We can all think of that person who is encouraging and refreshing to be around. There is just something about their manner that uplifts our spirit and makes us wish we could be a little more like them. Perhaps even as you read this, someone you know has already come to mind.
Why? What is it about a personality or a conversation that can be so uplifting? Is it a trait that some people just come by naturally? Or can it be a learned characteristic?
There are countless personality traits that naturally lend themselves to being easily-liked. However, for believers in particular, I think there is one stand-out reason for why we often walk away encouraged and edified after a conversation with another believer. I believe that many times, conversations bring joy to our hearts because the other person has “ministered grace” to us.
“To minister grace.” What does this mean? Ephesians 4:29 says “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (emphasis added).
Our tongues hold significant power. However, we often hear more about its power to do evil (to lie, to deceive, to hurt) than about its power to do good. But as Ephesians 4:29 reveals, our words hold incredible power to do good–to minister grace to those who hear our words.
Did you catch that connection? The apostle Paul instructs us that, instead of allowing our tongues to be agents of corrupt communication, we are to use our tongues as instruments for the edification and building up of those around us. We are to use speech that is “good to the use of edifying.” In short, Paul tells us that, in this context, edifying speech is what ministers grace.
That gives an entirely new perspective on the kind of power we can wield with our tongue, does it not?
If edifying speech then, has the power to minister grace, what does this look like as we interact with our husband, our children, our friends, our neighbors, our fellow-believers, our co-workers?
Undoubtedly, there are limitless ways to use our tongues for good instead of evil. Below are three specific ways we find in Scripture on how we can be intentional about cultivating a habit of building each other up with our words.
1. Scripture-centered conversations
In Colossians, we read these instructions concerning some specific forms of speech: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16).
I believe all those verbs—the teaching, admonishing, and singing—start with the Word of Christ dwelling in us. This then overflows into our interactions with others and results in the teaching, admonishing, and singing to one another for the edification of each other.
To put it another way: what is on the inside is going to be reflected on the outside–it cannot help but reveal itself. So when our hearts and minds are saturated with the truths of Scripture, it cannot help but naturally overflow into our conversations with each other.
So if we desire to have Scripture-centered conversation, it is vital that we be filling our hearts and minds with Scripture. Practically speaking, that happens by intentionally spending time in the Word: reading, pondering, studying, and listening to it being preached are a few practical ways we can be doing this. As we fill our hearts and minds with God’s Word, it is going to be reflected in our conversations.
2. Speak the truth in love
Ephesians 4:15-16 says that we are to be “speaking the truth in love, [so that we] may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
Did you catch it? Our speech–in this case, our speech that is characterized by love–makes up a vital part of the functioning and working together of the body of Christ. As believers, we make up a spiritual organism, divinely designed by God to work together towards greater maturity in Christ.
Growing together in maturity calls us to prod each other towards godliness, which includes speaking the truth–truth that is often hard to speak, both for the giver and the recipient. However, when this truth has been seasoned with love, it is much easier to graciously extend and humbly accept these difficult conversations. Engaging with each other out of love is going to result in the building up of each other, for the ultimate good of the entire Body.
3. Declare God’s character
In the Psalms, we repeatedly find statements that call us to verbally declare our praise to God:
“Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness (Ps. 30:4).
“O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together (Ps. 34:3).
“I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works. I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High” (Ps. 9:1-2).
“Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: let such as love thy salvation say continually, The LORD be magnified (Ps. 40:16).
Each of these phrases indicate a form of verbal communication: sing, give thanks, magnify, praise, shew forth, say continually, and so on. These phrases go beyond times of “between me and God” worship and include audible and specific declarations of praise to the Lord. Indeed, I believe that our intentional proclamations of God’s enduring character to can be a very tangible and specific means of ministering grace to the hearts of those who hear us.
Now think back to that particular conversation or person that came to your mind when you first started reading this: Why was it that you walked away encouraged in your soul?
I want to suggest that perhaps it was because in some small way, they ministered grace to you through words that edified and built you up in your spiritual walk. Perhaps something they said reminded you of a truth from Scripture; perhaps some specific words of praise or thanksgiving prompted you to also give thanks to Him for His goodness in your own life; perhaps they shared something they learned in the Word and consequently pointed you towards a clearer understanding of Scripture; or perhaps words testifying of His enabling power during the week caused you to grow in your own trust in Him. The ways to edify and build each other up are endless!
As we interact with family members, friends, fellow-believers, co-workers, and neighbors this week, let’s look for opportunities to minister grace in our conversations!