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Sound the Still
May 5, 2013
I am told that in the old British Navy there was an emergency drill that included "sounding the still." When an emergency occurred aboard the vessel, the bell would ring in a particular pattern, and everyone would pause for a moment, think about what they were to do, and then when the bell sounded again, they would rush to their posts and carry out their assigned tasks to deal with the problem. In our fast paced world, we have become accustomed to acting first, and thinking later. It might be better if we cultivated the habit of "Sounding the Still."
One of the strong admonitions of the Bible is that we be guardians of our tongues. We are told to be careful about what we say, and we are warned of the damage that a quick response can cause. The tongue is described as sharper than a two-edged sword. It is able to do more harm than any weapon. The wrong words at the wrong moment can destroy friendships, wreck marriages, and cause harm to the work of Christ.
Proverbs 18:21 says that the power of life and death is in the tongue. Given that we have such power in what we say, the very power to give life or to kill, shouldn't we be more careful about what we say? I must confess that through much of my life, I was often guilty of saying things I later regretted. I would get angry, and certain that I was right, I often said things that were personally hurtful to others, or which while basically true, were really exaggerations of the truth, and made the situation seem much worse than it was.
We see the commandments to guard the tongue, but in James 3:8 we read that no human being can tame the tongue. It is like a wild beast that will not be controlled. What are we to do? How are we to follow the commandments of Scripture, and yet know that we cannot completely control the words that come from our mouths?
We may have a chance to control whether we speak or not. Once we decide to speak, I believe we can only ask for God's help. The naval tradition of sounding the still could serve us well. Suppose that instead of responding to every event and every comment, we were to "sound the still." What if we said, "I need to think about that, before I respond." Or suppose we just kept quiet.
I have found that when I am concerned about what I am about to say, my concern is usually well grounded. It is usually best to just be silent. I have not yet gotten into difficulty with others by holding my tongue. Here are some guidelines about what to say, and when to say it.
1. Sound the still. Cultivate the habit of not responding to everything that is said. Think first.
2.Ask for God's wisdom and help and discernment about whether to respond, and how to respond.
3. As yourself whether your response is constructive or destructive. Is my response intended to help and encourage, or is it intended to rebuke and tear down? There may be times when each kind of response is required, but we need to be clear about what we are doing. If my intention is to rebuke, be honest about that. Don't pretend that your rebuke is intended to "help." A rebuke is intended to stop something from continuing. Be clear about that.
4. Always speak in love and faith. Do I care about the person I am speaking to, or speaking about? Does Christ love them? If He loves them, why do I not? If I don't love them, perhaps I should not think I have a right to speak about them. Do I have faith that my words are based in faith in Christ, or are they defensive and ego-driven by my need to defend myself and make myself look good?
5. Trust God to deal with the situation. Vengeance is not ours; it belongs to God. When we truly trust God, we will find that we have less defending to do, and we can do more constructing. We can build up, and let God take care of the destructive tasks.
6. All this can only work if we fill our minds with Christ. If we fill our minds with violent entertainment, angry fantasies, and bitter resentments, that is what will probably come from our lips. Fill you heart with the love of the Lord, and that will flow from your words and actions.
7. Be especially vigilant when you are tired, stressed, or upset emotionally. That is when we are likely to be tempted. That is why some time of meditation and silence is so important. We need our quiet time with God in the morning in order to keep our minds "stayed on Him."
Let your tongue be God's instrument, and He will use it for His glory.We cannot tame the tongue; we can only surrender it to God, and let Him control it. "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and redeemer.` (Psalm19:14).