You may have made some good long-term decisions to wield your character. Maybe you put lots of energy into practicing certain graces. You might be one of those rare people who has exercised admirable manners in daily challenges.
Then suddenly, life treats you quite badly. Another person or group mistreats you. Perhaps you lose in a business arrangement. Maybe your health takes an unexpected plunge. Or you just might be stuck living, long-term, with someone that is sour. Whatever happens, it is possible for you to stay on the “sweet end” of the spectrum. I mean genuinely – to the center of your heart – who you really are: no faking, no acting. You don’t have to slip to the “sour end.”
When you are in a compromised life scenario, everything inside might scream as you keep wrestling your responses into submission under Christ’s Lordship. Yet, you know you are at the edge of slipping into a bad attitude or a crumby, negative perspective. You know that if you give in after all this time, you risk losing what you labored so hard to gain. You might feel desperate.
There are 3 things you can focus on that will help you hold your ground. They will steady and anchor you into the character you have worked hard to develop. If you have not worked hard on character but want to start, your current circumstances are the perfect training ground to make HUGE HEADWAY in wrestling less admirable practices to the ground, gaining control, and becoming their manager. Either scenario, these 3 practices will gain you ground and plant you solidly in a good place.
But there is one thing I need to mention first. You can’t do this on your own! If you try to produce (or mimic) godly character in your own strength, you will fail. I promise! If, however, you turn to Jesus in your up-ended circumstance – and tell Him you are helpless without His strength, if you completely lay yourself on the altar of surrender, and if you choose to “prefer” and love Him above yourself, you will succeed. I promise!
A person’s demeanor is either sweetened or soured by their level of gratitude. When you are thankful, you have made the choice to see the good things still present in your life even when you are going through great difficulties. Maintaining a grateful heart takes three very intentional practices. We will explore these 3 practices in a series of blogs. Today, we look at the first practice.
PART 1: A SWEET DEMEANOR OF GRATITUDE TAKES DISCIPLINE.
To scoot more toward the sweet end and away from the sour end of the scale, discipline yourself in righteousness. (Exercise more resolve than you have previously engaged in doing what Jesus asks you to do in His Word.) Enter training according to the guidelines of the Scriptures. Hebrews 12:11 talks about your training: 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. Training must take place to become a person of gratitude. No wonder God keeps telling His children to be thankful. He knows how He made people. He knows gratitude is better than a multi-vitamin for spiritual long-term health.
Look at some of these:
- Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Phil. 4:4)
- Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Phil. 4:6)
- Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. (Phil. 3:1)
- Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thess. 5:16-18)
Note: Some of the above verses were written in adverse conditions. Paul underwent training in gratitude. He chose to have a grateful heart, even when he didn’t feel like it. He disciplined himself to practice what he knew pleased God until he mastered those practices.
* Much of this post was an excerpt from my book Reach Back: Intentionally Reaching Back to God. To purchase this book, click REACH BACK.
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