Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:11, NASB95)
In a high school English composition class I remember coming across a phrase in one of my texts that I wrote down, spent considerable time memorizing, and then annoying others reciting. Here is at least a portion of it: “When promulgating your esoteric cogitations or articulating your superficial sentimentalities and amicable, philosophical, or psychological observations, beware of platitudinous ponderosity. Let your conversational communications demonstrate a clarified conciseness, a compact comprehensibleness, no coalescent conglomerations of precious garrulity, jejune bafflement and asinine affectations” (attributed to Mark Twain). After over forty years I realized that I probably was a bit off on what I remembered, so I looked it up on the internet where I was surprised to see how much I remembered. But what does it mean and what’s its purpose? What did I really say? It’s simple. When speaking say what you mean, mean what you say, and don’t use big and complicated words.
Both in the Bible and in life today we can all be tempted to try to impress others such that we receive adulation (praise) for what we either say or do. This was true of the Pharisees with whom Jesus contended, and it can certainly be true to today in our highly competitive circles of self-promotion and our smaller circles of looking good before others. But here in our passage today we find that Peter instructs us to live differently. Though we all enjoy to varying degrees being recognized or encouraged for having done good, the praise of others is not to be our motive for action.
In Colossians chapter 3, Paul wrote, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (Colossians 3:17, NASB95) Then a few verses later he added, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” (Colossians 3:23–24, NASB95) Then in 1 Corinthians 10:31 we add, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31, NASB95)
“Whatever” is a huge word. It is not a complicated or hard to understand word. It is just a big word because of its scope. It is a word that includes everything that fits into the category to which it applies. Here in Colossians it has to do with our words and deeds. Every single word and every single deed, without regard to how big or how seemingly small it might be, is to be done in the name of Jesus and for God’s glory. We are to be mindful that it is Him that we serve.
Beyond that, we are to also be mindful that He is the One that makes us able and that He is sovereign over our circumstances. In 2 Timothy 3:17 we read that He is the one that makes us “adequate, equipped for every good work.” And in Ephesians 2:10 we read, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10, NASB95) God is the One who created us. He drew us to Himself for salvation. He ordained the path of our steps and He even prepared the works for us to do well before we ever recognized the need. He is the One who takes the talents He’s given us, the skills we have gained through the strength and knowledge He has enabled us with, and even the special supernatural gifting of the Spirit for each of us to be used to do these things.
Many years ago, in college, I was involved with Campus Crusade for Christ. The primary tool we used for evangelism was the “Four Spiritual Laws,” which they have now reworked into, “Would You Like to Know God Personally? The first Principle (formerly called “Law”) is, “God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life.” The starting place was letting people know that God loved them and that He was intimately aware of them and cared about their lives. More than that, He had a plan for their lives. This is what we read in Scripture as in the passages just cited. God is behind our whole package, and He has a plan for its unfolding throughout our lives. God loves us and He is intimately involved with us.
In our passage for today we read that when we speak we are doing so as ambassadors of God, and as such we are to speak with the awareness that our words match the reality of who God is and who we are in Christ. This implies, but is stated more clearly elsewhere in Scripture, that we be people of His Word. In order to speak the words of God we need to know the Word of God. And then, as we speak it we do so with the prayerful expectation that He will work in and through those words. This does not mean that we always quote a Bible verse, but it does mean that our words reflect not only His truths but also His character in the way that they are delivered. Paul put it this way in Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (Colossians 4:6, NASB95) Then he also asked the readers of his Ephesians leader to pray for him, writing, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel,” (Ephesians 6:18–19, NASB95)
Similarly, when we act around others they see not only our actions, but the attitude we display in doing them. As such we are to serve not only with the recognition of who we serve but also in the power that He gives us to serve. Sometimes this service is uncomfortable and it requires doing when we would otherwise not be doing. It might even require us to pause and adjust our attitude, as we look to God and the opportunity to serve Him that has been laid before us.