Read 1 Timothy 6:11, Philippians 2:1-11, and Galatians 5:22-23.
The eighth fruit of the Spirit in the New Living Translation is the word, gentleness. Let’s start off this week with the true meaning of “gentleness.” The Greek the word is praiotes, and it means “mildness”, “meekness” and by implication “humility” (Strong’s Concordance). Now, that we know the real definition we can begin to discuss a topic that is hard for most of us. So, here we go with our eighth piece of fruit, gentleness.
The perfect picture of gentleness is Jesus Christ. In Matthew 26:39, Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane. He falls face down and prays to His Father. Face down is a posture of humility. His humility allows Him to live a life of gentleness all the way to the cross. Another example of Jesus’ gentleness is in John 13 at His last supper with His disciples. He stands up, removes His outer clothing and wraps a towel around His waist. He then fills a basin with water and begins to stoop down to wash the feet of the disciples. The culture of that day reserved foot washing as a task for the lowest slave. Here was a man who had the whole world in His hands, yet He bent over and with those hands He picked up a towel and washed the disciples feet. His greatest act of gentleness was dying a criminal’s death on a cross. Jesus Christ took the punishment we deserved. He put our needs before His needs in the greatest way.
Pride seems to oppose gentleness. Gentleness is not demanding and pride is the essence of demands. Pride is dangerous for three main reasons. First, almost anything can become a source of pride, even good things. Second, pride is never more than two inches away, even for the godliest, because pride starts in the heart. Satan does an excellent job at convincing us that we deserve the credit, and our heart tells us we have a right to demand our way. Finally, pride is usually invisible to those in its grip.
Going into my senior year of college, God showed me my pride in a very real, very specific way. The spring semester of my junior year had been really successful for me. I was named Social Chairman of my sorority. I won the student senate race among a field of 14 other people. I was dating a really cool Sigma Nu, and to top it all off, I was named a Sigma Nu little sister at spring formal. Well, two weeks into the summer, my roommate called me from her hometown. She said hello and then she said, “I have some things to say to you, and I don’t really want you to respond right now. As soon as I am done, I am going to hang up and allow you time to think. Then you can call me back if you want to talk.” She proceeded to tell me, in a loving and respectful way, just how prideful and cocky I had become. She told me that my personality and perspective had really changed. It was hard to hear. I was actually speechless. But, she could not have been more accurate. I had allowed pride to sneak in and take over. I had become very impressed with myself and all that I thought I had done. I cried, prayed a lot, and called her back to ask for her forgiveness. God has replayed that phone call many times in my mind when pride was rearing its ugly head in my life to remind me that I am nothing apart from Him, and all the glory for anything good in my life belongs to Him.
I read an article in a Discipleship Journal Magazine once that gave some spot-on pride detectors. One is a spotty, inconsistent prayer life. If your prayer life is inconsistent, it might suggest that you are not actively relying on God. It might imply you think you don’t need Him. Another pride detector is a critical spirit. Generally, people develop a critical spirit and bring others down to lift self up. Finally, a defensive reaction to criticism is a sign you might have a pride problem. It shows itself by blaming others, being defensive when someone is only trying to help, and taking responsibility for your successes instead of giving God the glory.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “There is no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn't matter who gets the credit.” Does getting the credit matter to you too much? The world around us will convince us that we “deserve” the credit. But, chasing that credit, or that pat on the back will wear you out, and it belongs to God anyway. Be honest with yourself…Is your life filled with prideful thoughts or prideful moments? Is life all about you?
Remember, if life is all about you, then it can never be about anyone else. Examine your heart and confess any pride to God. Then ask God to fill you with His gentleness. His gentleness might manifest itself in you when you put your husband, co-worker, or roommate's needs before your own. Gentleness could mean you serve when you feel like you have a right to demand. In conversations, gentleness looks like not interrupting and listening when you want to talk. In what ways can you practice gentleness today?
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Would other people describe you as gentle? Do you get a pass on being gentle because it is not your personality? How has God developed gentleness in your life?