Supplement Your Faith
We have spent the last couple of weeks discussing each of the fruits of the Spirit and today we are concluding with the subject of self-control. This is one fruit that I am finding to be incredibly important. It is one fruit that we may prefer to gloss over and continue on with our lives, but I encourage you to really look at this word and consider its importance in our pursuit of being like Christ.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. As I have been thinking and praying about this topic, I have not been able to escape the conviction that self-control is where we put things into practice. When we are standing in line at the store and find ourselves feeling impatient, self-control is choosing to be patient and loving. When we are dealing with an unruly and tired child, self-control chooses love through patience and gentleness. When we are finding ourselves overwhelmed with the worry, stress, and anger that comes from watching the news, self-control chooses joy. Self-control requires us to set ourselves aside and choose to be like Christ.
Recently, I found myself in the middle of cleaning up the various messes my kids had made in the span of two minutes. I have been struggling for a number of weeks in the area of patience. I got so tired of this person that I had become (and was becoming) that I could not help but cry out to God to help me be patient. They say when you pray for patience, God does not bless you with the magical ability to be patient, instead, He gives you opportunities to exercise patience. Patience is tough. It feels so good to choose anger. It feels satisfying to be selfish. It makes me happy to let off a bit of steam every now and then. You know what doesn't feel good? The regret that comes when we choose selfishness.
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Self-control reminds us that we are all called to a higher standard!
As I was cleaning up sweetened iced tea off of my floor, knowing I had a mess on the toilet to clean up next, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude. As I started mopping my floor, I kept thinking, "I have been meaning to mop this floor for days. Doing it today means that I do not have to worry about it tomorrow." When I cleaned the bathroom, I thought, "This room has been needing to be cleaned anyway." I was thankful for opportunities to start on the following day's responsibilities in preparation for the company that would be coming.
What I noticed was that choosing self-control meant that my children were not crying. If I responded in anger, my children would have been crying and that would be another matter to handle. Choosing self-control meant that my house was free of tension and full of joy. Choosing self-control meant that I could appreciate my young children's attempt at independence.
Then I was struck by another thought that I am sure came from the Lord. To stop buying into the lie that I will be a "good mom" when my kids are older. How I respond and interact with my children today matters as much as it will (and maybe even more) when my children are older. It is easy to think that I can be a fun mom when my kids are giving me less work (cleanup) to do. It is easy to think that I can put off ministry until my kids are ready for it, but here is the thing: ministry is happening now. This ministry requires me to exercise self-control, even when I would rather choose anger, selfishness, and to let off a little steam.
It is a common lie that we all buy into, even if it looks a little different for all of us. That when we finally live in a neighborhood worth pouring into, THEN we will begin ministry. That when so-and-so works through more of their issues, then I can be nice and loving to them. God does not want us to put off loving others, being joyous, choosing patience, or any of the other fruits of the Spirit until others earn it or until it is convenient for us. God wants us to begin today, right now, and immediately.
Self-Control Strengthens our Witness
See, there is a flip-side to supplementing our faith with self-control. Self-control strengthens our witness. Look at my own story: how will my kids ever accept that God is loving if I continue to choose anger instead of love and patience through self-control? If I blow a gasket every time my children are learning a new task, what will they expect of God when they make a mistake? I am God's representative to my children. I am called to behave in a way that reflects God to them.
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To our neighborhood, even if it is not the neighborhood we want to be in, God calls us to be His representative to our neighbors (no matter where we live). How can we choose self-control through loving those in our neighborhood? How can we brighten up the place with His light? How can we love them in a way that matters to them?
To that person who may be struggling around us, why wait for them to work through a few things before we will be kind to them? Why not choose self-control and be kind to them now? Is that not how Jesus would treat them if He was in our same situation? How else might Jesus show love to that person? When you come up with your answer, put it into practice. Be His representative to that struggling person.
Whatever lies we have bought into and wherever we fall short when we view the fruits of the Spirit, let us choose to be representatives of Christ. Let us choose to live our lives in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Let us choose love in the midst of hate. Let us choose joy in the midst of anger. Let us choose peace instead of chaos. Let us choose patience in the midst of frustration. Let us choose kindness and goodness over hardened hearts. Let us choose faithfulness over abandonment. Let us choose self-control in the midst of selfishness.