The inner self overflows with words that are spoken. (CEB)
The things people say come from inside them. (GNT)
For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (GW)
For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. (NLT)
For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (NRSV)
I’ve felt that I covered this theme before, but when I went to find it here, I couldn’t locate it. It’s a theme that turns up just about every week in my conversations with people about sharing their faith and passion for Christ, His church, the Bible, and so many other aspects of Christian living. That’s probably why I felt it was recorded here.
This week at Willow Creek, Bill Hybels shared several verses of scripture that are key for him and teaching pastor Steve Carter. Steve’s verse is Jeremiah 20:9
But if I say, “I will not mention his word
or speak anymore in his name,”
his word is in my heart like a fire,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
indeed, I cannot.
Eugene Peterson renders this in The Message:
But if I say, “Forget it! No more God-Messages from me!” The words are fire in my belly, a burning in my bones. I’m worn out trying to hold it in. I can’t do it any longer!
The NIV Study Bible notes that this one verse indicates two seemingly contradictory inclinations: a prophetic reluctance that is overcome by a divine compulsion.
Amos 3:8b reiterates this:
The Eternal Lord has been heard; His prophets can’t help but prophesy. (The Voice)
We see this also in Acts 4:20
As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (NIV)
And Paul reiterates this in 1 Cor. 9:16
Yet preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t preach the Good News!
I like the CEB on this:
…I’m in trouble if I don’t preach the gospel.
Many years ago I attended a church where it was common for people to stand up and give messages (prophecy, teaching, knowledge, wisdom, etc.) spontaneously. As a person who is always thinking, always pondering the scriptures, I once asked a friend, “How do you know that this is something you’re supposed to stand up and speak out loud to everyone?”
He — and notice it was a guy not a woman — said, “It’s like you’re pregnant with it. It has to come out. It has to be delivered. It has to be shared.”
Later, I began to hear people speak about ministry which comes out of the overflow of the heart. There is simply so much contained inside that it spills outside.
This reminded me of another analogy — this one I might have used before — of what it means to be filled with the Spirit. If you open the top of a can of soda pop, you can look inside and say that it’s filled. The contents fill the entire can. There is no room for any more.
But what it means to be filled changes if you put your thumb over the opening and then shake up the contents. What was filled spills out. It overflows.
So it is with our verbal proclamation. Whether evangelism, encouragement, or even rebuke, it has to come from somewhere. There needs to have been some point where content was poured into our lives. But then, when shaken, the contents overflow.
Matthew Henry says of the Amos passage:
They [the prophets] are so full of those things themselves, so well assured concerning them, and so much affected with them, that they cannot but speak of them; for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth will speak.
Their prophetic reluctance is overcome…
…And Bill Hybels’ own similar verse of scripture? 1 Cor. 15:58, with which we close today:
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (NIV)