Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Think Before You React

Dannah Gresh: Do you want to learn meekness? Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says get ready for some challenging relationships.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: God uses those people who offend us, who wound us, who challenge us, who get in our face, who bug us, who annoy us and irritate us. God uses those people, or He wants to, to shape and mold and correct us.

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, for Friday, July 9, 2021. I'm Dannah Gresh.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been showing us the beauty of meekness. We’ve been exploring what an attitude of meekness looks like before God. But for most of us, meekness gets more difficult when other people become involved.

And a quick disclaimer, too. (Spoiler alert!) Nancy’s about to stress the importance of enduring patiently when we’re wronged. And that is key! But it’s critical to know that if you’re in an abusive relationship, meekness does not mean you silently allow it to continue. Okay? There are godly, biblical, and loving ways you can involve others without violating this command to have a meek, quiet spirit. If you need to do that, reach out to somebody today. I know if Nancy were sitting here with me right now, she’d want to be sure we explained that. Now, let’s join Nancy as she continues in this series, "The Beauty of Meekness."

Nancy: We live in an era when it’s nothing at all for people to just slap lawsuits on other people for little reason or no reason at all.

I read about a few of those recently in the Associated Press in a Detroit paper. There was a headline, “Detroit Employee Sues City Over Co-Worker’s Perfume, Saying Strong Fragrance Stops Her Work.”1 Now, I know that some people are sensitive to fragrances, but, seriously, suing the city of Detroit? That seems like a little much to me.

LA Times, this headline appeared: “Woman Sues Over Lack of Avocado in Dip.”2 This was a particular kind of dip that was advertised as an avocado dip, and then she realized that it had almost no avocado in it. It didn’t claim to be avocados, just was an avocado-flavored dip, but it didn’t have the word flavored on the advertising, so she’s suing the company.

Pittsburg Associated Press had a piece, a woman has sued Kmart for allegedly collecting a 7% state sales tax on a non-taxable item—a twelve-pack of toilet tissue. “Mary [so-and-so . . . I won’t say her last name] alleges a Kmart department store in the Pittsburg suburb of Monroeville improperly collected the tax on a $3.99 item, charging her $4.27—or twenty-eight cents too much,”3 so she’s suing Kmart.

It’s not just in the matter of lawsuits. We see this kind of angry expression that people have toward one another in all kinds of situations day after day.

Here's another headline from a Georgia newspaper: "Angry Woman Gets Revenge at McDonalds." Here's how that story started. "Police have been looking for a disgruntled McDonalds customer who ran into two other customers with her car after a dispute over who was next in line." Malinda Ann Thomas, thirty-four, and Linda Ann Thomas, fifty-one, were standing in a crowd in line around 7:30 a.m. Saturday as they waited to order breakfast, police said. The cashier opened a new line and they stepped to the front of it, a move that angered another customer who was waiting to order. According to the report, the unidentified woman started yelling at them and threatened to kill them. The woman then left the restaurant before the Thomases and stayed in the parking lot sitting in her dark blue Jeep Cherokee, witnesses told police. As the Thomases made their way to the car, witnesses said the woman pulled out her parking space and sped toward the women striking them both with the passanger side of the Jeep."

As I read an account like that, it makes me wonder how many of us are doing similar sorts of things in our hearts toward people who get in "our line" or get in our way.

We’re talking about the whole issue of meekness. It's something that is not in great supply in our culture or in this era. We’ve looked at the fact that meekness affects our attitude toward God, our submission to His Wordwe receive His Word with meeknessand our attitude toward the circumstances He brings into our lives over which we have no control.

Meekness says, “I receive my circumstances. I don’t resent them or resist them or kick against them. If it’s something that can’t be changed, then I assume that God has a purpose for it, and I receive it.” That’s meekness toward God.

Now we want to turn the corner and talk about meekness as it affects our relationships with others.

One Bible reference that I used looking at this subject of meekness said that,

Meekness is shown towards our fellow man who mistreats us, insults us, treats us with injustice, in that the one who is being injured endures patiently and without any spirit of retaliation the provocations that are imposed upon him.

Now, you cannot live in this world without having people provoke you. That’s just a way of life. It’s a fact of life.

The question isn’t: Do other people provoke you? Do other people get in your line? Do other people get in your way? Do other people do wrong things to you?

The question is: How do you respond?

The child of God has the capacity . . . Because of Christ living in him and the requirement to respond in a spirit of meekness, meekness enables the one who is being wronged to endure the wrong patiently and without any spirit of retaliation in the face of those provocations.

I have been quoting throughout this series from a book by an old-time friend of mine, Matthew Henry. I look forward to meeting him when I get to heaven. He was a Puritan pastor and commentator. He’s written this fabulous book which my friend Kim Wagner says is one of the best books she’s ever read. I would say it’s one of the best I’ve ever read. It’s called, The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit, and I’m walking through some of his outline in this series. I’m trying to give us a handle on what is meekness.

Meekness, according to Matthew Henry, deals with and relates to our feelings of anger. Meekness has to do with how we handle those feelings of anger. He says it "doesn’t totally eradicate anger because sometimes there is justified biblical occasion for anger, but the function of meekness is to direct and control our anger so that we may be angry and sin not, as we’re told in Ephesians chapter 4." Ephesians 4:26: “Be angry and sin not.”

So it’s meekness that puts a bridle on our anger and helps us to be angry in appropriate ways without it turning to sin.

Henry points out in his book that "meekness enables us to govern or control our anger when we are provoked by others." In that sense, meekness is like a bridle.

How does this work?

A spirit of meekness causes us to stop and think before we react.

Now the problem with many of us, and I’m certainly wired this way, is I tend to react before I stop and think. That’s where we get in trouble. That’s where we hurt and wound so many people and so many relationships, but meekness causes us to stop and think before we react. It slows us down.

Matthew Henry says,

Let meekness stand sentinel [let it be a guard over your heart and your tongue in your responses], and upon the advance of a provocation [when we are provoked] let us examine who it is that we are about to be angry with, and for what. What are the merits of the cause . . . what are likely to be the consequences of our resentments, and what harm will it be if we stifle them, and let them go no further?

So he’s saying meekness stands like a guard. Before you let out all this stuff, before you spew, before you say the words to your husband or your kids: “Why did you . . . Why can’t you . . . I can’t believe you . . .” Before any of that comes out, you stop and you think: “Who am I talking to? This is my husband. He is not my enemy. This is my child that God gave to me. I love this child,” or “This is a person who was created in the image of God.” You just stop and think, “Who am I going to talk to?” And you think, “What did that person do?”

Now, in the heat of the moment what they did may seem utterly intolerable. But many times if we’ll just stop and think and put things in perspective, we realize, You know, it really isn’t that big of a deal. Is it worth me losing my joy, my peace, and my relationship with this person in order to tell them I’m upset that they tracked on my kitchen floor?

I mean, is it worth it?

  • Is it worth getting riled up?
  • Is it worth sending words like daggers into the heart of that child or that friend in order to just vent my anger or my reaction at the moment?
  • What is some of the damage that is caused if I let those words go like zingers into that person’s heart? What damage could I do?
  • Is there any great harm that would be done if I don’t say what I’m thinking, if I just stuff it?

Now, there’s balance in all of this because there are things we stuff that we need to say, and there are things we say that we ought to stuff. Discernment and the control of the Spirit helps us to know the difference. There are some things we should be saying that we’re not, and there are some things we shouldn’t be saying that we are. That’s where we need meekness that causes us to stop and think.

Matthew Henry goes on to say that:

The work of meekness is to calm the spirit so that the inward peace may not be disturbed by any outward provocation.

I want to tell you, most of us are very reactionary people. Maybe I’m just speaking out of my own experience here. I know this is true of me. You touch me, and I jump. We have very quick reflexive reactions. It’s like the doctor tapping you with that gavel on the knee and your leg kicks up. That’s kind of the way we live life. Somebody taps us, and we kick.

He says that meekness puts a lid on that. It puts a bridle on that, and we realize that our inward peace does not have to be disturbed by these outward provocations. There’s a place where Christ dwells within us where we can be free from being disturbed by these things that other people do.

Henry goes on to say,

Don’t let your displeasure against the [injustices] of another cause you to put your own soul into a hurry. Meekness is the grace which preserves a man master of himself.

That’s what keeps you in control under the control of the Holy Spirit of God.

When somebody disturbs your peace, they do something that annoys you, that irritates you, that irks you, and you just react. You just say what you’re thinking. You just spout off. Now, we’re more careful with guests and with friends we don’t know so well. It’s the people that we know well that we just take advantage of. We let down our hair.

Often with the ones who live in our own homes we just spout off. We say those things, and we end up being controlled by other people’s behavior rather than letting the Holy Spirit control our responses, thinking, I don’t know if he meant that or not—he probably didn’t—but even if he did, I’m not going to let it wreck my day. I’m not going to let it turn me into a shrew. I’m not going to let it disturb my peace.

So meekness causes us to stop and think before reacting.

Then Matthew Henry points out that, “Meekness will curb the tongue and keep the mouth as with a bridle when the heart is hot.” When our heart is enflamed within us, and that doesn’t mean spiritually hot-hearted. It means when we’re angry, meekness serves as a bridle to keep our tongue and our mouth from sinning, from letting that come out and speaking that into the situation.

He says, “Even when we are called to rebuke others sharply"—and sometimes we are called to do that. We’ll look at that later in this series. Even when we’re called to rebuke someone for wrong doing, "yet meekness forbids all fury and indecency of language, and everything that sounds like 'clamor and evil speaking.'"

Sometimes we do need to speak into the situation. Sometimes you do need to say to your child, “That is unacceptable behavior. That was wrong.” It can be appropriate at times to speak a truth like that into the life of your mate. But he’s saying that when you speak the truth, as you’re called to do it by the Lord, meekness will help you do it without an angry heart and without saying degrading things, without indecent speech, without profanity, without things that you will surely regret later.

So meekness helps you stop and think about it before it comes out and keeps you from getting into clamor and evil speaking when you’ve been provoked.

He says that,

Meekness is to the tongue as the helm is to the ship, not to silence it, but to guide it, steer it wisely, especially when the wind is high.

When we are provoked, meekness helps us to remember that we, too, are sinners and in need of God’s mercy. That’s why meekness and humility go hand-in-hand with each other. The humble heart is a meek heart; the meek heart is a humble heart. When we’re being provoked, we’re much more inclined to be conscious of other people’s sins than we are of our own. In fact, that’s just human nature.

Aren't you more aware of your husband's failures and your kids' failures and your coworkers' failures and your parents' failures and your pastor's failures than you are of your own? We just tend to see each other’s failures through a microscope and our own through a telescope. Right? Meekness causes us to realize that we, too, are sinners, and that we are desperately in need of God’s mercy.

One Bible reference book says that, “He that is meek indeed will know himself a sinner among sinners.”

Listen, it’s harder to spout off and mouth off and be angry in our speech toward other sinners if we’ll stop and remember what sinners we are.

He that is meek indeed will know himself a sinner among sinners, and this knowledge of his own sin will teach him to endure meekly the provocations with which they may provoke him.

It’s easier to respond in compassion and tenderness and gentleness to a person if we realize that they’re not the only sinner in this room. I may not have sinned in this situation, but I am a sinner who desperately needs God’s grace and mercy and forgiveness every day of my life.

In fact, in this book, The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit, Matthew Henry challenges us to think about this: He says, “Think then, if God should be as angry with me for every provocation as I am with those about me what would become of me?” Something to think about, isn’t it?

If God should be as angry with me for every provocation [every time I sin against Him, every time I provoke Him] as I am with those about me, what would become of me? We have need that others should bear with us, and why should we not bear with them?

It’s the meekness of spirit that enables us to think that way. It’s meekness of spirit that enables us to see God’s hand in the provocation and to see that those who provoke us are instruments in God’s hand. You see, we think we’re being angry at the person who’s provoking us, but we’re not realizing that that person is an instrument in God’s hand to mold and shape and sanctify my life. So if I’m angry, I’m really angry at the one who’s holding the instrument—who is God. It’s meekness that causes me to think that through.

Matthew Henry says,

Men’s reproaches are God’s rebukes, and whoever he be that affronts me, I must see and say that therein my Father corrects me.

God’s trying to deal with my life. That’s why your children are God’s heavenly sandpaper. You say, “Yes, it’s a really high-grade sandpaper He’s using here.” You know what that means? It means that there are sharper edges, rougher edges that need that higher grade. God knows exactly what is needed in your life and mine, and God uses those people who offend us, who wound us, who challenge us, who get in our face, who bug us, who annoy us and irritate us. God uses those people, or He wants to, to shape and mold and correct us.

One commentator said, "Meekness toward evil people means knowing God is permitting the injuries they inflict; that He is using them to purify His elect, and that He will deliver His elect in His time." What does that mean? If you are a child of God, you can know that God is using even evil people, and that God is permitting their injuries. He's permitting them to inflict those injuries, and He's using them to purify believers. In God's time, He will deliver us from that affliction. 

Then we need to be reminded that any provocation can be used by God for our good if we are willing to receive it and learn from it. God can turn it to good; He can use it for good in our lives. To quote Matthew Henry:

It is very possible that we may be enlightened or humbled or reformed, may be brought nearer to God or weaned from the world, may be furnished with matter for repentance or prayer or praise by the injuries that are done to us. And we may be much furthered in our way to heaven by that which was intended for an affront or a provocation.

Somebody intended to provoke you. They did it on purpose. If we receive it from God's hand, God can use that to further us on our way to heaven, to prepare us for heaven, to mold and shape us into the image of Christ.

  • How do you respond when provoked by others?
  • How do you respond when they misunderstand you? When someone criticizes you unfairly?
  • How do you respond when someone insults or misunderstands your child or your mate? (Maybe a teacher at school or another parent and you know in this case, for once, it wasn't your child who did this or that.)

The provocation may have been intentional, or it may have been unintentional, but how do you respond? Do you quickly blurt out words of anger or annoyance or frustration? Do you quickly defend? “Well, you ought to see what your kid did. Your kid’s no angel either.”

Now, maybe you just think those things. Remember, meekness is first a matter of the heart, and then it comes out in our words and in our actions.

  • How do you respond when you plans are blown by someone's insensitivity? (Their lack of planning threw your plans in total disarray.) 
  • How do you respond when your authority is challenged?
  • How do you respond when a subordinate or employee did do what they were supposed to do? Or they were incompetent?
  • How do you respond when, as one woman wrote us recently at Revive Our Hearts, her husband forgot her birthday? She was feeling just a little self-pity about that, but she counseled herself in a spirit of meekness, reminded herself what a great guy he is, how much he loved her, how many years they’d weathered together, and she just made the conscious decision, “I am not going to make a federal case out of this."
  • How do you respond when your fourteen-year-old remembers at 10:00  at night that she’s supposed to take brownies for the school bake sale tomorrow, and you don’t have anything in the house to do that with, so it’s a trip out to the grocery store. How do you respond?

“If you’d just thought ahead . . . if you’d just planned. . . .” Now, you may need to coach that child on how to think ahead and plan. The question isn’t: “Is this a time to instruct?” The question is: “What is your spirit in doing it?” Is it because your plans got messed up, your evening got messed up? You were ready to head to bed. You had no intention of making brownies that night, and you could have done it in the afternoon. You would have been glad to do it if . . . You see the spirit there? Anybody besides me ever react this way?

  • How do you respond when your boss corrects you for a mistake that someone else made? Do you feel like you’ve got to point it out, that you’ve got to defend yourself?
  • How do you respond when someone else gets credit for a great idea that you had?
  • How do you respond when someone makes a mistake that costs you.

I have a dear friend who is dealing with a house situation right now, a very costly situation. They paid a lot of money, and they’re probably going to lose about $150,000 to a builder who has defaulted in a big, messed up situation. It has been a really neat thing to watch this friend who’s been very . . . Obviously, their whole family has been affected by this. It’s been a huge hit. It’s not over yet. I don’t know how it’s going to end up, but I’ve watched their spirit of meekness in responding.

The house is built, but they can't get in it. We went and sat at that house and prayed about the situation, and I heard this friend say to her kids, “We need to thank the Lord that we do have a house that we live in right now. We have a roof over our heads, and if God never gives us this house, that’s okay.” Now, they’re not just being passive about it, but they’re being meek in their spirit toward that provocation, that insult, that injury.

  • How do you respond when somebody cuts you off in traffic? Road rage.
  • Or the person in the express grocery lane that has thirty-seven items in their buggy. How do you respond? Whew. 

We can respond just with sighing, the way we do our eyes, our manner. We know how to do the not meek response. We’re pretty seasoned at that, most of us, but what about the meek response?

  • How do you respond when somebody takes advantage of you, rips you off financially.
  • How do you respond when you don’t get a raise you feel you deserve?
  • How do you respond when an authority makes what you consider a poor or unwise decision, and it impacts you and your family?
  • How do you respond when someone makes a decision that affects you, and they don’t ever ask your opinion; they don’t consult you about it?
  • How do you respond when someone borrows something from you and returns it broken.

I mean, all kinds of real-life circumstances and situations, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, probably before this day is over, and over these next days, you’re going to be seeing situations and circumstances like this.

I want you to be asking the Lord to show you, “What kind of response do I have? Is my response meek? Or is my response angry? Am I receiving these provocations that others bring into my life as being from the hand of the Lord for my good and for His glory? Or am I reacting in a way that is resentful or retaliatory? Is there meekness in my spirit?”

Dannah: The next time someone annoys you, which might be before the end of this day, I hope you’ll remember this message from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. It’s part of a series called, "The Beauty of Meekness."

Nancy recently spoke to a Revive Our Hearts listener who has been learning to display the beauty of meekness. 

Woman: We live and minister in the inner-city, like in the heart of the inner-city, with women who grew up in fatherless homes, single moms. The majority of us are Latinas or African-American. Where we grew up is a very hard place, so we were taught to be strong and independent and take charge.

To hear a message that God wants us to be "soft" and "leadable" and to be "amenable" . . . to allow a man to lead us and guide us and protect us was hard to hear because it wasn't something we were used to.

In our church we talked a lot about giving honor to the men in our church and allowing them to take the role that God has given them—allowing them to lead and not taking that from them.

For many of the women in our ministry, they took that and applied it to their marriages, their homes, and even their children—their sons. It has really changed the culture of our church.

Nancy: Well, I was so encouraged to hear how God was teaching this wife the beauty and the power of meekness.

We’re able to speak to listeners into marriages that are tough situations thanks to those who support Revive Our Hearts financially. And one special group of people who play a big role in undergirding this ministry is what we call our Monthly Partner Team. These are friends who pray for us; they share this message with others, and they support the ministry financially each month.

It's been a joy to have so many come up to me and say, "I'm one of your ministry partners," and to hear them express that they feel it is a privilege to partner with us in this way.

I remember one woman saying, "You give so much to us as your partners." I was glad to hear that because it really is a partnership. As you support this ministry, we want to do everything we can to support you in your walk with the Lord.

If you have a heart for women who need to discover, embrace, and delight in Christ, would you join the Revive Our Hearts Monthly Partner Team? When you do, you'll be able to attend one of our conferences each year at no charge. And each month you’ll get an update or a letter or some kind of report from me sharing what's on my heart and what God's doing in the ministry.

Dannah: Also, when you sign up to become a member of our Partner Team, we'll send you a booklet by Nancy, A Deeper Kind of Kindness. In a world where everyone has an opinion, Nancy reminds us how we can show the kindness of Christ to others. We're hearing from many listeners how God is using this to encourage their hearts and challenge their thinking. We'd like to send that to you as our way of saying "thank you" for joining our Monthly Partner Team.

Nancy: Find out more about the details, all the benefits, what's involved in joining the Monthly Partner Team by visiting us at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Dannah: Nancy, you also mentioned the book by Matthew Henry, The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit. I want to let our listeners know there is a link for more information to get that book in the transcript for today's episode at ReviveOurHearts.com, or you can call us at 1–800–569–5959.

Think about this: Do you exhibit meekness while you're online. Whether it is sending email or posting a comment, we can always do it with a greater measure of meeknes. Monday’s program will touch on that question. Hear this practical discussion on meekness, next time on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to think before you react. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

1 http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=3346995 
2 Article by Jerry Hirsch: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2003454425_guacamole30.html

3 http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D8S3CVOG0&show_article=1 
4 Aug 14 10:05 PM US/Eastern; http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D8JGINJG1&show_article=1  

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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.

About the Host

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh

When Dannah Gresh was eight years old, she began praying that God would use her as a Bible teacher for “the nations.” When she sees the flags of many countries waving at a Revive Our Hearts event, it feels like an answer to her prayer.

Dannah is the founder of True Girl which provides tools for moms and grandmothers to disciple their 7–12 year-old girls. On Monday nights, you’ll find Dannah hosting them in her online Bible study. She has authored over twenty-eight books, including Ruth: Becoming a Girl of Loyalty, Lies Girls Believe, and a Bible study for adult women based on the book of Habakkuk. She and her husband, Bob, live on a hobby farm in central Pennsylvania.