by Pastor Tim Burt
Climbing mounting Mt. Everest. Going through a divorce. Surviving cancer. Losing a child to death. Growing old. Though none of these compare in the nature of their experience, what they have in common is that they are all extremely difficult to endure. People often converse about the difficult things they have gone through in life. There is one that people would never add to this list, and yet, in my opinion, and experience, may be the most difficult of all! And please, as I reveal what this is, do not get defensive or self-righteous and deny it.
So what is it? It’s to learn to tell the truth ALL the time. Most people fail at it. You may initially think, I always tell the truth. I’m sorry, but that probably isn’t true. Most people don’t. Pay close attention to everything that comes out of your mouth for one day, and you may agree that I’m right.
Is lying really that big of a deal? You’ll see that it is in Proverbs 6:16-19 (NIV) says, “There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.
Most people are afraid to tell the truth. Some for obvious reasons—they fear the result or consequences if people find out the truth of their thoughts or actions. But even beyond that, there is a whole lot of lying going on. People lie to better their position. People lie to impress others. People lie for convenience. People lie to protect the feelings of others. People lie because they don’t know how or are afraid to say what they feel. People lie because it short-cuts the process of having to explain their actions. People lie because they are afraid to lovingly confront the person they are having a problem with. They don’t know how it will turn out and are afraid of the outcome, or they just don’t want to put up with the hassle of conflict by telling the truth. Because people don’t want to tell the truth for fear of conflict, they leave many things unresolved. Unresolved conflicts almost always lead to bitterness setting in and repeat eruptions of the same conflicts later. And much behind-the-back slander and gossip. Think I’m wrong? Just pay attention to your mouth for a while and see for yourself.
Over the course of 40 years of ministry, I had the blessing of working with a man who was very straightforward in expressing what He was thinking. When I would converse with him, I wasn’t wondering what he really meant when we finished. He’d be honest and truthful. He’d say what he meant but do so appropriately and in a spirit of love. I had an extreme appreciation for that because I always knew where I stood with him. On the same token, because he was honest, some of the things he has said over the years have taken the form of correction in my life. Sometimes the truth hurts. That’s okay, though because I knew he loved me and had my best interest at heart. Proverbs 15:32 (NLT) says, “If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen
to correction, you grow in understanding.”
I’ve learned that even though truth may be painful to give or to hear, both help me to grow. Lies to protect others or to protect my feelings from being hurt hide the things we need to know and grow in.
There are many things the Lord says to me. He always speaks the truth to me in love. I know His voice because it’s gentle yet straightforward. People often say they have a hard time telling the difference between God’s voice and the devil’s. First of all, God speaks to your spirit. It may be firm. It will always be honest. It will always line up with the Word of God, but it will never be cruel, mean, accusing, or condemning. The devil speaks only to your mind. He can’t read your mind. He just watches what you say and do and responds with words of accusation, condemnation, guilt, hurt, and worse. What he says makes you want to give up. What God says makes you want to try harder, experience more of His love, and draw closer to Him.
Ephesians 4:15 (NLT) is one of the keys to learning to tell the truth and speak the truth in love saying, “… we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ…” Learning to speak the truth in love is a sign that you are maturing in Christ. A mature Christian doesn’t sound like the devil and accuse, condemn, or discourage others. They work toward truth with kindness, mercy, and love. Even then, some people won’t always listen. They didn’t always listen to Jesus. They won’t always listen to you. But make sure you aren’t using truth as an excuse to be rude or just tell it is! And don’t tell yourself or others that your directness and rudeness is a prophet’s anointing. And please don’t give me the I’m just a blunt person and tell it like it is! If you just say whatever is on your mind without a filter of appropriateness, you’re just a rude person and haven’t learned to speak the truth in love. If you can’t keep your emotions in check, you’ll never become one who learns to speak truth in conflict. If you continuously provoke the one you are talking to and talk over them without listening, you’re the problem!
In communicating in love, learn to listen to what the other person has to say. Think about the person you are dealing with. Try to put yourself in their shoes. Try to understand their perspective. Then try to help them understand yours. Be calm. Be patient. Try to pick a good time—not a hallway meeting and not in the middle of an inflamed conflict.
Learning not to lie but instead tell the truth is one of the most difficult challenges people face. And as I said, people fail repeatedly! If you were to embrace the value of truth as God wants you to and take the challenge today of making every word you speak kind, honest, and truthful in your own strength, you’d fail this challenge. Without the help of the Holy Spirit, we could never accomplish this. When we learn to speak the truth in love, asking God to help us in every step and with someone’s best interest at heart, it will help us grow up and mature in Christ. There may be nothing harder, but there will also be nothing more valuable in the big picture!
James 3:2 (NLT) “Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way”
In His love,
Pastor Tim Burt
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