Oh, boy. Here goes one of the most challenging ways to grow in your faith. I’ll admit, I’m merely a student at this one. This is one of the most difficult things for me. To admit this is so challenging to myself as I know how far I have yet to go.
I’m still learning about self-control.
Recently, my doctor told me my cholesterol is way too high. One of my issues, among many, is what I eat. I haven’t been putting enough fruits and vegetables in my diet and go more towards fatty meats. When I asked if I could forgo the nasty medicine, he told me it would take a life change. I would have to eat a very healthy, plant-based diet. I would need to stay away from fatty meats and eat those which are better for me.
No more bacon for the guy who would gladly eat that only.
Self-control and self-discipline are two very different things. Self-discipline is a self-control exercise, which if continued long enough, can become a habit. If you want different results, then do different things.
Upon hearing the news of my high cholesterol, Shannon said she would do whatever she could to help me. But then she also said, “I want you around for awhile.” This was very convicting to me.
You can wander into bad health, but you cannot wander out.
Self-control: the ability to control oneself, in particular, one’s emotions and desires or the expression of them in one’s behavior, especially in difficult situations.
It’s so easy to lack self-control. My bend is to take the easy way out. The problem with this is the results are anything but good for me.
Self-control is one of the most unpopular topics when it comes to our faith. I get it. Who wants to talk about where we personally lack discipline? I’m not faunching at the bit to get into that line.
What I find remarkable in the Gospels is the way the disciples acted before they knew Jesus and the way they acted after he sent them out into the world. They lived differently. Why? Because they saw how he lived and wanted to do what he did. Usually, that’s all it takes to want change: seeing another person do it and wanting that for yourself.
For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.-2 Timothy 1:7
Another thing to note about the disciples, and I think this shouldn’t be taken lightly, is how they speak differently than when they first met Christ. They used to squabble over who would be first in the kingdom of God. Yes, this means that even though they were following Jesus for some time, they weren’t doing it solely for good reasons; they wanted it to benefit them somehow. I imagine it must have been appealing to those who lived as fishermen to want to have a place of power in another place. Maybe they didn’t like the way their lot was cast for this life? They wanted more.
Jesus doesn’t care what our intentions are when we come to him. He will take us warts and all. But rest assured, when you do come, you will not stay the same. He has this effect on people by the way he treats them.
After Jesus leaves the disciples won’t shut up about, wait for it: LOVE.
It’s all they talk about and they sincerely want their people to grab this. It means so much because, up until the last supper, they were still bickering about being first. To answer this, Jesus takes a towel from his waist and begins to wash each of their feet, even the one who betrays him.
It’s self-control not to allow your emotions to take over when someone hurts you.
It’s self-control which helps you to forgive quickly rather than hold onto a grudge.
It’s self-control when you choose to love rather than let fear guide you.
If you want to live a better life, then self-control is the best way to get there. Trust me, I know a little about it, for I’m not the same person I used to be. I was quick to anger and I used to wear a chip on my shoulder.
Earlier this year, on the way to work, as I was taking a left turn through an intersection, a truck from the opposite direction lurched forward and came right on top of me. A large crashing sound jolted me. The man who ran the red got out of his car physically upset with me. I won’t mention the names he was calling me, but he definitely didn’t call me for dinner!
“Are you blind?” he asked incredulously.
“Sir, I don’t know what you are talking about. The light was yellow,” I said.
“No, it wasn’t. Do you think I would just run a red light?”
“Hey, man. That’s all I can tell you is what I saw,” I said to him.
About this time, someone was yelling from across the street to which the man stated he was going to talk to the witness. I looked over to the couple behind me and asked them, “Did I run the light? Was it red? Maybe, I was wrong?”
“No, honey. We saw you. It was yellow. You were in the right. We will stay if we have to, but we both witnessed it.”
To this day, I will never be able to thank this couple who stuck it out with me and stood up for me. About this time, the man came back breathing hard, but saying, “It appears I was wrong and I owe you an apology.”
If I had no self-control like I used to, I would have walked over and clocked the guy. This was my response in the past: anger.
You cannot be loved by Jesus and stay the same. He has this effect on you.
I looked over to the man and said, “Hey, I’m just happy you are okay.”
“Well, I don’t feel okay.”
“Of course you don’t. You’re rattled. And the adrenaline in your body is hitting you. But let’s look at where we are blessed. You and I will get to live to see another day,” I said. I then patted him on the arm.
Later, the man’s wife came to help him with his truck. “Honey, this is the man whose day I ruined.”
“It’s very nice to meet you! And I’m going to let you off the hook, my friend. Accidents happen. Cars can be replaced, but people cannot. I’m glad we are okay and we get to go home to our wives.”
Immediately, a smile came to his wife’s face.
“All I’m going to say is that it was nice running into you,” I said with a smile which gave the man a chuckle.
Loving the person was not in my nature until I met Jesus. I wish I could say that it was, but I was the farthest thing from it. Why did I change? Because Jesus shows up in so many places in my life and it humbles me.
So, now onto my next journey towards better health. I do this for my family. I do this for myself. I do this because Jesus smiles when I do.
Self-control replaces bad things with better ones. We choose what we love and spend time doing. I want to be the person who looks and acts more like Jesus, and he was love.
I want to become love. Not because of a high ideal, but because the way He loves me drives me towards the two greatest commands. Self-control also gives us opportunities for miracles to occur. When we use discipline, it shows God we do so because He loves us and we want to love Him back. Sure we can fail. He doesn’t expect perfection. He looks at our hearts, remember?
Self-control leads to an exemplary life, full of health for the body, spirit, and mind. It gives God room to do amazing things in us and through us. Love is the fuel we use to become who God wants us to be.