Review by Lindsey Carlson
Can I have a word with you?
Those words always make my skin crawl. Not because I’m anti-social, but because I instinctively think I’m about to get in trouble. Did I say something wrong? Did I speak out of turn? Did I hurt someone’s feelings?
I have been a wordy-girl since birth – never struggling to produce them, struggling more to stop them. I took speech, communication, and theatre classes while I was growing up, looking to “steward” my gift of gab. I even earned my undergrad degree in communications. Despite my education, more times than I’d like to admit, my words have gotten me into trouble.
When Gloria asked if I’d be interested in reviewing Paul David Tripp’s book, “War of Words,” I jumped at the opportunity. I’m always looking for a good read that will stir up fresh questions to ponder before Jesus.
In thirteen chapters, you will find enough material to keep your brain and your heart busy for a long while. A month was probably too quick to digest such a thick read and glean every insight. It’s great information that will challenge and convict the Christ follower to the core, but be warned; this is no light-hearted, short, weekend read.
Diving into the book, I hoped to find some solid tips for improving my efforts at biblical communication:
How can I keep myself out of relational conflict?
How can I avoid hurting people’s feelings?
How can I speak more lovingly to those pesky irritating people in my life?
How can I gain self-control in what I say and don’t say?
How can I avoid girl drama?
(As you can see, it was a very self-sacrificing endeavor.)
Tripp called my number in the first few pages.
We aren’t at war with words, we’re at war with our hearts.
Jesus gives two overarching commandments that should effect every part of our being, including our speech. We are to love the Lord with all of our heart, and love our neighbor as ourself. When our speech fails to demonstrate a love for God or a genuine love for others, it reflects our own lack of love for God.
No amount of effort or self-control will correct our selfish desires and idle words if there has never been a change in our heart. Our words will only begin to change for the better when our hearts are radically impacted and affected by the gospel.
“The gospel holds out the promise of nothing less than a new heart. One that is no longer enslaved to the passions and desires of the sinful nature.” (p. 60)
As we look to the forgiveness that we’ve received from the Lord, God softens our hearts to forgive others. As the Lord speaks words of kindness into our lives, we are able to speak loving words of encouragement into the lives of others.
God uses our uncomfortable circumstances to sanctify us.
“God is focused not only on the momentary solution to our problems but on a long-term change of heart. He wants to recapture the hearts of his people so that they will serve him alone (Ezek. 14:1-6). To accomplish this, he is willing to sacrifice our personal comfort. He will permit situations to ‘push our buttons,’…He wants our heart sins to be revealed because we need to see them in order to repent!” (p.112)
As we are refined and made more like Christ, through his gentle and loving correction, our words begin to change, our thought patterns take on new shape, conforming more and more to Christlikeness.
A New Heart, Redeemed Words
As ambassadors for Christ, all of our words should bring glory to God. We should seek to advance the kingdom of God, expressing his values, responding in his ways, and faithfully representing the character of Christ. (2 Cor. 5:20, Col. 3:12-14)
Through his Spirit and in his power, God desires to use our words and our communication for redemptive purposes. He wants to bring sinners to repentance, reconciling unbelievers. He wants to draw us into a deeper relationship and fellowship with him.
We can win the war of words.
“The war of words is only won when God rules our hearts so that we gladly and consistently speak for him. May God help us, so that this world of evil will be transformed into a world of redemptive good. May he win the war for our hearts so that the battleground of words becomes a garden of good fruit, where the seeds of peace produce a lasting harvest of righteousness.” (p. 244)
We’re all on a journey to win the war.
As pilgrims on the journey (Galatians 5) we are looking not only to what we must carry, but also to how we can help out our fellow pilgrims. We must share the burden.
“Winning the war of words means living with eyes open, aware not only of our own struggle, but of other pilgrims struggling on the journey with us. In doing so, we all come to realize that we are not alone… We need not despair, quit, or run in the other direction. Rather, strengthened and encouraged, we continue the journey.” (p.217-218)
This jewel of a book has encouraged me to examine my own words (i.e., my heart) on a regular basis, and to continue striving for God’s glory and redemptive purposes in all of my relationships. In Christ, it is possible to win the war of words!
Here are a few questions for consideration:
- How has your love for God affected your speech?
- Are you engaged in the war of words or are you in a season of apathetic surrender to idle words?
- What do you need to do today to press forward with Christ?
If your words need a little reformation, Mr. Tripp’s book might be the perfect book to pick up next.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Lindsey Carlson lives in Houston, Texas with her college sweetheart Kyle. She is the wife of a worship-pastor and mother to four young children. “Normal” days are filled with homeschool, endless dishes, games, books, mis-matched socks, and writing whenever sleeping children permit. Lindsey writes about faith and worship at Worship Rejoices.