self-discipline (2)

Parts 1 and 2, in this series about what matters most to God in a disciple, focused on a very challenging reality: For a person who places their faith in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior from “the wages of sin,” following God means much more than learning about Him and skillfully studying the Bible.

In fact, the disciple who focuses only on growing in knowledge and skill will fail sooner or later. Formula: Knowledge + Skill – Character => Failure.

1 Corinthians 13 identifies what matters most to God: A true follower of God reflects His love as a lifestyle. That love reflects outward in Christlike character. This is the light that Jesus welcomes in Matthew 5:14–16: “You are the light of the world . . . Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

This is also the highest form of worship that a disciple can offer to God. It is the offering of that disciple’s heart and lifestyle to Him. Knowledge + Skill + Character => Worship!

As a light beam refracts when passing through a glass prism, God’s love beams into the heart of a disciple and reflects outward to others in various “colors” that comprise a “spectrum of love.” Those colors are qualities of Christlike character.

Through the pen of Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, God names several specific character qualities included in agape love. Immediately, He gets personal: Love is patient.9570812497?profile=original

“I should be patient with whom?” you may ask. Answer: With others, of course. But—as arrogant as it is to do otherwise—we must also be reverently patient with God. Let’s ponder these briefly.

Godlike patience with others includes, but exceeds, letting another car cut in front of us on the freeway or slowing our walk to fit the pace of an older or younger companion. It means responding mildly, with self-control, when someone challenges our opinions or acts other than the way we prefer. It means we are habitually slow to get angry with someone, or to resent them.

Godlike patience also means that we are slow to punish. If we are in a position requiring us to enforce consequences for someone’s wrong behavior, we discipline ourselves to do that responsibly, not impulsively or angrily. Interestingly, God led Peter to use that same Greek word for “patient” in 2 Peter 3:9 as he describes God’s patience toward us. And aren’t we thankful!

Some tests of our patience may be more severe. What if someone maliciously and intentionally offends us, provokes us, or somehow harms us? Godlike love endures it. Paul shares his pilgrimage and patient endurance in 1 Corinthians 4:11–13.

What’s more, James 1:2–4 challenges us to accept such trials with joy. Wow—we do not see that kind of response in popular movies. Yet Christ Himself is our example (Hebrews 12:1–3). He patiently ran His race. He did not lose heart along the way. He knew the joy that was coming.

Looking upward, we who follow God must be reverent and patient with God. Like Job, we feel frustrated when our prayers are not answered as we wish and when we wish. How ridiculous and rebellious is that attitude toward our almighty, all-knowing, and loving God?! We honor Him when we discipline ourselves to cultivate deferred gratification—wait patiently for His answer.

Do you want to honor Him and do what matters most to Him? I do. Let’s run our race patiently. Let’s not lose heart. Let’s let our light shine even brighter by trusting and resting in Him. His Spirit will then bless us with more of His patience.

Thank you for continuing this journey into what matters most to God about a disciple.


© 2018 John C Garmo

Read more…

“Love . . . is not easily angered . . .” (1 Corinthians 13:5b NIV).

Potentially the most impulsive—and most destructive—weakness in your life and mine is poorly controlled anger. We are inundated with angry incidents that—if we are not careful—can lead us to give ourselves “permission” to imitate those lapses of control: fiery dialogue in politics, fist fights at supposed sports events, rage on the roads, violent actions and reactions in media “entertainment,” and vicious words at home.

  God’s call to Christlike calmness in this 13th chapter is connected to Christlike patience, which we discussed in an earlier segment of this series. In fact, since patience, humility (also an earlier topic), and calmness each require significant self-discipline, this is an appropriate time to talk about self-discipline in general—albeit in the context of anger management.9570809869?profile=original

  Think of self-discipline as “focusing on worthy goals instead of on distractions.” A person who is self-disciplined is, first, not easily angered. Second, if that person does become angry, the anger is controlled, subordinate to that person’s focus on a related but worthwhile goal.

  God’s warnings against angry outbursts are ancient and changeless. In Proverbs 14:17, for example, He says, “A quick-tempered man does foolish things. . . .” How well we know.

  Interestingly, the same Greek word used by Paul in this warning against anger in 1 Corinthians 13:5b is used by Dr. Luke to describe Paul himself in Acts 17! What happened?! Did his own actions contradict his teaching?

  On the contrary, his actions demonstrated his words. Acts 17:16 tells us that Paul became very angry at the many, many idols worshiped in Athens. He knew they distracted people from knowing the true God.

  However, he did not throw a temper tantrum for the public to see. Instead, he reasoned with others about this issue in the synagogue and marketplace. He disciplined himself. His mind ruled his emotions. He was “not easily angered,” but when provoked by that widespread worship of false gods, he managed his anger and channeled it into robust apologetics.

  Privately or with some friends, how would you answer these questions?

  • Conviction: What does our self-discipline reveal about our trust that God loves and leads us?
  • Kindness: On whom are we focusing—and not focusing—when we lose control and allow ourselves an angry outburst?
  • Worship: How is self-discipline an act of worship?

  Do you want to honor Him and do what matters most to Him? I do. Let’s cultivate self-discipline—especially over our anger.

  How do you expect that it will be tested this week?

  How do you expect that it will be tested today?

  What will you do to discipline anger when you feel it building up inside?

© 2018 John C Garmo

Read more…