Skillfully Spoken

Like apples of gold in settings of silver,
so is a word skillfully spoken.

Proverbs 25:11, NET

Have you ever found yourself fumbling over your words? Whether responding to a trusted friend’s plea for counsel or even just an everyday exchange of pleasantries with the store cashier, there are times when I feel verbally flat-footed, unable to say anything of worth or meaning. Yes, even career communicators often feel at a loss for “skillfully spoken” words, words of weight, words of wisdom. Like Proverbs 25:11 points out, something that’s well-said and aptly spoken is as precious and valuable as fine gold. I want to speak words like that! Not just professionally but personally, not just from the pulpit but also at the dinner table. I may be assuming too much, but I imagine that we all want our words to have weight and significance. We all want the things we say to have high impact in whatever arena we find ourselves and in every relationship we engage. Truth is, skillfully spoken words don’t come out of thin air. As with all words we speak, they come from the overflow of our hearts (cf. Mt. 12:34). So what kind of heart work can we engage? Over the next few posts, let’s explore what we can do on a personal level to become the kinds of people who speak words that matter.

A TRAINED TONGUE

The Lord God has given Me
The tongue of the learned,
That I should know how to speak
A word in season to him who is weary.
He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear
To hear as the learned.

Isaiah 50:4, NKJV

Though this is primarily a Messianic prophecy, a description of the experience Jesus would have as God’s anointed One here on earth, I believe this is an experience that is available to all of Christ’s followers. God wants to give us a learned tongue, a trained tongue. According to this verse, the capacity to speak skillfully is a gift, it’s something granted us from the sovereign Lord. One of the first steps toward becoming a person whose words make a difference is simply acknowledging that it’s not in our natural makeup to speak words of weight and wisdom. It requires learning, growth, and deliberate development. If we’re willing to grow, God is able to make us know how to speak the right words at the right time.

IN SEASON

Isaiah 50:4 also highlights a factor of impactful communication that is somewhat independent of us. Timing factors in to the worth of our words.

It’s not just the content of what we say but also the context in which we speak it, and that context has less to do with us as it does with those on the hearing end.

What makes it the right season for a word to be spoken? It’s the need of those who hear it. It’s our audience’s weariness, soul fatigue, heart longing. And if I want to be someone God can use to speak impactful words in season, then I need to be in tune with the needs of others around me. The focus isn’t about me being a quality communicator. The focus is on lifting others up who may be weary and heavy-laden.

MORNING BY MORNING

Our capacity to speak has everything to do with our capacity to listen. Just ask someone who has grown up with hearing impairment or deafness. On a spiritual level, our ability to speak words of life has everything to do with our ability to listen to the Word of life. Isaiah 50:4 points to a morning by morning experience that Jesus had, a daily rhythm of listening, of communing with the Father not just to tell Him everything on His heart but to actually hear everything on the Father’s heart. Jesus had a learned ear, one that grew to hear the voice of His heavenly Father. And I believe this is something we are invited to experience ourselves.

giving our Father the opportunity to speak to us MORNING BY MORNING is THE heart work we must engage in order to skillfully speak to weary hearts.

A trained tongue comes from having trained ears, ears that are constantly open to hearing God’s Word for ourselves so we can be constantly used to share life-giving words to others. Our spouses deserve it, our kids need it, our co-workers and neighbors may have no other access to it. If we forfeit this morning by morning experience, could it be we also forfeit our capacity to minister to weary hearts right around us? If words of worth come directly from the overflow of daily communion with God, then let’s learn to listen. May the sovereign Lord awaken our ears and instruct our tongues!