Sermon delivered May 30, 2009 by Archie Moore

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Soft Answers and Kind Words

Ephesians 4:32

(RealAudio Version available)

Our message today, Soft Answers and Kind Words, and the scripture reading is one, as Willis mentioned, that's not new to us.  But sometimes the things that we read are easier to read than they are to practice all the time.  All of our waking hours.  What you do when you're asleep, you may not be held responsible for, but when you’re awake, waking hours, “and be kind to one another, tenderhearted.”  How’s that feel?  How's that word just make you feel?  Like a melody.  Like a little melody.  “And tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave us.”  So we’re going to talk a little bit today about soft answers and kind words.

There was an article that was written that talked about a person by the name of Frank Green who jumped 12 stories to his death from the window ledge of a University of Oklahoma dormitory.  Moments before his plunge he had looked down on a crowd of between two and three hundred people who had gathered to watch him.  The last words the distraught man heard before he plunged to the concrete below were the jeers and amused laughter of the spectators who apparently hadn't expected him to jump.  In the same article it mentioned a lady by the name of Clara Andreasen, a retired maid in the San Francisco area.  She went up into the mountains near San Francisco, and she was missing for a few days and they saw her creeping out of the mountains there and when they spoke with her she said, “I just wanted to crawl up there and die.  I’ve got nobody to go to.  Nobody cares for me.”  That's sad isn't it?  

Now her theology wasn’t totally correct.  There is Someone that cares.  Is that right?  There is Someone that always cares, and that Someone knew exactly where she was at up in that mountain cave.  Jesus cared.  Jesus is our example to follow.  He demonstrated what He would like for us to practice on behalf of Him.  He is our Savior.  We need to imitate as close as we can what He did.  We need to model.  He modeled it for us.

In the book Steps to Christ, there is a statement that says this.  Talking about Jesus.  “He exercised the greatest tact and thoughtful kind attention in His association with the people.  He was never rude.”  Never rude.  You catch that?  “Never needlessly spoke a severe word.  Never gave needless pain to a sensitive soul.”  That's Jesus.  He modeled it for us and now we have to try and be kind to one another.  Tenderhearted.  Caring for one another, like Jesus expects us to do as His followers.

Now there is a text.  You know, pastor, that was amazing, that song.  I wish I had been the one that had written that.  That is beautiful.  Did you notice what was in that?  You need to reread that later on.  Love makes us happy, and it talked about what we can do, talked about the difficult world.  A lot of sickness, death, sin, everything.  And we can help people feel better on behalf of Jesus.  We are His witnesses.

Now I want to have you turn in your Bible.  I won’t have you turn to a lot of places today, but if you would turn to First John, chapter 4 and verse seven.  First John.  Way back in the back of the Bible.  I'm trying to find it too, but I know it's there.  The fourth chapter, and go down to verse seven.  Go down to verse seven.  First John four, verse seven.  “Beloved, let us love one another and be kind to one another.”  That’s what Ephesians says.  “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of” where?  “God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”  Then it says, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him.”  Verse 10.  “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins.”  Now verse 11.  “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”  

“If God”; does your Bible say “if God so loved”?  Anybody have any different rendering?  Well I bought one.  That's good, but I believe that there is an improved version on helping us to understand that.  This is in The Living Bible.  The Living Bible.  It says, “Dear friends, since God.”  You know, we need to remove the idea of the ‘if’.  Is there any ‘if’ that God loves us.  Is there any ‘if’ about that?  No ‘if’.  So I like this rendering better. “Dear friends, since God loved us as much as that, we surely ought to love each other too.”  Don’t you like that?  I like that.  Now the other one in verse seven in The Living Bible it says this.  “Dear friends.  Let us practice loving each other.” 

Now there's a lot of things that to do well, we need to practice, right?  Musicians usually practice, and it says,  “Let us practice loving one another, for love comes from God and those who are loving and,” here it is, “kind.”  Brothers and sisters, loving and kind.  Like bread and butter, loving and kind.  And be kind.  And here it says, “And those who are loving and kind show that they are children of God and that they are getting to know Him better.”  If you’re loving and kind you know God and making an effort to know Him better because He modeled the kindness for us.

Now there's one more.  Whether you want to turn to that are not, I’m going to turn to John.  This is the Gospel of John, the 13th chapter.  Gospel of John, the 13th chapter.  Now you've heard this and read this many times.  If you go down to verse 34, it talks about a new command.  That's John 13, 34 and 35.  Here it is.  “A new command.”  This is Jesus speaking now.  “A new command I give you that you love one another as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another.” 

Now when we act like rascals some of the time, are people going to know that we belong to Jesus?  You know?  But look where it says.  It says, “A new command.”  Was that really a new command?  In the Old Testament they weren't supposed to be loving and kind.  Here's what it says.  Bible commentary.  If you have any questions on anything go to the Bible commentary.  It says, “The command was new in that a new demonstration.”  Good teaching is done by demonstration.  

You know, did you ever try to read a manual that you buy something from the store?  How to put a bicycle together or something that you get there and you try to read that manual.  It's really many times very simple to do, but when you try to read the manual it becomes very complicated.  And it says, “The command was new, in that a new demonstration had been given to love which the disciples were now bidden to emulate.”  He said, “You had this all along, but I just want to bring your attention to it and now I'm personally modeling it for you and you need to imitate what I'm doing.”  Is that good?  That's good.  The new commandment urged them and us to love as Jesus loved, which is a higher and a deeper level of understanding and loving one another.  That's what Jesus modeled.

You know, we all have needs.  We all need food, shelter, clothing.  These are all obvious, and later on, a little later on we'll get food.  There are other needs that are probably just as important for our total well-being, such as the need to be accepted.  Some people say, or it's been said, that acceptance, accepting someone and love kind of go together.  Acceptance. 

Now what if you visited church somewhere?  A Seventh-day Adventist church.  You don't need to because when you got the best right here, you don’t need to go anywhere else.  But if you were to visit a church somewhere and you were there for the whole service, you came in, you sat down and you left, and no one spoke to you, how would you feel?  Would you feel accepted and loved and cared about.  I don't think so.  But it happens every now and then.  It happens.  It's sad.  It shouldn't happen.  There is the need that all of us have to be accepted.  Just to be accepted.

And there is a need to be included.  You know, sometimes people aren't included.   We don't, maybe, include them the way that we ought to.  The way Jesus would have us include them.  Make them a part.  Now was Jesus exclusive or inclusive?  Inclusive!  You remember His disciples one time, when the mothers brought the little children.  You remember that?  They brought to be blessed and touched by Jesus, and the disciples thought they were going to do Him a favor because they said, “We just don't have time to include them.  He's too busy.  He's too important.  He will not want that.”  But Jesus corrected them.  Gave them a little, another demonstration of modeling as to how He is.  Let them come.  Let them come!  Inclusive.  Jesus was never exclusive with people.  He always brought them in.

The need for encouragement.  Need for encouragement.  We have a need to be encouraged.  You know, I read a book, it was about Christmas time.  It was on kind of a business practices in a way.  It mentioned in that book that about 70% of surveys that were done of individuals that were in the workplace indicated that 70% of them never or very, very seldom, ever got a nod of the head or a word of kindness and encouragement from their supervisor.  That’s sad, isn't it?  Now, they went ahead to say, if the company wants to improve productivity and have happier employees that are absent a lot less, than they need to let them know they're appreciated.  They said some bosses think if I let them know that they're appreciated, then they’ll slack off and not do.  Let me ask you.  If the boss comes up, someone, pastor, whatever, and said, “You know, I really think you're doing a good job.  Appreciate that.  Thank you very much.”  Now do you say, “Oh, now I can slack off.  I don’t need to do it.”  What normally do you do try to do?  Do even a better job.  Do even a better.  All of us need encouragement.  Barnabas was known in the Bible, the book of Acts, as the encourager.  In fact, I think that's what his name may be.  Encourager.  He encouraged. 

I heard not a couple months ago, of a business that I happened to be in.  The person was dusting, cleaning, getting everything straightened up, and I said, “Well, your boss is going to be very happy with what you're doing to clean up the place.  Straighten it up.  Dust it up and everything.”  They said, “My boss will notice, but they won't say a word.”  That was their impact, that was their tack.  They’ll notice, but they won't say a word.  

So let's consider ways in which we can help to meet the needs in the lives of those in the circle in which we live.  We have a circle in which we live and those are the ones that we are responsible for.  We can send some money to different places in the world to help the missions there, and we ought to be doing that, but the circle in which we are, we need to be kind and caring.  “And be kind one to another, tenderhearted with each other.”  Kindness and kind words.  

God's Word has some counsel on that.  Now I want to turn, if you would, to Proverbs.  Proverbs, chapter 16.  Proverbs, chapter 16.  I actually used this same one in a sermon I've preached in this church before.  But Proverbs, chapter 16, verse 24.  16:24.  “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb.  Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.”  Pleasant words.  Kind words are like a honeycomb, sweetness.  Now when we taste honey, how does that feel to the tongue?  Ah, it feels good, even if you put a little in some carrot cake or something like that.  Good.  Sweetness!  Honey!  “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.”  And you know we're told by some of the medical people that if a person is going to be really, really in top notch health, they need to have healthy bones.  Pleasant words helps all the way down to the bones.  Pleasant words can do all that?  Pleasant words help us to have a merry heart.  Now in Proverbs 17:22,  it says, “A merry heart doeth good like a” what?  “A medicine.”  Pleasant words can set it up to do as good a job as medicine.  Can do all that?  There is a statement that says, “Cheerfulness,” catch this.  Now you help people to be more cheerful when you’re kind and be kind to one another, when you’re kind to one another.  “Cheerfulness often accomplishes what other remedies are powerless to achieve.” 

You know, sometimes there are medications that are given that don’t work very well.  It’ll work better if the emotional part of the body is taken care of, then let the medication work on the physical or whatever it does.  Pleasant words set the stage and Jesus told us that and modeled that.  Love one another and be kind to one another.  Tenderhearted.

In Patriarchs and Prophets there is a statement that says this.  “It has always been known that pleasant words are sweet and bring healing to the soul.”  “It has always been known that pleasant words are sweet and bring healing to the soul while querulous, antagonistic, bitter speech brings ill health, both to the speaker and to the hearer.”  Now what about that?  If you want to be good to yourself, what do you do?  You be kind to others and it's a blessing back to you.  Jesus said it is more blessed to what?  Give, even than to receive.  But giving kindness, it says, brings healing to the speaker and to the hearer, but kindness brings soothing words, bring healing to the whole body.  So be good to yourself.  Be kind to others.  Love others.  That's a spiritual principle given to us by our Savior.  

And you wonder.  Can kind words do all that?  I'll tell you what.  A word spoken at the right time, in the right way, from the right person, can make the day for someone.  It can turn a bad day into a good day and all you're doing is imitating what Jesus would have you do.  Have us do.  Listen to this statement from Patriarchs and Prophets.  I tell you this is powerful, and when I get down to the last sentence, it gets personal.  Listen to this.  “There are few who realize how far-reaching is the influence of their words and acts.  How often the errors of parents produce the most disastrous effects upon their children and their children's children, long after the actors themselves have been laid in the grave.”  Now here is the sentence.  “Every one.”  Now who’s that take in?  If you say ‘everyone’, who's included in that.  If you say, “Everyone gather in the fellowship room for cake.”  Now who's included in that?  All.  Everybody.  It says, “Everyone is exerting an influence upon others.”  Everyone is exerting an influence upon others. 

Anybody ever go to Wal-Mart?  Ok.  Anybody ever go to Wal-Mart at least once a week?  Ok.  I won't get any more personal.  Ok.  If you go to Wal-Mart, let’s say you went into Wal-Mart. You bought the things that you needed, can of vege-links or whatever you want there, and you go through the line there where the cashier is.  And the person takes your items, whatever it is and checks you out and you may be there for 20, 30 seconds, and then you’ve paid and you're on your way.  And let’s just say when the person went by, that’s if there’s no line, you know, you get there and you’ve just paid and you’ve walked away about as far as the piano over there and I walk right up to the cashier and say, “Look, that person just went through your line.  What's your impression?”  In that short amount of time we and others make a judgment call on each other.  It just happens.  The person may say, “Oh, well I noticed it look like maybe they're having a bad day.  They look really, really like they were down in the dumps.”  Or they might say, “Huh, well that’s a happy person.  They wished me a good day as they were leaving and thanked me for what I did.”  In a flash, in a flash an opinion is registered by everyone we meet.  Isn’t that right?  Is that right?  You draw a conclusion in just a second.

Now in a place many, many years ago, I was pastoring, not in this conference, and I was called by one of my church members, and they wanted to know, “Pastor can you come over?  My neighbor, a 17-year-old wife, is being beaten by her husband and she ran over to my house, and she's crying and just wondering if you could come over?”  And so I drove over.  Got there in about half an hour and the husband, I went into his house first to talk to him and he was crying.  He was broken up.  He was so sorry that he had been hitting his wife and everything, and then, I asked him the question.  “Why did you do it?”  Now you know what his answer was?  Here's what he said.  “That's the way my dad treated my mom.”  Now is that sad?  Modeling being kind one to another brings happiness to people.  The other brings others.  A soft answer.  In Proverbs 15:1 it says, “A soft answer turns away wrath.”  “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”  Now, if you want somebody to kind of sometimes yell back at you, what do you just need to do first?  Yes, just yell at them and human nature, many times, will respond in the other.  But a soft answer, it says, turns away, it turns away wrath.

I want to read you a little article that I took from a magazine, and it's entitled How Will You Know, Unless I Tell You?  You know, it's amazing, sometimes we might think, I ought to say this to that person, I ought to call this person, I ought to e-mail them, I ought to do something, and you never quite get around to doing it.  How beneficial as it to the person?  They say, “I sure had a good day today, because you were thinking of me.  I know you must've been.”  People can't read what's in the heart unless you tell them.  How will I know? 

Here it is.  “Too often we forget how much a spontaneous word of appreciation can mean.  Cold spring rain sliced across the window, further lowering my spirits already depressed by long convalescence from surgery.  Get well cards had stopped coming.  A faded chrysanthemum plant, a gift from fellow teachers, was all that remained of the flowers I had received.  I felt lonely, unimportant, forgotten by a world that apparently was doing very well without me.  Then the mail arrived bringing a note from a casual acquaintance, a teacher I passed each morning on my way to school.  ‘Dear Jane,’ she said.  ‘My class is about to begin, but I must write these few words before my students arrive.  I missed your smile and your wave this morning just as I have every day since you’ve been ill.  I pray you'll be well soon.  You're probably surprised by receiving this note, but the world for me is a little less happy place without you, and how would you know, unless I tell you.’” 

Now here's the effect that she said it had.  “Suddenly the paralyzing sense of despair slipped away.  Someone missed me.  Someone needed me.  That knowledge proved more effective than any medicine the doctor could prescribe.”  A merry heart does what?  And encouraging words did that?  Then she said, “I reread the words carefully, savoring each word.  The last sentence held my attention.  ‘How would you know, unless I tell you?’  I wouldn't have know of course, and I would still have been lonely and depressed.  How can any of us know what's in the mind and heart of others unless we receive some kind of word or some gesture from them.  Kind words can work like a medicine.”

There's also a text that mentions that a word spoken in due season, I think it says, at the right time, can really change the outlook in a day like this note that this teacher got.  And you know, I think, especially as Christians, we ought to be looking for opportunities to give words of sincere praise and appreciation.  Looking for opportunities.  Sometimes if you look for the opportunities you’ll be surprised how they will present themselves.

There was a father that was reprimanding his little daughter for some childish thing she was doing by scolding her and she interrupted him and said, “But daddy, I don't like to be unpraised.”  And you know, most adults don't either.  All of us appreciate kind words.  Let's think of nice things to say to people before they’re dead and gone and it's too late.

You know, I've attended a lot of funerals in my day, and around funerals when friends and relatives are visiting and sharing with each other you hear some of the nicest things said about the person that is dead.  Is that right pastor?  Some of the nicest things.  It would have been nice, that person would have really appreciated it if they could've heard those before that time, before it was too late.  Now if there’s somebody sitting right beside you just turn to them and say something nice.  Some kind word or something.  Would you do that?  Okay that's enough.  Did they smile at you or did they say, “I don't want to hear that kind of stuff”?  You know, most don't get turned off by kind, encouraging comments.  They just don't.  If someone around you is deserving a compliment, give it to them.  Don't wait until they move far away or are dead before we give them praise and kind words.

There is a poem that's written by Burton Bailey that expressed this thought, I think, very well, and here it is.

If with pleasure you are viewing any work a man is doing, if you like him or you love him tell them now.  Don't withhold your approbation till the parson makes oration and he lies with snowy lilies on his brow.  No matter how you shout it he won’t really care about it.  He won't know how many teardrops you have shed.  If you think some praise is due him, now's the time to slip it to him, for he cannot read his tombstone when he's dead.  More than fame and more than money is the comment kind and sunny and the hearty warm approval of a friend. For it gives to life its savor and it makes you stronger, braver and it gives you heart and spirit to the end.  If he earns your praise bestow it.  If you like him let him know it.  Let the words of true encouragement be said.  Do not wait til life is over and he’s underneath the clover, for he cannot read his tombstone when he's dead.

Think there's a message in that, don't you? 

I bought a book.  In fact I bought two books.  I bought a book a few months ago in the ABC, Finding God In The Questions, written by Dr. Timothy Johnson, who is the medical editor for ABC for as long as most of us can remember, but he was an ordained pastor before he went to medical school.  And he’s a very spiritual individual still.  He pastored a church.  Went to the seminary.  All that.  Then he went to medical school.  Now I want to share with you, in the book, two comments that he made.  One he said, “The profound truth is that every day, each of us make decisions about how we will live from moment to moment and how we will treat people.”  He said, every day, moment to moment, we decide how we're going to treat people.  Now I want to turn to another comment that he had and here's what he said.  “In the long run, the way you have treated people, including those closest to us, will be very much with us at the finish line, where little else will matter.  Indeed, in the many times I've been with people in the valley of the shadow of death, I have never heard them wish they had accumulated more money, attained more recognition or spent more time in passing pleasures, but I have heard many regrets about missed opportunities to be with loved ones in truly meaningful ways.”  And I think that's the reason that Jesus gave us the council that He did.  “And be kind one to another, tenderhearted.”  It helps people and it helps us and then we are modeling what Jesus modeled for us as His people.  As Christians. 

Now, I bought another book this week from the ABC.  And here's a statement.  Here's what it says in there.  “And be kind.”  Says first of all, be kind to one another.  “There are many rough things in this world, so many hard ways, so many cruel things, so many paths that wind and wind while just the art of being kind is all the sad world needs.”  Just the art of being kind is all the sad world needs, because that's a Jesus principle.  Jesus gave us that.  We have Jesus, we want to model that.  Then it says, “It is marvelous, the power of kindness.”  That’s a powerful sentence.  “Marvelous, the power of kindness.  It is discouraging of course, when kindness has been shown again and again and there seems to be no response.”  Might be discouraging.  I’m going to read that one more time.  “It is discouraging of course, when kindness has been shown again and again and there seems to be no response.”  Then he continued.  “Nevertheless, it pays to be kind.  Pays the individual who exercises it whether anyone else will accept the benefit or not.”  So just because somebody doesn't respond, does that mean we don't be kind?  Then it says, “By doing that, it develops the character of the Master.”

Did Jesus stop being kind?  Did he have lots of reasons, from a human standpoint, to say, “I've had it with that individual, with that person.”  

Now I’m going to give you an assignment because I used to be a teacher.  I expect you to have it done by tomorrow afternoon.  Here it is.  Read chapter 13 of First what?  First Corinthians.  We call that the what?  Love Chapter.  I'm going to read one verse.  I'm going to read one verse.  In fact, we have been counseled that it would be good for us if we were to read that, anybody know how often?  Read that chapter, how often?  Anybody have any idea?  Every day.  Every day.  Ok.  I'm going to just read one verse, when I find it over here.  Verse four.  Here it is.  “Love suffers long and is” what?  “Kind.”  Love and kindness go together like a sandwich.  Love and kindness.  “Love suffers long and is kind.”  Ok.  Now you’ll have that read by tomorrow afternoon.  I’m not going to have you raise your hand but I know you’re going to do that anyway.

May God help us as we follow Jesus, our Savior, in practical ways.  Realize that really that's what He would expect us to do, to be kind, but in doing so, it helps us to be more like Him.  It encourages the people around us and it helps us; and it helps us to be drawn closer to Jesus.

Dear Father in heaven.  We pray that You would help us, day by day, moment by moment, to be more like Jesus in our heart and in our practice, with all those about us and our family and friends and neighborhood.  We pray Lord that people would be able to recognize that we love You and that we follow You, and that we want to model what You modeled for us.  Help us Lord to be kind one to another.  Help us to be loving.  Help us to be of encouragement and help us to be accepting, the way Jesus was.  We ask Lord your blessing upon us as we leave this sanctuary.  Whatever our activities might be in the afternoon, we pray Lord, that we’ll be a special blessing and Lord, when Jesus comes, may we be found like Him and may we live with Him through all eternity, is my prayer in Jesus’ name, amen.

Hymn of Praise: #3, God Himself is With Us
Scripture: Ephesian 4:32
Hymn of Response: #319, Lord, I Want to Be A Christian

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Sermon at McDonald Road transcribed by Steve Foster 6/26/09