josh longanecker life groups pastor at james river church
By: Josh Longanecker01/15/18

One thing that can change your life!

The sun was high overhead, glinting off the helmets and breastplates of six Roman legions. The soldiers stood and watched as the invading Helvetii – a tribe migrating into the Roman territory from Switzerland – formed battle lines on a hill above them. As the ranks of the Helvetii began to swell and outnumber the Roman army, the men started to grow increasingly tense. For many of them, this would be their first battle. For others, this was their first sight of the enormous tribesman, who, man to man, stood taller and broader than the men of Rome.

Sensing the mounting apprehension, commander Julius Caesar rode to the front line and dismounted. He turned to address the men, choosing his words carefully. Much could have been said at that moment; Caesar could have reminded them of the battle plan, he could have criticized them for their lack of courage in the face of their opponent, he could have mocked the enemy who challenged the great Roman Empire.

Julius Caesar strode up and down the front line, looking into the eyes of the men, and then elevated his voice so even those in the rear guard could hear him, and he began to encourage the men! He praised them for their bravery, and boasted of their ability as soldiers! Then, Caesar sounded the call to battle, and with the praise of their leader ringing in their ears, the Roman army charged up the hill to meet the enemy head-on. According to historian Stephen Dando-Collins, the Roman army fought ferociously and drove back the invading tribe, winning the day.

While the glory of ancient Rome has faded, what spurred on Caesar’s legions more than 2,000 years ago is still one of the most effective tools we have today: encouragement!

Encouragement is one of the most important elements of leadership, parenting, marriage, and even personal quality of life!

According to the Harvard Business Review, teams with an encouraging environment significantly outperform other teams who are negative. In fact, this study found that the factor which made the most difference between the teams who achieved the greatest success and least success was the ratio of positive to negative comments. That does not mean there isn’t room for constructive criticism, but when the mood of the team is continuously negative, the performance of the team suffers.

Likewise, research sited in Psychology Today states that one of the most significant factors in predicting divorce is how couples talk to one another. When the positive to negative comments of a couple falls below five to one, that is a good indication that the health of the marriage is suffering. However, when a couple is encouraging to one another, the likelihood of having a long, healthy, and enjoyable marriage skyrockets!

What psychology and modern research tells us has been taught by scripture for thousands of years. The Bible says, “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences” (Proverbs 18:21 NLT). This verse has an exciting promise for us, one that is both a poignant warning and a wonderful pledge.

How do we use our words to bring good things into our lives?

1. What we say to ourselves.

For better or for worse, our thoughts are often the loudest voice we hear. Thus, what we say to ourselves has a profound effect on what we will say to others. If we are always allowing negative and self-defeating thoughts to fill our heads, then what will come out of our mouths will be negative and defeated. We cannot let our minds to be dominated by our insecurities and fears. Instead, we must stand on what the Bible says about us! For Christians, we are completely forgiven and redeemed (Col. 1:14), we are a masterpiece, made by the hands of God himself (Eph. 2:10), we are blessed (Eph. 1:3), we have nothing to fear because God is watching over us (Ps. 91), and so much more! We must allow the principles found in the Word of God to change the way we think about ourselves and others! When our internal dialogue is flowing out of the truth of Scripture, our conversations with others will follow suit.

2. What we allow to be said to us.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (NLT). A million things are competing for our attention every day, and what we allow into our hearts will ultimately determine the direction of our lives. If we allow negative media, shows, or conversations to be the most dominate external voice in our lives, then it should be no surprise when our voice is predominantly negative. The things we let occupy our idle moments, what we entertain ourselves with or the conversations we have are all within our control. There is no reason we cannot make those moments positive and beneficial!

3. What we say to others.

We have a saying at James River Church, “See something, say something.” That can be applied to encouragement: when we see something good, we should tell people! Every conversation, every interaction, is an opportunity to be life-giving, to build others up. There are very few times we will be talking to someone when there is nothing positive we can say. What would our family, work, and friendships look like if we decided that the majority of the time we open our mouths, it would be to encourage someone?

Our words have an enormous effect on the world around us. In the same way, it only takes a spark to set a forest on fire, a careless or wrongly placed word can burn down a relationship. Our speech can turn unity into chaos, or bring pain where there should be protection.

However, an encouraging word aptly placed can change someone’s entire day. You can enhance your marriage, bring success to your work, help your children, and enrich your friendships by simply letting the words of our mouths be life-giving.

The decision is yours, choose your words carefully…