I once heard Warren Wiersbe, popular evangelical writer and speaker, say that if you want to get a true picture of the spiritual life of a prospective pastor, put him on the basketball court not behind the pulpit. I agree. The true nature of a person is best shown by their interactions with others when self-control is tested.[featured-image single_newwindow=”false”]
A Story About ___________?
Kurt and Lisa just had a great time in church. They saw their good friends. The worship team was hitting on all cylinders with a worship set that practically made them dance. The message from Pastor Tim moved them to tears yet gave them some needed insight into their marriage. They left the building feeling really good.
That is, until they pulled out into the traffic on Elmwood Blvd. They almost rear-ended the Lexus that was for no reason stopped in the turn lane. “What’s your problem, Nancy! Asian drivers! Totally clueless!” Then, no one would let them ease into the right-hand lane even with their blinker flashing brightly. “Stupid people! Probably a bunch of churchies hustling to get to their favorite eating hole.”
But the kicker happened a few miles later as they exited the interstate to meet Lisa’s parents at Chevy’s. Obviously Fred and Ethel in the gray Marquis had never heard of the “right turn on red” rule. They must have been deaf, too. Laying on the horn didn’t faze them. “Maybe if I pull up about two inches from their massive bumper they’ll get the hint.” “Idiots! People over 105 shouldn’t still be driving.” Finally the light turned green. Kurt really enjoyed blessing “Fred” when he meandered past the Marquis. Of course, it was the only Christian thing to do…spreading the good news of safe driving.
The church service was a distant memory. For that matter, so was God.
Spirit & Synergy
It’s pretty incredible when you see the Spirit work to heal someone or bring about good from disaster. Yet, perhaps more incredible is the Spirit’s work of producing the fruit of “self-control” (Galatians 5.22-23) in an ill-tempered individual. Which is more challenging – physical healing or a transformed heart?
The ability to control your emotions, passions/desires, impulses and words is a result of the Holy Spirit transforming your heart as you cooperate with the Spirit. You can’t merely think your way to self-control. Nor is it a matter of pure will power. Self-control authentically blossoms from a bridled heart.
Simple Ways to Gain Self-Control
- Admit how “out of control” you are. Seriously monitor your emotions, words, and actions as you drive. What names are you calling people? What judgments are you making about people? Determine to do something about it now while you can.
- Turn from your “wicked ways.” Repent and begin moving along the path of “recovery” towards graciousness, thankfulness, kindness, and love. You know that’s what you want.
- Be in constant prayer/communion with God. Saying the Jesus Prayer and/or “Thank you” for all things will slowly alter your reactions to what’s happening around you. Repeating “Lord, have mercy” throughout the day will shape you into a more merciful person – even to those “losers” on the road.
- Hang out with Jesus. “Come to me…and find rest. Take my yoke (live in my relationship with the Father), and learn meekness & humility from me and you’ll find rest for your souls.” A humble soul at rest in Jesus will grow in self-control.
- Practice fasting. The most practical way to learn self-control in all areas of your life is to fast in one area. Choose something doable like fasting from your computer or Facebook for a day. Fast from one meal a week. Fast from TV for a weekend. Do this consistently and you’ll develop self-control.
- Let failure inspire you to keep at it. You are on a journey to Christlikeness. This means you will struggle with self-control. The struggle is where the strength comes to persevere. When you fail, humbly admit it but don’t be defeated. The effort, by the Spirit, is worth it!
In what ways do you struggle with self-control? How can you adopt one of these simple ways to address your struggle? Choose one and begin practicing it today.
Stay controlled, my friend!