Welcome to snowy Whitewater!
We’re so glad you’re here! Week by week, more folks are navigating their way back to in-person worship and we are welcoming new people each week. Shout out today to some of those returning folks in the Dan Miller family.
Dan received a miracle kidney last year after a long wait, and yesterday, February 20, he celebrated his one year ‘Kidney-versary.' This is Dan’s first service back since before his transplant and the first time his entire family will be at church together since COVID hit! So welcome! His daughter, Dee said, "We would never have made it through all of our dark days without God’s hand and his plan." They would say they are Blessed.
That’s the series we are in right now - ‘Blessed.' It’s on the Beatitudes of Jesus. Some of you know I like a cheesy cliché or slogan from time to time. Hope is the best dope… No risk it - no biscuit. Stuff like that. Years ago, I would even come up with a cliché/slogan that rhymed for each year for the church, too.
The Lord‘s going to bless you in 2002. Here comes your victory in 2003. The Lord will give you more in 2004. We’re coming alive in 2005. Always positive. But I stopped it in 2006, because I had some members who were causing me headaches. I think my slogan that year was ‘you make me sick in 2006!' But this year, it might be time to start that tradition again - maybe ‘Let’s have some fun in 2021’… or ‘Bring on the sun in 2021’… maybe not. So, we’re just going with Back to the Basics! And it’s going to be The Sermon on the Mount all year long.
If you’re just joining us, awesome! We’ve covered two Beatitudes so far, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’ and ‘Blessed are those that mourn.' Today’s is found in Matthew 5:5. ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth…’ This is one of the most misunderstood of all the Beatitudes.
The reason is because the word “meekness” conjures up an image of someone who is spineless and wimpy. We think of a meek person as some kind of doormat who allows others to walk all over them. We say, “Meek as a mouse.” To me growing up, it was actors like Don Knotts (Barney Fife) who always played timid characters. So today, I want to define meekness, think of some practical ways it is demonstrated in our lives today, and then try consider the dividend (reward) of meekness.
The Definition of Meekness
Meekness is best defined as “strength under control.” Commentator, William Barclay points out that the word originally applied to animals that were domesticated, maybe a horse that was trained to respond to the reins.
In the Old West, a wild stallion had to be broken before it could be ridden. The cowboy would have to break the strong spirit of the animal and bring it under his control before the horse could reach its potential and be useful to the rider. But looking at that subdued stallion, you still see all the strength of that horse. It didn’t give up any power, it was simply brought under control of the owner. That’s meekness - strength under control. And wow, be unto you if you’re on a horse that is wild. I heard that a couple of weeks ago, Conor Doyle was on a horse that got out of control and it started bucking up and down, and he could have really been hurt if that manager from Walmart hadn’t come out and unplugged it from the wall….
You see meekness does not denote weakness. Jesus was meek, but when he fashioned a whip of cords and drove the moneychangers out of the temple, he was anything but weak. His passion was channeled in the right way at the right time. That’s always a risk with passionate people, but I love it! I’d rather restrain a fanatic than resurrect a corpse! Speaking of that, we have a number of passionate people on our staff. You might know one well! JT is passionate, and I love that. He has received some criticism. But if you knew how much he held back, you’d compliment him!
Meekness is best defined as “God-tamed.” A meek person is not one who is a weakling. A meek person is someone who has wisely sacrificed his ego to God so that God can bring out the best in him or her. Moses is described in the Bible as a meek man. NUMBERS 12:3 says, "NOW MOSES WAS A VERY HUMBLE MAN, MORE HUMBLE THAN ANYONE ELSE ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH." (FUNNY!) But. in his youth, Moses had such a fiery passion he killed an Egyptian taskmaster when his anger got out of control. So God sent Moses into the wilderness for 40 years to cool, channel, and redeem his temper. And eventually he was described as a meek and God-tamed man.
Meekness is gentleness blended with power. It is a very difficult virtue for some of us who are strong-willed and independent! (Heard about a little guy in church service who didn't want to sit down, even after his mother corrected him several times. He finally cooperated but said, "I may be sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside!" Some of us have kids like that or we ARE that kid still. The music track of our life is Frank Sinatra’s, “I Did It My Way."
If that’s you, you might study a guy named Saul of Tarsus for some life lessons. He later became the apostle Paul, but in Acts 26 we read Saul was persecuting the church. Saul was brilliant, talented, egocentric, and ambitious. He was determined to make a name for himself by persecuting Christians. When he ran out of Christians to persecute in Jerusalem, he got permission to go to Damascus and persecute those who fled there.
God saw Saul as a raw, brilliant recruit for Jesus Christ, but he needed to be brought under submission and trained. His stallion-esk passion needed to be bridled. So outside of Damascus, God struck Saul down with a bright light. Saul was humbled and blinded, and literally was knocked off his horse – his high horse!
Some of you got knocked down recently and you thought it was because God was mad at you. NO! He’s trying to rescue you! He’s trying to redeem you! He’s trying to develop meekness in your life. So, submit or keep struggling. It’s up to you. If you’re pretty talented and living for the limelight, let me give you a little piece of advice. Prepare yourself for pain and humbling, until God brings you to the end of your rope and the end of yourself, and you finally bow the knee and say, 'You are the master - King of Kings and Lord of Lords.’ I submit to your reins to guide me and your eternal reign to keep me!
The ultimate goal of meekness, our entire life actually, is to know Jesus and then make Him known to others. We work to become ‘less-than’ so he can become ‘MORE-than!’ Our mission is to meekly keep pointing people to Him.
Let’s look next then at The Demonstration of Meekness
What does it look like when we practice meekness? Let me give you a couple of ways:
Meekness is demonstrated in our attitude toward God’s Word.
JAMES 1:21 says, "THEREFORE, GET RID OF ALL MORAL FILTH AND THE EVIL THAT IS SO PREVALENT AND HUMBLY ACCEPT THE WORD PLANTED IN YOU, WHICH CAN SAVE YOU."
If you are meek, you approach the Bible with respect and a willingness to obey it. If you’re egotistical, you receive the Word of God with skepticism and resistance.
For example, when God’s Word says in Hebrews, "Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together," a meek person makes that a priority whether in-person or online. But, a prideful person says, ‘I don’t have to do that. I don’t see any value in making that a priority for me and my kids.’ I can worship God anywhere. Yes, you can, but you don’t! Maybe it’s time to get back in the habit of worshipping again weekly.
When God’s Word says to “repent and be baptized” the prideful person remarks, “They’ll never get me in that baptistery!” But, the humble person says, “I’ll do whatever it takes.” When Saul was blinded by the light, he called for a preacher named Ananias who prayed for him and told him to 'get up and be baptized.' Maybe that’s what some of you need to do now! We are planning on doing a bunch of baptisms on Easter weekend if you’re looking for a date to draw in the sand!
Or, when the Bible commands, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse” meaning you are to give the first 10% of your income to the church, the egocentric person says, “The church is only concerned with my money. I’ll just keep all my money." (Good luck with that by the way.) The meek person takes God at His word and responds with generosity.
Meekness comes with a spirit of submission toward the authority of the Bible and receives it gladly!
Meekness is also demonstrated in our attitude toward God’s leaders (those in spiritual authority over you).
Hebrews 13:17 puts it this way, "Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you."
Mohammed Ali won the world heavyweight championship three times. No one had ever done that before. His picture appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated more than any other athlete up to that time. Wherever he went, there was an entourage of people following him. He boasted that he “floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee.” He was Superman. He was the greatest. His words…
It is said that in the prime of his career, he was on a flight and the flight attendant noticed he didn’t have on his seatbelt. He told the attendant, "Superman don’t need no seatbelt" to which she replied, "Superman don't need no airplane. Buckle up!"
I’m not looking for blind loyalty and trust as your leader. But, I need to tell you, it has never been harder than it is right now to be the leader of anything, especially the church. Some days I’m not sure if people are following me or chasing me, probably a little of both! So being meek means following Hebrews 13:17 and assuming positive intent with decisions we make here at church. We often have info you don’t have that informs and drives us to try things.
Meekness is also demonstrated in our attitude toward people who disagree with us.
2 Timothy 2:24-25 says, "And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth..."
Early in his political career, the late William Howard Taft, Senator from here in Ohio, went into hostile territory to give a speech. As he was speaking, someone threw a rotten tomato that hit him on the chest. The tomato juice splashed all over his face, his glasses, and got in his hair. William Howard Taft said nothing. He continued with his speech. He didn’t even wipe his face off. When he finished his speech, he stepped down off the platform, took out a handkerchief, wiped his face off, didn’t say anything about the incident, and began shaking hands with the dignitaries and waving to the crowd. As he walked down the aisle toward the door, the whole audience, as one, stood and gave him a standing ovation.
In my life, I have learned that getting angry at someone who disagrees with me is MY choice. No one can make me hate them or react in an unholy way. It’s a mark of maturity to realize there is a little bit of truth in every criticism, and it’s a sign of meekness when we realize good people can and do disagree with us and still love us. We can still walk hand-in-hand even when we don’t see eye-to-eye! The alternative is to be constantly and perpetually offended. Meekness knows you can find a way to disagree without being disagreeable!
How many of you here have been married longer than one year? (I say more than one year because you’re just living in enchantment that first year, you know nothing!) But, in a healthy marriage, when there’s a disagreement you often have to swallow your pride and see your spouse’s point of view. One woman was greatly irritated with her husband and said, “Instead of divorcing you, I am just going to pray that one of us dies and then I’m going to live with Mother!”
You don’t know how selfish you really are till you get married. Isn’t that true?! Heard a pastor at a conference not long ago say, "I thought when I got married, I’d have a hot meal every night, sex on demand, and my mother and my wife would be best friends forever."
Meekness is the willingness to say, "Honey, maybe you’re right, and I was wrong." (One gal said, "I married Mr. Right...what I didn’t know was his first name was Always.")
And, last, let’s look at The Dividend of Meekness - the Reward.
Jesus said, “The meek will inherit the earth.” This Beatitude is almost a direct quotation of Psalm 37:7-11 which says, "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity."
You inherit something because someone dies and leaves you a bequest in a will. Well, Jesus died and says, “I am leaving you an inheritance – the earth.” What if I don’t want the earth – it’s in bad shape?!
But it’s nice to have an inheritance, isn’t it?! We read all the time about people who inherit huge fortunes. Ever heard of an animal getting one? Leona Helmsley, a billionaire New York City businesswoman and hotelier renowned for her tough demeanor, (her nickname was the ‘Queen of Mean’) had a soft spot for a dog named Trouble. She bought the Maltese after the death of her husband, Harry, and she and her pet motored around town in a stretch limousine.
When Helmsley died in 2007, she left Trouble a $12 million inheritance through a trust fund. A judge later reduced the dog’s inheritance to $2 million, but the loss did not rob Trouble of a life of ease. A caretaker tended to her around the clock at a cost of $100,000 a year. Trouble lived the equivalent of 84 human years and was tended to 24-7 at the Helmsley Sandcastle hotel in Sarasota. Trouble, who had faced 20-30 death and kidnapping threats, also retained a full-time security guard. After Trouble’s passing, Helmsley’s will stipulated that Trouble would lie next to her in the family mausoleum.
Well, you as a Christian have an eternal inheritance that won’t rust or fade – and won’t go to the dogs!
‘Inheriting the earth’ could mean two things…the good parts of living on earth and the Jesus way does bring a joy that cannot be equaled or denied! Doing life with Jesus is better than being on a boat, at a ball game, at a bar, and even a beach! And it’s better than being on a golf course, a club, or casino. With Jesus, you will inherit a better life here on earth. C. S. Lewis wisely said, “If you aim at heaven, you get earth thrown in. You aim at earth, you get neither.”
But, this phrase could also mean this: you will gain the promise of the New Heaven and New Earth someday, at the end of time, when the paradise of Eden will be given to those who follow Jesus as their allotted portion and rightful inheritance. Just as Paul says the ungodly will not inherit the kingdom of God, one day the Lord will take the earth from the hands of the wicked and give it to the righteous. On that day, the haughty will be humbled...the first will be last…and the boasters will be broken. Psalm 37:12,13 says, "The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming."
But, that inheritance is not just a promise for tomorrow. It is given to us today in so many ways. Right now, we are living in the Kingdom of God full of hope and joy. Full of so many blessing from God that we take for granted. Things that money can’t buy and COVID can’t steal! Right now, you can be Blessed.
The blessings of the Beatitudes are for those who are realistic about their sinfulness, repent of their sins, and are responsive to God in faith and baptism.
Those who are unblessed and unhappy, and therefore shut out of the kingdom, are the proud, the arrogant, the self-sufficient and the self-righteous who feel no need for God’s help or righteousness.
So one huge key to being blessed or joyful is to ‘let go of your ego.’ Your ego cannot be your amigo! Paul urged the Colossians to do this in Colossians 3:12-14, "Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."
Some scholars say the Beatitudes are a progressive formula for living a blessed and abundant life. The 1st step is being poor in spirit – to acknowledge our spiritual bankruptcy before God. The 2nd step is to mourn our sin – to realize that sin wounds the heart of God, and so we should turn from it. Then, the next step is to submit our egos to the total control of Christ. And that will bring blessing upon blessing.
We talked about inheritances before, so let me close with this. True story: A homeless man living on the streets of Santa Cruz, Bolivia fled police who were bringing him news of a $6 million inheritance. Thomas Martinez, 67, apparently thought the police were about to arrest him for his alcohol/drug habits. The man disappeared without a trace, causing Bolivian newspapers to speak of him as a "new millionaire paradoxically not knowing his fortune." The inheritance came to Mr Martinez from his ex-wife, who inherited the money herself from family members. He was running from the one who wanted to reward and not punish him.
When will you, in your fear and pride, stop running from the one (JESUS) who wants to bless you with riches beyond your wildest imagination! You’re in the family! You’re in the royal line of inheritance. Your present and future can be BLESSED! That’s why Jesus says, "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth."