Words Which Explain Actions . . . .

Hopes, Dreams, Faith         Words Which Explain Actions

There are certain words that emphasize and/or describe human actions.  Having a list of such words can help generate content as you prepare a message.

Sometimes they are the English verbs designed to describe the nature of human activity.  At other times they are just words or phrases which are associated with human actions and activity.

These verbs, words, or phrases can . . . .

  • capture
  • explain
  • clarify
  • emphasize
  • intensify
  • flag
  • illuminate
  • punch
  • amplify
  • define

. . . . an idea when the speaker is engaged in exhortation or application.

. . . . the cause, nature, or variety of men’s actions.


I was reminded of such words as I was listening to Craig Parschall, a Christian attorney, husband of Janet Parschall (she is a host on Moody Radio), who was speaking about modern technology and its ability to be used to spread the Gospel.  He stated . . . .

We are the first generation – or at least I should say we’re the first century – where we know that we have the technology to reach (the world) – now maybe not the will, that has yet to be determine, maybe not the commitment and we have to work on that, but we have the technology to reach every tribe, tongue, nation of the world.

When I heard those two words — “will” & “commitment” — I was again reminded as to how such words work together in describing human activity.  For instance, I could use those words and say . . . .

We have been given the power, but we may not have the will or the commitment to make it happen on the mission field.

You or I may well be interested in seeing our neighbor come to Christ, but we may lack the will to make it happen, or the commitment to work at it consistently.

There are those in ministry who have the will and commitment to make a difference in their area of the “battle,” but lack the resources, and we can, if we want to, provide those resources.


Let’s add some more words to this list . . . .

  • will
  • commitment
  • interest
  • concern
  • ability
  • resources
  • opportunities
  • taste for
  • desire to
  • determination
  • seriousness
  • endurance
  • mettle
  • courage
  • resolve
  • willpower
  • inclination to
  • enthusiasm
  • passion
  • backbone
  • curiosity
  • concern
  • urgency
  • care for
  • importance
  • attention to
  • involvement in
  • intended
  • determine
  • willingly
  • reluctantly
  • passionate about
  • willfully
  • unaverse to
  • decided to
  • initiated but
  • receptive to
  • investment in


There are also verbs that capture or define the actions or decisions of men. They are called “modal verbs” and indicate “likelihood, ability, permission, and obligation.”  Some of these verbs are . . . .

  • would
  • should
  • could
  • will
  • shall
  • can
  • ought to
  • must
  • have to
  • may
  • might
  • want
  • used to
  • dare / dare not
  • ought not
  • had better / had better not
  • need to
  • need not

Or these contracted verbs . . . .

  • won’t
  • can’t
  • wouldn’t
  • couldn’t
  • shouldn’t
  • wouldn’t
  • couldn’t
  • shouldn’t


Or we could use such phrases as . . . .

  • you’re qualified
  • you’re suited
  • you have the temperament
  • you have the gifts/ability
  • you have the opportunities
  • you have the preparation/education
  • you’re fitted / eligible
  • you’re competent
  • you’re positioned
  • had better
  • had best
  • beholden to
  • obligated to
  • required to
  • obligated / have got to
  • have a duty to


Or words which describe the causes of men’s action, such as. . . .

  • unwilling
  • refuse
  • dismiss
  • reject out of hand
  • insist
  • unintentionally
  • intentionally
  • willfully blind to
  • mistaken
  • accidental
  • overlooked
  • forgot
  • available
  • ignored
  • missed
  • oversight
  • purposeful
  • inadvertent
  • voluntary
  • involuntarily
  • wanted to
  • willing
  • interested in
  • passionate about
  • unavailable


These words capture the causes of human action and can be used to exhort or challenge others concerning their activity, or lack thereof.

Okay . . . let’s give it a try . . .

“With some, it is not that you can’t, it is that you won’t!”

“Some of you can, but the fact is you won’t!”

“You should, and you could do that.”

“You could and you should, but you aren’t interested in it enough.”

“You dismiss it, but you should take that step and . . . ”

“You can walk down that road, but you shouldn’t and you already know that you shouldn’t.”

“You have the ability.  You have the talents, but not the commitment.”

“You have the ability, but not the availability.”

“You could see it, but you refuse to see it.”

“With some, it is not mistaken, it is intentional.”


These words can express, grab, and point to the motivations of activity and give clarity to our activity  – why he/she/they are . . . or  . . . why he/she/they are not.


Another example:

My Ph.D. dissertation involved a comparison between martial and rhetorical theory — (martial,  not marital — Martial or war theory as classically taught by Karl Von Clausewitz).  Is there a difference in logic or just language when it comes to fighting a war and rhetorically arguing for a position?

War theory states that there must be both a will and resources for a nation to pursue or engage in war, and if either one is “0” there will be no war.  There must be both some will and some resources on the part of a nation –  we are assuming a rational nation or person  – if they are going to get into a war.

Those two words, “will” and “resources,” can be used to make a biblical point . . . .

“Some of God’s people or churches have the resources, but not the will.  Some of God’s people or churches have the will but lack the necessary resources.  The Lord will supply the resources where there is a will, but when there is not a will, there is no need to supply the resources – Psalm 78:9.

You can see how those two words — will and resources — which explain human activity, can work together.  They can give clarity, emphases, or intensity to a biblical point you may be making.


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