Knowing When to Speak Up and Knowing When to Shut It
October 6, 2016
Here is an issue I struggle with. And it is a wisdom issue. It’s strange to realize that, because the wisdom I’m speaking about is the proper times to share wisdom. I’m finding this is getting more difficult as I am parenting teenagers. They don’t always appreciate their mom and dad’s wisdom like I thought they would. It’s difficult to know the best timing, the best words, and the best opportunities to share it. This is especially true when it comes to the spiritual truths that we so want to encourage and exhort them in. It’s also the case with other family members or friends. It’s an important art in being a good wife as well. There’s a fine line between being helpful and being a nag.
And then there’s me. I struggle with not wanting to hear wisdom when it is inconvenient for me. And part of that wisdom is that it’s not all up to me. I’m not God.
This is where I received some unexpected wisdom from Liam Goligher’s sermon series on Esther. It wasn’t unexpected to receive wisdom from Liam, but I got some bonus wisdom in his rabbit trails. I highly recommend that you listen to the series.
When he got to the part where Mordecai advises Esther not to reveal her Jewish ancestry, Liam shared, “God gave to her the wisdom that she needed to survive.” He then talked about his frustration in reading a commentator who taught that Esther didn’t have the courage to take a stand for her faith. He refuted this teaching saying, “This teenager, who is on her own and surrounded in an armed camp by soldiers, doesn’t stand a chance.”
And then Liam dropped that wisdom that is hard for me to learn: “Sometimes the way of wisdom is not to say anything until the appropriate time.”
He turns to Peter, who gives wisdom to wives with unbelieving husbands: “Win them without words.” This is such a difficult text. Without words? The gospel is an announcement. Christians are people of the Word. And we know that our lives are not the gospel. But they should adorn the gospel. People often use this “without words” argument as a pass to not take a stand for the truth of God’s word when we really should, or to not bother sharing the gospel if we just lead good lives. But Liam explains the wisdom of a patient faith that waits on the Lord for the right time to speak:
“If you’re in a close personal friendship with people or in a marriage, or at home with parents, or siblings who are not Christians, you rabbiting on all the time about Jesus is really going to get up their nose and make them more hostile to Jesus. In close relationships like that, you’re better to wait, and Peter goes on to say this actually further down that chapter…wait until you’re asked and then be ready to say something. Wait until you’re asked. And Esther was given the wisdom to wait.
We need that wisdom to wait as well, “especially when you are living with people everyday, and especially when the people you’re with aren’t believers."
“The great temptation that we face as Christian people is to talk too much, and to talk a lot about spiritual things to people who are not ready to hear it too much. And when you’re up close and personal, whether it’s with your unbelieving husband or your children who are going through a rebellious period in their teens and they don’t want to talk about anything, the danger is that you let your mouth run with it and you start talking. And what you do is you push them away, make life harder for them, you wish them to wish they don’t want to be there anymore because you’re talking too much and forcing it on them. What we find in Esther, what we find in Mordecai, is that they learn the wisdom, the wisdom that Joseph learned, as he quietly slips into Egyptian life, the wisdom of Moses in the court of Pharaoh growing up, of Daniel in Babylon, and of Paul before the Roman empire, showing respect and wisdom before the powers that be.
But we don’t just stay quiet forever. Esther didn’t stay quiet either. Liam reminds us that Peter didn’t stop with “without words.” “Until you get to the place where your speaking will make the maximum impact….’always being ready to give a reason for the hope you have to anyone who asks you.' …Answer their questions, but be careful not to besiege them with your ideas at inappropriate moments.”
This is hard for me. And yes, there are differences when we are communicating with believers and unbelievers. I often struggle the most with the right times to speak with believers at different levels of maturity. With teenagers in the house, it’s a different dynamic than it is with young children or with adults. I still need to remember that they are not ready to hear some of the deeper spiritual truths that I’m ready to share. Trust me, I wish they were. But God knows more than I do, and I need to be sensitive to their maturity levels. Again, there’s a fine line between responsible, godly parenting, and forcing “wisdom” on them.
And that is why I am so thankful for the Christian practices that we share. We are blessed to be called out of the world and into the assembly of the saints every Sunday to hear God speak to us through the preached Word. And God’s word is active and powerful, not just for mature Christians or for new converts, but for all of us in between. I’m thankful for the nourishment we receive in all the sacraments. I’m thankful for the practices of Sunday school and bible study that our church offers, and how that is a regular part of life for the Christian. I’m thankful for the support and encouragement from my brothers and sisters in the Lord. And I’m thankful for family devotions, prayers together, and all those bedtime tuck-in moments that shape us. I’m thankful that I can ask for wisdom and the Lord promises to give it. Most of all, I’m thankful that even when I blow it (which is more often than I’d like to think) by running my mouth too much or not speaking up when I should, I’m not the one whom God is counting on to save and sanctify my children, my family, or my friends. It’s a blessing that I get to be a part of it, but I’m learning about a patient faith that waits on the Lord for my own sanctification and all those he loves.