A Gentle Spirit (Philippians 4:4–5)
If you walked down the street and asked five people what they thought the word gentleness meant, how many would say that a gentle person is docile, easily intimidated or passive? Or that gentleness would be a good quality for a pet or a horse? In our culture, assertiveness and forthrightness are more highly valued personality traits for human beings than gentleness.
But the Scriptures value gentleness. Here Paul explains what it means to be virtuous, especially in view of the disputes that had arisen among the Philippians. How were they to build unity? First, they were to rejoice. If they concentrated on rejoicing in the risen Christ, they would focus on their common joy rather than on the differences that could divide them. Next, they were to “let [their] gentleness be evident to all.” Gentleness carries the idea of being reasonable. It does not mean that truth is compromised; rather, it means that the truth is defended with thoughtful consideration for the other’s point of view. In other words, the people involved come to a meeting of the minds. There is a winsome quality in gentleness that diffuses anger and hostility.
A supervisor named Ann was gentle. She never raised her voice and never threatened. She had a steady calm about her. She smiled while explaining to vendors or employees exactly what was expected of them. She clearly stated the consequences if they didn’t fulfill their obligations. But her subordinates never seemed defensive or discouraged; rather, they worked hard to live up to the expectations she laid out.
Paul reminded the Philippians that the key to peace was grateful prayer. He admonished them to give their every anxiety over to God as they gave thanks (verses 6–7). More than that, Paul encouraged his readers—including us—to focus on things that are beautiful, pure and positive (verses 8–9). Meditating on such things develops our ability to notice and appreciate small beauties and increases a sense of thanksgiving to God. A spirit of contentment and gratitude brings peace.
A woman who speaks words of encouragement and has an attitude of contentment is inviting; she draws people to her, even if she faces times of crisis and pain. When your gentleness is evident to all, others will know that the Lord is near and they, too, will rejoice.
Taken from NIV Women’s Devotional Bible
What It Means to Love God
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. (Psalm 63:1–2)
Only God will satisfy a heart like David’s. And David was a man after God’s own heart. That’s the way we were created to be.
This is the essence of what it means to love God — to be satisfied in him. In him!
Loving God will include obeying all his commands; it will include believing all his word; it will include thanking him for all his gifts; but the essence of loving God is enjoying all he is. And it is this enjoyment of God that glorifies his worth most fully.
We all know this intuitively as well as from Scripture. Do we feel most honored by the love of those who serve us from the constraints of duty, or from the delights of fellowship?
My wife is most honored when I say, “It makes me happy to spend time with you.” My happiness is the echo of her excellence. And so it is with God. He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.
None of us has arrived at perfect satisfaction in God. I grieve often over the murmuring of my heart at the loss of worldly comforts. But I have tasted that the Lord is good. By God’s grace I now know the fountain of everlasting joy.
And so I love to spend my days luring people into joy until they say with me, “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).
In Paddan-aram, Jacob starts to work for his uncle, Laban. But when he falls in love with Laban’s daughter Rachel, Jacob, the deceiver, is deceived . . .
Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he told her father, “I’ll work for you for seven years if you’ll give me Rachel, your younger daughter, as my wife.”
“Agreed!” Laban replied. “I’d rather give her to you than to anyone else. Stay and work with me.” So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days.
Finally, the time came for him to marry her. “I have fulfilled my agreement,” Jacob said to Laban. “Now give me my wife so I can sleep with her.” . . .
The custom of the day was for a man to present a dowry, or substantial gift, to the family of his future wife. Marriage meant the loss of a valued worker, so this gift compensated for the loss. Jacob’s dowry was not a material possession, for he had none to offer. Instead, he agreed to work seven years for Laban. Laban did not tell Jacob about another custom of the land. The older daughter had to be married first. By giving Leah, not Rachel, to Jacob, Laban tricked him into devoting another seven years of hard work to the family.
Jacob was enraged when he learned that Laban had tricked him. The trickster who deceived Esau had been deceived himself. We often become upset at injustices done to us while closing our eyes to the injustices we do to others. Sin has a way of coming back to haunt us.
Although Laban tricked Jacob, Jacob kept his part of the bargain. People often wonder if working a long time for something they desire is worth it. Jacob worked seven years to marry Rachel. After being tricked, he agreed to work seven more years for her (although he did get to marry Rachel shortly after he married Leah)! The most important goals and desires are worth working and waiting for.
How do you respond when you have been faithful and you are used because of it? Are you bitter and angry? Does it consume you or do you continue to persevere in what is right? Ask God for guidance and patience as you work toward your Christ-honoring goals, and the wisdom to avoid treating others the way you have been treated.
Streams in the Desert – May 10
I had fainted unless… (Ps. 27:13).
How great is the temptation at this point! How the soul sinks, the heart grows sick, and the faith staggers under the keen trials and testings which come into our lives in times of special bereavement and suffering. “I cannot bear up any longer, I am fainting under this providence. What shall I do? God tells me not to faint. But what can one do when he is fainting?”
What do you do when you are about to faint physically? You cannot do anything. You cease from your own doings. In your faintness, you fall upon the shoulder of some strong loved one. You lean hard. You rest. You lie still and trust.
It is so when we are tempted to faint under affliction. God’s message to us is not, “Be strong and of good courage,” for He knows our strength and courage have fled away. But it is that sweet word, “Be still, and know that I am God.”
Hudson Taylor was so feeble in the closing months of his life that he wrote a dear friend: “I am so weak I cannot write; I cannot read my Bible; I cannot even pray. I can only lie still in God’s arms like a little child, and trust.” This wondrous man of God with all his spiritual power came to a place of physical suffering and weakness where he could only lie still and trust.
And that is all God asks of you, His dear child, when you grow faint in the fierce fires of affliction. Do not try to be strong. Just be still and know that He is God, and will sustain you, and bring you through.
“God keeps His choicest cordials for our deepest faintings.”
“Stay firm and let thine heart take courage” (Psa. 27:14)
Stay firm, He has not failed thee
In all the past,
And will He go and leave thee
To sink at last?
Nay, He said He will hide thee
Beneath His wing;
And sweetly there in safety
Thou may sing.