Tag Archives: self-control

What are you Holding Onto?

Recently my pastors have given a message series on “Discovering Your Story”, teaching how to discern where we fit into to God’s story. The series has been both challenging and enlightening to me, and has brought some inspiration to my little dry spell the last few weeks. (Sorry for that.)

The last message in the series follows Moses in the book of Numbers as he struggles with the complaints of thousands of thirsty Israelites. It reminds me of the wife who spends well over an hour preparing a lovely dinner for her family only to receive complaints. Moses must have been thinking, as I sometimes do, “If I’m following God’s will then why am I stuck here with these people I don’t particularly like right now!” And yet, despite his anger and frustration, God still provides him a way out. How gracious!

God tells Moses to take his staff, speak to a rock and it will pour out water. Why did God ask Moses to take his staff, the staff that he used during the plagues of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, and much more? Earlier in the story of Moses, in the book of Exodus, we even read that God had commanded Moses to strike a rock with his staff to pour out water. At first you might not think anything of him bringing his staff. You might think the staff was like a magic wand, that it needed to be present for miracles to happen. Perhaps Moses needed the staff because he was old and bent over. The Bible doesn’t say why he was told to take the staff if God didn’t want him to strike the rock this time, but my pastor’s message suggested that Moses and the Israelites needed the staff as a reminder of all the past miracles God had done through the staff just as we need to be reminded of all our past answered prayers.

As I pondered on Pastor Ed’s point about the importance of remembering God’s goodness, I realized that if we aren’t holding onto the promise of God’s goodness, we are holding onto something else. Sometimes we complain as the Israelites did. Sometimes we turn to money, substances, or material things to solve our problems. Sometimes we avoid our problems, and there are even times that we blame God. In all of these instances we have let go of our gratitude, our memory of God’s faithfulness, his past victories, and turn to something that can only provide a temporary solution. This is why it is important to hold onto the metaphoric staffs in our lives.

While holding onto these past promises, as Moses did, can help us follow God’s will for our situation, we still stumble from time to time. This is because God made us in His image, an image that very much experiences emotion. We see it in God’s Old Testament interactions with Moses and the Israelites. It seems Moses is constantly begging God to show mercy in his anger. Jesus also demonstrated emotion as he cries at the death of his friend Lazarus. We see it in Jesus’ anger at the vendors in the temple. We even see it in the creation story of Genesis as God thought his creation of man was “very good.” God would not deny us our emotions, just as he would not deny Moses his anger as he approaches the rock in the presence of disappointed Israelites. This is where Moses needed to practice the self-control talked about in the fruit of the spirit passage in Galatians 5. This is where he needed to take a moment and put aside those emotions in order to follow God’s will. Instead Moses lashes out in both words and actions and destroys his chance of ever entering the Promised Land.

Two of the lessons we can learn from Numbers 20:

  1. Take God’s goodness, answered prayers, and promises with you in all you do as a reminder of His faithfulness.
  2. Decisions should not be made by our emotions but God’s will. Practice self-control in all situations no matter how emotional.

How will you practice these lessons today, tomorrow, this week? We all have to make tough decisions in emotional situations. Most big decisions are emotional. Do you find yourself making life decisions based on your emotions?

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I pray your will be done, not mine. I don’t have a way to see the big picture, but you do, so Lord, I give every decision little or big to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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The Last Fruit

You may have heard of the fruit of the Spirit. In Galatians 5:22-23, after describing the acts of flesh, Paul contrasts them with the fruit of the Spirit. This fruit is made up of 9 parts (or perhaps it’s 9 fruit) in either case they are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Now, just because Paul names self-control last definitely does not mean that it is least. In fact, during the holiday season this is one of the sourest fruits for many people.

Each Christmas Eve my dad and I ring the Salvation Army bell at his local Raley’s. In recent years we have been required to ring inside, which is hilarious because they have now rigged the bells to be much quieter. I call it the bell’s “inside voice.” This year we had to ring a couple weeks early because of my trip. Standing just inside the door of Raley’s I look out across the aisle of stuffing, potatoes, and frozen turkey, but before my eye can reach the foods of Christmas feast they are set on the rather large display of hard alcohol, beer and wine. I turn to my dad and say, “Wow! It must be difficult for alcoholics to go into stores like this during the holidays.” After making that statement I thought of all the other temptations that haunt us at this wonderful time of year. As we are welcoming in our newborn king, we are also over-indulging in food, drink and shopping. I doubt the baby Jesus would approve of our gluttony.

One thing that is not to be misunderstood in this verse is God is not saying we need to do it alone. Ironically self-control in this passage is really saying “give God control.” For an addict it can be nearly impossible to control one’s self, but through the Spirit we can all achieve self-control. It’s a matter of saying, “Hey God, I can’t do this. I need your help,” and like a perfect Father He will sweep you up from the “miry clay” of over-indulgence and plant your feet on solid ground.

If you are struggling with self-control as Him to help. You are never alone in your struggle.