Effective Communication

By Tom Wacaster

In an attempt to combine last week’s “Tom’s Pen” with an update on Johnnie Ann’s health, I decided to send them both out in one email message, and included the following in the subject line of the email: “Gathered To His People” and update on Johnnie Ann. Nehemiah Gootam wrote back and said prior to the reading of entire email he thought the update on Johnnie Ann was that she had been “gathered to her people.” Talk about mis-communication!

Webster’s online dictionary defines ‘communication’ as “the act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviors to express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc., to someone else.” The late Guy N. Woods pointed out: “We communicate when we are understood, and we are understood only when our presentation is such that the listener or reader is able to grasp and to apprehend the words which clothe the thoughts we present.” Sometimes the failure to properly communicate can be disastrous. For example, a couple of New Jersey hunters are out in the woods when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn’t seem to be breathing, and his eyes are rolled back in his head. The other guy whips out his cell phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps to the operator, “My friend is dead! What can I do?” The operator, in a calm soothing voice says, “Just take it easy. I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.” There is a silence, then a shot is heard. The guy’s voice comes back on the line. He says, “OK, now what?”  Of course this story is fictitious, but I think it illustrates the point.

Effective communication, on the other hand, can convey ideas that can comfort, encourage, enlighten, and motivate. There is power in properly framed words and sentences. Men have been motivated to action, and brought to tears by effective communication. The power of communication can be seen in the effect the Bible has had upon mankind from the point in time when inspiration penned the first words of God’s communication to man. Some are now saying that man cannot understand the Bible; that a divine, holy Being of the nature of God has His “God-Talk” and man has “man-talk,” and thus it is impossible for communication to be effective between the Creator and the created. Those who espouse such a belief demonstrate their complete ignorance of the nature of God’s communication to man. Regarding such divine communication, consider the following.

First, the divine communication to man is SIMPLE. Shakespeare is credited with having said that “brevity is the soul of wit.” Effective communication is not determined by the size of the words one might use, or the number of words contained in a sentence. Most of the Bible contains simple sentences, short in length and basic in its grammar. Consider a few examples: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). “Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins” (Acts 2:38). “Except ye believe that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). Such examples could be multiplied. Scribbled on the wall of a theological institution many years ago were these words: “And Jesus said unto them, ‘Who do you say I am?’ and they replied, ‘You are the eschatological manifestation of the ground of our being, the kerygma in which we find the ultimate meaning of our interpersonal relationship.’ ‘And Jesus, with a quizzical look on his face, answered and said, ‘What?’”

Second, the divine communication to man is SOUND. By this I mean it is trustworthy. Solomon observed, “Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh” (Ecc. 12:12). Much of what is housed in the Library of Congress, or what you find on the book shelves at Barnes and Noble or Half-Priced Books is anything but sound. A casual perusal of the massive amount of religious material available on the internet reveals material that should be labeled, “Hazardous to your spiritual health!” Not so with the Bible. Evidence supports the absolute trustworthiness of God’s word. Hence the need to hold fast to sound doctrine (cf. 1 Tim. 1:10, 6:3, Titus 1:9, 2:1). Jesus declared that the word of God is “truth” (John 17:17). The Psalmist declared, “For all thy commandments are righteousness” (Psa. 119:172). A young man (or anyone for that matter) can cleanse his ways by “taking heed thereto according to thy word” (Psa. 119:9). It serves as the only safe guide for a “lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Psa. 119:105).

Third, the divine communication to man is STRAIGHTFORWARD. The word of God plays no favorites and shows no partiality. The sins of David are listed side by side with his strengths. The word of God is not politically correct, nor does it adapt itself to the changing times. It holds forth the hope of heaven, but as clearly and forcefully describes the horrors of hell. God is fair and impartial in giving us one book, one church, one Savior, and one plan of salvation. In His communication with man God has set forth the terms of salvation in a clear and concise manner, always straightforward and to the point.

Fourth, the divine communication to man is STABLE. It does not change or adapt its message to fit various situations. While it is true that the word of God is “living, and active” (Heb. 4:12b), it is not, as some would suggest, some kind of living document that is intended to adapt and change according to the whims of a society or the wishes of the sinful. This particular trait of God’s communication to man stands in stark contrast to the doctrine of continued and modern day revelations. If I believed in on-going revelation I could never be certain of my salvation, for what is true today might be outdated by tomorrow.

Finally, the divine communication to man is IN-SIGHTFUL. Where else can man learn of his origin? How can he possibly know where he came from, why he is here, or where he is going separate and apart from divine revelation? Without the divine communication to man each one of us would remain in darkness with regard to our spiritual being, the value of the soul, or the eternal habitations that await all men. How could we know what lies beyond the grave, were it not for the divine communication to man as contained in the Bible? Indeed, we could not. David stated it so well in the 19th Psalm: “The law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring the soul: The testimony of Jehovah is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of Jehovah are right, rejoicing the heart: The commandment of Jehovah is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of Jehovah is clean, enduring for ever: The ordinances of Jehovah are true, and righteous altogether” (Psa. 19:7-9). Paul prayed that the Ephesian brethren might be blessed by “having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of h is calling, what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to that working of the strength of his might” (Eph. 1:18-19). This can only be accomplished through the word.

Some years ago there was a popular sign that warned: “I know you think you understand what you think I am trying to say; but I don’t think you understand that what you thought I said is what I really meant.” I’m glad that cannot be said about the Bible.

“All time is insignificant in comparison with eternity. Time with all its rolling ages is scarcely a tiny bubble rocked upon the bosom of the sighing sea of eternity. Of course there may be many reasons why God has not furnished us in the Bible an illustration that would perfectly explain eternity. One reason - one that should be sufficient to satisfy us perfectly - is that we could never comprehend such an illustration. It is beyond the power of finite minds to  understand it. All the mental power of earth could not comprehend an illustration that would fitly portray eternity” (T.B. Larimore).