I don’t know of anyone who, if asked the question, “Do you want to be strong?” would say NO. Being strong is a very positive thing. Of course there is context to the meaning of the word “strong.” We can be strong physically, mentally, emotionally, or all three, or a combination thereof. If you asked me, I would like to be strong in all three!
It’s taken me a while, and some personal failure, to really understand how to gain strength. In the front 9 of my life, for sure, I really did not relate “gentleness” to strength. I equated strength with “tough.” Even though I knew by heart Scriptures like “A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger” found in Proverbs 15:1, I wasn’t great at applying it.
Thankfully learning from failure, what John Maxwell calls “failing forward,” I now know that gentleness can only be displayed by the strong. I desire to be stronger. My mother was known for her gentleness. We fondly nicknamed her the “Rock” because she was a very strong woman. If you knew her at all, you would know she was known for her gentleness.
I have desired and been intentional about seeking to be “clothed” with gentleness as taught in Colossians 3:12. Just a little warning: when you are truly desiring the “greater gifts” and seeking to develop the “fruits” of the Spirit, of which “gentleness” is one, God will allow you to be tested. The tests are great because it allows you to see exactly where you are in your pursuit of these fruits.
James chapter one tells us that the tests/trials are to mature us. I was taught in counseling to pray for the test, especially in any area I was desiring to grow and get better. It made me angry at first when I was instructed to do this because I knew what was coming–the uncomfortable. Thankfully today, I have embraced this wisdom because without the test I really didn’t have an opportunity to put into action the fruit I wanted manifested in myself.
I have had many opportunities to allow gentleness to rule in my life in the last couple of years. It has left me sore at times because initially my grade would be a “B-“ or a “C.” Just last summer, in May and August, God allowed two huge tests for me to see where I was with gentleness. It was one of the biggest tests of my life. I was overcome with gratitude to God and the work of the Holy Spirit in my life with the maturing of the fruit of gentleness. Finally, an “A” on a test! I had been working overtime in this area, just like when studying for any other test, and finally not only passing, but making an A.
In life we never know when the test will come. I certainly haven’t cornered the market on gentleness but I desire to and I know that God reads and knows my heart. Just the other day I was tested again with regard to applying Proverbs 15:1 by responding to anger with gentleness as well as learning to apply Proverbs 25:15b which tells us “a gentle tongue can break a bone.” I have learned most tests in gentleness come when other people are angry. God has been faithful to teach me through professional Christian counseling how NOT TO OWN OTHER PEOPLE’S ANGER. Many times Satan tricks us into thinking that if someone else is angry we should be too…that is a BIG NOT!!!
In Philippians 4:5 Paul teaches, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” This is such a powerful verse. If you unpack this short but very powerful verse, you can know and be confident that the Lord is near to you at all times. If we discipline ourselves to recognize and defer to God with our emotions and giving over our thoughts to Him, He will enable us to be gentle even in the most extreme situations…..
Being gentle doesn’t mean being weak; gentleness can be firm, and very powerful.
To behave in a gentle manner requires we stay centered in our own values and know that, as believers, we have the Holy Spirit living in us who will enable us to be active in our gentleness rather than reactive in our “flesh.”
I encourage you today with Jesus’ own words from Matthew 19:26. “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible but with God all things are possible.’” In regards to living and applying God’s Word, even in the most tense circumstances, God will show up and show out when you truly desire the “fruits of His Spirit.” You can live Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” When life’s fiery darts come your way and the accuser attacks, which sadly often happens through other people, just know you stand the strongest when you stand in gentleness!