“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5)
The Sword of the Spirit is the perfect weapon with which we can fight the evil in our world. But even armed with such a magnificent sword, careless, clumsy warriors can sometimes hurt themselves or hinder and damage the cause for which they fight.
Paul’s reminder in Philippians that “The Lord is near” ought to inspire us to fight with both great care and a sense of urgency. In one sense, the Lord is near to us physically and spiritually at all times. While this is a great comfort in our distress and in the thick of battle, it is also exactly the reminder that we sometimes need when thwarted and frustrated in our attempts to spread the Gospel and combat the wickedness in our world. When we lose our patience, when our sense of peace is diminished, when the joy has gone out of our ministry…at these times we may not realize that fact that we are under heavy fire from Satan, who is trying to undermine our witness and draw us into sin. Remembering that God is close at hand both gives us the courage to stand boldly and gently, while also holding us accountable to our Heavenly Father for the words and actions we employ in His service.
The Lord is also near in the sense that He is coming soon, and the fervor of our spiritual battle ought to reflect that fact. He could return at any moment, and the threat of death constantly surrounds all who dwell in this fallen world. This is a reminder of how important it is for us to fight urgently and pray fervently for those who do not know Jesus or the saving power of His grace. Because our emotions can sometimes lead us into despair and sin – even as we fight to spread the Gospel promise – God reminds us to do everything in the spirit of His own peace and gentleness. We can learn to do this from Jesus and His words: “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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)
God makes gentleness a vital part of our training for spiritual warfare, both in our witness of the Gospel and in our service to one another. His instructions are clear; we must employ gentleness when wielding the other weapons of faith if we are to be effective and minimize our “collateral damage”:
“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” (Galatians 6:1)
Arming a warrior for combat is about more than just putting a weapon in his hands. Training is a necessary part of the equipping process, both for the protection of the warrior and to ensure his combat effectiveness. God our Commander has given us excellent weapons of spiritual perfection, and in His grace He thoroughly prepares us for the dangers that lie on the battlefield by teaching us how to use these weapons in the way that will best serve and honor Him. The gentleness that comes from peace in Christ will guard and protect our hearts and minds from temptation as we move forward into battle with the Gospel of salvation.
“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.” (Titus 3:1-2)
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, grant me true gentleness through Your peace as I proclaim the Gospel and minister to my neighbors. Guard and defend my heart against all anger, wrath, impatience, cruelty, and malice; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, my Lord. Amen.