During the month of December, I’ve asked some friends of mine to share some words with us here. We heard from Jason Roy, lead singer of Building 429, last week, and today we have the honor of hearing from Pastor and Best-Selling Author, Levi Lusko. The content below comes from Chapter 6 of Levi’s third book, I Declare War (make sure to get your copy here), and is published with his permission. Enjoy!
Let It Be
You can’t overemphasize the importance Scripture places on words. At creation God spoke the world into being (Genesis 1). At the incarnation God spoke himself into the world, and the Word became flesh in the person of Jesus, the living Word. (John 1:14). That should tell you something about the weight of words. At both the very beginning and then at the most critical, decisive moment in history, God’s solution was to speak.
It should humble you to know that God has given you the same power of speech. That is part of the terrible privilege of being made in his image. Your speech can create, tear down, build, heal, or hurt.
When God hears you speak about your meeting as terrible, your car as crappy, your kids as ungrateful, your husband as lazy, your town as small, your house as cramped, his response is: If you say so. Because of the power he put into your tongue when he made you, he will allow the labels you speak into existence to stick. Consequently, you will have a terrible experience in your meeting, an unenjoyable ride in your crappy car. And you will find in your husband and kids a thousand examples of laziness and ingratitude. Your house will indeed shrink around you, as will the suddenly claustrophobic town you are trapped in. You will feel how you speak and find what you seek.
On the other hand, you can choose to talk about the meeting as one that will be challenging but important, full of opportunities to solve problems. You can choose to talk about how you are grateful to have a car, and how you are happy that your husband works hard to provide for your family, and how your children are going to learn gratitude from your example. That reminds you that you are thankful you don’t live in that tiny studio apartment anymore, and while your current town may not be Los Angeles, it’s charming in its own way. That prompts you to pray for a neighbor who’s been on your mind, and when you’re done, you text her a few words of encouragement. God’s response to this new way of speaking is the same: If you say so.
Your words can unlock a life you love or one you loathe. It is up to you whether the self-fulfilling prophecies you articulate become a delight or a dungeon. Fortunately, as C. S. Lewis wrote, “The doors of hell are locked on the inside.” If you talked your way into your current mess, you can very likely talk your way out.
One of my favorite Bible stories illustrates the capacity your words have to set the tone for your faith and for your future. A centurion—an officer in the Roman army in charge of a hundred men—came to Jesus for help because his servant was seriously ill. Centurions were career soldiers, hardened men of war, easily identified by the red plumes they wore in their helmets. It was difficult to become a centurion, but once you got the position, you had it made. He had money, power, respect—in other words, he was living the dream.
On the other hand, slaves in the Roman empire had no rights; they weren’t classified as human beings but rather as “living tools.” Slaves significantly outnumbered the empire’s 70 million citizens, and so maintaining the illusion of control was imperative for the masters, who knew there would be little they could do to stop a mutiny if the ants ever figured out that they didn’t need to give all their food to the grasshoppers.
(Sorry not sorry. I told you I love Disney.) When a slave was sick and unable to work, masters were under no obligation to seek out medical attention, because they could just as easily buy a replacement.
You can see immediately that there was something different about this soldier. He showed no trace of cruelty, only tender- ness as he sought help on behalf of his servant. The words he used show that he considers the young man to be like a son to him: “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented” (Matthew 8:6). In reference to Jesus, he used the word Lord; in Greek, the word is kurios, which means “king.” This was nothing short of a profession of faith in Jesus as his sovereign.
In response to the centurion’s pleas, Jesus immediately agreed to come to the man’s home to treat his servant. But the centurion protested that there was no need for Jesus to enter his home. It would have been inconvenient for Jesus to travel, for one; second, if Jesus had entered the house of a Gentile, he would have been ceremonially defiled, and he would have had to go through a cleansing ritual before his daily life could continue. (Translation: he would have gotten Gentile cooties.) The centurion didn’t want Jesus to be put out while doing him a favor.
Instead, the centurion trusted that Jesus’ words would be enough: “Only speak a word, and my servant will be healed” (v. 8). His logic is sound. If Jesus was the Word, all he needed to do was speak the word, and the servant will be fine. The creation has no choice but to respond to the Creator.
The centurion’s faith astonished Jesus: “When Jesus heard it, He marveled” (v. 10). That’s noteworthy, because Jesus was a difficult guy to impress! He continued, “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” Though the centurion was not one of God’s people, he demonstrated the behavior—a heart of faith articulated through lips confessing belief in what God can do—that God had sought from the very beginning.
Jesus had never performed a miracle in the way this man was suggesting. Until this point, he had always been physically present when he healed people; he touched them or prayed over them or rubbed mud in their eyes. What the centurion suggested was a long-distance miracle, which suggests a whole other level of faith in Jesus.
Jesus’ response to the centurion included three incredible words that held great promise long before they were sung by Paul McCartney and John Lennon: “as you have believed, so let it be done for you” (v. 13, emphasis added).
This phrase is actually where we get the word amen from. We usually use amen at the end of our prayers, as though to say, “May what I have prayed come to pass.” But in light of the story of Jesus and the centurion, our goal should be to pray such gutsy prayers that God says amen to us.
Faith is the password that unlocks God’s power. Jesus said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20). The Roman soldier had enough faith to ask for a long-distance miracle, and as a result, Jesus granted his request and moved the mountain. He received a miracle because he had faith that made Jesus marvel. Your goal should be to use your words in such a way that they bless the heart of God, inspire faith in those around you, and make life better for those who are hurting.
I Do Like Green Eggs and Ham
Maybe you struggle with being bitter because life has been hard, other people have had it easier, and you feel you would have more rosy things to say if rosier things happened to you. But you don’t have to have a lot to do a lot.
Dr. Seuss knew this. He tried to use as few different words as he could when writing. He imposed his own constraints, which liberated him to write better books because he had fewer options. He wrote The Cat in the Hat with 236 different words, so his editor bet him he couldn’t write a book using only 50 different words. He won the bet when he wrote Green Eggs and Ham, one of the bestselling books of all time.
This illustration is even cooler because Green Eggs and Ham is about a guy who is anti-everything. He doesn’t like anything, and everything is soured by his bad attitude. Only when he tries the thing he thinks he hates does he change his mind-set. When that one thing clicked into place, his whole world changed from negative to positive.
Perhaps you have huge untapped potential but a rebellious spirit that manifests itself in words that are negative and mean, sarcastic and harsh. Could it be that words of humility and submission flowing from a heart that accepts God’s sovereignty and his goodness clicking into place could lead to a whole new world of God’s using you to do great things, no matter where you go or what you do—whether you are in a boat, with a goat, wearing socks, or with a fox?
It’s crazy to think about how much of a difference your attitude can make. Did you know fans have the ability to change the outcome of a sporting event? They can sit there with their arms crossed or open their mouths and cheer. A researcher from Harvard University discovered that crowd noise has a verifiable impact on the game; for every 10,000 fans present, a home team gains an additional 0.1 goal advantage. One person cheering is not so loud, but a whole arena? That’s a whole different matter. Expectancy and excitement change everything.
This kind of thinking could change how you show up for church. Theologian William Barclay observed, “There can be no preaching in the wrong atmosphere. Our churches would be different places if congregations would only remember that they preach far more than half the sermon. In an atmosphere of expectancy, the poorest effort can catch fire. In an atmosphere of critical coldness or bland indifference, the most spirit-packed utterance can fall lifeless to the earth.”
When your words are full of faith, impossible things can be accomplished. Mountains can move. This doesn’t mean there won’t be times when you speak words of faith and see nothing happen visibly. In those moments, the most important thing in the world is that you remember that some of God’s most important miracles can’t be seen with the naked eye. He knows what you need to know: sometimes the mountain that needs moving is inside you.
L E V I • L U S K O
Feel free to to pass this on to someone who could use some encouragement!
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