“Talk is cheap.”
“Actions speak louder than words.”
These are two fairly common and generally true phrases. We live in a world full of words used in exaggeration, for broken promises, and downright lies. Our misuse of words runs the gamut from seemingly innocent to truly sinister. While the cheapening of words has made it more difficult to tell people what we truly mean and for them to fully believe it, the more damaging aspect of this is when the misuse of words creeps into our understanding of God and His Word.
We understand that there is a difference between the meaning in the statements “I love chocolate” and “I love my family”, but the full force of the word “love” is chipped away at by the lower uses of it. We acknowledge that the glory of the living God is “awesome” in ways that our favorite movie or song will never be, but there is not enough distance between the “awesome” used to describe God and the “awesome” we use when speaking of our entertainment. Love and awesome are two of the more popular words to point out our misuse of words, but there are a myriad of others.
Always, in reality means often. Never, means rarely or less than I would prefer. Literally means figuratively, but with more gusto. Forever merely means a moderate amount of time. I promise, means I will try. A guarantee is only a high probability. The best means very good. Average is disappointing and being content is somehow settling for less. The list goes on and on. We hate that which is not evil. We ascribe perfection to things that are not perfect. We love that which cannot love us back.
Our cheap use of language, the constant exaggeration for marketing purposes, and the need to be louder and more exclamatory than the next person only to get our point across has worn away at the true meaning of words both consciously and subconsciously. Because we use words to both describe God and hear from Him, this has the effect of limiting our understanding of who He truly is and what He really does.
It is important to note that this does not mean the Bible doesn’t use figurative language, it does. There are similes and metaphors in the Bible for our benefit to help us understand. Also worth pointing out, God truly is indescribable. Even as we refine our understanding of the true weight and meaning behind the words used to describe Him, as finite humans we inevitably fall short of comprehending Him fully as He truly is. Evelyn Underhill has a great quote attributed to her regarding this,
“…a God small enough to be [completely] understood is not big enough to be worshiped.”
While that is true, it is also true that there is much room left for growth in our understanding and comprehension of God and His character. There are also many opportunities for our thinking and understanding to be refined–and in some cases replaced–by the truth.
Understanding God is much more difficult when we unknowingly project ourselves or others and the way we operate upon God. We are so accustomed to hearing people say things they don’t fully mean–or doing it ourselves–that we don’t realize how true it is when God says it. That is why the phrases “Actions speak louder than words” and “Talk is cheap” are so common. They ring true much too often. Yet God’s words and His actions are not separated in any way. God created the universe by His words. Jesus himself is the Word, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1). What He says, He means. What He says, He does.
We can take God at His word because it does not return empty or void.
Isaiah 55:10-11 says,
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Can you imagine the level of peace and joy that we could live with if we fully believed God’s Word and what He says in relation to us? If we believed that His Word would accomplish everything that He says it will accomplish?
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructs us not to worry about what we will eat or drink or what we will wear because God knows what we need and He takes care of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field and we are “much more valuable than they” (Matt. 6:25-33). We don’t need to worry about bills. We don’t need to stress about how to cover our needs. God knows what we need and He is a good father that gives “good gifts to those who ask him” (Matt. 7:7-12). We have no need to worry. The Lord and creator of the universe is our loving heavenly father that knows exactly what we need and when we need it.
Worry is just one area of our lives that will be transformed when we start to take God at His word. As we consciously think through the ways in which we diminish the full force and meaning of God’s Word by our experience with earthly words and actions, the words of God will wash over us in fresh and powerful ways. We will more clearly see that it is “living and active” and does penetrate deep into our soul and spirit (Heb.4:12).
As you read the Word, practice putting aside human meanings and understandings that fall short and try to fully grasp what our all-powerful God is saying.
A few verses:
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”- Romans 8:1
No condemnation. None whatsoever. Subconsciously when we read this the meaning we take to heart is as if it said “almost no condemnation” or ” there will be no condemnation in the future”. But “almost” or “will be” are no where in this verse nor in its meaning. Now, right this second, in Christ, there is absolutely zero condemnation. If you have accepted Christ as your savior and Lord and find yourself saying “But..” stop. Because whatever objections you can think of are cancelled completely by the full weight of God’s Word saying “now no condemnation”. God truly means “now” and fully means “no”.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Rom. 8:28
The words in this verse that we are quick to limit are “all things” and “good”. Somehow, someway, in every single situation in your life, God is working for the good. The ultimate good. The best good. Maybe not what we think of as good, but what is perfectly good. Take heart and be encouraged. Earlier in the same passage Paul says “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us” (Rom. 8:26). So if you are facing a situation in which you cannot see the good and seem to have no way of finding it out or praying for it, remind yourself of verse 26. The Spirit will intercede on your behalf.
In the passage below (Rom. 8:31-37), I have highlighted the words whose breadth I feel we should try to better grasp and placed comments in parentheses.
“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (No one). He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (He has given us His own Son, how much more any small earthly need?). Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (Not only did Jesus die for you and rise again to defeat death, but at this very movement while you are reading this He is at the right hand of the Father interceding on your behalf). Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
‘For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing you can think of or imagine has the power or the ability to come between you and the love of God that we receive through Christ).
Sometimes when we talk about the love of God, we talk about it as if it is a feeling or disposition towards us without any action associated. What I mean is that we acknowledge that nothing can separate us from God’s love, but we view the outpouring of that love from a limited human perspective. I love my wife and nothing will ever change that, but I am not physically present with her 100% of the time actively working out the various expressions and actions of that love. Time, distance, and other factors make that impossible.
However, God is all-present, all-knowing, and all-powerful. We never have just God’s feelings of love towards us. It is always accompanied by action. God’s love is always actively working. He is always protecting, always providing, always comforting and guiding. He disciplines those He loves, He is faithful to teach and encourage, He is always forgiving, redeeming, and the list goes on and on. Somehow in the back of our minds God’s love for us can get regulated to a feeling with no present action attached to it. It is what He did for us in the past or what He will do for us in the future, but in our present difficult situation His love can seem to be a feeling without action. But that is not true. That is never true.
Nothing can separate you from the action of God. From the work and presence of God. Nothing can separate you from His loving provision and protection. Nothing can separate you from the perfect love of God.
Go forth and take God at the fullest meaning of His word that you can humanly comprehend.