Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Be Clothed in Meekness

Dannah Gresh: When you have a meek spirit, it comes out in practical ways. Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth with an example.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Email can be a place where we really demonstrate a lack of meekness. We need to learn to wait to press send until you’ve stopped and thought, Is this really what God wants me to say?

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Forgiveness, for Monday, July 12, 2021. I'm Dannah Gresh.

Do you find it difficult to be quiet, to stop and pause, to be able refrain yourself from defending yourself when someone is angry? These are marks of meekness that God can develop in your life. 

Nancy: After our last recording day (we did the first several sessions in this series on meekness), a couple of my friends and I were having dinner together that night. One of the women who had been in the session turned to me and said, “Those sessions on meekness were way too convicting.”

I looked at her and I said sincerely, “What particular points did you find especially convicting?”

She looked at me and said, “Every word that came out of your mouth! All those lists of examples of ways that we respond when we’re not meek. I don’t think there’s a circumstance in my life where my initial response is to respond in meekness.”

This is a woman that if you’d have asked me, I would not have thought that about her. She looks to me to be like a woman who is great in meekness. But in her heart, God was showing her, “Your heart responses initially are not ones of meekness.”

She said, “It might help if you let the ladies know when you come back to this subject that meekness is not something that happens overnight in your heart, that there is a process of sanctification. God takes us where we are and by the power of His Spirit, conforms and molds and shapes us."

So I’m here to tell you that there is a process involved, and I certainly know that out of my own life, and I’m thankful to my friend for reminding me of that.

I’ve been referring multiple times throughout this series to a book that I’m hoping you’re going to pick up by Matthew Henry called, The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit, written over three hundred years ago.

Some of the language is a little bit quaint or archaic. That’s why as I’m quoting him throughout this series, I’m taking a little bit of liberty to make the language more contemporary. It’s not a long book, but you can’t read it quickly. The quotes that I’ve highlighted in there continue to work in me and through me. So that book is available through our resource center, and I hope that you’ll get a copy of it.

In the last session we talked about how Matthew Henry says that meekness enables us to govern and control our anger when we’ve been provoked, when others do things that irritate or annoy us.

I heard years ago an illustration about George Whitefield, who was the eighteenth century British revivalist, greatly used of God. At one point in his ministry, Whitfield received a vicious letter, accusing him of wrongdoing.

George Whitefield’s reply demonstrated a spirit of meekness. He said,

I thank you heartily for your letter. [This is his written response.] As for what you and my other enemies are saying against me, I know worse things about myself than you will ever say about me.

With love in Christ,

George Whitefield.

I thought, that’s a spirit of meekness. He didn’t try to defend himself. He didn’t retaliate. He said, “Look, if you knew what is really true about me, you would have written an even longer list.” That’s a spirit of meekness. So meekness enables us to govern or control our anger when we’re provoked.

But meekness, according to Matthew Henry, also enables us to patiently bear the anger of others toward us. That’s what I want to focus on today—when others are angry toward us, how do we respond?

Matthew Henry suggested there are two biblical responses. The first is sometimes the right response, the meek response, is to say nothing. Sometimes meekness requires us to be silent. Proverbs 26:4 tells us “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.”

You can think of times, as can I, in relationships—perhaps in your marriage or with your children or with coworkers, with a friend—where somebody says something. They’re angry towards you; they’re put out at you. Your response naturally is to match their tone. I was in a meeting the other day and someone in the meeting said something that pushed my buttons. They were tense; they were intense. I found myself responding in my spirit with the same tone, getting hot under the collar.

Remember we said that meekness is not getting steamed; it’s not getting hot. Sometimes the way to handle that is just to say nothing.

Remember that passage in Numbers chapter 12 where Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses (God's ordained leader) because of the Cushite woman whom he had married. They didn't like his wife. They didn't approved of his choice of a wife. They were upset about this.

So they said, "'Has the Lord indeed only spoken through Moses? Jas he not spoken through us also?' And the Lord heard it" (v. 2)

Here you have Miriam and Aaron who are supposed to be Moses' cheerleaders. They should be his biggest asset and help. But like the rest of the Israelites, they are criticizing, griping, complaining. They are angry at Moses. So they come against him and attack him. They attack him to others. They attack him directly.

Then verse 3 tells us, "The man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth."

So here is Miriam being hostile, being angry, but meekness is what characterizes Moses in his response. You say, how was meekness demonstrated in this? Well, if you read through that account in Numbers 12, you'll find that Moses said nothing. He didn't respond. He was silent. In fact, the only thing Moses says in that passage is at the end where he prays for his sister when God strikes her with leprosy. He lets God deal with it. He doesn't respond with anger toward her anger and critical spirit. He doesn't defend himself. He doesn't speak at all, except to pray for her. That is a powerful illustration of meekness.

There’s no greater illustration of meekness, being quiet, silent, under the attacks of others, than we have in Jesus Christ Himself. Remember that passage in Isaiah 53? It says,

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. (v. 7)

There is a time when meekness directs us to be quiet, to say nothing. Now, we’ll see in the rest of this series there are times when meekness directs us that we must say something. There are times when the pathway of meekness is just to shut up, to say nothing, to be silent, to be still, to let God come to our defense and not to defend ourselves.

Let me read to you a few quotes from Matthew Henry’s book, The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit. When it comes to this matter of being silent when others are angry toward us. He said,

It’s better to say nothing than say that which is provoking. When our hearts are hot within us, it is good for us to keep silence and hold our peace. Those who find themselves wronged think they may have permission to speak, but it is better to be silent than to speak amiss and make work for repentance.

In other words, better to not say anything than to say something that you’re going to have to go back and ask forgiveness for from God and from the person that you spoke it to.

He said,

We have often been the worse for our speaking, but seldom the worse for our silence.

Here’s another quote. He says,

There is nothing said or done in passion but it may be better said and better done afterwards.

In other words, if you’re going to speak, don’t speak while you’re angry. This relates to disciplining your children, by the way. Now, you may have to say something right at the moment because the situation may require it. But if possible, better to wait to speak until you can deal with your own internal anger, because Scripture says, “The rod of your anger will fail” (Pr. 22:8 NKJV).

A needful truth spoken in a heat may do more hurt than good.

We can all think of situations where that has been true. Better off to have not said it than to have said it rashly or out of anger. Then here’s a quote that is so powerful. He said,

It is better by silence to yield to our brother, who is, or has been, or may be, our friend, than by angry speaking to yield to the devil, who has been, and is, and ever will, be our sworn enemy.

When reacting, you are yielding to the devil. It is better to yield to your brother who is your friend. So sometimes the right and meek response to the anger of others is to say nothing.

Then at other times, the right response is when we do speak, meekness directs us to give a soft answer—sometimes to say nothing—but when and if we do speak, to give a soft answer.

As I’ve told you, often times over the last several weeks as I’ve been working on this series, I’ve found myself being provoked. I don’t know if I’m just noticing it more or if it’s just happening more, if God is just creating circumstances for me to practice what I’m preaching here.

But one particular day while I was working on this series, I got an email from a friend who was upset, she was angry. The tone of the email—you know, email can have a tone—the tone was accusatory. It really, in my view, was an unfair attack. It was like, "Where did this come from?" It just so caught me off guard.

But I was studying on this subject, and I was able to measure and think about my response. Now, my natural impulse, just like yours, if you’re honest—my natural impulse in that circumstance was to shoot back an email. And how quick and easy it is—too easy—to press send.

Email can be a place where we really demonstrate a lack of meekness. We need to learn to wait to press "send" until you’ve stopped and thought, Is this really what God wants me to say?

My natural impulse was to defend myself, to attack back, to show her shortcomings. But the response of meekness called for waiting. Don’t respond immediately. Let her cool down. Let me cool down, make sure I’m not responding in anger. I found that when I finally did respond—and in that case I waited a few days . . .

Under the circumstances, that was the right thing to do. I needed to wait, let the thing simmer down. And when I do respond, I have to make sure I don’t respond in kind, that I respond softly.

Matthew Henry uses a couple word pictures that show what happens when you give soft words in response to anger. He says that when we respond with a soft answer, this pours water on the situation. "While peevishness and provocation would but bring oil to the flame.”

If you speak hastily or in anger, it just makes the things . . . Like pouring lighter fluid on hot coals, it just makes it flare up. Rather, pour water on it. It dampens the heat, the flame.

Then he uses this other word picture. He says, “When the waves of the sea beat on a rock, they batter and make a noise.” You can just hear those waves crashing up on those rocks, making this loud noise. “But a soft sand receives those waves quietly, and returns them without damage.”

You can just see those waves coming up on the shore, but it’s a soft sand, and there’s nothing to beat up against. And so the waves just go back. That’s a picture of what happens when we respond in meekness to angry people.

Ecclesiastes 10:4, “If the anger of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your place, for calmness will lay great offenses to rest.” Don’t get hot and bothered.

Proverbs 25:15, “With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone,” with softness, with kindness, with patience.

And of course, we’ve referred to James 1 in the series, “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (v. 19–20).

Now, in his book that we’ve been talking about on meekness and quietness of spirit, Matthew Henry talks about the evidence of a lack of meekness and how it shows itself in everyday relationships. I want to just mention about three of those, so that as we’re letting God search our own hearts and letting Him show us—“Do we have a meek spirit?”—here’s something that will help us to see that.

First of all, as it relates to those who are under us—this may be if we are parents or teachers or employers and we have people that are reporting to us or people we are leading, people who are under our authority—if we’re not meek, we will tend to be quick to correct them and quick to find fault.

We become more aware of other people’s shortcomings and their deficiencies than we are of the evidences of grace in their lives. Then what happens is that the people that are under us feel that they can never please us. Some of you, your children feel that way. Some people in the workplace feel that way.

Compare what we are told about God in the Scripture, although He is the perfect One, it says, "He will not always chide" (Ps. 103:9).

If we are not meek, we will be quick to correct and quick to find fault with those who are over us. Matthew Henry says,

Surely every little failure need not be censured [or pointed out or corrected]. It should rather be passed by, or if the fault must be reproved and corrected, may it not be done without anger? It does not need noise and clamor. While you are governing others, learn to govern yourself.

A word to parents, teachers, leaders.

And then a lack of meekness shows itself when we get easily vexed toward those who are over us, and we start to vent toward authorities, toward our leaders. This is what Miriam and Aaron did with Moses. They were vexed. They vented. They expressed quickly their hostility, their disagreement with Moses.

Matthew Henry says here,

If everything be not just to their mind [if everything is not just as we think it should be], they are fretting and vexing and their hearts are hot within them, finding fault with everything that is said or done to them.

A quiet spirit would reconcile us to the [position] we’re in and to all the difficulties of it, and would make the best of the present state, though it is attended with many inconveniences.

It is the [lack] of meekness that makes those whom divine Providence has put under the yoke impatient of the yoke.

So when we’re in circumstances where we’re under authority, a lack of meekness will make us quick to vent, quick to be vexed, rather than receiving the circumstance and the situation.

And then generally with our peers, a lack of meekness makes us contentious. Matthew Henry says,

It is for lack of meekness that we are so impatient of contradiction in our opinions, in our desires, in our designs.

It has to be our way, and we’re impatient if things don’t go our way. He says, “We must have our own saying, right or wrong, and everything our own way.” That makes us contentious and hard to live with.

There’s a great illustration of this in Genesis chapter 13 in the life of Abraham. Do you remember how Abraham went up (he was called Abram at the time) from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had and Lot, his nephew, with him into the Negeb?

Abram, the Scripture says,

was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold, and Lot [who went with Abram], also had flocks and herds and tents, so that the land could not support both of them dwelling together; for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together. [So prosperity created tension between them.]

There was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock.

There was tension. There was strife between these two groups of men. So what does Abram do? Verse 8:

Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me." (vv. 1–8)

He says, “I’m not rolling up my sleeves. I’m not putting on my boxing gloves. I’m backing off. I’m not getting engaged in this battle. I’m not going to let there be strife.”

He takes the role of the peacemaker. He takes the position of the meek one. He says,

“Let there be no strife between you and me and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen, we are brothers.”

Isn’t that what we ought to be saying in our homes? in our churches? Why are we splitting up? Why are we having this strife? Why are we having these disagreements?

“We are brothers. I’m not going to let there be strife.” And then he puts his money where his mouth is.

"Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.” (v. 9) 

What a spirit of humility. What a spirit of meekness. “Look, there’s a whole land here. You pick which part you want, and I’ll take what’s left over.” And you know how Lot did pick the part that looked to be the better part, because Lot didn’t have a meek spirit. Lot was an arrogant, proud man.

And Abram said, “Okay. I’ll take what’s left.” But who got the blessing? Abram got the promises of God, the land of God, the line of God bringing the Messiah through him.

Scripture tells us in 1 Corinthians 6 that it’s an awful thing that Christians would go to court against each other. That can be divorce court. It can be other kinds of suits. He said, “Should you not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?" (vv. 7–8). Why are you going to court? Why are you disputing with one another before the law?

I was talking with a couple who got involved in a business deal where there were all kinds of promises and things that fell through, did not come through. It would have been perfect material for a lawsuit. But these two men were both professing believers.

My friend said he wanted to go; he wanted to sue. There would have been a case for him to sue, to get what had been promised to him. But my friend’s wife said to him wisely, “I don’t feel right about that. It’s not God’s way. It’s not biblical.” And the man took the position of humility, listened to his wife—more importantly, listened to the Lord, and said, “You’re right. We’re not going to sue.”

He lost a ton of money that they could have potentially gained back in this suit, and will never see that money. As they were sitting telling me that story, they told me of an incident that happened days later where out of the blue someone else came to him with another business deal which if it pans out could prove to be ten times more lucrative than the money he lost in the other deal. It may or may not pan out. You don't take the path of meekness because you think you'll get some great deal afterwards. You do it because it is right.

 God honors meekness. "Blessed are the meek." Those who take the high road, which is the low road, the pathway of humility, "for they will inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5).

But not too long ago, there was a woman who wrote on the blog about a difficult, contentious marriage that she was in. Another listener saw that comment and wrote the following comment, which I just think beautifully illustrates the power of meekness. This listener said, “One thing that may help”—she’s writing to the listener in the difficult marriage.

One thing that may help to appease this situation is to just say "I’m sorry." Too often we spew out many words along with it, when just a humble apology without excuse will get things on the right track. With fewer words and more love, find what you can appreciate in your husband and focus on that. He is hurting, which is the reason for his temper and the fighting.

You can’t fix all of that for him. But if you refuse to fight, he will have to calm down eventually. Offer to give him a neck rub when tempers aren’t so hot. Try to get him to relax. He’s probably afraid to for fear of losing control. But he needs to know peace. Pray for him in your heart while you try to ease his tension.

See the pathway of meekness here? Then this listener said, 

There have been times in the past where I have fought and wanted to leave my husband in worst way, and so did he. But once I began to just sit and listen (or not listen if I knew it was not truth coming from him), and no fighting back from me, the situation calmed quickly. No one wants to hear only himself yelling things. It took being a bit detached, but it soon meant no fighting. I really believe that in most cases the cycle can be broken by one partner.

This is what Abram did with Lot. He broke the cycle by saying, “Look, we’re not going to fight about this. You take what you want.” She said,

Prayerfully listen to his needs and do what you are able. Our marriage is totally different now for well over a year. But that was after sixteen years of fighting. Sure, I thought I was so right in a lot of circumstances, but I had to grow up and see that there is a better way. It took a lot of praying and humility and reading good material that showed me I was wrong in how I was handling things. But it is so worth it.

There is no way to become like Christ apart from suffering. Acts 14:22, "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." Many examples could be given, both in the Bible and in biographies of men and women of God. God refines his jewels through the fires of trials and suffering. I used to shrink from the idea of suffering. Now I am beginning to see the beauty of this tool of the Lord to perfect us like nothing else can.

Through sufferings and difficult people, my heart has been made better by His grace. There is truly a beauty produced through the fire that nothing else can do. I am praying for you. I hope this helps.

Those are good words. Those are wise words. Be clothed in humility. Be clothed in meekness. It will involve fire at times, suffering, difficulty, hardship, difficult people. But it is God’s way of forming and molding and shaping us, bringing gold out of us so that God can be glorified through our lives.

Dannah: If we were all to grow in meekness, can you imagine the joy it would bring to children and spouses everywhere? Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is in the middle of a series called, "The Beauty of Meekness."

Many homes will be transformed as women learn meekness of spirit, and I know many of our social media posts will be affected, too. Throughout this series, Nancy has referred to a book by Matthew Henry, The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit. You’ll find a link in the transcript of today’s episode at ReviveOurHearts.com.

I think meekness is probably the older sister of kindness. Or maybe they’re the same thing! Do you need to grow in the area of kindness? The booklet A Deeper Kind of Kindness, has a list of 100 kinds of kindness. Want to hear a few?

Okay, in the category “You can be an instrument of grace to your family,” here’s one. Number 15: Ask a family member if he or she needs any clothes ironed, or if you can wash, dry, and put away a load of their laundry. Number 70 on the list is under “You can be an instrument of grace to your church.” It says: Organize a group to do yard work for elderly or disabled members. Practical, isn’t it?

This booklet on kindness is our way of thanking you for your donation of any amount this month. We’re listener-supported. That means we depend on gifts from friends like you to keep our outreaches going. Contact us with your donation, and be sure to request the booklet A Deeper Kind of Kindness when you do. Again, our web address is ReviveOurHearts.com, and our phone number is 1–800–569–5959.

So is it possible to confront someone and be meek at the same time? Nancy will discuss that tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is brought to you in part by the members of our Monthly Partner Team. This program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.