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It happens more often than I care to admit.
I have a sweet, quiet morning pouring over scriptures, inspired by God’s greatness, only to become a monster just a few short hours later. How did I so quickly lose self-control as I go from sweet commune with God to crabby, quick-tempered mother?
One day just last week went like this. My morning, which started peacefully, began to turn when my 8 year old got up and wanted pancakes. Unable to dissuade her, I dutifully passed that job onto one of my teenagers so I could finish up some thoughts. It wasn’t long, however, before I started hearing heated voices coming from the kitchen. So I left what I was doing and went in to take care of it, sending my children to the table to eat what had already been made while I finished cooking the rest. After breakfast, I sharply sent them off to start school, frustrated with the late start to our day.
Everyone seemed to need help with math at the same time and I found myself rotating between reducing fractions, checking long division, and figuring out which sides of the triangles were similar. By the time we hit lunch, I was an irritable mess and nobody wanted to cross paths with me. I was getting demonstrably upset at my children for inconsequential things.
What happened??? I was learning from God this morning. I started the day right. Why was my attitude so bad not even four hours later?!?
Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:24-25a
While there were probably many variables that contributed to my sour attitude, I could say with 99% accuracy that it was geometry that tipped me over the edge. It took all my brain power to rotate and transfigure those triangles. However, regardless of the justification I had, it wasn’t right for me to take it out on my children. As I thought about the morning and prayed about what caused my attitude change, I came to the realization that there really just wasn’t a cut and dry answer. Sometimes things will happen that tempt me to get irritable. I can’t control outside factors. But, by the grace of God, I can control how I react!
One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control, which means that when I see that I’m getting visibly upset that I can take hold of that temptation to sin and master it. James 4:7 says, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” When temptations arise I must lean upon my Savior who has given me the power to resist sin.
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20
In Christ, I have a new nature, one that is no longer a slave to sin but a slave to righteousness. But I must walk by the Spirit so that I will not carry out the deeds of the flesh (Gal 5:16) which means relying on Him to get through the day. As the song goes, “I need thee every hour!”
How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to your word. Your word I have treasured in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:9, 11
The best way to fight temptation is with the Sword of the Spirit, that is the Word of God. When we memorize scripture we fill up our arsenal with ammunition against attack. We know we will be attacked, we just don’t know how or when.
How do I know it’s the best way? Because it’s how Jesus did. When He was in the wilderness and Satan was tempting Him, every response was straight from Deuteronomy. He is our example, His way is the best way.
My church has made a goal of memorizing James this year. We are memorizing approximately 2 verses a week and by the end of the year we will have the whole book. So far I am on track, having memorized through verse 10. My goal is to follow thru and finish the book this year. We almost always have some sort of memorizing schedule, but I’m not very good at keeping up with it. We memorized James ten years ago, but that time I only got a third of the way through. I’m looking forward to getting the whole thing this time!