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Full Length Sermons

Cultivating Meekness

Momentum: How to Make Progress in Your Christian Life, Vol 1

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5

Last week, we looked at what meekness is and some places in life where we especially need to pursue it. Meekness is being used to the hand. We thought about a wild horse that resists the bit and bridle. It’s out there in the field bucking and kicking, but you can’t get near it.

 

But when the horse gets used to the hand, when the horse is broken as we say, it has dignity and poise and it becomes useful. The animal is at peace and it is altogether different. We thought about the word submission, which means putting your mission under someone else, and we saw that this is what Christ calls us to.

 

Wild horses don’t win races

Someone in the congregation said to me last week, “I’m a really competitive person. I’ve always been like that in sports, and I was like that in business. I find this whole idea of submission very difficult. But,” she said, “the picture of the horse has really helped me. By submitting to the bit and the bridle, the horse is able to win the race!”

 

That’s very perceptive! Wild horses don’t win races. Why? They have the strength, but the strength is not focused. Meekness brings strength under control, and controlled strength is a beautiful thing.

 

We saw that meekness is about the taming of the temper, the calming of the passions, the managing of the impulses of your heart, and bringing order out of the chaos that would otherwise exist in the human soul.

 

We saw that meekness is a fountain of blessing. I want to get as much of this as I possibly can in my life. The more we grow in meekness, the more useful we will become.

 

How to Grow in Meekness

 

That’s what meekness is. Today we come to the application: How can I pursue this? How can I get more of this? How can I grow in meekness?

How can I get more of this reflection of Christ in my life?
The first ring—spiritual poverty

The first thing to say is that you can’t start from here! You cannot start by deciding to be meek. The whole point of our series is that there is an order and progression in these Beatitudes.

 

We have pictured the Beatitudes as a series of rings. Meekness is the third ring and you have to get there by means of the first two. You begin on the first ring, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

 

The starting point is to realize that you don’t have what it takes before God. This is a place to which all of us can come. All you need to do is to take the law of God seriously. The law will bring you to a place where you are poor in spirit and Jesus Christ will meet you there. That’s where all progress in the Christian life begins.

 

The second ring—spiritual mourning

When you see your own need and realize your true position before God, you will find that the second ring of spiritual mourning is within your grasp. Spiritual mourning is sorrow over our sins against God.

 

You count up the cost of the damage a particular sin—a pattern of thinking or behavior—has done to yourself and to others, what it meant for Christ to bear that sin, and you begin to hate what you used to love. The attraction fades and you experience the wonderful gift of repentance.

 

The third ring—meekness

When that happens, this third ring of meekness will come within your grasp. Think about how this works… There’s a progression:

 

Last time we pictured a man who is self-opinionated and overbearing. Perhaps he is in the company you work for, or perhaps he is in in your family circle… This person throws his weight around. He is short tempered and demanding. He always insists on his own way. Not much point in having a meeting because whatever he says goes.

 

Suppose he were to see his own spiritual poverty before God. Suppose he were to see that before God he is empty-handed. Suppose that led him to see that his own sins are many, and he learned the art of spiritual mourning. What would be the result of that?

 

If this should happen to him, meekness would surely follow. Getting on the first ring would take him to the second, and getting on the second would take him to the third, and so on. The principle is simple: When I see my own sins, I am kinder and gentler towards the sins of others.

 

The man who knows how often he has been mistaken, will not insist on his own way. He will express his opinion, and then he will listen carefully to the wisdom of others and give weight to them. He will be meek.

 

The woman who knows that she has often stumbled into temptation herself will have sympathy towards the failings of others. Spiritual mourning leads inevitably to meekness, by cutting the root of self-righteousness that always condemns. Alexander Maclaren says:

 

How different our claims upon other men would be if we possessed this sober sadder estimate of what we really are! How our petulance, and arrogance, and insisting upon what is due to us… would all disappear! [1]

 

The man who sees that he depends on grace moves away from insisting on his rights. By “right” I would be condemned and lost forever. But God has shown me grace and mercy in Christ Jesus! When you experience grace, you will make more generous judgments towards others, you will think the best of them, and be lenient towards them.

 

This series is about how you can make progress in your Christian life. You arrive at meekness through the momentum of your repentance. Getting on the third ring of meekness is of huge importance, because meekness is not only a distinctive mark of Christian character, it is also…

 

A Defining Mark of Christian Ministry

 

Meekness is peppered across the New Testament, especially in relation to ministry. Sometimes the word Jesus uses for meekness is translated gentleness. Let me give you three examples…

 

In teaching

The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.
2 Timothy 2:25

 

In witnessing

Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…
1 Peter 3:15-16

 

In confrontation

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.  Galatians 6:1

 

So meekness is of huge importance in life and in ministry. How can I grow in meekness? How can I get more of this in my life?

 

Ten Strategies for Cultivating Meekness

 

  1. Moderate your expectations of others

God knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:14

 

If God remembers the frailty that is mine, I should also remember the frailty of others.

 

There have been some excellent books on marriage published recently, but I think the one with the best title is called “What Did You Expect?” You take two sinners, in the process of recovery, who commit to share their lives together—what did you expect? There are going to be challenges.

 

God remembers that your spouse is dust. You should remember that too. It will help you to grow in meekness. It is easy, especially for pastors and leaders to forget this, and assume that all Christians will be deeply committed, ready for sacrifice, engaged with the mission of the church, walking by faith, and living in full obedience to Christ.

 

When we find that this is not the case, and that there is a great deal of self- interest among many Christians, it’s easy to become disappointed or frustrated. I think every leader experiences this in some way.

 

I need to remember that every Christian is a sinner in the process of redemption and recovery. If I apply the doctrine of sin correctly, I will moderate my expectations of others, and I will grow in meekness. Matthew Henry says…

 

The consideration of the common infirmity and corruption of mankind should be made use of, not to excuse our own faults… but to excuse the faults of others. [2]

 

  1. Find joy in evidences of God’s grace

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Philippians 4:8

 

There have been seasons when this verse has been quoted in our home every day: Whatever is good, think about these things. This is huge for overcoming frustration and disappointment, anger, and the promotion of meekness.

 

Think of a new housing development with 50 homes being built—all at different stages. In some, the walls are up, the roof is on, and you can already imagine what the finished houses will look like. You say, “This is going to be something great.” Other houses are only a hole in the ground surrounded by mud. You wonder, “Will this ever amount to anything?”

 

Christians are like houses in different stages of development. None of us are yet what we will be, but all of us will one day be complete. Learn to rejoice in every evidence of progress, even if someone’s Christian life is at the very beginning, even if it’s just a big hole. Thank God for that.

 

Find joy in what God is doing in the lives of others. Learn to admire the grace of God in them. Remember that any faith, hope or love is a miracle of God’s grace.

 

  1. Remember how much you have been forgiven

Whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.  2 Peter 1:9

 

Peter lists the marks of a growing walk with Jesus Christ. He speaks about love, steadfastness and self-control, which gets to our theme of meekness—strength under control.

 

He tells us that a person who does not have this, has “forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” It follows that if you remember how much you have been forgiven, you will grow in meekness. Matthew Henry suggests that we ask this question:

 

If God should be as angry with me for every provocation as I am with those about me, what would become of me? [3]

 

He who has been forgiven much, and knows it, loves much. Remember how much you have been forgiven and you will grow in meekness.

 

  1. Take time before you form judgments

Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.  James 1:19

 

David says, “I said in my haste all men are liars” (Psalm 116:11). He jumped to conclusions, and this led him to make harsh judgments. In the book of Proverbs we read: “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17).

 

Take time before you form judgments. Spurgeon has a wonderful phrase here: “Little pots soon boil over.” [4] Some people are like that. As soon as they hear some piece of gossip, they boil over with indignation. They make immediate judgments without even knowing if a thing is true.

 

Don’t be a little pot that soon boils over. Be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger… Take time before you form judgments.

 

  1. Make friends with meek people

Make no friendship with a man given to anger… lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.  Proverbs 22:24-25

 

If a person is habitually angry, he or she is not the friend for you. Here’s the reason you shouldn’t make friends with an angry man: “Lest you learn his ways.” If you sit over lunch listening to the conversation of a person who is constantly complaining, the habit of their heart will rub off on you.

 

You may work or even worship beside someone who is habitually angry.  The Bible says “Don’t choose them as your friend.” Make friends with meek people. Cultivate closeness with people who will help you to be more like Jesus.

 

  1. Take pleasure in the joys of others

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15

 

I wonder which you think is easier: Rejoicing with those who rejoice, or weeping with those who weep? Pastor Ted Olson, who is such a wonderful example of meekness, has a saying for young pastors that’s useful for all of us: “Irrigate your soul in the joys and sorrows of your people.” Isn’t that beautiful? Water your soul.

 

I wonder if you will find this true of you: It is often easier to share others people’s sorrows than it is to enter into other people’s joys. Listen to C. H. Spurgeon’s wisdom here:

 

Sometimes, when I am ill, someone comes in and says, “I have been to see somebody who is worse than you are.” I never get any comfort out of such a remark, and my usual answer is, “You have made me feel worse than I was before by telling me that there is somebody worse even than I am.”

 

He points out that the great comfort for a meek person is to know that there are others who are doing better:

 

The meek spirited man is glad to know that other people are happy, and their happiness is his happiness. [5]  

 

Meekness means you are glad for others who have more, as you are sorry for others who have less. Meekness allows you to find joy, not so much in what God has given to you, but in what God has given to others: “I don’t have much money but at least other people have more! My health is poor but at least other people are well. My son or daughter is struggling but at least my friend’s son or daughter is doing well.”

 

Rejoice with those who rejoice! That’s meekness and it is only possible by the Spirit of God. Be intentional about rejoicing in the good gifts that God has given to others, but not to you.

 

  1. Discern God’s hand in the work of your enemies

“Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”  John 18:11

 

Thomas Watson asks the question: What made Christ so meek in His sufferings? His answer is: “He did not look to Judas or Pilate, but at his Father… ‘the cup that the Father has given me’” (18:11).

 

At one level, you could say that the suffering of Jesus on the cross was a direct result of the decision of Judas to betray him and the judgment of Pilate to condemn him. On the cross, Jesus could have said “Look what Judas has done to me! Look what Pilate has done to me.”

 

But Christ did not do that. He looked to his Father: “The cup that the Father has given me.” He discerned the hand of God, even in the work of his enemies.

 

As long as you see your life as a story of what others have done to you, you will live in disappointment, anger, frustration, and resentment, “Judas and Pilate and all that they have done to me.” You don’t want to live there.

 

Look at Jesus on the cross. When his enemies have done their worst, they cannot overcome him. See the glory of the Son of God as he says, “Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.” That’s what you want to be like, isn’t it?

 

  1. Walk daily in fellowship with Jesus Christ

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Matthew 11:29

 

A yoke joins two animals, so that they can pull the plough together as they walk side-by-side. Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you. Yoke yourself to me. Walk with me, and learn from me. I am meek, and this is how you will find rest for your soul.”

 

None of us have meekness by nature. It comes from the presence of Jesus Christ in the life of a Christian. And it grows as you imitate the Savior to whom you have bound yourself and with whom you have chosen to walk.

 

  1. Anticipate all that God has promised

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.  Matthew 5:5

 

Inherit is a wonderful word. It speaks of a relationship in which something that belongs to someone else is willed, by their kindness, to you.

 

When God adopted you into his family, He also placed you in his will. That’s why Peter said, “You have an inheritance. It can never perish. It can never fade, and it is kept in heaven for you (1 Peter 1:4). When God creates a new heaven and a new earth, who will He give it to? The meek

 

There are people who have much more than you do, but you can be happy for them, why? Because all things are yours in Christ Jesus.

 

  1. Ask God to give you meekness

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  James 1:5

 

Then James describes the wisdom God gives: “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits” (James 3:17).

 

Lord, you said that a gentle and quiet spirit is of great worth in your sight. Please give me that spirit. Help me to curb this harsh tongue. Keep me from rash judgments, and help me to think the best of others.

 

Help me to discern your hand working for my good, even when I face great difficulties, opposition and sometimes wounds. Help me to find pleasure in the joy of others. Help me to walk with Jesus Christ, so that a reflection of your meek Son, Jesus Christ, may be formed in me today.

 

 

[1] Alexander Maclaren, from the sermon “The Second Beatitude,” 1896


[2] Matthew Henry, “The Quest for Meekness,” p. 126, Wipf & Stock, 2007

 

[3] Ibid., p. 126-127

 

[4] C. H. Spurgeon, from sermon #3065, “The Third Beatitude,” 1907

 

[5] Ibid.