Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Gentle and Quiet Spirit

Just a note . . . this post on a gentle and quiet spirit is an expanded and edited version of a writing that was posted shortly after this blog began . . .

In Scripture, God has given many specific instructions to women regarding her inward heart and character as well as how this is to be expressed in her outward demeanor. These passages of Scripture together paint a beautiful picture of what a godly woman is to be like.

One of these sections, found in 1 Peter 3, is always so convicting to my heart, especially verses 3-4 . . .

Your adornment must not be merely external – braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

Often when reading these verses, the question comes to mind . . . what do these words really mean? What would these qualities look like lived out in daily life? How would these be implemented? When looking at the meanings of the words, it brings a deeper understanding of what our adornment, this gentle and quiet spirit, is to be like.

The word “gentle” (or "meek" as used in the King James Version) is translated from the Greek word ‘praus’ which means, simply, “gentle, mild, meek” (from Vine’s Expository Dictionary.) 

Gentle” is also defined by Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language as “mild; meek; soft; not rough, harsh or severe”, and “meek” is defined as “mild of temper; soft; gentle; not easily provoked or irritated; yielding; given to forbearance under injuries.” 

Vine’s Expository Dictionary adds another element to this word ‘meek’ as it defines it as “gentle, of a soothing disposition” and that “Meekness is the opposite of self-assertiveness and self-interest; it is equanimity of spirit that is neither elated nor cast down, simply because it is not occupied with self at all.”

As ladies, then, we should strive to be calm, having a soothing nature in spirit. Our voice should be gentle and calm not loud, boisterous, rough or hard. Our words should be ones of humility and gentleness, soft and kind (though not to be misunderstood as compromising or weak.) Speaking the truth in love with mildness and gentleness. Not seeking to satisfy and please ourselves, but seeking to serve and bless others (Philippians 2:3-8.)

By the definition, another aspect of meekness is to be “neither elated, nor cast down.” These are two extremes . . . when things go well, one soars and is exuberant and elated. Then when things do not go as one plans, one crashes and has a downcast face and spirit. But the young lady with a gentle/meek spirit will not have these extremes in her character. 

Instead it will be: when things go well, she praises the Lord; when things do not go well, she praises the Lord. She rests and trusts in the Lord knowing that He will work in both of the circumstances for His glory.

The second word used here in 1 Peter 3 to describe the spirit that God desires women to have is the word “quiet.” “Quiet” is translated from the Greek word ‘hesuchios’ which means to be “tranquil.” ‘Hesuchios’ is also a form of the Greek word ‘hesuchos’ which means “still, quiet” (taken from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.) 

This word is further defined by Vine’s Expository Dictionary in which it is said that ‘hesuchios’ “indicates ‘tranquility arising from within’ causing no disturbance to others.” A tranquility that arises from within . . . this is from a heart that is abiding in Christ and resting on His promises. It is a heart that has a heavenly mindset instead of an earthly one . . . a heart that is fixed on pleasing the Lord instead of pleasing self.

Going back to the word ‘quiet’, we find that it is a word that is closely associated with meekness, and it refers to the spirit or disposition of a person. Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defines ‘quiet’ (as used in 1 Peter 3:3-4) as “peaceable; not turbulent; not giving offense; not exciting controversy, disorder or trouble; mild; meek; contented.”

The words used to define this ‘quietness’ do much to describe and expound on what the “imperishable quality” consists of . . .

Peaceable: Christ promises His peace to His children, not as the world gives, but a peace which passes all understanding (John 14:27, Philippians 4:7.) We are exhorted to “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,” (Colossians 3:15.) This peace should reside in one’s heart no matter how terrible or heart-wrenching the circumstances. 

The spirit of one resting in Christ will not be turbulent when trials or difficulties arise, but will respond with calmness and tranquility, trusting in the Lord. This peace comes in knowing that our God is in control; that He loves us; that He is upholding us with His righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10); and that He “causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28.)

Not giving offense: It is important that we not be a stumbling block or an offense to others by not having this special quality of a gentle and quiet spirit being exhibited in our lives. (Again, this is not to be confused with compromising the truth.) 

We are to be “giving no offense in anything so that the ministry will not be discredited” (2 Corinthians 6:3), and “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18.) One thought given in Vine’s Expository Dictionary is that ‘offense’ refers to something which leads others into error or sin. If we are exhibiting the opposite of a gentle and quiet spirit, this could easily happen as others respond to us.

Not exciting controversy, disorder or trouble: A woman with a gentle and quiet spirit which is precious in the sight of God will not be argumentative as she will be one who does not assert her own will or desires. She will be one who responds to others with a gentle and calm voice and a smile on her face. She will seek to be clothed with true humility, recognizing that Christ has commanded her to put others before herself, and because of this, her heart will seek to be obedient to Him. 

We are to be lowly in our own estimation for God has commanded us to “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves,” (Philippians 2:3) and to “Be devoted to one another [i.e. brothers and sisters in the Lord] in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;” (Romans 12:10.)

Mild: The definition of ‘mild’ fits so well with having a gentle and quiet spirit. One of the defining words is ‘tender’. When you think of this word in relation to ladies, what do you see? I see a gentleness, patience, love, calmness, femininity and grace. Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language includes in the definition words such as: gentle in temper or disposition; kind; compassionate; merciful; calm; tranquil; not stern; not frowning. 

Contented: As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to be content. ‘Content’ is being joyful in whatever circumstances that the Lord has placed one in. No matter how lonely the life, no matter how little the physical possessions, no matter how diseased the body, we are called to be content. 

Paul stated this so well in Philippians 4:11, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” As we see here, contentment is not something that just ‘happens’. We need with purposeful intent to, like Paul, learn to be content in our present circumstances. To learn to be truly thankful for wherever God has placed us in life, joyfully knowing that His hand will guide and lead us as we trust and rest in Him. 

Having a gentle and quiet spirit encompasses so many of the other qualities that God has commanded women to have. If gentleness and quietness were ours and increasing, would not it be so much easier to respond with a submissive spirit? (1 Timothy 2:11-12; Titus 2:5). To eagerly help and serve our families? To be a helpmeet to your husbands if you are married? (Genesis 2:18; 1 Corinthians 11:9) To be modest in our dress, in our words and in our actions? (1 Timothy 2:9-10) The answer is most assuredly “Yes!”

What a beautiful picture all of this paints of godly womanhood, and this gentle and quiet spirit is precious in the sight of God. By exhibiting it, we bring joy and honor to our Lord, our Savior. What greater thing can we give Him, but ourselves walking in obedience to Him?

May each one of us day by day seek to put off the flesh and clothe ourselves more with Christ. May we, as ladies of God, earnestly desire and strive to become ones who are characterized by having this beautiful and imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit which is precious in our Lord’s sight . . . and all to the glory of God.

-Posted by Sarah

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Psalm of Praise

When reading several Psalms this morning, this particular one was a blessing to me, and I thought that it may also be to you, too . . .

Psalm 145
A Psalm of Praise of David

"I will extol You, my God, O King,
And I will bless Your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless You,
And I will praise Your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised,
And His greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall praise Your works to another,
And shall declare Your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of Your majesty
And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.
Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts,
And I will tell of Your abundant goodness
And will shout joyfully of Your righteousness.

The LORD is gracious and merciful;
Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.
The LORD is good to all
And His mercies are over all His works.
All your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD,
And Your godly ones shall bless You.
They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom
And talk of Your power;
To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts
And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and Your dominion endures throughout all generations.

The LORD sustains all who fall
And raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to You,
And You give them their food in due time.
You open Your hand
And satisfy the desire of every living thing.

The LORD is righteous in all His ways
And kind in all His deeds.
The LORD is near to all who call upon Him,
To all who call upon Him in truth.
He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;
He will also hear their cry and save them.
The LORD keeps all who love Him,
But all the wicked He will destroy.
My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD,
And all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever."

-Posted by Sarah

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Rejoicing in Persecutions

This is an area that has recently come up in Leah and I’s lives and has given rise once again to thought and examination of Scripture to refresh and teach my heart in how one should respond to persecution. 

Through the years, our family has experienced persecution, but it was not often directed towards me personally, but to our family as a whole. This past week, though, Leah and I went through having slanderous and false things being said about us and to us (thankfully our Dad stepped in and took upon himself the brunt of this - how thankful and grateful I am for his protection and love!)

I wish that I could say that my heart responded appropriately to all of this. Unfortunately, there was a struggle in my heart to respond as the Lord has called me to! 

For me, the tendency is to want to defend myself, to prove that the things being said are not true . . . and yes, even the stirrings of frustration and indignation began in my heart. 

Yet Christ presents a very different picture than this, a very different response. He has commanded that when reviled and falsely accused, we are to bless in return; when being hit on one cheek, to turn the other; to forgive immediately and completely.

When reading Scripture, we see that persecution often comes from those who are ‘religious’ people, even those who may bear the name of ‘Christian’. This was evidenced in Christ’s time on earth with the Pharisees, and is also shown in many of the writings of the apostles. 

In Scripture, we are also promised that persecution and revilings will come upon those who are following Christ. For “if they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you;” (John 15:20), and again, “Indeed all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

Those are not very comforting thoughts when looking at it from an earthly perspective (which is so easy to do!). But God has instructed us to "rejoice" and "be glad" amidst such things (Matthew 5:10). It always has convicted my heart to hear of the apostles’ response after receiving floggings and other persecutions simply for proclaiming the gospel. 

When reading in Acts, we find that they were “rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). They were rejoicing after being beaten and threatened! What could cause such a response? What could so affect the heart to respond in a completely contrary manner than that which is natural? 

The only answer is that it comes from the Lord as one trusts and relies upon Him. The Lord is faithful, and as we seek and rest in Him, He will give us the strength to endure whatever He allows to come upon us.

In Isaiah, it is exhorted “Do not fear the reproach of man, nor be dismayed at their revilings” (Isaiah 51:7b). We need not fear nor be dismayed for our hope and peace is not in this world nor in pleasing men, but in honoring and serving the Lord. This is what truly matters, not our reputation, not what others think or say about us, and not what pain and suffering we go through.

It is important to bear in mind what our Lord and Savior endured . . . Christ, the perfect and holy Son of God, was reviled, persecuted and put to death. Yet how did He respond?

“. . . and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to the One who judges righteously;” (1 Peter 2:23)

And as He hung upon the cross, He forgave and entreated His Father to forgive them also (Luke 23:34). In Christ is our perfect example. How He responded is how we too should respond, for just prior to the verse shared from 1 Peter, it is said: “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).

May we indeed follow in His steps when going through persecution and revilings. May we respond with His love, grace and forgiveness. May we truly, from our hearts, bless in return for cursing. Oh, it is not easy! But as we rest in our God and Father, He is faithful . . . He will give us the strength to endure. 

And not only to endure, but to graciously and willingly give the forgiveness and blessing.
Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:10

. . . when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate” 1 Corinthians 4:12b-13a

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” Romans 12:14

-Posted by Sarah