The doctor’s office called last week. It’s time for my annual checkup. But before the visit with the physician, I was instructed to drop in on the lab in the hospital next Monday for a “blood workup.”
I’ve done it before and know the routine.
So, tomorrow morning, I’ll skip breakfast and the usual two cups of Community Coffee and head down to Ochsner’s Foundation Hospital first thing. It’s a short drive and a quick procedure. They’ll push up my sleeve, insert a needle into a vein, and drain off a few samples of my blood in vials. The lady will slap a band-aid on the wound and send me on my way. I will have been there for a total of 10 minutes, max.
Two weeks later, Dr. Robert Miles will tell me all about myself. What my cholesterol level is, both good and bad, and whether the thyroid stuff I take needs to be adjusted in strength, and numerous other details which escape me now. (Hey, I’m a preacher, not a medical person.)
Fascinating how they can take a sip of one’s blood and learn a hundred things about us.
Actually, it’s not so odd. You and I live by that principle, that we can learn a lot about a subject by a small sample.
We do it with books all the time. I stand in the bookstore and pick up something that looks interesting and open the flyleaf. The summary on the inside is usually sufficient for me to decide if it’s what I am looking for. Barring that, I’ll open it and read the first few pages.
A pastor friend said last week, “I recall you saying to me that if after 100 pages I’m not interested in the outcome of a book, it’s perfectly all right to close it and go on to something else.”
I laughed, “I’ve changed my mind. Now, it’s 5 pages!”
Cooks do this in the kitchen. They take a sip and decide if the soup needs more of something.
Diners do it. We sample what our friend is having to decide if we want to order that.
Turning the radio dial, you don’t listen to half a song before deciding to move on. A few bars is ample.
The reason most of us surf the television channels so quickly is that we can tell in a couple of nanoseconds if this program is something we want to watch.
The question before us today, class, is CAN WE DO THIS WITH PEOPLE? Is it possible to spend only a very brief time with someone and know if we want to know them better or not at all?
So, what are the clues? What is the element of their lives that we will be slicing off and peering at under the microscope in order to make this critical conclusion?
We will pay attention to what they say and how they say it.
Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, a few minutes of listening to them talk will inform us sufficiently to make this decision. Once in a while, perhaps, we’ll need more time. But usually, this is a quick process.
In most cases, we can make a decision to leave the person alone quicker than we can conclude we want to know him/her better. That’s because the traits that turn us off stand out more than the ones that draw us in.
–He’s using profanity. That usually does it.
–She’s telling a smutty story. I’m gone.
–They’re running someone down and are angry about it. Ditto.
–They’re crude, rude, lewd.
–Their talk is boring, no matter what the subject. We decide to move on.
I believe this was what the Lord had in mind when He told the disciples, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witnesses, slanders. These are the things that defile a man” (Matthew 15:19-20).
If the heart is the reservoir for all of life, then we can take a small sample of the heart’s produce by catching a few words and analyzying them.
Jesus said, “The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matthew 12:34).
That’s why He cautioned, “By your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned” (Matthew 12:37).
Our words tell the tale. They reveal our character.
David knew this. He said, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
In fact, the Scripture–particularly the Psalms–are filled with such prayers, admonitions, and warnings.
“Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3).
“Words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious, while the lips of a fool consume him” (Ecclesiastes 10:12).
“If any man does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect (mature) man, able to bridle the whole body as well” (James 3:2).
Let us pray.
“Father, may my words reveal that You are alive and well inside my life, in control of all I do. May I be salt and my words seasoned with grace so that those who hear may find themselves irresistibly drawn to Thee. May all who love you and hear my words love you all the more as a result. Through Jesus Christ. Amen.”