That is why I would remind you to stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the [gracious] gift of God, [the inner fire] that is in you…. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.
— 2 Timothy 1:6–7 (AMPC)
It doesn’t matter what kind of problem we have in our lives; we need self-control and discipline to gain and maintain the victory. I believe this is especially true regarding our thought life and the battle for our mind. What begins in the mind eventually comes out of the mouth, and before we know it, we’re telling anyone who will listen how we feel. We must discipline our mind, our mouth, our feelings, and our actions so that they are all in agreement with what the Word of God says.
Every quality of God that is in you and me, God Himself planted in us in the form of a seed the day we accepted Christ (see Colossians 2:10). Over time and through life’s experiences, the seeds of Christ’s character begin to grow and produce the fruit of His Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (see Galatians 5:22–23).
I have found that it is virtually impossible to operate in any of the other eight fruit of the Spirit unless we are exercising self-control. How can you and I remain patient, for example, during an upsetting situation unless we exercise restraint? Or how can we walk in love and believe the best of someone after they have repeatedly hurt us unless we use the fruit of self-control?
As Christians, we have the fruit of the Spirit in us, but we must purposely choose to exercise them. Not choosing to exercise the fruit of the Spirit is what produces carnal Christians—those who are under the control of ordinary impulses and walk after the desires of the flesh (see 1 Corinthians 3:3). Whatever we exercise the most becomes the strongest.
Our thoughts and words are two areas in which the Holy Spirit is constantly prompting us to exercise self-control. The Bible says that …as [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he, and out of the abundance (overflow) of the heart his mouth speaks (Proverbs 23:7; Luke 6:45b AMPC). The devil is constantly trying to get us to accept wrong thoughts about everything from God’s love for us (or the lack of it) to what terrible thing is going to happen to us next. Why? Because he knows that once we start accepting and believing his lies, it is just a matter of time until we begin to speak them out of our mouths. And when we speak wrong things, we open the door for wrong things to come into our lives (see Proverbs 18:20–21).
What if, instead of allowing our minds to go over all the things that have hurt us, we would remind ourselves to think about all the good things God has brought into our lives? When we allow Satan to fill our minds with worry, anxiety, and doubt, we wear out our ability to make good decisions. Worry is also thankless by nature. I’ve noticed that people who worry rarely see much good in life. They talk about tragedy, failures, sickness, and loss. They seem unable to focus on the good things that they still have in life.
Try this: Each day, focus on the things God has done for you in the past. This will make it easier for you to expect good things in the future. As I wrote those words, I thought of the memorials mentioned in the Old Testament. Often the people stacked up heaps of stones as reminders that God had delivered them or appeared to them. As they looked backward and remembered, they were able to look forward and believe.
The psalmist wrote, O my God, my life is cast down upon me [and I find the burden more than I can bear]; therefore will I [earnestly] remember You from the land of the Jordan [River] and the [summits of Mount] Hermon (Psalm 42:6 AMPC). He was reminding himself of past victories. When he was having problems, he recalled God’s great work in the lives of the people.
When doubts try to sneak in, you can do what the psalmist did: You can look back and remember that God has always been with His people. All of us have had times when we wondered if we’d make it. But we did. So will you.
Prayer of the Day: Father God, forgive me for allowing the little things of life to distract me and to take my thoughts away from You. Through Jesus Christ, help me always to remember that You are with me in the good times and in the bad times, amen.