The Beauty of MeeknessMeekness and Trust
Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss says our ability to display meekness depends on trusting God.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: That’s what makes us meek—it’s the confidence that God is in charge; that He knows what He’s doing; that He is at work; that we are working in union with Him, and that He is going to get the final word. He’s going to right this world that is turned upside down. He’s going to set it right side up.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, June 18.
What comes to mind when you hear the word meekness? If a negative image comes to mind, stick with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for the next few minutes. She'll continue in a series she began yesterday called, "The Beauty of Meekness."
Nancy: We’re talking in this series about a subject that will probably never be the matter for a best-selling book because people don’t generally walk into a bookstore and say, “Can you give me some information on how to become more meek?” The world is not pursuing meekness, but God tells us that His children are to pursue meekness.
I mentioned yesterday a book. It may not be a best seller, but it has been around for a long time. It’s a classic on the subject of meekness. Of course, in Revive Our Hearts, the first thing we want to do is go to God’s Word to get our instruction, but thankfully there are people who have written on some of these subjects over the years to help us to better understand God’s Word.
The book I’m referring to is by Matthew Henry, who was a Puritan pastor and commentator. He lived in the second part of the 1600s and into the early 1700s. This book is called, The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit. It is a classic, and I want to encourage you to get a hold of this book.
I’ll just tell you, it’s not easy reading. It’s not real long, as you can see. It’s about 150 pages, but it’s written in Puritan style, which, if you’ve not read that kind of writing, it’s heavy. You can’t read it quickly, and it takes time and effort to digest, but it’s worth the effort. In fact, I’ve been through this book now multiple times. In fact, I think this is my second copy. I make notes. I meditate on it. I take just bite-sized portions. I re-read parts. I try to study the different Scriptures that he references.
So in this series, I’m going to be teaching from Matthew Henry’s book. I figure most people will never read Puritan literature, so I’m going to try and make some of this digestible. I’ll use quotes from Matthew Henry and others as well. So much of the outline and the teaching I’m going to do is coming from this book.
I think back to the first time I read this book. It was, I don’t know, ten or so years ago. I was into it, but had not finished it yet, and I got called for jury duty in Michigan. It was, as I recall, a cold, snowy, blustery January day. I took this book with me to the courthouse, figuring I’d have some time to wait there, which I did. I never got called for the jury that day—I never got called for anything—except the Lord called me into His courtroom.
I remember thinking, I should be on my knees right now, right here. Now, I didn’t get on my knees right there, but in my heart I did. I found myself under such intense conviction of the lack of meekness in my life. It almost took my breath away as God singled me out there.
So I remember reading this Matthew Henry book there in that courthouse. I’ve read it since, and the Lord continues to speak to me about this subject of meekness because I found this is not something that you read a book and you’ve got it, or you pray a prayer, “Lord, make me meek." "Oh, I’m meek now.” As soon as you think you are meek, you are no longer meek. It’s like humility. It’s a lifelong pursuit of meekness. Seek meekness as a way of life.
Now, as we start into this, we want to ask the question, “What is meekness?”
That’s not an easy question to answer because there are so many aspects of it, and you don’t see it modeled much in our world. You see the opposite of meekness. We could come up with many, many illustrations, particularly as you look at women today. Meekness is in short supply. Women are trained to be independent, to be assertive, to be mouthy, to be opinionated, to be dogmatic, to be so many things that are the opposite of meekness.
So where do we look to find out what meekness looks like or what it is?
Of course, we’re going to go to God’s Word, and then others who can help us understand that, but I want to remind us that meekness does not necessary equal just having a shy or a quiet personality. You can be a very quiet person but not have a meek spirit. In fact, there are some quiet people, maybe some sitting here today, and people would look at you and they’d say, “She seems meek to me.” But what they don’t know is what goes on in your heart.
There are quiet people who have an underlying streak of stubbornness or pride or control issues or resentment in their hearts or simmering anger or a resistant spirit. “I’ll do it my way.” They’re not loud. They’re not blatant. They are not people you would look at and say, “Oh, she’s an outrageous woman.” But there’s not a meekness in their spirit.
So meekness is something that God knows whether it’s in our hearts. As He is speaking to us through this session, He is searching our hearts. He’s examining our hearts and showing us where there may be a lack of meekness.
Now we need to also realize that meekness is not the same as having a mousy spirit, being spineless. Meekness does not mean having no opinions or being a weak, fragile, wimpy, brainless, pitiful creature. Sometimes I think that’s the caricature of meekness. If you were to ask somebody in the world what they think meekness is, I think that’s what they perhaps picture as meekness—it’s somebody who doesn’t think for themselves, never has an opinion, a doormat, somebody that people just walk over, self-deprecating.
Let me say it requires just the opposite of that weak, spineless, mousy personality to have true biblical meekness.
Meekness is a rich concept. It has many different applications, and I’m still exploring it. It’s a many faceted jewel, but let me just read to you some definitions and some quotes I’ve come across that have helped me get a better grasp of what’s involved in meekness.
One Bible dictionary says, “Meekness is an attitude of humility toward God and gentleness toward people, springing from a recognition that God is in control.”1
Merriam-Webster Dictionary says, “Meekness is enduring injury with patience and without resentment.”
Now both of those are important because there are people who endure injuries, people wronging them. They do it for a long time, but they carry resentment in their hearts. So the fact that you’ve endured doesn’t necessary mean there’s a meek spirit. Have you endured without letting it turn to resentment?
Another Bible dictionary says, “Meekness is a calm temper of mind, not easily provoked.”2
Matthew Henry in this book The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit says, “Meekness is a gracious, easiness of spirit. It accommodates the soul to every occurrence and so makes a man easy to himself and to all about him.”
If you’re the kind of person who makes others uptight because you’re uptight, then there’s a lack of meekness. If you’re the kind of person who’s always stressed and panicked and in a hurry, and you come across as always being in a hurry; that makes people around you uncomfortable or feel hurried or feel panicked, that’s not a meekness of spirit.
He says that meekness is a gracious, easiness of spirit that accommodates my soul to everything that’s going on around me so that I become easy to be myself and to those about me.
The Latin word for meek or gentle or tame is a word, I won’t try and pronounce it here, but it comes from two words that mean "accustomed to the hand." It refers to the taming of wild animals—breaking a horse, breaking a stallion until it is meek and it becomes accustomed to the hand. It is responsive to the hand of its owner or its rider.
That accustomed to the hand—that pliable, that responsive, that submissive responsiveness to God’s leadership in my life.
Accustomed to the hand—where God just puts His hand on my spirit, and I say, “Yes, Lord.” I’m touch sensitive to His hand and responsive to it. That’s an aspect of meekness.
I came across recently a book I had read a long time ago by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies on the Sermon on the Mount. He has a wonderful chapter on meekness. Let me read to you just a portion of what he says:
Meekness is essentially a true view of one’s self, expressing itself in attitude and conduct with respect to others.
A meek person recognizes and mourns his own sinfulness [this is going in the Beatitudes, the poor in spirit, those who mourn]. Therefore, this meek person has an absence of pride. He does not assert himself, does not demand anything for himself. He’s not even sensitive about himself. He’s not always watching himself and his own interests. He’s not always on the defensive. He no longer worries about himself and what other people say.
The man who is truly meek never pities himself, is never sorry for himself, never talks to himself and says, "you are having a hard time. How unkind these people are not to understand you." [That would be the opposite of meekness.]
To be meek means that you have finished with yourself altogether. [It’s a freedom from self, the God-consciousness rather than a self-consciousness.] You have finished with yourself altogether, and you come to see that you have no rights or desserts at all.
The man who is truly meek is the one who is amazed that God and man can think of him as well as they do and treat him as well as they do.
You see, when we’re not meek, we think others should treat us better, but when we’re meek, we think, It’s amazing that people would treat me as well as they do. It’s the mercy of God that He would be as kind and gracious to me as He has been.
Now, as you listen to these definitions, these thoughts about meekness, you can see that there are three closely related qualities, and it’s true in Scripture. In fact, one of the things that makes the study of meekness a difficult one in the Scripture, a challenging one, is that there are different translations to some of the same words, and that reflects the fact that these three qualities are so closely related.
The three qualities are: humility, meekness, and gentleness.
Humility has to do with our view of ourselves. We esteem ourselves small because we are small. That’s what it means to be lowly minded, to have an accurate assessment of ourselves, not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. Humility—you can’t have meekness without humility, and if you’re humble, you will be meek. They’re not identical, but they’re certainly related.
So humility is our view of ourselves.
Meekness, which is sometimes translated gentleness in some of our modern translations, meekness is an attitude toward the dealings of God and others as they affect us. It’s our attitude toward God in His dealings with us and our attitude of others in their dealings with us. It’s an inward heart attitude. Meekness.
So humility is how we view ourselves; meekness is how we view God and others in their dealings with us—it’s an inward heart attitude—and then the third quality is gentleness.
Gentleness has to do with our treatment of others. Meekness is our attitude about others. Gentleness is the outward action, how we treat those people. So, if you have a meek spirit toward people, you will treat them with gentleness. Our treatment of others is rooted in how we view them.
So humility is how we view ourselves; meekness is our attitude about God’s dealings with us and others’ dealings with us; and gentleness is the expression in outward action of that attitude of meekness. Does that make sense?
There are lots of phrases and terms that we could use to describe meek people, and sometimes that helps us understand more about what meekness is. As I read this last time through Matthew Henry’s book, The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit, I made a list of some of the terms, the phrases, the words that he uses to describe meek people and then some of the terms he uses to describe people who are not meek. I want to read to you just some of the words on these lists. I think it will give a greater sense of what we’re talking about when we talk about meekness.
First of all: the lack of meekness. Here’s some of the phrases that show up in Matthew Henry’s book, descriptive of the lack of meekness:
Exorbitant passion: A person who is (now keep in mind, this is 300 years ago this was written) "unhinged by provocation"—someone who comes apart when they’re provoked.
Ungoverned anger: Someone who is enflamed; someone who takes offense; someone whose heart is hot within.
He talks about hurry and haste as the opposite of meekness.
Of course, anger, a tempestuous spirit, someone who is easily provoked.
The word contention or contentious comes up a lot when you think of the absence of meekness.
Someone who is restless, peevish, impetuous, violent, passionate, litigious—that’s a word we don’t use a lot, but it means prone to lawsuits, and isn’t that true in our culture? People throwing lawsuits on each other; it’s a litigious culture. Someone who is quick to sue others is not a meek person.
He says, “The person who is lacking meekness passes judgment quickly on others”—quick to jump to conclusions, quick to write others off.
Being easily disturbed, being turbulent like the troubled sea—this is a person who is not meek.
Now let me give you the list that I wrote down as I read through his book of words that relate to meekness, words that describe a person who is meek:
- holds their peace
- a cool spirit
- to pacify
- soft answer
- rest of soul
- easiness of spirit
- gracious easiness
- unruffled (A person who is meek has a spirit that’s been tamed. He’s able to rule over his own spirit.)
- passions are subdued
- soft or receptive
- swift to hear, slow to speak
A person who curbs the tongue is a meek person. A person who considers before passing judgment and before speaking. He thinks before speaking. He doesn’t just blurt out the negative or critical things that come to his mind. He considers first and lets God curb and bridle his tongue.
Now, meekness flows out of the confidence that God is in control, and therefore, we don’t have to be. God is in control. It’s a confidence that God is at work in this world, fulfilling His eternal and His holy purposes; that God will get the final word; that He will right all wrongs. That’s what makes us meek. It’s that confidence in the Lord.
It’s not that we just say, “Oh, I’m going to let all the evil doers in the world push me over and run over me.” No, it’s a confidence that God is in charge; that He knows what He’s doing; that He is at work; that we are working in union with Him; and that He is going to get the final word. He’s going to right this world that is turned upside down. He’s going to set it right side up.
One Bible dictionary says,
The meek do not resent adversity because they accept everything as being the effect of God’s wise and loving purpose for them so that they accept injuries from men also, knowing that these are permitted by God for their ultimate good.3
A meek spirit comes from centering our lives in God’s power, His sovereignty, and His awesome eternal purposes.
Now meekness has application in our relationship to God and in our relationships to others, and that’s what we’re going to look at over these, but it affects everything. To have a meek spirit affects:
- the way we respond to people
- the way we respond to pressures
- the way we respond to problems
- the way we respond to the providence of God, His choices in our lives
- the way we respond when men praise us or when they pillory us
- the way we respond to poverty or to prosperity
Our response to everything in life is determined in some measure by whether we have meekness of spirit.
So, is that something you want to pursue? Is that something you want to have? If you’re a child of God, you do want that. You may, like me, say, “Oh, I blow it a whole lot more often than I succeed at it.” But you don’t want to stay in that position of not being meek. It’s one thing to fall into a lack of meekness; it’s another thing to love being there.
If you’re a child of God, you don’t love it when you’re not being meek. God convicts your heart. You want to be meek. You want to have a spirit of Christ. You want to respond to people and circumstances in ways that are meek.
So, as we jump into this series, I want to encourage you to make it your prayer: Lord, I want to be meek. I want to be meek in spirit.
Would you give God freedom to show you where you’re not meek? Now God has that freedom anyway, but would you say, “Lord, I want You to show me. I want You to convict me by Your Spirit of areas where I maybe didn’t even realize that I am not meek. Please show me that, and, Lord, grant me the gift of repentance. Change my heart. Change me. Help me to turn from the pride that would cause me to fail to be meek.”
Then ask the Holy Spirit, “Would You produce this fruit in my life?”
It’s the life of Jesus. It’s the character of Jesus. I want more of Jesus and less of me.
So, even as we start out, and we look over these next days what does meekness look like in our relationship with God, our relationships with others, our responses to pressures, we start out by saying, “Lord, I need You. I want You to show me where I’m not meek. I want You to change me, change my heart; give me repentance, and conform me to the image of Jesus. Make me a meek-spirited woman of God. And, Lord, that is our prayer, and we ask it in Jesus’ name, amen.
Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing us how attractive it is to have a meek spirit. That message is part of the series, “The Beauty of Meekness.”
To order a copy on CD or to read the transcript, visit ReviveOurHearts.com.
Tonight the Revive Our Hearts team will be in Lynchburg, Virginia as part of the Revive Tour. Would you be praying that the Lord would speak to women through the worship and the message Nancy will bring from God’s Word?
The team has enjoyed meeting so many listeners on the Revive Tour—listeners like Tyrea.
She first started listening several years ago. She had recently gotten married and had her daughter.
Tyrea: I needed some teaching in my life. I knew there were some things wrong with me.
They were holding me back spiritually. I didn't know it. I was living in fear and didn't really understand how or why. There was a lot of things in my life as a woman—discouragement, rejection. There were things that were surface.
Leslie: These issues had a huge effect on her marriage and parenting. One day, she discovered Revive Our Hearts.
Tyrea: Just happened to turn on the radio and listened. Then I began to listen at work. A couple years ago I discovered her book, Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free. And I just did True Woman 101 last summer. I'm just a new person.
Leslie: Tyrea realizes God is teaching her in very practical areas.
Tyrea: Respecting my husband—really understanding and knowing what that means biblically. And then just living that out in everyday life with him. He has noticed a difference. My family has noticed a difference. My daughter has noticed a difference.
Leslie: Tyrea was so excited to hear the Revive Tour was coming to her area.
Tyrea: "God," I said, "I'm really believing You that I could meet her face to face to tell her, 'Thank you for saving my life and my marriage.'"
Leslie: Nancy, I know it’s encouraging to meet listeners like Tyrea.
Nancy: Yes, Leslie. It was so sweet to meet this woman. I was quick to remind her, I didn’t save your life. I didn’t save your marriage. God did those things. Of course, this woman understands that, but I am so glad that He is using Revive Our Hearts to get a hold of women in desperate situations.
We’re able to speak truth to women right when they need to hear it thanks to listeners like you who make this ministry possible. One special group that helps make this happen is the Revive Our Hearts Monthly Partner Team.
These are friends who pray for the ministry, they share the ministry with others, and they support the ministry financially each month.
If Revive Our Hearts has become an important part in your life, it has ministered to you, it has encouraged you, it's feeding you spiritually, then I want to ask if you would you consider joining this important group. When you’re part of our Monthly Partner Team, we’ll stay in contact with prayer requests and updates. You can attend one Revive Our Hearts or True Woman Conference each year at no charge as our special guest.
And if you join the Partner Team this month, we'll be glad to send you a signed copy of my daily devotional book called, The Quiet Place. It's a beautiful gift book with a lovely leather cover and a great resource for encouraging your own soul on a daily basis.
For all the details on joining the Monthly Partner Team, visit ReviveOurHearts.com.
Leslie: Thanks, Nancy.
When you have a meek heart, you’ll complain a lot less. Nancy will explain why, tomorrow. Please be back, for Revive Our Hearts.
Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
1Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., Harrison, R. K., & Thomas Nelson Publishers. (1995). Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Rev. ed. of: Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary.; Includes index. Nashville: T. Nelson.
2Easton, M. (1996, c1897). Easton's Bible Dictionary. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
3Wood, D. R. W. (1996, c1982, c1962). New Bible Dictionary (747). InterVarsity Press.Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.