I've been thinking recently a great deal about this particular passage of the Bible, in 1 Peter 3, which will I am sure be familiar to many -
" But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price" (1 Peter 3: 4).
It is that phrase "the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit", that I have been focussing on. Just recently, with the unexpected problem with the kitchen sink being blocked, I have been a little more challenged than usual to maintain my "meek and quiet spirit", and I've found it very helpful and motivational to ponder on this passage of Scripture, what it actually means, and how I can apply it in my life - and by so doing, be an example to my children.
This passage appears in the book written by Peter in times of great unrest, when the persecution of Christians in Rome was gathering power. He wrote it to encourage them to trust in God no matter how great the challenges around them, that by so doing, their behaviour would act as a witness to others of their faith. In Chapter 2 of this Book, Peter reminds the Christians of Christ's suffering for his faith, and that even in the face of huge suffering like that He endured, trusting in God will bring glory and salvation. He reminds them,
"For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps" (1 Peter: 2, 21).
This example that we must follow includes the need to have a demeanour of meekness, gentleness, quietness and humility - just as Christ Jesus Himself displayed. These are not merely character qualities, however. In order to have such a disposition we have to allow the Holy Spirit to move within us - so that our faith shines out from within and is evident to those around us. It is not just a matter of presenting to the world a "meek and quiet spirit", but actually allowing ourselves to become transformed. However, as we are naturally disposed to be quite the opposite of these gifts - our fallen natures meaning that we are motivated by the need to serve ourselves, rather than others, this is a challenge that we must work at, to become surrendered to the will of our Father God in this area of our Christian living.
I'm sure we all know people who are inspirational because they appear to have a demeanour of great calm and sweetness. My mam, Grandmama Bear, is one! In all my childhood I am not sure that I could even count on the fingers of one hand - let alone two - the times that I heard her voice raised. And yet she was not a "doormat". She just had - and still does - a naturally sweet and placid temperament which even the greatest challenges do not seem to alter. Although she suffers terribly with pain from severe arthritis in many joints, she is always cheerful and positive too. A great inspiration! And I know that I gain a lot of encouragement from her, seeing how she is able to be this way - not just on the surface, but deep inside her heart also.
In Galatians 5 we read that
"... the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit" (Galatians 5: 22 - 25).
I truely believe this is the only way that we can adopt the countenance of a "meek and quiet spirit" - by learning to "walk in the Spirit". That means having to die to self - to learn to cast aside our own impulses, desires, emotions and needs, and focus on those of others first. But how can we achieve this without an enormous struggle? Is it possible to "be gentle unto all men" (2 Timothy 2: 24), even when all around you is chaos, misery, doubt, or despair?
Well, it is God's will that we should be - so yes, it is possible! But it isn't easy, and it needs to be a conscious, lifelong endeavour, that will eventually become so ingrained within us that it is part of our very nature - our spirit - and not just something that we choose. We can work towards this goal by ...
- Focussing on Scripture. It's impossible to know God's will without learning of it directly from His Word. It isn't always easy to make Bible study a priority, but it should be. Make some time each day to study your Bible - I find early mornings are my best time, at this season of my life, but some people prefer evenings, or even a quiet time during the day. Whenever it is, make it a commitment that you won't stray from. Before too long, you'll find as I have, that if you are forced to miss your regular Bible study slot, your whole day seems to suffer as a result. I need my daily quiet time with my Bible to ground me for the whole day. Without it I feel as if I am never really on top of anything, out of sorts, and as if I have lost my focus. It's become a habit now that is second nature to me, and I don't mind the early start to the day at all.
- Along with this, also set aside time to read devotionals or other Scripturally inspired literature. You don't necessarily need to buy books to do this. There are many wonderful blogs and websites available where you can find inspiration and understanding. One website that I visit regularly has a great study on the topic I'm writing about - the Revive Our Hearts ministry - and you can read that study here.
- Also spend time in family devotions if you are able. Family devotions serve a separate purpose to that of private devotions in that as well as allowing each individual to grow deeper in their relationship with and knowledge of our Father God, they also provide a precious time for bonding together as God's servants, and in sharing the joy and blessings of being a close and Godly family. They are a time for celebrating not only God's presence in our lives, but each other's presence too! We have two devotions each day - a couples' devotion in the morning before we rise, and then a family devotion in the evening after we have eaten. This suits our current schedule, but it has altered several times over the years, and as our faith as a family has grown stronger and become a more central focus in our lives.
- Although making God's Word a central part of your daily life is the most important feature of nurturing a "meek and quiet spirit", it's also important that we practise adopting this demeanor whenever possible - regardless of our circumstances. Only in this way will it become part of our fundamental character and not just something assumed, or worn like a garment. Although the spirit of gentleness is described as an "ornament", it is far more than this - it is an intrinsic part of our character, and this is formed and strengthened, as with all character qualities, by being tested - over and over again. Whenever we are confronted by a test or challenge we must choose deliberately to react to it as Jesus has shown us by His example. By being patient, calm, enduring, accepting. It doesn't mean we can't react at all, but it does mean that we must learn to cast aside all negative responses. These are selfish - our anger, frustration, despair or irritation not only hurt us, but they hurt those around us. If we want to have a harmonious home, with peaceful and productive members living in it, we must practise contentment, even when that contentment has to be worked at. It was this way when we had the problem with the sink! I told myself that even despite not having a kitchen sink that was working, I was still extremely fortunate. I have a home, a roof over my head, light, heat, food, clothes, transport. I am luckier than hundreds of millions of people living in the world right now who would give anything just for a cup of clean water to drink, let alone a sink and taps to wash up in. Putting my circumstances into perspecitve like this helped enormously!
- When you are feeling tested, the best way to cope with the challenge you are facing is to offer it up to God. Pray, pray and pray some more. Your prayers don't need to be elaborate or even spoken out loud. God can still hear us even when we whisper, or offer a silent prayer. Just offer up a prayer in the way that feels best to you. In so doing, we acknowledge our weaknesses and recieve His strength in return.
- Finally, thank God for each and every time that you do manage to endure your trials with "kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering" (Colossians 3: 12). Acknowledging His transforming power in our lives helps us to forge the character qualities that He desires for us, that we might be His joyful and willing servants, and with each challenge that we overcome, we can grow closer to Him and to the gift of our eternal salvation.
Pray without ceasing.
Quench not the Spirit.
Despise not prophesyings.
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
Abstain from all appearance of evil.
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ". (1 Thessalonians 5: 16 - 23).