“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38
The Strength of Gentleness, by Randall D. Kittle
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“Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.”

— St. Francis de Sales

My friend Dale and I had been ministering at various meetings around Dublin, Ireland for more than a week. God had done so many great and marvelous things — things far beyond what we had expected. The Lord had used us to instruct, impart, and encourage so many: everyone from a denominational leader to the pastors at a number of churches to the maid in the hotel … even a few random strangers in a restaurant.

Time to Go Home
Though it was a wonderful whirlwind of God using us to strengthen fellow believers and advance His kingdom, our trip was coming to an end and, to be honest, I was feeling a little worse for the wear. Between the late nights, the traveling schedule, eating a very different diet than I’m accustomed to, and missing my wife, I found myself physically drained and eagerly looking forward to leaving the next day for home.

Since our flight the next morning was taking off quite early, our hosts had made arrangements for us to stay in their parent’s home that was very close to the Dublin Airport. As we packed our bags into the car and drove off to this final destination, I remember telling my friend, “Dale, that’s the end of our ministry here. Now, all we have to do is get on that plane tomorrow morning.” Dale smiled a wry smile and replied, “Be careful, with God you never know what He might have planned.” That turned out to be more of a prophetic proclamation than a simple reminder of God’s sovereignty.

One More Meeting
When we arrived at the house, our hosts were there to introduce us to their parents and join us for dinner. The couple with whom we were staying were truly delightful, as was the home cooked meal we enjoyed together (quite a pleasant change after days of eating breakfast in our room and grabbing lunch and dinner at some restaurant). After dinner, the couple we were staying with let us know that they were having their prayer group over that evening and we “were certainly welcome” to join them if we wanted. The truth is, I didn’t really want to join them. All I wanted to do was read for a while, go to bed, and then fly back home in the morning. But instead, I answered “We’d love to join you for prayer.” My answer was not out of obligation or because of any great kindness I possess. It was sheer obedience to God’s Spirit who was compelling me to go.

The prayer group started by telling us a little of their history. They had been together in a small group at a vibrant church. The love of God really captured their hearts, and they became zealous for God to use them to impact this world for Him. They decided to go to ministry training school to learn how to be more effective in ministry. But before they were done with their training, the leadership of their church “failed.” Selfishness, pride, dishonesty, and much more caused the church to fall apart. Instead of being able to return to their church and use their new training to advance God’s kingdom, they returned to a church in shambles — filled with bitter factions, shattered expectation, and wounded believers. They tried to clean up the mess the prior leadership had left, but to no avail. Their small group kept meeting, but after their church failed, they never found a new one in which to be planted. With this, their fiery zeal to advance God’s kingdom diminished … but they held on to caring for each other and praying for God’s kingdom purposes.

God’s Strong Presence
While they shared this, the Lord told me He wanted Dale and me to bring a new measure of healing into their lives. As we worshiped God together and began praying, the manifest presence of God filled that living room. In my entire life, I have never felt the presence of God so thick and strong. I could feel the glorious weight of His presence on my shoulders and the room we were in began to glow with a divine radiance I cannot really explain.

God’s presence filled the room so powerfully that everyone present knew He was about to do something remarkable. The Lord began to give me words of wisdom on how to minister to the various couples and individuals who were there. As I ministered to each one, God gave specific words of knowledge that touched their hearts and brought them healing and wholeness. I could feel the anointing of the Lord on my words as I spoke, and the power and authority with which I shared surprised even me. One by one the Lord’s presence and power embraced them and brought release from the past and hope for the future. Many of them wept as the Lord’s strong presence healed wounds that had long remained and commended them for their faithfulness to each other and to Him.

When I came to the last couple, once again God gave me a strong word of knowledge and He invited them to be made whole … but there was no response. As I clarified God’s affirmation of all they had done for Him and repeated the invitation to open their hearts to His power to heal their wounds and restore them, I suddenly sensed the wife’s deep hurt. It felt like an emotional black hole — no glimmer of hope … just pain, betrayal, and woundedness. It was as if her heart spoke to me saying, “The hurt is too deep. The pain is too great. I want to open the doors of my heart to God’s gracious invitation, but I can’t.”

I was shocked. The presence of God was so thick it was undeniable. The power of God had been supernaturally healing one after another. How could they miss this great opportunity the Lord had brought for their healing?


Restored in Gentleness
As I marveled at their inability to yield to God’s moving, the Lord told me that they were the ones who most desperately needed a powerful touch from Him … but because of the deep wound the enemy had struck them with, they would only be able to receive this strength if it was clothed in humility and presented in gentleness. With that the Lord told me that my friend Dale was the one who needed to pray with them. I motioned for Dale to pray and simply waited to see how God would use him to touch this sweet couple.

Dale went over, knelt down before them, and started to pray. Soon, tears began to gently run down his face as God revealed to the extent of their woundedness, especially hers. He asked for permission to pray with them. After they agreed, he took the woman’s hands and began praying. With that, the power of gentleness took things to a whole new level. Dale reiterated God’s great appreciation for their willingness to surrender their lives for His service. Then he expressed God’s brokenness and sorrow over how the sins of others had cost them so much and hurt them so deeply. The tenderness of God toward His wounded warriors was so strong that everyone in the room began to weep. We were feeling God’s grief over what had happened to these ones He so richly loves.

In a voice that was nearly trembling, Dale expressed God’s desire to remove the wounds and heal this couple’s hearts. The compassion with which he spoke left no doubt that this wasn’t about “fixing” them; it was about making whole these ones Jesus treasured. With a look on their faces that said, “Yes … it’s about time” they both nodded their heads agreeing to open the doors of their hearts and allow the Lord to make them whole. Dale prayed for God’s love to fill them and flood over them like a river of healing that overflows its banks. When he was done praying, the room was filled with joy, and we were all in awe at what God had accomplished.


The Strength of Gentleness
The enemy’s wounds had been so harsh and devastating that it had left this couple with what I’m sure he thought was a permanent, incurable wound. How he must have rejoiced in having crippled these precious children of God. Even when God’s presence, power, and plan were operating in their midst, this old wound wouldn’t allow them to receive healing.

But God had a hidden strength that could break through the enemy’s stronghold; a strength the enemy had no answer for —
gentleness. When the kindness, compassion, and tenderness of God invaded that room, the couple suddenly had the strength to receive what God was so desperately wanted them to have. As Dale began to move in God’s gentleness, the spirit of gentleness fortified this couple’s spirits and they gained the strength to do what they could never do before. You see, just as encouragement increases courage, gentleness strengthens the weak, dispels fear, and helps others to be able to receive what God has for them.

While you and I may not see the vital importance of gentleness, God has quite a different view. The following Bible verses show us how important it is to God that we have gentleness:

Proverbs 15:1 —
“… a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” 

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

Philippians 4:5 —
“Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.”

1 Timothy 6:11 — 
“But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.”

Titus 3:2 —
“… be kind, always showing gentleness to all people.”

1 Peter 3:15-16 —
“Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect”

The Missing Ingredient
I find gentleness mostly missing in the modern Church. In a society that believes “might makes right” and “the end justifies the means” — where success outweighs virtue, and power is more important than character — gentleness has been pushed to the side. We have existed in this aggressive and demanding culture for so long that, unknowingly, many of us have adopted this kind of lifestyle and begun to think of it as normal. While it may be normal for the masses, it should never be normal for us as Christians. That gentleness is nearly absent in our violent, dog-eat-dog society isn’t surprising. But the fact that gentleness is absent and not missed in most of the American Church is a tragedy to our own discredit.

What is Gentleness?
One definition of “gentle” is: “being free from harshness, sternness, or violence.” When people are hard, domineering, or forceful with others, it isn’t strength. They are actually operating from a place of weakness. It is their insecurity and inadequacy that lead them to try and control, manipulate, overpower, or demean in order to get their way. 

In our flesh, it is so easy to be harsh and mean, rash and cold, belittling and demeaning. It is much harder to be gentle. Gentleness means working hard to rule over your flesh instead of letting your flesh rule over you. It takes more effort, more restraint, more patience, more thoughtfulness, more determination …
more of Jesus!

When you’re gentle, authentically gentle, you are not trying to gain power over someone or something.  Gentleness doesn’t fight for its own rights, does not insist upon personal vindication, does not always have to be in charge, does not have to get even, does not return insult for insult, and does not use force or intimidation to get its way. None of us can consistently live this way apart from the grace of God, but the good news is that God has plenty of grace, even for the worst moments of life, if we will ask Him for it.


Power Under Control
Let me share with you my three-word definition of gentleness: Power under control. Gentleness is not weakness. Far from it, it is power that is under control.

Jesus was the most powerful man who ever lived. Yet His power was always under His Father’s control. He got angry when He chased the moneychangers out of the temple, but He never sinned. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, but also ate with prostitutes and tax collectors. He welcomed children, spoke to large crowds, but still could feel the touch of a woman whose fingers brushed the hem of His garment. That is strength under the control of gentleness.

When my daughter Rachel was a little girl, she used to love to squeeze my hand as hard as she could, trying to make it hurt. She could squeeze with all her might, but it never hurt because I was so much bigger and stronger than her. She didn’t need to be gentle because she lacked the power to cause me any pain. But I always had to be careful I didn’t accidently squeeze her hand too tight or I might hurt her. It is the strong hand, not the weak one, that must learn to be gentle!

Gentleness is a strong hand with a soft touch. It is a tender, compassionate approach toward others’ weaknesses and limitations. In 1 Thessalonians 2:7, Paul gives us a glimpse of how he treated others:
“We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children.”

Puritan leader Jonathan Edwards called gentleness
“the Christian spirit.” Edwards said, “All who are truly godly and are real disciples of Christ have a gentle spirit in them.”

The Bible goes out of its way to show us Jesus’ gentleness. The Old Testament depicts the coming Messiah as unusually gentle, telling us that Jesus would not break a
“bruised reed” or snuff out a “smoldering wick” (Isaiah 42:3). In the Gospels, Jesus affirmed His gentleness: “I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29). And the apostles often reminded the early Church of Jesus’ gentleness: “By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you” (2 Corinthians 10:1).

Unfortunately, too many people equate being
gentle with being weak. Unless you would call the heroic apostle Paul, the fiery preacher Jonathan Edwards, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ “weak” individuals, it is clearly a misunderstanding to assume weakness has anything to do with gentleness.

While Jesus is the perfect example of gentleness, He was no effeminate sissy. He could raise the dead, cast out demons, and calm a stormy sea. Yet the Bible says that
“as a lamb before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). He didn’t debate Pilate, He didn’t curse Herod, and He didn’t fight the soldiers who came to arrest Him. That shows true gentleness — ultimate power under God’s control. He was the Son of God who made others feel welcome around Him.  When people came to Him, they felt rested, not threatened. No wonder the common people loved Him.

You and I are called to be like Him … to come into the fullness of Christ and show the life of Jesus Christ through our lives. The world will never see it merely by demonstrations of His power. Our lives must also demonstrate His gentleness. How desperately we need to have this fruit of the Spirit growing in our lives. Once the world has tasted gentleness in our lives, they will know that we have truly been changed by the Lord. May we be able to say with the prophet of old,
“You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; Your gentleness has made me great” (2 Samuel 22:36).


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