Contentment is found in gentleness
It’s almost Thanksgiving which is fitting as we continue to discover the secret to contentment. Last week we set the foundation for Paul’s secret to contentment. Paul wrote contentment wasn’t found in whether he had plenty or was in need, but rather in Christ alone. Jesus was the wellspring, resource, and sustenance Paul needed regardless of circumstance or need. But Paul didn’t come across this all at once. He learned it – which is excellent for you and me – because we can learn it too!
So last week, we looked at how Paul tells us to rejoice. We discovered that when we choose to rejoice in Jesus, we find all we need, even when boxed in. Jesus alone can teach us to be content in His all-sufficient presence in our lives.
This week we explore what Paul says about making our gentle spirit known to all people.
Philippians 4:5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all people. The Lord is near.
Now I don’t know about you, but when I hear the phrase “gentle spirit,” I think of my mom. Not that my mother was a pushover. Trust me, we made her plenty mad growing up as we tested her patience. I wasn’t alone. I had two sisters that pushed her patience more than I did. (They will tell you otherwise!).
It’s the nurturing aspect that correlates a gentle spirit to her. And while that’s an aspect of having a gentle spirit, that’s not a complete picture. The word gentle in the context Paul uses encompasses the ideas of being suitable, fair, reasonable, gentle, mild, and patient. It describes someone willing to submit their own rights to show consideration for someone else.
I think a couple good examples will give us handles before we head into the crux of today’s post.
A Jeep Wrangler, Some correction, and a Maniac
At the beginning of this year, I had plans to save up my dollars and buy a Jeep Wrangler. But a few months into the year, my two high school daughters received an incredible opportunity of a lifetime to take an educational travel tour.
Bye, bye Wrangler.
And that’s SO ok! I’m willing to set aside and submit my own rights to show consideration for someone else. That’s easy to do with my daughters. But we’re commanded to do the same with each other when appropriate to do so.
Another side of gentleness is firmly correcting my teenage daughters. It’s not fun. I don’t enjoy it, and neither do they. But it’s necessary. Words need to be spoken in correction that is fair, reasonable, and suitable for that moment.
Yet still another example of gentleness can be seen when protecting my teenage daughters. Imagine a crazy person is sprinting toward one of my daughters with a knife in their hand. Gentleness in this context is disarming the maniac without becoming enraged myself! It’s submitting my own safety for the safety of another, showing consideration for my daughters and for the crazed maniac by not going berserk myself!
Implication? Gentleness applied is relative to each situation, but it always must flow from the same place, from the sustenance of Jesus within. Gentleness, when displayed, screams to the world around that you and I belong to God.
Philippians 4:5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all people.
Last words make a difference
Now, that’s only the first part of that verse. The rest of the verse holds the key to understanding how our gentle spirits lead us back to the source of contentment.
Philippians 4:5 The Lord is near.
Paul isn’t referring to Jesus’ presence being near us. He’s referring to Jesus coming back. The concern is how we leave people. Think about it like this – if the next encounter you have with another human being happens to be their last, did you leave some Jesus there with them? Were you gentle with them in your words, not in terms of being nurturing, but relative to the moment with them? What if it’s the last time they have an opportunity to see Jesus through you?
I think about this often. What if the last encounter I have with my wife or my daughters is the last one. Doesn’t that change how I show my gentle spirit to them? Paul would say, “May it always be so!”
All of the shaping and molding the Holy Spirit does within you and me as He matures us isn’t solely for us alone. It’s for the other person as well. And that’s why I’d say that our last words make a difference. And it’s our last words, when spoken in the context of our gentle spirit, direct us back to center, to Jesus, our complete sustenance. In light of Jesus coming back, it makes more sense to dispense gentleness instead of petty and foolish bickering.
Not only that, but take a moment and consider the promise made to us knowing that “The Lord is near” that He’s coming back? Forever with Him!! That indeed leads me back to contentment in all things. It teaches me and centers me back on the source of my everything.
Don’t go too far
We don’t know when Jesus is coming back. And we aren’t promised tomorrow. Don’t let those take you down a rabbit hole of anxiety. That’s not my intention, nor is it Paul’s. Instead, Paul’s words ought to make us pause and consider how we leave people. They may be people we see every day and likely will see tomorrow! But the idea is how we’re going to leave them until the next time we’re with them. Are we leaving Jesus with them? Are our last words gentle in the proper context relative to the situation?
Just imagine how that would change your world (your office, your shop, the store you frequent, or your home) if you began asking those questions!? It ought to change you. It ought to center you. And yes, it ought to lead you back to the source of your contentment. Jesus!
You are loved!