1 Peter 3:3-4 says about wives-
Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious (ESV)
Here Peter is reminding women what real beauty is. It is not what we put on the outside of our person or what we do to our body outwardly that makes us beautiful women. It is not the latest and trendiest hair style, fashion accessories, jewelry, size in clothes, fittest body, etc. These things are not bad things in and of themselves….but they are definitely perishable things. Not only are they perishable but they do not define Biblical beauty in God’s sight.
Peter tells us that it is the inner woman, the hidden person of a woman’s heart that determines beauty….imperishable beauty- the kind of beauty that lasts. He tells us that this kind of beauty is that of a gentle and quiet spirit.
This kind of beauty does not come easy and only happens when the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our soul and begins to conform us to the image of Christ. Having a gentle and quiet spirit also does not come easy for many women. I admit I fail often. I have to repent often. I pray daily for a gentle and quiet spirit.
In our contemporary culture we attribute words like gentle, quiet, and meek with weakness and timidity, but look at how Paul describes himself in 2 Corinthians 10:19 (ESV). Apparently meekness and gentleness go hand in hand.
I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ
According to the dictionary, meek is defined as “enduring injury with patience and without resentment; deficient in spirit and courage, not violent or strong.”
We can either let the world give us definitions, or we can go to the Bible to figure out what these words mean. If we are believers, we must go to the Bible to get insight because God’s ways are not our ways. (Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV)
Paul may have endured injury with patience and without resentment, but he was far from deficient in spirit and definitely had rather significant amounts of courage. Paul was a gospel centered giant. He preached fearlessly, evangelized dauntlessly, suffered willingly, yet he was able to call on the meekness and gentleness of Christ to speak boldly to others. Being meek and gentle is far from weakness or timidity.
Depending on translation, these two qualities are also fruits of the Spirit- meaning the evidence of.
Galations 5:22 (ESV) says But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Most often, people only pay attention to the list of qualities that Paul uses to describe what the fruits of the spirit are and then try really hard, in their flesh, to master these qualities so that they might appear to be Godly people. But pay close attention to the underlined parts of the following verses after that nice handy list of qualities we all want and strive for.
Those who belong to Christ have – have- meaning past tense, already done- if we belong to Christ, this is what has already been done—–> crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If……IF…….IF, (the word “if” is a word that sets up a conditional clause, meaning cause and effect) – if – we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (the word “let”, used twice here, is the second half of that conditional cause and effect).
To be in step with the Spirit simply means to walk with, simultaneously. Think of a master walking his dog on a leash (Let me be clear…I am NOT comparing us to dogs but its the only analogy I can think of at the moment, sorry!)
How difficult is it to have to pull a dog that does not want to go where we want it to go. Or a dog that runs before us so fast that we are being pulled so hard that we fear losing the leash or getting hurt. Neither of these scenarios depict an “in step-ness”. Now think of a dog whose completely in step with its owner. Both heading in the same direction – simultaneously. A nice together-ness.
In the same way, this verse in Galatians is telling us that we ought to be in step with God’s Spirit in such a way that ungodly character traits are being held back but at the same time we are exhibiting Godly character traits confidently.
Basically, if we live by the Spirit, let us not have quality traits in our character that go against what is Godly, which are conceit, envy and provoking one another – the “one another” here are just other people. Conceit and envy are character traits that begin in our minds. To provoke another person is to harbor negative thoughts about them to such a degree that we say things we ought not to say in order to bring about a reaction- sometimes spontaneously, sometimes premeditated.
Going back to that list on the fruit of the spirit, gentleness goes hand in hand with self control, not only outward self control, but also inward self control when we are dealing with the thoughts in our mind, like envy and conceit or the need to provoke others. The only way to purge these feelings or thoughts is to be in step with the Spirit of God.
Gentleness, meekness, and self control enable us to handle and deal with conflict with others that is Christ-centered, God honoring. It’s the opposite of envy and conceit or the desire to provoke. Paul did this well.
Paul exhibited gentleness, meekness and self control well because he knew it was Christ, through the Spirit, that gave him those quality traits.
Meekness, gentleness, and self control embody a quiet heart and spirit. It is not easy to have these quality traits naturally and is only possible with the help and guiding of the Holy Spirit.
Our flesh screams with a right to be heard. We find ourselves in certain situations where we are demanding to be understood. We replay situations and conversations around in our minds to the point that it becomes so noisy that we can not hear the Spirit telling us to…..hush. Our thoughts begin to tell our hearts what to feel and our feelings will often result in exhibiting ungodly behavior towards others.
Praying for a quiet heart is literally waging war with our flesh.
The rest of 2 Corinthians 10 gives us insight to this war.
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (3-5)
Yes, with God’s power, which is the Holy Spirit in a believers life, we are able to destroy the noisy arguments in our minds, every lofty (conceited) opinion of ourselves that makes us think we are somehow better than others. It is with God’s power that we can take every one of our self promoting thoughts and make them captive to obey Christ in loving others well.
And you know what…..there is absolutely nothing weak and timid about that kind of war.
I know that I am unable to wage this kind of war without the Holy Spirit.
I also know that God gives us others in the body of Christ to help us fight this war.
If it were not for the Spirit of God taking up residence in me and a community of believers that God sent to help me, my heart and mind easily become noisy. It is far from quiet.
In that community of believers there is my husband. I am thankful that he is there to help me purge the noise when my mind gets too noisy. I willingly allow him into my thoughts when I begin to feel overwhelmed with emotions or thoughts. His no-nonsense character lovingly reminds me to just……..
If anyone knows me more, it is my husband. Even when I want to rationalize or justify my noisy thoughts, he doesn’t go there with me.
Again, with the help of the Holy Spirit I am able to submit to his rebuke.
Can I just add….that was a whole other war just getting to that point of allowing to be rebuked by my husband….willingly.
Let me tell you…this sanctification process is not for the weak and timid. It’s hard. It’s dying to self. It’s killing sin- literally waging war.
But praise be to God, he gives us everything we need to wage these endless wars on our flesh.
His Spirit. A body of believers. If we are married, a husband.
God is faithful to provide everything we need to look more like his Son.
Since I know I need all the help I can get, I recently picked up a book written by Elisabeth Elliot titled Keep a Quiet Heart. In the introduction of the book, she shares her heart’s desire:
Lord, give me a quiet heart
That does not seek to understand
But confident steps forward in
The darkness guided by Thy hand
That’s my heart desire too.
I want a heart that is quiet by default. I pray for it.
Tonight my husband took our kiddos to a baseball game. The house is quiet and I began thinking about what a quiet heart looks like for me. I began jotting down the following words to describe what I think it could look like. Of course, once I began writing, this blog post just spilled out. Here are the words that prompted this post-
A quiet heart is one that does not get offended easily.
A quiet heart is one that does not stress over trivial matters.
A quiet heart trusts, not because people or situations are trust-able, but because God is.
A quiet heart does not second guess the motives of others, but seeks to see the good.
A quiet heart receives rebuke well, even when its hard.
A quiet heart rebukes in love, even when its hard.
A quiet heart does not seek to understand all things in any given situation.
A quiet heart wades in emotional darkness, (emotional unknowns) with a confident spirit because she knows the One who guides her.
A quiet heart rejects perishable beauty in exchange for beauty that God finds precious.
A quiet heart seeks wisdom to figure this all out.
A quiet heart loves the Giver of wisdom.
Can we begin to seek the Godly beauty of a quiet heart, even if it means we have to wage war with our flesh?