Seek First for Self-Control

seekMy whole life has been connected to the Church. I am sure I occupied a spot in a pew long before I could walk. I have vivid memories of doing my best to get comfortable enough to sleep; using my mom’s lap as a pillow and curling up on a hard, wooden pew bench that smelled of antique varnish. I also remember attempting that same position shortly after turning ten and being swatted on the leg and given a look that said those days are over, sister. After that it was stay awake and listen—so I did.

I sat through preachers talking of sin and living a holy life. I learned the do’s and don’ts of a good Christian life. I learned that there were lots of things I couldn’t do if I wanted to claim to be a Christian. More and more it seemed the entry into Heaven had more to do with my will power than my surrender. I had to have the self-control to abstain from drinking, pre-marital sex, promiscuity of any kind really, and lying. All the big cultural ills of the world would be my undoing if I slipped up in this life. I honestly would go to bed worrying that I would be having a hateful thought about someone while riding my bike and before I could repent, I would get hit by a car! Where would I end up?! I wish I were kidding, but these are the troubles that plagued by prepubescent mind.

It seemed, I knew what not to do, but I was left unsure of how to succeed in staying away from the tempting debauchery that awaited my adulthood.

I will save my undoing for another post, but suffice it to say, the Church and I broke up for a while. I still held my relationship with God close to my heart, but for about six months, I did not attend any church on Sundays. I felt lied to and betrayed. I no longer believed that if I kept the plates of religious rigor spinning that all would be right and I would be safe from temptation. An A+ student in the school of religion doesn’t mean a thing. I knew I would return to the Church because it was part of my DNA and as a follower of Christ, I knew the Word encouraged getting involved in the local church because it gave me support and an organized place to truly impact the surrounding community. But in this season, I had to heal from my wounds and get some things right in my own mind.

The year I turned 20, I learned that it was less about living a flawless life—or even striving for that at all. It was more about pursuing an intimate, personal relationship with Jesus. This later lead to having my eyes opened to the importance of an individual and intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit as well. Once I came at Christianity from that angle, the rest fell in line.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 (NIV) (emphasis is my own)

When I press into his will for me and focus on his righteousness, the rest falls into place. I don’t have to worry about the list of do’s and don’ts—I just need to fix my eyes on the one who made a way and purchased my broken self for his own. He wants me (and you) for all that I am―and all that I’m not. He wants me to be as captivated by him as he is by me. The overflow of this type of infatuation is that you filter all you do through the lens of pleasing the one you love. Will that mean perfection? No. As long as you have a fleshy body and an emotional soul entwining your blood-bought spirit, you will fall short. It will mean that you have assurance that he will draw you deeper and deeper in his perfect timing as you continue to love him the best you know how.

Self-control was never about having the will power to say no to the temptations of this life. It has always been the conscious choice to seek God first. If you do that, righteousness comes into view. Being a lover of God first will help you develop a taste for the righteous life and detox you from craving the temporary pleasures of this life.

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