Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Obedience and Self Control - fun topics, right?

1. Every year Every Nation churches around the world partake in a week of prayer and fasting. From Monday to Friday as a church we abstain – for many of us we abstain from food, for some it’s media/coffee/TV/etc. For years this has been a week I have dreaded. Not only do we do this once a year but while I was in Campus Ministry we would fast once a week. And I have always hated it. I would like to be uber spiritual and tell you how amazing it’s been, but really I’m just hungry and mean.

This year I’ve been having a different experience with it. We’re part way through Day 3 and while I still can’t tell you about amazing life changing experiences with God, I can tell you about rewarding obedience. As counter culture as it is to say, obedience matters…especially when we don’t see the fruit of why. Obedience makes sense to us when we see the result: a parent tells a child not to touch the stove, the result would be being burnt, a teacher tells us to do an assignment, we receive a grade (and we learn something), my employer asks me to complete a task, therefore I keep my job. We get obedience when the results are clear. Even within a spiritual realm it’s easy to obey because a lot of obedience is result based even there; Paul and I waited until marriage to have sex, this created a level of intimacy in our relationship we would not have had otherwise. When I was first back to my faith, I was told that I should become secure in Christ, that figuring out my confidence in Him would impact all areas of my life – and it did. In my life I have obeyed things that God has said (or that other godly people have suggested) and I see the results in my life. And while tangibility is nice, where is the faith in that? Not to say there isn’t faith because I’ve had to have faith for each of the above examples, but faith is easier to come by when the results seem guaranteed.

This year I’m excited about the fast I’m currently on because I am hungry and I don’t feel closer to God than I normally do Wednesday mid day. God is still close, but no closer than a normal Wednesday. It is good for my heart to do something for God that I can’t somehow make benefit me. 

2. Also good for my heart? Learning Self Control. This is something I don’t have much of. It’s always been a problem. I’m not sure if it’s my ADD or what but I am terrible at things that involve Self Control. I feel like I only have so much self control in me to give, and therefore I hate having to dispense it. So spending, eating, exercising and patience have always been tricky for me. And cleaning my room, if I’m being totally open here. Now because I’m pretty high functioning in most areas I don’t go around giving off an out of control vibe (I don’t think anyways) but I know what a battle it is for me to have self control. 

I’ve been rereading a fabulous book by Candace Cameron Bure (DJ Tanner from Full House) called Reshaping it all: Motivation for physical and spiritual fitness. This book has been revolutionary for me because she takes the time in her book to link self control and Christianity and it has opened my eyes to see  1. Why self control matters and 2. How to find God in the midst of this struggle.

First off she talks the discipline side of self control and links it to scripture from Hebrews: 
Hebrews 12:11 (NIV) "11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."
I realized then that “No Pain, No Gain” has spiritual roots. As a North American I’ve been taught to expect pleasant things. I should have a good job, a nice house, good friends and a lovely family. My culture teaches me that I deserve nice things. So when I’m asked to exert self control and give up things I want/like that seems foreign to me – why would I do that? But the bible points out here that no discipline is pleasant at the time, but that its fruit is righteousness and peace. Well those are great outcomes! So discipline alone creates this in people, that isn’t even covering the external points of how self control helps (i.e. Weight loss, debt payment, etc).

She also talks about the Fruit of the Spirit. Wikipedia defines the Fruit of the Spirit as “a biblical term that sums up the nine visible attributes of a true Christian life, according to Paul's Letter to the Galatians chapter 5.” So this list consists of the things that people can identify in my life as me being Christian. 
Galatians 5:22-23(NIV). “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” 
And look at the last one dangit, self control. Then I realized I didn’t know what forbearance meant so I googled that….”Patient self-control; restraint and tolerance.” More self control! Twice! In most versions it’s called Patience but the definition really helps narrow it down.

I pray that people know I am a Christian and that they don’t just know it because I wrote it here, or because I say it, but I pray that they would know it because of my life or my actions – in a positive way. I pray that when people are around me they would know love, peace, patience, kindness, etc. If that was my legacy I would be so happy. But then self-control comes up and I’m fairly certain that’s not a defining feature of Tara.

I also long to have fruit in my life – I do not see people in my life as project’s nor do I build relationships for the purpose of converting people. I don’t agree with either of those practices and they aren’t a way I want to live my life. I do, however, pray that everyone around me would know Jesus, because it has changed my life. I believe it is the way to freedom. Therefore I long to see fruit in my life – people knowing God, people drawing closer to God.

And then Candace mentions this next verse in her book.

2 Peter 1:5-8 (NIV) "5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Dang it again, self-control is right there in the middle. It seems my self control does matter. And that is a muscle that I spent years ignoring. Trying to re-firm up my self control muscle is tough work – it’s kinda fat and lazy. And now it needs to get in shape.

So I practice self control, even mindless result-less self control to help firm up my resolve. And this fast is a perfect opportunity to practice it even more. I get to exercise self control in my fast as an act of obedience and worship to God. When I think of it in this light, I am excited for the opportunity to be obedient and to grow in my self control and see what it looks like for God to meet me there.

3. Also on a side note my self control was starting to falter last night…it was nearing the end of day 2 and I was wanting food. I wasn’t so much hungry as I was wanting texture and taste. I decided that since God loved me and wanted good things for me, he wouldn’t mind if I ate a slice of cheese. I mean I’m still fasting, it’s not like by eating one thing I’d be giving up, right? Right? So I prayed, “God, if you are ok with me eating this cheese I’m stoked to eat it. If you are not ok with me eating it, you should send someone into this room right now to interrupt me.” I knew I was safe – Rachel was at school and Paul was downstairs in his office (with no plans to come upstairs for some time). So I grabbed the cheese from the fridge and went to the counter to cut a slice.

And all of a sudden I heard my name.

One of the LG guys had come over early and was calling to find out where I was and came straight to the kitchen to find me. Dang it!

As sad as I was to put the cheese back without a slice, I was amused at my God. He knows my weakness and he even knows my ridiculous plans to avoid full obedience. He sent Kyle in at the exact right time.

Apparently the self control is still most definitely an issue. 

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