We’ve been going through the Fruit of the Spirit in Gal. 5. Today ~ gentleness. Gentleness would make a wonderfully intriguing cover of a book. If people see a gentle person there is something inviting, something good…. In today’s fast paced impersonal world in which people feel used, abused, and confused, a gentle person crosses their path and they sense this is a book worth their time, somebody to listen, caring, considerate.
When you give your life to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit takes the rough edges of your personality. Anger is softened ~ tempered in the way you view the world ~ mild in your spirit ~ compassion for the disadvantaged around you ~ slower to respond to injustices hurled at you. The words you use. The way you conduct yourself. Titus 3:2 says it this way: …speak evil of no one, … avoid quarreling, … be gentle, and … show perfect courtesy toward all people. The world needs gentlemen and gentlewomen. May the cover of your life be one of gentleness.
One of the great men of faith that graced this church family for decades was Jim VanDiest. I only knew him as a gentleman, a sweet, caring man that was a servant at heart. But I understand he was not always that way. In 1972 he had a heart attack that rocked his world and changed him so that the rough and tough Jim VanDiest was transformed to a caring man that put others first. His strength became a tender touch. The Holy Spirit transforms from the inside out so we become people of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These qualities are always right. They make awesome first impressions. When people see you do they see gentleness?
If not, fear not, God is not finished with you yet! Perhaps you feel more awkward than gentle, stuck in habits, harsh in tone. The Lord can change you. The fruit of the Spirit is not just for the young navigating their way through life. /not just new Christians. You are a work in progress. The Fruit of the Spirit is for all Christians of all ages, in all stages of their walk with Christ.
Living a Jesus Christ life includes being gentle. Gentleness is not the absence of strength, it is strength under control. Sure, people can fake gentleness, like Eddie Haskell, but if we present ourselves as gentle, the world will want to read more to find out if we are genuine. I heard it said many years ago, and I think it’s true, “You may be the only Bible some people read.” Invite the Holy Spirit to make your cover one of gentleness, so others will want to know more of you.
I like this story of what it means to be gentle: An official of a Mission Board, who knew that it takes more than desire to make a missionary, was appointed to examine a candidate. He told the young man to come to his house at 6 in the morning. The young man went at 6 in the morning to be examined, and the examiner kept him sitting in the room until ten. Then he went down to him and said abruptly, “Can you spell? Can you spell God?” “Yes, sir,” came the answer calmly. “Can you write your name? Do you know what your name is?” “Yes, sir,” again he replied. He put him through a series of questions of that kind, and then went to the Missionary Board and said, “He will do. I tried his patience for four hours, and he did not break down: I then insulted him, and he did not lose his temper. He will do.”
That is the way to prove Christianity. If a man answers all abuses with patience, a fortitude, a gentleness that cannot be violated, depend upon it, Christ’s love has conquered his heart, and the Christianity that has made him what he is vindicated by the very quality of his character.
What does the cover of your book tell the world? How do you respond to very draining people? What is your demeaner? Are you abrupt? Condemning in your tone? Impatient? Critical? Nagging? Harsh? Self-righteous? Angry? OR ~~~~ GENTLE?
Gentleness. Isaiah 40 is a prophecy spoken 100’s of years before Christ, which has a clear fulfillment in Jesus Christ. It describes where Jesus wants to take people, how he wants to fill His people with strength and hope, and how he is accomplishing his purposes and will accomplish his purposes. How Jesus acts is as important as the message that he brings. His purpose is to bring strength through the revelation of himself, and he does it with a gentle hand ~ like a good shepherd he gently gathers, gently leads, carries them close to his heart.
Where is the Lord taking us?
- It starts with his strength and stamina READ Is. 40:28
- Here is the promise/desire of the Lord: READ Is. 40:29.
- The problem is that we do get tired, we do get weary and worn out… READ Is. 40:30.
- “But” HOPE revitalizes the soul: READ Is. 40:31
The message is the Lord Himself. The New Testament fleshes out the message of salvation by showing us Jesus Christ who dies for our sins and renews us through his blood and resurrection. Jesus Christ is the message of salvation. Jesus Christ is the final sacrifice. The love of Christ is awe-inspiring, transforming. But what image do we find on the cover so people will open the book and read the rest of the story of Jesus Christ?
Isaiah 40 says to put on the cover the image of Gentleness. I think God had Jesus come to earth as a baby because a baby is something we can grasp, a humble baby. Gentleness is God’s way to get our attention. He has the strength to overwhelm us to get our attention, after-all, he who created the heavens and earth out of nothing is fully capable of anything, but if our fear consumes us we may never get to the book. So he came in comfort, the cover of the book of God is one of gentleness ~ a most needed book, a tender invitation.
“Comfort, comfort my people” is the opening words of Is. 40. In a weary and tired world, in a war torn world, in a drama filled torn apart world, a word of comfort is needed. “Speak tenderly” is the tone the Lord uses in Is. 40:1. It’s time to rest, it’s time to be at peace. Sometimes it feels so good to yell at people, to scream at those who are draining, to shut people out, but if the goal is to see people changed, the superior way is to speak tender words of comfort, to put on the Spiritual fruit of gentleness.
I used to be a sears photographer in the south part of Seattle. More than once, when the parents and I were faced with traumatized crying children, the frustrated parent screamed at the child, “If you don’t smile I’m going to spank you.” Guess what. It’s didn’t help, it only escalated the problem. The only hope to bring calmness is gentleness. Isn’t that the same with the world? When faced with stressful situations, a harsh word is tempting, but the Lord says that through his spirit he will give us a spirit of gentleness.
Gentleness with confidence/ gentleness combined with the story of salvation is the most powerful message with the most powerful means imaginable. Gentleness is the way of the Lord. The promise of transformation spoken from tender words is far more likely to be heard. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1). If people see the cover of gentleness, comforting words, they are far more likely to open the pages and discover more of the Lord. That’s how Jesus came to us. That’s the story of Christmas. That’s the story of Christ. That’s the character of Christ. He came in gentleness. To be gentile with others is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
Is. 40:3-5 is fulfilled in the New Testament by John the Baptist, he who announced the coming of Jesus and the promised transformation. READ. Power and gentleness is a godly combination…
One of the finest descriptions anywhere in scripture of Jesus Christ is Is. 40:10-11. READ. Jesus method is gentleness, his ability is power, his message is salvation!
As Jesus comes in gentleness, we, too are given the gift of gentleness through the Holy Spirit. Gentleness is one of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. Put gentleness on the cover of the book so that people can see it. You may be the only Bible some people read. Get them to open the pages by seeing the tender words, the comfort, the gentleness. On the inside pages let them discover the strength, the renewing power of the Lord, the message of salvation found only in Christ.
I’d like to end with a story that describes the power of gentleness. In this story, the young girl is drawn by the gentleness of the man who brings her comfort. It a passage that comes from near the near the end of Charles Dickens’ "Tale of Two Cities", a story of the French revolution.
Each day there was a grim procession of prisoners through the streets of Paris on their way to the guillotine. In one of the processions was Sidney Carton, a brave man who had once lost his soul but had now found it again and was now giving his life for his friend. Beside him there was a young girl. They had met before in the prison, and the girl had noticed the gentleness and courage of the man’s face. She said to him "If I may ride with you, will you let me hold your hand? I am not afraid, but I am little and weak, and it will give me more courage." So they rode together, her hand in his; and when they reached the place of execution there was no fear in her eyes. She looked up into the quiet composed face of her companion, and said "I think you were sent to me by heaven".
There are many people who are walking in darkness in our cold and cruel world. Many who are being crushed by the weight of the drama of life. May the Holy Spirit give you a Spirit of gentleness, and perhaps you may be sent by heaven to hold the hand of the weak. For those that have been endowed by our creator with a Spirit of Gentleness, in the end, it is not the words that bring comfort to the world, but it is the person themselves. Gentleness is used by the Lord to bring hope, to “renew their strength” so that “They will soar on wings as eagles.” Amen.