Words Fitly Spoke

Proverbs 25:11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.

On Saturday evening I was rereading the Paul Tripp chapter for CG, preparing to lead the discussion Sunday evening. As I was concluding my preparation it occurred to me that I had spent all of my preparation with an eye towards applying it to those in my Care Group and little or no time with an eye towards applying it to my own life. In the end this proved to be the application of the material to my life. I realized that it is easy to think because I am counseling and teaching others the truths of God’s Word that I have applied these truths to my own life. If I am not watchful, this pattern can lead me to the habit of wearing a mask of holiness before others while growing very little in actual holiness.

This morning I was reading Lectures to My Students by C.H. Spurgeon. As I read, I came across this quote, which sums up the experience I had preparing for CG.

“No man preaches his sermon well to others if he doth not first preach it to his own heart.”

As I was meditating on this quote and examining my preparation for CG, an image came to mind. I don’t know how many of us actually listen to the pre-flight instruction given by airline stewards and stewardesses, but each time, along with instructions on how to buckle your safety belt and use your seat as a flotation device, they give instructions on how to use the oxygen masks, should there be a sudden loss of cabin pressure. Their instruction is to always place the oxygen mask over our own face before attempting to help others around us. The idea being, what help will we be to others, if we lose consciousness ourselves.

I think this is an apt illustration for how I am to apply truth to my life. Before I seek to apply truth to other’s lives, I would do well to first seek to apply these truths to my own heart. After all, how effective will my care for others be, if I am neglecting to care for my own soul first? It is quite possible for me to hear truth, acknowledge it as true, and then move to apply this truth to others, all the while never actually taking the time to apply it to my own heart.

This quote in no way discourages me from bringing truth to bear in other’s lives. What this quote encourages me to do is to apply truth to my own heart as quickly and as vigorously as I would seek apply truth to someone else’s heart.

Think how this would transform my ability to care for others around me. First, I would be far less likely to speak with a self-righteous attitude. When I have been convicted in a particular area and am working through an issue in my own heart I am far more likely to come alongside a fellow believer than I am to speak down to a fellow believer. It is hard to speak from on high if I have recently been brought low under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Secondly, imagine how much more effective my words would be if others were keenly aware that I am speaking out of experiential knowledge rather than an abstract truth held outside of myself.

Mutual care requires me to share thoughts and observations with others. However, I believe I would be far more effective in this endeavor if I first placed the oxygen mask over my own face and breathed deeply the oxygen rich air of self-examination and conviction before I seek to help others do the same.

“No man preaches his sermon well to others if he doth not first preach it to his own heart.”

[posted by Nick Swan]