|Vol. 2, No. 6||Page 11||June 2000|
So Much to Watch, So Little Time
This article is the fourth and last in a series on personalities. Each article considers one of four personality types and looks at examples of that type found in the Bible. The last personality type is that of the phlegmatic, the watcher. These individuals, like the melancholies, are not aggressive. In fact, this person is very passive. He is tolerant of others, content and balanced. The phlegmatic is a good listener and as such makes a good mediator. He tries hard not to be offensive to anyone. An adaptable person, he is friendly, but shy and very consistent.
Like the other three personalities, the phlegmatic has his weaknesses. This individual is so much the watcher that he becomes involved in as little as possible. He is fearful, indecisive and hesitant of things in life. This characteristic leads to a compromising nature. Often the phlegmatic worries over everything. Phlegmatics come across as indifferent and unenthusiastic, lazy and sluggish.
The phlegmatic person is not easily excited. If a job has to be done, he wants to do it the easy way. His goal in life is to have peace. These people need respect and a sense of self-worth. If you observe a person patiently watching activities around him, trying to make peace or working with small details, you are looking at a phlegmatic.
We have already looked at Bible examples of the sanguine, choleric and melancholy personality types. In each instance the individuals allowed God to be a great influence in their lives. This helped them develop traits not common to their types of personalities. The same is true of the phlegmatics, our last group to study.
Consider the phlegmatic characteristics. This person is very peaceful, patient and adaptable. At the same time, he tends to be reluctant, indecisive and a worrier. The Bible characters we will consider with these traits are Timothy, Barnabas and Abraham.
The young preacher Timothy is seen in Scripture mainly through the writings of the apostle Paul. Timothy was sometimes Paulís companion as he traveled through Europe and Asia preaching the Word (Acts 16:1-3; Philippians 1:1). At other times, Paul reported in his writings to the churches that Timothy was in another location teaching the Word or on his way to be with Paul (1 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Timothy 4:21). Timothy was a faithful friend and companion to the apostle. This is very typical of phlegmatics. They are very consistent friends.
Phlegmatic individuals have another trait that we find through Paulís dealings with Timothy. Paul repeatedly urged Timothy to preach, to be strong, to do good work (2 Timothy 2:1-2, 15; 4:1-5). Many times phlegmatics need to be prodded to get involved and fulfill their responsibilities. With Christ and Paulís example, it seems Timothy was able to teach and uplift the congregations with which he labored.
Barnabas is another phlegmatic portrayed in the Bible. Like some of the others we have reviewed in the last few articles, there is not a lot of information about him. We can see from Scripture that this man was patient, did not like conflict and was willing to give others a chance. In Acts 15:36-41 we read of an incident that occurred between Barnabas and Paul.
ďAnd some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churchesĒ (Acts 15:36-41).These two Bible teachers had finished a missionary journey and were about to start on a second one. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark along but Paul was completely against the idea. John Mark started out with these two on the first journey but left in the middle. Barnabas was willing to give him another chance but Paul was not. Rather than continue in conflict, Barnabas and John Mark went one direction and Paul took Silas and went in another. In this instance, Barnabas shows patience in dealing with others. He patiently worked with John Mark and strengthened him so much that later Paul speaks favorably of the young man (Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11). Barnabas also opted for a peaceful solution to a problem. We should be like Barnabas by being patient in working with others and seeking peaceful solutions to conflict.
Abraham is another phlegmatic individual found in the Bible. Though a man of faith (Hebrews 11:8-19), we find the phlegmatic fear, doubt, peaceful diplomacy and adaptability in him. Read Genesis 12:11-13 and Genesis 20:1-2,10-12. In these verses Abraham demonstrates his fear. In both places he claimed his wife Sarah was his sister for fear he would be killed so someone could take her as his wife. Abraham forgot that God was with him and let his fear cause him to lie.
This father of a great nation also showed peaceful diplomacy in dealing with his nephew Lot. Both men had herds, so many animals that they could not live peaceably together. Abraham diplomatically and unselfishly gave Lot the first choice of land, the well-watered plain of Jordan or the less desirable land of Canaan (Genesis 13:5-12). Do we try to live in peace? Are we selfish and taking the best for ourselves? Abraham is a great example for us.
As great as Abrahamís faith was, he still had periods of doubt. God promised Abraham a son would be born to him and Sarah, even though they were physically too old to have children (Genesis 15:2-4; 17:15-19). Abraham began to doubt that he and Sarah could have a child, so he let Sarah persuade him to take her handmaid Hagar and have a child by her (Genesis 16:1-4). Ishmael was born of this union and much strife developed in the home because of it (21:9-11). These events also show the compromising nature of the phlegmatic. Abraham allowed Sarah to persuade him to have a child by her handmaid and later to remove the handmaid and child from the household. He compromised on what was right to have peace with his wife. We as Christians need to always stand for truth no matter what and never doubt God will keep his promises.
Throughout his life Abraham had to be very adaptable. When God called him out of Ur, the home of his father, Abraham adapted to life as a wanderer (Genesis 12:1-4). He adapted to changes when he and Lot had to separate and again when his two sons were born. When God told Abraham to offer Isaac on an altar, he did not hesitate as most phlegmatics would. He knew that God would make things right (Genesis 22:18; Hebrews 11:17-19). Abraham adapted to the situations at hand. He was a man of great faith and an example for us to follow today.
Timothy, Barnabas and Abraham were men that did many wonderful things for God. Though phlegmatics by nature are extremely slow to become involved, these three put God first and then did many deeds in his name. This is a lesson for all phlegmatics. God wants all his children to be willing and eager workers for him. Learn to become involved and help others find Christ.
In the last four articles we have studied Bible characters
of each personality type. They have shown us that God can and does use
everyone to do his will. Each individual we considered had strengths and
weaknesses. With the influence of God in their lives, the men and women
of the Bible were able to use their strengths for God. They were also able
to eliminate or diminish the influence of their weaknesses. The lesson
here is clear: All individuals, no matter their personality or other
factors, can serve God successfully. Let us always try our best to obey
the will of God.