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May 07, 2017

True North | Gentleness

True North | Gentleness

Passage: Matthew 11:28-30

Speaker: Scott Shelton

Series: True North

Category: Weekend Message

Good morning and it’s good to see you today. Jerry and the Spain team are traveling back tomorrow. So we’ll pray for their safe arrival after a good trip.

Today, we continue on in True North.   God is our True North – we are following him in our beliefs, our practices, and then in our character. The last few weeks our topics have been similar. We’ve talked about things like humility, faithfulness, self-control and today – gentleness. These four are similar – and the reason we talk about them is that they all help us to be more like Jesus.

So to study that, let’s look at today’s passages – Matthew 11:28-30 and Philippians 4:2-9.

Matthew 11:28-30 (NRSV)

28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Then Philippians 4:2-9

“I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, beloved,[e] whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about[f] these things. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.”

This is the word of the Lord –thanks be to God.

Let’s pray. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all of our hearts be pleasing to you, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

So, gentleness. We will learn about it today. But some people might have a problem with gentleness. Some people might say it is synonymous with being weak or a pushover.

But, author and pastor Chuck Swindoll writes:

“In our rough and rugged individualism, we think of gentleness as weakness—being soft and virtually spineless. Not so. Gentleness includes such enviable qualities as having strength under control, being calm and peaceful when surrounded by a heated atmosphere, emitting a soothing effect on those who may be angry or otherwise beside themselves, and possessing tact and gracious courtesy that causes others to retain their self-esteem and dignity.”

But Jesus is not weak, not a pushover. In many stories he shows great strength and boldness, but it still gentle.

Jesus often corrects the disciples, telling them they have little faith, and even telling Peter “Get behind me Satan. You are a stumbling block to me.” Jesus told the disciples he would have to die and Peter had said this must never happen.

Jesus is strong with people who get in God’s way. He denounces the Pharisees – some of the Jewish religious leaders – by saying they’re like a brood of vipers. An aside here – Why does Jesus call religious leaders snakes? I don’t want to be called a snake!

Well, they choose legalism over grace. They cared more about the laws than helping people. I want to be on the side of grace – not more laws – I want to be with Jesus.

Jesus – who is both strong and gentle.

Strong enough to carry your burdens, and gentle at the same time. As we read again in Matthew 11, Jesus says:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Like many of you, I’ve probably read or this passage hundreds of times. But for me, it’s been hard to see that phrase in the middle, I am gentle and humble in heart. I’ve focused on the fact that Jesus says come to me. Or I have focused on the fact that Jesus says, he will carry my burdens and give me rest. I’ve even wondered about the meaning of yoke. It means I can put on the way of Jesus – follow Jesus – and his way is easier and lighter than the ways I’m trying to live. But right there in the middle Jesus says he is gentle.

Jesus is gentle, carries our burdens, and his way is better than our ways.

Zaccheus learned this as Jesus was gentle with him.

In Luke 19, we read the story of Jesus and that little man in the tree, Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus—the hated tax collector, rich because he took money from other people. Does Jesus, upon seeing Zacchaeus, point his finger at him and accuse him of being the thief he really is? No. Jesus simply looks up and says, "Zacchaeus, come down, I’m coming to your house tonight." He approached the situation with gentleness. It was a great honor to have Jesus as a guest in your home, and I’m sure Zaccheus was honored. Jesus saw beyond Zacchaeus' cheating others of their money. He saw a man who needed to be rescued, and with gentleness he rescued him. Zaccheus responded by paying back what he had taken , even more than he had taken, and taking on Jesus’ yoke – or living Jesus way not the way he was living as a tax collector.

So how do we cultivate gentleness? We read in Philippians 4 that Paul says, “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” What’s the context there?

The context is to - Focus on God. We need to focus on God in order to cultivate gentleness.

Paul wants people to get along. He says that two friends named Euodia and Syntyche – are in conflict – he asks for help in them getting right with each other. We were talking in my home group last Tuesday that conflict is part of life, and you have to deal with it. But we can speak the truth in love – and learn to be honest and kind to one another – and be gentle – even as we deal with conflict.

Paul says in verse 4, “Rejoice – again I say rejoice.” Focus on God with your rejoicing. If you are to practice gentleness – you need to rejoice in God. Paul was in prison in Rome when he wrote to the church in Philippians – and yet he continually talks about rejoicing in God. If you’re rejoicing in God things, it’s easier to be gentle.

Paul says in verse 6, “Don’t worry, but pray.” Not don’t worry, be happy, but don’t worry, and pray.

Be thankful and offer your request to God. And what do you get? Peace. Peace that is hard to describe – inner peace from trusting in God, from finding your joy in God, a peace that passes understanding. That peace is a feeling of this too shall pass, everything’s going to be ok, because I know God is in control – and I just prayed for him to help me with my worry – my anxiety – and I give it up to him. By focusing on God, you can have peace.

Paul says in verse 8, to think on good things. Again, focus on God. Paul says put in your mind – things that are good, pure, excellent, praiseworthy, and admirable.

Paul says in verse 9, to keep on doing the things he has taught. Basically – focus on God, rejoice, pray when you are anxious, and think on godly things.

Let your gentleness be evident to all. We are called to be gentle because Jesus is gentle.

Jesus said,

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart.”

Kevin Schmidt talked about our Mexico trip. We saw gentleness practiced there.

Each year, when we go we make home visits to families in need to take some basic groceries to them – rice, beans, flour, and some other items.

Last year, we stopped at a family’s house where there were 2 boys about ages 10 and 12. They had no father or mother, one had died, the other left – so their grandmother was raising them – with an uncle’s help – who lived close by. Here are the boys – Brian and Brandon.

Our hearts went out to these boys. They were gentle. They had a respectful disposition – and we felt for them, hearing their story. This year, we were able to sponsor Brandon, the younger boy – to pay for school uniform, school supplies, and some food through his grandmother.

This year when we returned, we got to spend time with them and be gentle – the boys were humble yet joyful, and we got to know Brandon, his brother Bryan, grandmother and uncle. We were able to pass onto them several pairs of shoes and clothes we had collected from many generous people – and to give them some hope. (See the Zionsville soccer uniform here – Brandon is wearing!)
The boys exuded a sense of gentleness, hope, joy – and taught us about gentleness. Here we are with the boys and grandmother and uncle this year.

We have learned after going to Reynosa, Mexico for several years, that we can’t fix everything, we shouldn’t try to impose our American ways of doing things. We don’t go just to build houses, but to build relationships, with real people who are like us – loved by God , and not to just try fix their problems, but to meet them with gentleness.

Things don’t always go well. Things haven’t gone well for this family. The boys and their grandmother seemed to handle it with a lot of grace.

Writing on gentleness, Pastor Cynthia Fantasia said…

“The fruit of gentleness must be seen in your attitude, in your behavior, and in your conversation, especially when things don't go the way you want them to.

Your spouse will disappoint you. Your boss will rub you the wrong way. Your kids will disobey. Your friends will betray you. Even your church will fail you at times. There will be times when you will be right, and everyone else will be wrong. What will you do? Will you come out fighting?

Or will you respond honestly and humbly, using words sprinkled with grace and gentleness?” 

So how do we cultivate gentleness? We can begin by trying these 3 things:

Focus on God

As Paul says, rejoice in God, pray when you are anxious, have peace from God, focus on God- things in your thoughts, and let your gentleness be evident to all. Go to Jesus who can handle your stuff – who says come to me if you are weary and burdened, for he is gentle. Focus on God first.

See people the way Jesus does.

Jesus says come to me you who are weary and burdened, I will give you rest, because I am gentle and humble in heart. How does Jesus see people? He focuses on people who need his help – like Zaccheus who has spent his life taking more than he deserves, or on the poor, the hurting. Those who are weary and burdened.

Author Dale Bruner says, when Jesus says come to me, his words are simple and personal. He speaks with authority – but he speaks more like a friend than a teacher.

So see people the way Jesus does – they are like us - made in God’s image. Treat people with gentle honesty and courtesy.

Pray for them by name. 

So we’re all going to fail in being gentle. We’re going to lose our tempers, get frustrated, get agitated and be selfish. We just are, we admit it – I admit it.

But here’s a little trick I use sometimes– more a practice than a trick, but kinda fun to call it a trick.

Pray for people that you are angry at, or frustrated with – by name. See their face, and pray for them. When you ask God to help someone you’re struggling with – your heart gets softer towards them. You see them the way Jesus sees them. And the next time you see them, it’s easier to be gentle.

Tony Campolo is an author and writer who spoke here at ZPC many years ago. He is a master storyteller and I have a favorite story of his to share. Campolo was a professor in graduate studies at Eastern University. One year he had 2 young men, grad students, who were roommates. One Christian, one atheist. The atheist was brilliant and could argue all day. The Christian was a nice guy. Campolo said he was worried that the atheist would convince the Christian to give up his faith.

So the end of the year came, and he was talking to the young man who was an atheist, and had come to be a Christian! Campolo said he was pleasantly surprised, even shocked, and said to the young man, “I thought you would argue about the Christian faith and you would win the arguments.” The young man who had been atheist said, “We did argue and I won.” Campolo said, “So how are you a Christian?”

The young man said something like this, “Well, I would win the arguments. And then he would go on treating me with kindness, caring for me, even when I was very sick, getting me food and medicine and helping me to get well. I realized what he was saying about Jesus’ love, he was living it. And if he lived what he said about Jesus, it must be true. So I believed.”

The Christian young man had won over his roommate, now his friend, with kindness and gentleness.

When we are walking with God, we can live with gentleness as well.

We can be gentle when we focus on God.

We can be gentle when we see people the way Jesus sees them.

We can be gentle when we pray for them by name.

Jesus said, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. For I am gentle…”

Let us pray.

Lord we need you in our lives – even again this day. We often feel weary and burdened. Help us when we do to focus on you, give you our anxiety, pray to you, receive your peace, and take on your yoke.

Help us to be gentle – because you are gentle.

On this day of communion – let us once again, come to you, and receive your rest – and follow you. Amen.

Benediction: Knowing that God loves us, and Jesus says come to me, he can help us when we are weary and burdened, or need to treat others with gentleness. We can go from this place with…

The love of God the Father, the grace of Jesus the Christ, and the courage and comfort of the Holy Spirit. Amen.