FINDING THE MOST POSITIVE AND ENCOURAGING WAY TO SAY IT (WEEK 6)
I. Introduction: We’re talking about how to C.R.A.F.T a message (collect and categorize, research and reflect, apply and arrange, fashion and flavor, trim and tie it together).
A. Today we are looking at fashioning and flavoring the way we say something that builds favor and faith.
“The Preacher sought to find delightful words…” (Eccl 12:10 NASB)
“The tongue of the wise make knowledge attractive.” (Proverbs 15:2)
“If words are to enter people’s hearts and bear fruit, they must be right words, cunningly shaped to pass defenses and explode silently and effectually within their minds.” (J.B. Phillips)
“Let your speech always be gracious seasoned with salt…” (Colossians 4:6 RSV)
B. In other words, it’s not just what you say; it’s how you say it that matters.
For example, when you give your order at Chick-Fil-A, they speak in a way that draws you in instead of shutting you out. Our words create atmospheres that either cause people to let their guard down or put their defenses up.
II. Reasons why this matters
A. Pleasant is persuasive. Another way of saying this, “If I’m abrasive I’m never persuasive.”
“The wise are known for their understanding, and pleasant words are persuasive.” Proverbs 16:21 (NLT)
“You catch more bees with honey than vinegar.”
1. It’s sad that in our culture the word “preach” has a negative connotation. People say, “Don’t preach at me; don’t give me a sermon.” People associate preaching with “scolding.” Why? Because the church has become known more for what they’re against than what they’re for.
How is it that the delivery of the most positive message ever heard is thought of in negative terms? Preachers have been guilty of majoring on the negatives. Could this be why many churches attract so many negative people? Jesus didn’t come across that way.
“The large crowd listened to him (Jesus) with great delight.” (Mark 12:37 NLT)
“…The Son of Man came enjoying life...” (Luke 7:34 JB Phillips)
“A cheerful heart is good medicine...” (Prov. 17:22 NIV)
The law of reaction is that negative deliveries naturally create negative responses. What you sow you reap. If you make people defensive, they will look for a reason to resist, put up walls or attack you. When you are trying to prove a negative point, you can almost never get to a positive solution. One reason why Scripture says, “do not return evil for evil.”
2. Focusing on the negative is especially unattractive to unbelievers.
Be tactful with those who are not Christians...Talk to them agreeably... Colossians 4:5-6 (JB Phillips)
Being positive doesn’t mean we water down the gospel; it just means we are polite and say things in a way that emphasize hope. Being negative is not an effective way to lead people to a positive gospel.
B. You don’t have to make people feel guilty. People already do. The gospel is not a message to bring remorse; it is a message to bring RELIEF.
“For I have not come to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved.” John 3:17
If people had 50 parking tickets, you wouldn’t invite them to the courthouse to listen to the judge tell them how lousy they drive; you would focus on how to help them solve the problem.
An example of how Jesus taught on worry in Matthew 6: He didn’t spend 20 minutes telling people how bad worry is. He gave 6 ways to have peace instead of worry.
Rick Warren describes negative preaching as pushing people into the pool and then at the end jumping in to rescue them. You don’t have to wake up guilt; people know they have it. You wake up hope.
One of our core values is that we believe it’s “the goodness of God that leads to repentance.” (Romans 2:4)
C. Under the new covenant of grace, the goal is to lead people to faith and not to shame. If we preach in a condemning way, we lead people towards a “works righteousness”. Trying to not be something only tends to lead you more towards being stuck doing it.
“The thing that I don’t want to do, I keep doing.” Romans 7: 15-20
The gospel doesn’t demand of you; it is a message of how Jesus replaces you.
“Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?... After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” Galatians 3:1-4
D. This means you teach repentance in the positive way. Repentance is a positive word. It doesn’t mean turn people to guilt and shame. It is God’s good news about how you can turn from guilt and shame, turn misery to hope and meaningless to purpose…
Repentance is not getting pushed into the mud; it’s the hand that lifts you out of the mud. Those who really understand repentance will say, “If I knew how amazing this was, I would’ve done it years ago.”
The message of repentance is positive life change. It doesn’t take a lot of emphasis on the negative to convince people that selfishness or hate isn’t working for people. Repentance is the message of how you can finally experience relief from all of the heavy burdens you have been carrying and come home to who you really were meant to be.
III. How you bring a positive message with a negative passage of Scripture and when you are speaking to people who feel negative in very negative situations
Teach it with a humble, loving attitude. We are not preaching Scripture at people; we are looking at Scripture with people. We are fellow strugglers. “One beggar telling another beggar where the bread is.”
1. We’ve got to come down from our “high horse” to where the people are. We don’t have to defend God or pretend we have all of the answers. We don’t have to be defensive. We don’t have to be negative or cynical and tear down other people or their points of view. We can even acknowledge that many people we disagree with have good motives. If we are going to represent Jesus, we need to take the chip off of our shoulder, and the log out of our eye.
2. We need to have the love in our hearts that Jesus had when we speak the words that Jesus spoke. We don’t deny the reality of Hell; we speak about it from the heart that says, “The Lord is not willing that any should perish.” The emphasis is not on how bad it is or how much people deserve it, but on how much Jesus did so that no one has to go there.
*It is interesting that Jesus never called anyone a sinner. He did call Pharisees, “White washed tombs-graves” with a bad make up job- to illustrate how disgusted God is with those who attempt to put up barriers to sinners who are seeking to find grace!
3. We never forget that our mission is to bring hope that leads people to a personal faith and a personal relationship with Jesus.
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have.” I Peter 3:15 NIV
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. Romans 15:4 NIV
4. Realize that our anticipation and expectation of people helps determine their participation or response. What you see is what you get. What you believe about people helps determine how they behave with you.
Jesus didn’t speak to horrible sinners; He spoke to lost sons who would come to their senses. Preach to the angels in people’s nature not the demons in people’s nature. Visualize dead bones coming to life (Ezekiel 37) or Lazarus coming out of the tomb.
When you believe something positive about someone, when they want to believe that about themselves, they will come towards you.
*Lady in prison- “I’m the most evil person you ever met!” I see a little girl who had her dreams crushed and had no one to hear her voice…
5. Realize the tone you set and the atmosphere you create sets the stage for what people hear. Great communicators think not just about what they want to say but how they want people to hear. People hear the gospel message best in an atmosphere of faith, hope, and love.
Faith is how I prayed!
Love is what they felt when they walked in the room or met us on the streets (love them to life).
Hope is what they hear and sense when the worship is lifted, the message is given and the invitation is offered. Here is a highway of hope, would you like to join us on the journey?
“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” Prov. 12:25 NIV
Thoughts about messages of hope.
a. The ultimate purpose of prophecy and preaching is to find gold under the dirt of a situation or in the heart of a person. We can look past and sift through tons of dirt for a little gold.
“But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging, and comfort.” I Cor. 14:3 NIV
Do you see there is nothing said about criticism in this passage? He says: BUILD UP, HOLD UP, AND FIRE UP by encouraging the socks off of people!
Dennis the Menace- “Hey Rev! Next Sunday, just for fun could you tell us what we’re doing right!”
Everyone you know is eager for you to tell them that. Jesus’ scathing rebuke of the Pharisees was that they pile on heavy bricks of what people should be and do, but don’t lift a finger to help them be that.
b. The best way to overcome a bad belief or idea someone has is to offer a better one! You don’t need to condemn and criticize to get a better idea across.
“My beloved friends, if you see a believer who is overtaken with a fault, the one who is in the Spirit should seek to restore him in the Spirit of gentleness. But keep watch over your own heart so that you won’t be tempted to exalt yourself over him.” Gal. 6:1 TPT
If you scold you may never get to the gold!
c. Always speak hope to broken hearts and you will always be relevant to whatever audience you are speaking because everybody’s hurting somewhere. Automatically assume one of your first jobs of the day is to help encourage someone to not GIVE UP! Someone is always wanting to give up somewhere.
d. Don’t just “tell it like it is”, TELL IT LIKE IT CAN BE. What you praise you raise! What you label you strengthen. Labeling just reinforces the negative place people already are in; you don’t want to put another lid on them.
If you tell or imply to someone that they are a “lousy dad”, you reinforce what they already believe. If you can say, I want to tell you how God sees you and I see you, “I see in you the potential to become an outstanding father. With God’s grace in your life and the Holy Spirit empowering you and the Word of God leading and guiding you, you could become the kind of man your wife would adore, that your children would respect and honor, that the community would hold up as a man of integrity, and you would be trusted and respected. I see in you the potential to become a great, great father!”
This is preaching for faith. It isn’t just preaching about what messes you up; it is speaking God’s MOTIVATION into someone’s life. Teaching for faith is better than teaching for criticism. Telling what can be is always better than telling it like it is. Our message is always ultimately about, “This is what God can do in your life. This is how Jesus will make a difference!”
e. Remember, you can never speak a true message of hope from a heart that is filled with hurt, hate, or hopelessness. Preach to yourself first-be sure to come to the altar at the end!
As people leave the service, we know we have won if we see in their eyes their burden is lighter and they have found more rest for their souls. You can celebrate if labels were taken off, yokes were made lighter, and people found the grace in Jesus to experience peace and rest at the point of their greatest grief.
“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.,” Matthew 11:28-30 NLT
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. Can you think of a time when encouraging words helped to bring life change to you- whether from a parent, teacher, coach, or pastor?
2. Comment on Proverbs 16:21- “Pleasant words are persuasive.” Take some time to discuss what kinds of words are persuasive. Discuss the difference between just a pleasing word, a smart word, or a persuasive word. Describe why sometimes people canbe “so right that they are just absolutely wrong,” Why in your mind do some people have right answers but you don’t want to listen to them?
3. Think of a conversation or message you are going to need to deliver soon. Give examples of how you might do this in a persuasive and pleasant way.