September 8, 2013

Talk, Talk, Talk – Philip Strong

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

Dr. Stephen R. Covey, famed author of and lecturer on “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” said, “You cannot talk yourself out of problems you behave yourself into.”  (Emphasis added, PCS).  While I believe Dr. Covey was entirely correct in the “bigger picture view” of personal accountability and growth, the truth of his statement sure doesn’t seem to alter the modus operandi for a lot of us!  Attempting to “talk our way out of problems” is the standard operating procedure for a world of people who believe saying “I’m sorry” will fix anything and everything.  This view is somewhat infantile and very naïve.  Proffering an apology and/or a list of excuses meant to either justify our actions, or negate culpability for them, simply does not correct behavioral issues.  What we say may mitigate some consequences of our actions in a few cases, but does nothing to correct the underlying problem.  While the acknowledgment of responsibility coupled with a sincere apology is absolutely the right starting point, the real solution is changed behavior – not an endless stream of apologies and excuses. 
There are a few examples that will well illustrate the principle that we cannot talk ourselves out of problems that have a behavioral cause.Broken Promises in Relationships- We can apologize and attempt to justify or excuse ourselves all we want, but our relationships with friends, children, or even co-workers, bosses, or employees are often irreparably damaged when we fail, or repeatedly fail, to keep our word. 
Broken Trust in Marriage- One of the most heart-rending questions I have been asked had to do with how to rebuild trust in a marriage once it had been broken by infidelity.  Even the truly penitent, who want nothing more than to “go back” to where they were in their marriage before the offence, have to understand that trust cannot be rebuilt with mere words of promise or apology- it takes patient and consistent trustworthy actions.
Broken Fellowship with Brethren- While godly brethren are usually eager to forgive and reinstate into fellowship an erring brother or sister who sincerely confesses fault and seeks forgiveness- and rightfully so, the worthiness of that clemency is necessarily proven over time by his continued fruits (actions) of repentance.
But aside from these relational issues, the most important application of the principle that we cannot talk our way out of problems our behavior has caused concerns our salvation – our relationship with God that has been severed by sin (cf. Isaiah 55:8-9).  John the Baptist didn’t tell wayward Jews what to say to return to favor with God, he told them what they needed to do- “Therefore bring forth fruits in keeping with your repentance; and do not say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’” Matthew 3:8-9.  On the day of Pentecost, those convicted of having killed the Messiah didn’t ask what to say, but what to do to be forgiven of their guilt of sin.  They asked, “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins…” in v.38.  Saul of Tarsus, that feared persecutor of the early church, when he became aware that he was fighting against rather than for God, was not told what to say, but what to do.  He had spent three days saying prayers through which he undoubtedly sought guidance and forgiveness, but when the Lord’s prophet Ananias came, he simply told him what he needed to do- “And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord,” Acts 22:16. 
None of these examples are given to minimize the importance of confessing sin, or saying, “I’m sorry for my sin”- either to others, or to God. These are certainly good and proper initial steps. But they are provided to further emphasize the point that problems or situations caused by behavior (in this case, “sin”) have solutions that involve more than just talk- they require action.  Biblical, saving faith is not accomplished with words, but actions, James 2:14-17.  True understanding and wisdom is not demonstrated by what we say, but what we do, James 3:13.  And “pure and undefiled religion” is not the result of our words, but the practice of God’s Word, James 1:26-27!  Now, are you trying to talk your way out of the rightful consequences of your behavior, or are you willing to rebuild proper relationships with God and others by consistently and faithfully doing the right things? 

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