“Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.” James 3:3-10 (NKJV)
My husband spent time during the early years of our marriage in the U.S. Navy Submarine Service. The phrase “rig for silent running” had specific meaning to them. Whenever they were in a situation where they needed to remain invisible, they instituted certain procedures so that they would become undetectable. His area of service on the submarine was telecommunications and he went through an extensive background check in order to receive the required Top Secret Security Clearance. He knew how to keep things “secret.” Even to this day, he will not talk about most of what he did and experienced aboard that submarine.
We live in a culture where we are encouraged to “let it all hang out” (to borrow a phrase from my more youthful years). Discretion has pretty much gone by the wayside. You don’t have to go very far to get all the intimate details of people’s lives you don’t even know. The church has its own brand of this. We call it “transparency.” We are encouraged to ”make our lives an open book” at church, ostensibly as a means of accountability. Unfortunately, we are not particularly discerning in how, when, or with whom we do this. I can’t be the only one who has wanted to say: “Thank you for sharing, but I don’t really want to know you that well.”
Within the church, we add an additional element to those who do not wish to disclose: guilt and shame. For women especially, it is inferred that if you are not having frequent sharing sessions with your friends, there is a fundamental flaw in you; obviously you need to be “more transparent.”
Now, I believe in transparency. Transparency with God is essential (it’s not like He doesn’t know anyway); transparency with our spouse is imperative; transparency with those to whom we are spiritually accountable is critical; transparency with all others should be discerned. It is an unfortunate fact that not everyone can, or should, be trusted with many of the more personal details of our lives.
The ability to keep certain knowledge private is especially important if God has revealed something specific to us. He may be giving us hope for our future or an insight into someone’s situation so that we can effectively intercede in prayer. His revelations to us may, in fact, be a test of our character. Can we be trusted with this information? Will we wait patiently for God to bring it to fulfillment?
When God speaks, it is easy to believe that certainly He must mean “now.” But because He isn’t bound by time, He may actually be speaking about something decades in our future. Are we willing and able to keep our own counsel in the intervening time? I recently came across this quote by A. W. Tozer that means a lot to me:
“God plants His dream in a person’s heart and then molds the person to fit the dream. Even though the molding process seems to contradict the promise, the day comes when God moves His prepared person into His prepared place. . . and the dream becomes reality.”–A. W. Tozer
Spiritual growth is never linear; there are many “zigs and zags” in our journey. We often think we are ready for the next step, while God sees that we are not. He waits as we slowly work our way through the growth process into greater maturity. Each part of that process provides an opportunity for obedience to His Word, as we prove ourselves fit for His service. Just as we would not hand a set of car keys to our five-year-old son or daughter, God will not move us into the place of His purpose until we can handle the requirements; He makes certain that strength of character will support us when we get there. Otherwise, what He means as a blessing could easily become a vehicle for disaster.
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” Luke 16:10 (NIV)
In days past, people better understood the power of their words; they were far more cautious with them. We have since become inordinately careless. We have forgotten that God created the world by His Word and that we are made in His image. Like His Words, ours (whether written or spoken) are also containers for power: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). We have not rightly discerned the power of our words, and we need to. It is time to learn how to “rig for silent running” when it comes to what we say and how much we disclose to others. Just because something can be said, does not mean that it should be said. When we share experiences from our lives, it should have a definite purpose: to show how the grace of God has strengthened us and carried us through the dark times. Our conversations should bring honor and glory to Him and be an encouragement to others.
The time we spend in God’s Word, in prayer, and in worship refines us and defines us. “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 NKJV) It is His Word that separates the good from the garbage. It is by His grace and His power that we prove ourselves trustworthy (faithful servants) with what He reveals to us through His Word and by His Spirit. When we come to the end of our lives, we want to be able to look back and see that we have been faithful to that which He has entrusted to us. We want our words and our actions to have been a legacy of life, not one of death and destruction.
It is sobering that God would give us this kind of responsibility. It is time to pick up that mantle and faithfully execute it. It is time to prove ourselves trustworthy bond servants. It is time to make our words count for something. There is Kingdom business that must be accomplished before Jesus Christ returns for His bride.
“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Deuteronomy 29:29 (NKJV)
“A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.” Proverbs 29:11 (NKJV)
Copyright © 2011 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved