His voice under the lead of the Holy Spirit. In a word-flooded world, consisting of negative, false, misleading, small and often times satanic language, we can become his mouthpiece only if we master all three. We are called to be his voice and to speak his truth. John the Baptist, quoting from the book of Isaiah, made this statement as he baptized in the Jordan River, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness; make straight the way of the Lord.” That is what we are called to be in today’s wild world….his voice, his Word, his messenger.
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