Reprinted from the September / October 2013 issue of “Christian Woman” Magazine.
By choosing our words carefully, we can be a positive influence in others’ lives.
“Oh, be careful little mouth what you say. / For the Father up above / is looking down in love. / So be careful little mouth what you say.”
Perhaps you remember that song from when you were a child. I use it with my Bible class sometimes. There are other verses involving little eyes, ears, hands and feet, and young children usually like to sing this song as they point to their own eyes, ears, mouth, etc. They also warm to the idea of a Father who is up above and looking down in love.
We adults sometimes forget that the basic lessons taught in children’s songs contain important messages for all of us. God loves each of us as His little children. He watches over us daily. Knowing and understanding the great love He has shown for us, we should most certainly be careful about the things we do and say. We are to glorify God with our good works and with our speech. In this way, Christians have a unique opportunity to bring light into the world and to influence others for God.
Our Words Make a Difference
Influence can be very powerful. We all affect the lives of others every day, and we are influenced, in turn, by other people. Some individuals have a greater impact on us than others, and many of these people are not soon forgotten. We tend to remember what they said or did, and most important, we remember how their words made us feel. By choosing our words carefully, we can be a positive influence in others’ lives.
Christ was remembered for the things He “began both to do and teach” (Acts 1:1 NKJV). We, too, will be remembered by others for our words as well as our actions. The things we say and how we say them can make a significant difference to someone who needs to hear a particular thing at a given time. Our words can offer needed comfort and hope, and they can be used to teach others of Jesus. How wonderful it is to be able to serve our Savior with words that are “spoken at the right moment”(Proverbs 25:11 MLB).
Remembering Peter by His Words
In the Scriptures, God has given us accounts of many people who loved and followed Him. But we also read about those who failed to honor Him. Some of them are remembered today as much for their words as they are for their actions. Peter is one such character. He boldly proclaimed Christ as the Son of God, yet he often acted impulsively and spoke before thinking. In a moment of weakness, he even denied the Lord.
Most of us can relate to Peter’s example. There are times when our words are carefully chosen and serve to bless those around us. We can also remember times when we spoke rashly, not considering the impact that our words might have on others and just how long they would be remembered.
Peter was brought to Christ by his brother, Andrew (John 1:41-42). Thus, Peter’s life with Jesus began, and what a life it was! Peter was privileged to see Christ’s miracles firsthand – Jesus casting out demons, healing the sick, and making the blind to see and the deaf to hear. He once watched as Christ stilled a raging storm. He even walked on water with Jesus – though just for a moment.
Peter, along with James and John, was with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration. He saw the dead raised to life again. He saw and heard things we will never hear or see. Imagine being witness to all these miracles of the Son of God! In studying how Peter responded to these events, we see ourselves and learn valuable lessons.
• Words of Humility. Peter was amazed and humbled by the Lord’s power. Once, when Jesus had finished teaching the multitudes from Peter’s boat, he told Peter to go out into the deeper water and let down his nets.
The apostle explained they had fished all night and had caught nothing. He would do this, however, because Jesus told him to. As a result, the catch was so great the net broke! Peter then fell down at Jesus’ knees saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8 NKJV).
• Words of Comfort. Jesus had many followers, but there came a time when many left Him. He had just told the disciples He was the Bread of Life, but because some of them could not understand this teaching, they turned back. Jesus asked the 12 apostles if they were going away also.
Simon Peter was the one who answered Him, saying: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:68-69). What wonderful words of comfort these must have been to our Lord! Christ had suffered great discouragement, and Peter offered Him reassurance of their confidence in Him.
• Words of Affirmation. Matthew 16:16 is another account of Peter’s confession that Christ is the Son of God. Based on the memorable words of that admission, Jesus built His church and promised Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven – a promise that would be fulfilled on Pentecost when Peter preached the first gospel sermon. What a thrilling moment this must have been for Peter – to have such commendation from the Christ! Yet a few verses later, in the very same chapter, Jesus rebuked Peter strongly.
• Presumptuous Words. Jesus was preparing His apostles for what was to come. As He spoke about His crucifixion, Peter took Jesus aside and insisted: “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” Then Jesus turned and said unto Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:22-23).
Peter did not understand Christ’s mission, so he thought his argument was perfectly logical. How surprised he must have been that Jesus called him Satan – and how those words must have stung Peter’s heart!
• Words of Denial. On the night of Jesus’ arrest, a fearful Peter denied knowing Him three times. Earlier, Peter had drawn his sword to fight for the Master, but that probably offered little or no comfort when he realized what he had said. Peter wept bitterly over his sin. But he learned firsthand about the beautiful gift of forgiveness and served the Lord the rest of his life.
• Words of Testimony. As promised, Peter delivered the first gospel sermon when the church was established (Acts 2). At the gate called Beautiful, he healed a lame man “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth” (3:6). Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter and John boldly told the council: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (4:19-20).
When they were brought before the council a second time, Peter and the other apostles answered and said, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Peter was also the apostle who declared in Acts 10:34, “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.” He and those with him went on to baptize the first Gentiles into Christ.
Yes, Peter is certainly remembered for many of his words, some of which he deeply regretted. But he did not let this keep him from growing in Christ. Later, he became the author of two inspired letters in which he exhorted Christians to defend their faith. He wrote, “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).
Peter learned from his mistakes. He boldly preached the Word of God, even when persecuted. He encouraged others to “rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings” and to be happy if reproached for the name of Christ, adding that the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon those who are reproached for the name of Christ (1 Peter 4:13-14).
Peter would have liked our little song. After all his life experiences, there is no doubt he would exhort us to “be careful what we say.” The last recorded words we have from our brother Peter are words of exhortation for us and praise for our Redeemer: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18). ❏
Robin Whitley attends the Hillcrest Church of Christ in Baldwyn, Miss., where she teaches a ladies class as well as the 2- and 3-year-olds. She and her husband, Robert, are the parents of three grown sons. Robin enjoys writing and has a blog at christaboveallthings.blogspot.com.