How do you measure the impact of a speech? As you consider the words you think about, put on paper, and give voice to, also consider the one who holds those words in His sovereign hands. Your testimony of His work in your life is not about you. It’s about Him. He is faithful, merciful, just, right, and good. We are called to testify to His goodness, His truth, and His faithfulness, not our own. A testimony requires communication. We write, speak, and testify to His purposes, not our own. The impact of your words may be hidden from you, so I would like to give a personal example of the impact that spoken words can have on the broken soul of a sinner…
Elisabeth Elliot. Many of us know that name. I was first introduced to her in 1999 at a talk she gave at Multnomah Bible College in Portland, Oregon (now Multnomah University). What I remember about listening to her was her no-nonsense demeanor complemented by her confident statements about God’s truth, purposes, and promises. During part of her talk she recalled the story of her courtship with Jim Elliot. I sat, as a young adult who was in rebellion, and listened with judgemental ears, questioning everything she said. With doubt and sarcasm I considered each treasure she gave with drab bitterness.
Who does she think she is, telling me how to choose a husband?
What makes her so special to think she knows the mind of God?
She has no idea what I have suffered through.
As I sat and listened my heart began to change. Her voice was deeper than I expected and it reverberated in my conscience. She spoke of praying for God to reveal to her who she would marry. Her memories of little things revealing big things, like shadows in the shape of a cross during a time of prayer, sounded strange.
There’s no way I could do what she did.
Does prayer really work like that?
I wonder if God walks with me like she said He walks with her.
By the end of that talk I was convinced that I was in full rebellion against God’s purposes for my life and that He was calling me to repent and live a holy life, pleasing for him. That event, that speech, has echoed throughout my life, reminding me of God’s purpose.
Two other speeches sit on a shelf in my mind as examples of God’s mercy through words. A friend of mine gave a short speech about forgiveness in 1996 at his church. He had called me to make sure I was going to be there. I stood in the back listening to his testimony of God’s grace and mercy. My friend confessed wrongs he had inflicted on those he cared for while he looked me square in the eyes. Tears streamed down my face and my heart softened. Within the year I was at a concert where the infamous Billy Graham gave the gospel message. An eternally impactful speech, my heart burst open as I heard and saw God’s mercy. He rescued me and held me as I contemplated the truth that was spoken.
I was sitting listening to Elisabeth Elliot two years later, and I had rebelled against God and His truth, rejecting the idea that He would be faithful and that I could walk faithfully with him. As I grudgingly sat and listened to Elisabeth speak I rubbed my pregnant belly. My rebellion had fruited with life. I was incubating a gift, waiting to hand him over to an adoptive family. Elisabeth’s words were hard to hear but I am so thankful she spoke them. God’s truth and goodness echoed with Elisabeth’s strong voice. Her testimony of God walking with her through courtship, marriage, childbirth, international mission work, a slaughtered husband, a forgiving heart, was another heart exploding speech for me. Here was a silver haired, dignified woman, taking the time to speak to young adults about faithful living. A woman who had experienced such sorrow and grief, yet she confidently proclaimed gospel truth. Jesus loves me, this I know, for the bible tells me so. Simple and profound. Truthful and good. Repent, walk with Him. He is eagerly awaiting you.
Within the year I had given birth to a healthy, beautiful boy. I met my husband that same year. The three speeches, each one from a brother or sister in Christ testifying to God’s goodness, mercy, and truth, have made such an impact on my life that I am unable to keep my mouth shut.
I am not always excellent with what I say or how I say it, but I keep learning. God has brought other brothers and sisters into my life that have reminded me to stay the course, keep serving God, keep Him in my sights. Students, as you do the work of learning how to speak in a manner that glorifies God, I pray that you have the same confidence that I have, that Elisabeth had, that Billy Graham had. God is with us. God is with you.
May He give you the words to break open the hard hearts of those He is calling unto Him, to remind those who are grieving, lost, or scared on how to proceed, that He is walking with them. May He help us all to continue on, remembering that He is faithful. Elisabeth Elliot recalled an old poem to encourage others when they find that difficult. This is one of the lines: Fear not tomorrows, child of the King, Trust them with Jesus, do the next thing. Walk confidently in his grasp and do the next thing.