Developing the Spirit's Fruit of Gentleness

Steve Viars June 3, 2000 Galatians 5:23

- This morning I’d like to begin, as I often do, by asking you a question.
- How important is agreeing with God in the growth and change process?
- in other words, suppose God has an agenda for your life and mine, that is He has a set of characteristics that He wants to be developing in us...how important is it for us to come to a place in our hearts and lives where we agree that what He wants us to become is in fact the right thing for us...its the best thing to do?

- let me try to ask that a different way....
- let’s say on this hand, you have a characteristic of life that God wants you to put on...and you agree with Him that that’s the way you should be, its just challenging....
- but on the other hand, you have a characteristic of life that God wants you to put on, but you’re not even sure you agree with God that that’s the way a person ought to be.

- now, in which scenario are you more likely to make the progress God wants you to make?
- we all know...its the first one.
- so agreeing with God that what He desires for us is in fact best is a key part of the growth process.

- now you would be justified in wondering, PV, why are you asking us this?
- the answer is, the study that we’ve been doing the last several weeks brings us today to the topic of meekness or gentleness.
- now I’d like to suggest to you that one of the challenges we’re going to have get over right off the bat is whether or not we even agree that being meek is a good thing to be.

- I’d like us just to talk about that for a minute....
INPUT - What are some wrong ideas about meekness that would make it an unattractive characteristic to put on?
- or, what are some reasons a person might not want to be meek?


- now, with all of this in mind, I’d like to invite you to open your Bible to Galatians chapter 5.
- if you’re here and you’re new to studying the Bible or you just don’t have a copy of the Bible with you this morning, you’ll find Galatians 5 on page ??? of the Bible in the pew in front of you.
- at our church for a number of weeks now, we’ve been doing a study on the fruit of the Spirit.
- that’s a marvelous list of nine characteristics that the Holy Spirit of God wants to be developing in us.
- so far we’ve talked about love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness
- of course we’re encouraging ourselves as a church family, not simply to come together and study these things, but to work hard at putting them into practice.
- we want to be cooperating with the work the Holy Spirit of God wants to be doing in us.

- now, there’s a sense in which clearly there is overlap in these terms.
- that may be why this isn’t called the “fruits of the Spirit” but the fruit of the Spirit.
- its less like individual fruit and more like a fruit salad....

- my wife Kris makes this great fruit salad...
- and its all mixed up but every bite is a different combination...
- and if you interviewed me right in the middle of eating a bowl of that and asked me how it was, I’d say “its great”
- then if you said --- well, what did that last bite consist of?....I’d probably say something like, “I don’t know---its all mixed up, but it sure is good”

- there’s a sense in which the fruit of the Spirit is that way....
- in fact, the word that we’re studying today AT THE BEGINNING OF VERSE 23 is translated “”gentleness” in some versions and “meekness” in others, and in the versions where this word is translated meekness, they translate another word in the list as gentleness....so there’s obvious overlap here....
- but the bottom line is, God wants our church family to be very much like that fruit salad....a delicious and inviting combination of the Spirit’s fruit.

- with that in mind, let’s read our key text - READ Galatians 5:13-26

- we’re talking this morning about Developing the Spirit’s Fruit of Meekness.
- I’d like us to divide the time we have remaining in the following way:
I.  Defining Meekness
II.  Hindrances to Meekness
III.  Steps to Meekness
IV.  Special Areas of Concern

I.  Defining Meekness


- we addressed this a little bit when you were giving me input a moment ago, but many sometimes in Bible study it is important to define something by:

A.  What it is not.
1.  Weakness
- when I say words like meekness or gentleness, if you think of someone like Dagwood Bumstead, then we haven’t presented this in a Biblical way.
- in fact, the word in the original language is the word prautes, which was used in Bible times to describe a wild stallion that had been brought under control and trained.
- its a picture of great strength brought under control.
- when we’re done studying this concept this morning, I think all of us will conclude that putting on this particular aspect of the Spirit’s fruit will be very difficult....this is going to require great dependence on the Holy Spirit of God....
- so, meekness and gentleness, biblically speaking, is anything but being weak.

- Biblical meekness is also not:
2.  An absence of courage.
- we would be way off if we thought of a meek person as an individual who never stands up for anything....
- he always backs down, she always gives in.....no way.
- in fact, in a moment we’re going to see that God’s Word says that the meekest man who ever lived other than Jesus Christ Himself was Moses, yet some of Moses’ parting words to Joshua were, “be strong, and of good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them.”

- one other idea we need to mention here is that meekness is not:
3.  False modesty.
- maybe you’ve been in a situation where a pastor gave a message that was helpful to you and you told him after the service, “that was a good message, Pastor”
- and he said back, “It wasn’t me, it was the Lord...”
- and you felt like saying, “well, it wasn’t that good!”

- we’re not talking about conjuring up some sort of false modesty that really just turns people off instead of attacking them to Christ through genuine fruitfulness.

- now, what’s the other side of this discussion?
B.  What it is.
- a good preliminary definition of meekness is “that humble and gentle attitude that is patiently submissive in every offense while being free from any desire for revenge or retribution.”
- R.C. Trench in his classic work “Synonyms of the New Testament” says that “Prautes does not consist in a person’s outward behaviour only, nor yet in his relations to his fellow man...rather it is an inwrought grace of the soul, and the exercises of it are first and chiefly towards God.  It is that temper of spirit in which we accept his dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting.”

- now, what we’re seeing in these definitions is that meekness has a lot to do with our response to situations that we just don’t like...
- what God is doing that we don’t particularly appreciate...
- and what other people are doing that we don’t particularly appreciate....
- and the message of the Scripture is, God wants us to be developing the Spirit’s fruit of meekness...that temper of Spirit in which we accept his dealings with us as good...”

- now friend, let me ask you this question, if you were going to rate yourself on a scale of one to ten, how would you rate yourself on this particular aspect of the Spirit’s fruit?
- are you meek?
- with zero being low, and ten being high, where would you rank?
- what would the people around you say?
- and are you satisfied with where you are or is this an area that needs work in the days ahead?

- now, let’s move from the definition to some:


II. Hindrances to Meekness


- the Bible identifies some areas of life that we’re going to have to do business with if we’re are going to grow in this area.
A. Inability to handle offense.
- Can I ask you please to turn to Numbers chapter 12?  [pew Bible p.     ]
- one of the things that I love about the Bible is that it doesn’t airbrush out all the unpleasantries.
- it lays it all out for us, the good and the bad regarding the way His people lived....
- and what we have here, frankly, is a good old fashioned family feud.
- READ Numbers 12:1-2
- now, there was nothing wrong with Moses marrying this Cushite woman
- from all appearances, his former wife Zipporah had died, and while God had told His people not to marry from the Canaanites, there was never a command about marrying someone from Cush.
- so again, what we have here is a good ole family feud.
- they were criticizing his wife....one of the closest things to him, as a way of undermining his ministry....

- well, what would you expect to read next in the text?
- something like “Moses lashed back because of the perceived injustice”

- but looks what happens instead....READ 3-4.
- see, what two things happened there?.....Instead of reading that Moses lashed at Miriam and Aaron, instead we read that....
1) Moses was the meekest man on earth
2) God “took up” for Moses.

- see, some of us will never be meek, because we have a very sharp view of justice, which is good, but we demand that we treated justly in all situations right now, and if not, the lid is going to blow.
- and I’m not suggesting that we take the unjust treatment forever, without ever confronting, without ever getting the problem solved....
- but some of us are so quick to demand that fair treatment right now, out of selfish motivations out of not wanting that other person to get away with treating me that way....
- we end up responding tin a way that is anything but meek, and we fail to give God opportunity to work on our behalf.

- now I’d like to ask you to turn over to Psalm chapter 10 to see another hindrance to the Spirit’s fruit of meekness....[pew Bible page     ] --- this passage is talking about pride.
B.  Inability to conquer pride - Psalm 10
- READ Psalm 10:1-4

- this passage gives us several characteristics of the person who isn’t meek.

1.  swollen with arrogance - v. 2

- the word pride/arrogance literally means “rising up, swelling up”
- Psalm 46:3 speaks of the “swelling of the sea” - its the exact same word
[develop fishing on Lake Erie if time]

- the person here is full of himself, full of his own desires, his own passions, his own agenda, his own will....
- so when’s he’s treated in a way he does not appreciate, the response is going to be anything but meek.

2.  sings his own praises - v. 3
- “wicked boasts of his heart’s desire”
- the proud person finds it very easy to talk about himself.
- he’s always the hero of his stories
- he loves to talk about the things that he wants....he loves to talk about the things that he has....
- he’s anything but meek when it comes to his accomplishments and his things....
- the point is that we’ll never grow in the Spirit’s fruit of meekness if we don't do business with the sin of pride.

- the Word of God has a great verse to help us with this one -- its Jer 9:23 - Thus says the LORD, "Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; 24 but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things, "declares the LORD.

- its been well said that the man who sings his own praises always gets the wrong pitch!

- the conclusion of this is seen in verse 4
3.  full of self - v. 4
- the picture in this verse is that this individual is so full of himself that there’s no room for God!
- God is not in all of his thoughts!

- so we’re saying that if we’re going to develop this particular aspect of the Spirit’s fruit, then we have to recognize and overcome the obstacles or hindrances, and two of the strongest ones are:
- the inability to handle offense
- the harmful sin of pride.

- now you might say, PV, can it be any worse?
- the answer to that is “yes, when you mix the two”!
- look, if you would please, at Luke chapter 9 [pew Bible page....]
C.  These hindrances are especially dangerous when mixed.

- here’s a story from the life of our Lord’s apostles when you actually see both in action, and the result is anything but biblical meekness.
- READ Luke 9:46-48...
- do you see a lack of meekness so far?  [yes, that’s the pride element we just discussed...let’s keep reading]
- READ Luke 9:49-56

- there’s the other half of the equation...
- you have pride in verses 46-48, and the inability to handle offense in verses 49-56, and when you mix the two, you have a combination that is anything but meek.
- friend, can I ask you again --- how are you doing at this matter of developing the Spirit’s fruit of meekness?
- Christian homes desperately need its members to be growing in this characteristic...are you doing your part?
- Christian churches desperately needs its members to be growing in this characteristic...are you doing your part?
[could take time and simply commend the church family for the many ways this characteristic is evidenced]
- the good news is, our Lord and Savior, our Model and example evidenced this characteristic in many ways.....
- Mat 11:29 - Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and YOU SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.

- 2Co 10:1 - Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ-- I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent!

- Mat 21:5 - SAY TO THE DAUGHTER OF ZION, 'BEHOLD YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU, GENTLE, AND MOUNTED ON A DONKEY, EVEN ON A COLT, THE FOAL OF A BEAST OF BURDEN.’

- friend, this is as good a time as any for me to ask you, do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?
- this isn’t something we can fake....at least not for long.
- if you have never placed your faith and trust in Christ, we would invite you to do that today.

- Christian friend, I know that many of us struggle with meekness...would you be encouraged by the fact that Jesus has gone before us and modeled what meekness is, and He stands ready to help us grow in this area....I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

- we’ve talked about the definition of meekness, and some hindrances to meekness...let’s think now about:


III. Steps to Meekness


- let me remind you again of that quote from R. C. Trench
“Prautes does not consist in a person’s outward behaviour only, nor yet in his relations to his fellow man...rather it is an inwrought grace of the soul, and the exercises of it are first and chiefly towards God.  It is that temper of spirit in which we accept his dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting.”

- the point of this is, we can’t be meek with respect to man unless we are first meek with respect to God.
- and I’m not sure we think about meekness that way as often as we should.
- for example, when I asked you earlier to rank yourself on the matter of meekness, did your mind gravitate toward your relationship with other human beings?  [I think my mind would naturally head that way]
- but what we’re seeing in these passages is, we can’t be meek with respect to men unless we are first meek towards God.

- now, here are some specific areas that are mentioned in God’s Word concerning having meekness towards Him.

- James 1:21 - Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.
A.  Have a teachable spirit.
- see, some folks don't receive the Word  of God with humility and meekness.
- they come for the purpose of judging God’s Word instead of letting God’s Word judge them.
- so when something from God’s Word doesn’t fit into their grid, they won’t accept it...
- instead they’ll argue with it, they’ll try to explain it away....

- we may have studied something recently at our church from God’s Word that you didn’t particularly like....and you had to decide, am I going to come to God’s Word as a learner?
- meek people approach the Bible with thoughts like...
1) Lord, I recognize that I don’t know it all
2) I need to be taught by you
3) I’m ready to put off my thinking on that matter
4) I recognize my own folly and lack of knowledge....help me to be teachable

- here’s another important passage:
Col 3:12 - And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;
- the principle here is....
B.  Be submissive to the will of God.
- we began our time this morning talking about the fact that meekness is a characteristic that some folks might be sure they want to put on.
- and we said that unless we agree with God about this matter, the likelihood of our growing in this way is pretty slim.

- and while some of that resistance might be due to a wrong definition of meekness going into the discussion that I hope by now we’ve cleared up....the bottom line is that this becomes a matter of simple obedience to God....He commands us to put on meekness and we have to decide if we’re willing to obey Him in this matter.

- I think it would be wise for each of us to think about things the Lord has brought into our life that we don’t particularly appreciate and then ask....is my relationship to Him, and my response to Him, one of genuine biblical meekness?
- or need to place this particular issue high on the list of areas I need to address?

- here’s a third passage...
Eph 4:1-3 - therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
- the principle is,
C.  Be considerate of the other person and committed to unity.
- the proud person only thinks of himself, and what he’s done, and how he’s been inconvenienced...
- the meek person is thinking about the situation from the other person’s perspective...

- and they’re concerned about preserving unity if at all possible....
- so they ask questions like, is my response going to facilitate unity, or tear it down?
- is my response patient and humble and focused on the needs of the other person?

- How many Christian homes would be radically improved if its members would simply recommit themselves to growing in biblical meekness?
- friend, is this an area God wants you to address?
- now, time doesn’t allow us to develop this remaining point as much as we might like, but since we’re on this topic, I would like to share some other key verses about meekness, and life situations in which we should be especially on guard.

IV.  Special Areas of Concern

A.  When you are teaching
Jam 3:13 - Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.
- this verse is in the context of people who are teaching.
- whenever the Lord gives us that opportunity, whether formally or informally, we need to be especially careful about teaching God’s truth with a spirit of meekness.

- another potential trouble spot is...
B.  When you are correcting error.
2 Timothy 2:25 - with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
- whenever we’re in a situation where we have to deal with what we think is error in a person’s behavior or thinking, may God give us the ability to do it meekly.
- [which can be hard because sometimes their error can hurt us, or irritate us]

C.  With the unsaved
Titus 3:2-3 - to malign no one, to be uncontentious, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.  For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.
- many times when we’re not being meek, its because we’ve forgot that what we used to be like before we came to know Christ.

D.  In evangelism
1 Peter 3:15 - but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
- if a person is not going to believe on Jesus Christ, let’s not let it be in part because we came across in a proud or condescending fashion.
- we must always evangelize with meekness and reverence

E.  When confronting
Galatians 6:1 - Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

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