BELIEVE - LIVE LIKE JESUS
by Pastor Martha-Jean Fitch
July 16, 2017
Text: Matthew 11:28-30, Colossians 3:12-13
(Sermon begins with telling Aesop's Fable of the Sun and the North Wind with the children)
The North Wind boasted of great strength. The Sun argued that there was great power in gentleness.
"We shall have a contest," said the Sun.
Far below, a man traveled a winding road. He was wearing a warm winter coat.
"As a test of strength," said the Sun, "Let us see which of us can take the coat off that man."
"It will be quite simple for me to force him to remove his coat," bragged the Wind.
The Wind blew so hard, the birds clung to the trees. The world was filled with dust and leaves. But the harder the wind blew down the road, the tighter the shivering man clung to his coat.
Then, the Sun came out from behind a cloud. Sun warmed the air and the frosty ground. The man on the road unbuttoned his coat. The sun grew slowly brighter and brighter. Soon the man felt so hot, he took off his coat and sat down in a shady spot.
"How did you do that?" said the Wind.
"It was easy," said the Sun, "I lit the day. Through gentleness I showed my strength and power."1
Can you think of how we are sometimes like the north wind? Are there times when we think we are better than others - and through our actions we blow our way through, not caring about people? Sometimes we can be mean and hurtful and people really don't feel loved or cared for.
But I really think God wants us to be more like the sun! How can we act more like the sun? To be caring, to think of others and show love.
The Bible tells us that we are to always be humble and gentle. (Ephesians 4:2) We are to be patient and love each other. We are to try our best to let God's Spirit work in us. That's the only way that we can be like Jesus - and be gentle and kind.
This week- every time you are tempted to be more like the north wind - and be mean to your sister or brother, or not listen and do what your parents say - try to remember the lesson of the sun - and be gentle and show love to others. Then you will be like Jesus.
You may return to your seats.
We are almost at the end of our sermon series "Believe". We have been looking at how we can "Think and Act and Be like Jesus". These last few weeks, we have looked at those fruits of the Spirit - ways we can "be like Jesus" by having things like love, joy and peace - patience and kindness. Our word for today is GENTLENESS!
When you think of gentleness what comes to mind? If you were to describe someone who is gentle, who would you pick? I think a lot of us think of someone who is like a grandma - or maybe a nun. Our culture doesn't really consider gentleness as very important. Think about the TV shows or movies that are popular now - do you see any lead characters you would describe as "gentle"? Or what about our elected leaders? Would you ever hear of a presidential campaign slogan being, "Vote for a gentle president?"
Our culture doesn't value gentleness. Instead we see the need to be tough. We are supposed to be strong and powerful - the aggressive, take charge kind of person who manages it all and always looks out for number one. We sing "I did it my way" and look more to our own interests and entitlements rather than doing things on behalf of others.
And when we think of the fruits of the spirit - we think of praying for more love or more joy or for more patience. But when was the last time you prayed, "God, make me more gentle?" It just isn't something we aspire to. When we hear the word gentleness - I think all too often we equate that with weakness.
If we were to open up the Bible and look to see who was described as gentle - who do you think they might point to? Maybe children or widows? Well, it may surprise you to know that there are only two people described as gentle in the Bible - and they are far from being weak. The first is Moses who, in Numbers 12 is described as being more gentle and humble than anyone else on earth! Moses was one of the strongest leaders of the Old Testament - and yet he was considered gentle in the way he humbled himself before the Lord and didn't lash out at his siblings, Aaron and Miriam, who were very jealous of him.
And who was the second one who was gentle in the Bible? It was Jesus Himself! Let's look at our passage for today, in Matthew 11, where Jesus describes Himself as gentle. Turn in your Bibles to the first book of the New Testament - Matthew - and let's look at Matthew 11:28-30. Jesus, in talking to His disciples, says:
28 Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear,
and the burden I give you is light."
What kind of person is Jesus? Jesus is humble and gentle at heart. And that it what He wants to teach us to be. And once we learn how to follow His example of gentleness - we will find rest for our souls!
But what does Jesus mean by the word "gentle"? In Greek, the word Jesus uses here - is the same word the Apostle Paul uses to describe the fruit of the Spirit called gentleness. That word in Greek is prautes. Prautes was a term used for a medicine that was "mild". In that sense, we could say a person that is gentle is "easy on the stomach" - they are good to be around. And a person who is not gentle - is a person who upsets our stomachs - because they are so forceful or demanding or angry.2
Another way prautes is used is in reference to the taming of a wild animal. It is like a wild animal with its power under control.
This week, I discovered the story of Monty Roberts - the original horse whisperer. When Monty was growing up, he lived on a ranch with his father, who was physically abusive to him. His father was also rough on the horses on the ranch who he would break and tame in a traditional fashion. Monty knew there had to be a better way. And so, as he grew older and observed wild mustangs, he discovered that there was a way to "talk" to the horses and tame them without using fear or punishment. This type of horse training has become known as "gentling" a horse. It is a slow and gentle method of training - based on building a friendship and trust between you and the horse. The horse is still powerful - but that strength and power is now under control of the master and trainer. All that power and strength of the horse is still there but is now harnessed and useful for the Master. 3
Gentleness is not weakness but is strength under control. When you learn true gentleness as a man or woman or God it means that that you have your emotions under control. You don't over-react and fly off the handle. Jesus says as we walk with Him and keep company with Him - He can teach us how to be gentle and humble. He will lift the burdens in our life and give us the strength and power to be gentle as we relate to others. He will literally "gentle us" - like horse trainer gentles a horse - with trust and friendship. As we make Him the master of our lives - walking with Him daily - His gentleness will rub off on us. In fact, that is the only way we can be gentle.
Gentleness really is following the example of Jesus in reaching out with love and grace to others. A gentle person is thoughtful and considerate and calm as they interact with others. They try to look at others the way God sees them and want to treat them well rather than tearing them down or being judgmental or critical. Gentle people reach out to others, like Jesus did, and show patience and love to people - even to the most difficult of people. Gentleness can really make a big difference in life.
Gentleness can reduce conflict. We all have times when we have had disagreements or arguments with our spouse or a friend or family member. And if we've had children, we've also had times when we've had to discipline them or get after them for their behavior. Have you noticed that raising your voice - nagging and using harsh words never works? Our anger and demanding attitude just seems to escalate the situation - causing tempers to flare, feelings to be hurt and relationships to be damaged. And disciplining a child in anger can destroy a child's spirit, making the child fearful and causing a breach in the relationship. But when we respond with gentleness, the whole situation changes. Proverbs 15:1 says: "A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare." Instead of lashing back, demanding our own way - when we respond with gentleness, showing respect and kindness - anger is diffused and problems can be worked out calmly and peacefully. Children will feel loved and supported and encouraged - and relationships can be restored. Proverbs 25:15 says, " Patience and gentle talk can convince a ruler and overcome any problem."
When we let Christ have control over the way we think and respond to others - and we choose to be gentle in our dealing with others - we can work to overcome those problems we encounter.
We are to treat others like God treats us - with patience and kindness and forgiveness. Colossians 3:12-13 says: "12 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Gentleness helps us in resolving conflict - and gentleness can also strengthen our testimony. We have a world that is watching us. So many unbelievers have no idea who Jesus is. All too often, people see Christians who are mean-spirited or judgmental - or impatient or rude. That does not reflect who Jesus is or who He called us to be. The Apostle Paul tells us that our gentleness should be evident to all (Philippians 4:5).
Our gentleness always strengthens our influence. Gentleness makes a difference to a watching world - and yes - even to a watching family and children. Titus 3:2 tells us to not say cruel things or argue, but be gentle and kind to everyone. What a difference it would make in the world if we lived by those words and showed our neighbors and our family what it means to be gentle like Jesus. And not only in our face to face conversations, but also in the things we write. Facebook is notorious for being a place where negative, critical and judgmental comments are posted. We need to be Christlike in the things we say AND the things we write - whether it is on Facebook, or email or even texting - showing God's love and grace and gentleness.
II Timothy 2:23-25, Paul tells Timothy: "23 Again I say, don't get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. 24 A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people.25 Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people's hearts, and they will learn the truth." Our gentleness - our kindness and patience with others - may actually be what God uses to help change a person's heart and draw them to God.
In 1955 - a watching world was truly changed by two gentle people. The first was Rosa Parks. Rosa was a black seamstress from Montgomery, Alabama. On December 1, 1955, she climbed onto a bus on the way home from work. When a white businessman got on the bus after her, the bus driver told Rosa she would have to stand, so that he could expand the white seating area. Rosa said she was tired and she gently said, "No" and refused to move and for that she was arrested. She had no idea that her simple, gentle act of conscience would spark a revolution that would make a difference in the way people of color were treated in America.
Her gentle act started the formation of the Montgomery Improvement Association to oversee the bus boycott and fight the segregation of the city. The Association decided to choose a 27-year-old preacher to be president by the name of Martin Luther King Jr. And what a strong but gentle man he was.
8 weeks after Rosa Parks was arrested, there was great tension growing through the bus boycott. On January 27, 1956, Martin Luther King got a phone call, threatening to blow up his house and kill he and his wife and 10-week-old baby, if he didn't stop his work. But Martin Luther King had great faith and trust in God. He continued gently and peacefully working for the civil rights of all people. Three days later, while in a meeting about the bus boycott, he was told that his house was bombed.
Quickly going home, King saw a crowd of black men, some with guns and knives and a lot of white police officers around the house. King rushed inside, pushing through the crowds, to make sure his wife, Coretta and his baby girl were ok.
King then walked out onto his damaged front porch and held up his hand for silence. Then in a calm and peaceful voice, he told the crowd that everything was alright and that no one had been injured. He then said:
Don't get panicky. Don't do anything panicky. Don't get your weapons. If you have weapons, take them home. He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword. Remember that is what Jesus said. We are not advocating violence. We want to love our enemies. I want you to love our enemies. Be good to them. This is what we must live by. We must meet hate with love.
Hearing these words, King's supporters were calmed and eventually left the area peaceably. King's gentleness and calmness had a great impact on many of the city officials, police and reporters that were gathered at the scene of the bombing.4
King made a hug difference in the world because he gave his life to Christ. He leaned on Jesus and learned what it meant to be humble and gentle. Just imagine what could happen in your life if you learned gentleness from Christ. Whose lives might be changed?
1Aesop's Fable - the North Wind and the Sun can be found in numerous places. This site has one version. http://www.taleswithmorals.com/aesop-fable-the-wind-and-the-sun.htm
I don't remember where I found the particular version I used in the sermon.
2I was really inspired by listening to Rick Warren's youtube video sermon: "Learn The Strength Of Gentleness." He shared information about the word "prautes" and much about what
Gentleness means. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqnBqHS4xPo
3I did quite a bit a research about Monty Richards, but I received the first idea about him, as regards to gentleness, from an article entitled, "Are You Growing in Gentleness: by Dr. Paul E. Toms. Faith Commmittee, Charter Council of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. December 17, 2001. Http://www.charatercincinnati.org//faith/qualities/gentleness/areyou growingingentleness.htm
4 Michael Buchanan. January 29, 2012 in Today In Crime History. "January 30, 1956,
Martin Luther King Jr.'s home bombed in Montgomery, Alabama - Today in Crime