“The meek shall inherit the earth – if that’s okay with everybody” (Motto of the Dependent Organization of Really Meek and Timid Souls, or D.O.O.R.M.A.T). -J. Upton Dickson
“He leads the humble in what is right, teaching them his way. The LORD leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all those who keep his covenant and obey his decrees.” -Psalm 25:9-10, NLT
It’s quiet on this Monday morning, except for the sound of a rooster and a fiddle, an infant’s grunts from his swing, and a toddler’s delighted dancing as she watches – again – the Baby Einstein “Life on the Farm” video. Watching the two of them – especially with scenes from an abundant earth passing by – reminds me from the last post how we were wired from creation and birth.
We were created to inherit the earth. It’s in our DNA. But in the wisdom of God, He knew we would need help. His help. Without it, we have the capacity to do – well, what we’ve pretty much done with the planet.
That’s why Jesus – quoting Psalm 37 – said that the delighted happiness that comes from inheriting the earth is reserved for a specific kind of person. Yep – the meek.
So He Reserves It for Sissies?
An old saying goes, “Meekness is not weakness. It’s strength under control.”
The word Jesus used for “meek” or “gentle” referred to a colt that had been broken. A gentle horse is not a weak horse, but one that has submitted his strength to the will of his rider. Meekness is the result of a training process that God takes us through in stages and repeated cycles.
Laura Kate is already showing evidence that, under the care of her parents (and despite the spoiling of her grandparents), she is learning to possess the earth.
I am 49 years older, and I’m still in training, too.
This training to harness our God-given strength is the result of a fourfold process. It’s a lifetime journey, and it is not without pain. Regardless of whether we’re in the “terrible twos” or the “I’m smarter than God fifties,” we’re all a work in progress.
Stage 1: Submission to the Master’s Will
I know we live in an era in which we recoil at words like “master.” Get over it. Your growth, development, and yes, happiness will never exceed your willingness to submit your will to God’s. Somebody must be in charge, and it isn’t you.
When I’m tempted to usurp God’s job, it helps to remember what my friends in Recovery say: “My best thinking got me here.”
You can’t inherit the earth until you realize that it all belongs to God. And that He has a plan for your life and for His kingdom.
I have learned that submission comes onion-like – layer by layer. As parents, we have plans and standards for our children. But we don’t heave it all on them when they’re two years old.
Neither does God. About the time you think you’ve got this “submission” thing down, He peels another layer.
I have also learned that submission is a statement of – and an outgrowth of – trust. To lay down my own will and submit to God’s is to declare that I trust Him to want what is the absolute best for me.
That’s hard for a toddler to grasp sometime. “Laura Kate, come here!” can’t always reveal to her that on the other side of obedience is a date with a Happy Meal, complete with “fry fries.” But I’m no different when it comes to my Heavenly Father’s instructions. Sometimes, all I can see is what an imposition they are, and won’t know until after the fact how they were designed to bless me.
Stage 2: Receiving the Master’s Training.
How teachable are you?
I have learned (I hope) that it doesn’t matter how much you know nearly as much as it does how much you’re willing to learn. And one of the things I appreciate about the Lord is that He is a willing teacher.
Meekness means having a teachable spirit. Training, however, goes deeper than just teaching. Teaching imparts knowledge. Training imparts skills. And in training, that means practice, practice, practice.
So repeatedly, daily, we teach our toddlers to count, and point to elbows and ears, and what the cow says, and how to hold a spoon or sippy cup. And we ask, and ask, and ask repeatedly.
So also, repeatedly, daily, God teaches us to be patient, to forgive, and to rely on His strength and truth. (And He uses toddlers and others to train us big people. Makes you wonder whose training whom.) He then sends us out to put into practice what He is teaching us about love and servanthood and spiritual power.
The closer I get to Jesus, and the closer I get to heaven, the more aware I am of what I have yet to learn. I still need training. And retraining.
I learned in college that muscles don’t actually grow. When anyone does strength conditioning, what actually happens is that the muscles break down, then are “rebuilt” – stronger, tougher.
Can you relate? For most of us, spiritual growth happens the same way. How is God breaking you down so He can build you back, stronger?
Stage 3: Obeying the Master’s Voice.
Meekness means learning to harness the strength God has given you to respond quickly and powerfully when He speaks. And speak He does!
Moses, for example, was referred to as the meekest man on the face of the earth. On command, he defied the mightiest king in the world, but also on command endured fierce criticism without retaliation. Here was a guy who could beat water out of a rock and turn a rod into a snake and back again – quietly enduring. Falling on his face before the Lord when he was criticized. That’s meekness. Weak? Hardly.
David stood before Goliath with fire in his eyes, and put a rock in the giant’s forehead. Yet when he had an opportunity to kill Saul, he refused to stretch out his hand against God’s anointed. Why? He knew how to respond to the voice of God.
Jesus Himself repeatedly stilled storms, sent demons reeling, healed diseases, and dressed down the Pharisees with language that would make even their mamas bitter. But, “when He was reviled, [He] reviled not again” (1 Peter 2:23, KJV). That is meekness.
Learning to recognize the voice of authority and safety is not a luxury; as any mother of a preschooler can tell you, it’s an absolute necessity. The same is true for us. That’s why Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them and they follow Me” (John 10:27).
The question in your life is not whether the Holy Spirit is speaking to you, but whether you are hearing what He is saying.
Stage 4: Enduring the Master’s Testing.
All meekness is tested. Sorry, but it’s so.
Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers….
Cease from anger and forsake wrath;
Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.
(Psalm 37:1, 8 )
Here you can find four tests of meekness:
- The test of anxiousness asks, what are you going to do when the Lord has told you to do something, and he doesn’t seem to be coming through?
- The test of envy asks, what will you do when you are doing what you think is right, and yet those who are living sinful lives are getting more blessing?
- The test of anger asks, what will you do when someone violates your “rights”?
- The test of retaliation asks, what will you do when someone offends you, or hurts you, or does something wrong to you?
In any test, there’s only one meek answer…. What is your Shepherd telling you to do?
I once heard a pretty dramatic example of this from somebody who trains guard dogs. Once the dog has been trained to obey the master’s voice, the nature of the business says that for safety’s sake, the dog must be tested. So trainers withhold food for a day. Then they bring the animal in, give him the “sit” command, and tell him to “stay.” Then they bring in a hot, fragrant, sizzling steak and sit it at his feet. The dog they can trust to put into the field is the one who can wait, drooling, famished, until given the command to eat.
That’s meekness. The power to devour. The discipline to wait.
Inheriting the earth – having your needs met, your desires fulfilled, and abundant peace – is not the stuff of sissies and wimps. Just the character of the believer who has learned to fulfill his deepest longings through surrender.