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I don’t know how many of you knew me back when I was in late-elementary to middle school, but if you didn’t, you can ask several of the teachers here, like Mr. Szym or Mrs. Blake what I was like. In those days I was easily consumed by anger over the most trivial of things. If someone were beating me at a game, especially one I thought I was good at, I would get angry and usually claim the other people were cheating. If other people criticized anything I did, that would make me angry, especially when their criticism was true. Even when people disagreed with me in a discussion, I became angry. My pride could not handle it, and I lost control of myself. So, what’s changed? Why am I different now? It certainly isn’t because I had some single, dramatic change of heart and overcame my anger by my own power. To be honest, I couldn’t trace a straight line for you from where I was back then to where I am now, but I do know what power lies behind that transformation.
In Titus 2:11-14, Paul says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” The reason I can have self-control over my anger now is because of the grace of God given to me by Jesus on the cross. My biggest self-control issue in middle school was anger, but self-control applies to all our passions.
Dr. Timothy Dernlan defines self-control as “the ability to manage your emotions, thoughts, and actions in an intentionally restrained manner for the good of others.” Perhaps you find it hard not to be mean in how you speak to or about others. Maybe you just can’t bring yourself to stop playing long enough to do your homework and chores. The first step in becoming more self-controlled is identifying where you allow your emotions to control you. If you aren’t sure, I’m sure your parents and your teachers would be more than happy to point you in the right direction. Ask God to help you live rightly, even when you don’t really feel like it. I know if I had asked God for help in my anger that it would not have been an issue for me as long as it was. I know it’s hard to be self-controlled but remember that Jesus did not back down from dying on the cross for you, even though it was harder than anything any of us have been asked to do.
I challenge you not to back down from hard things just because you don’t feel like doing them, and don’t just let your emotions control you. Through God’s power, you can control your emotions and actions. Choose daily to follow Christ’s example of self-control in order to live a godly life. Start small with something specific in your life, like controlling your anger, choosing to speak kind words, or obeying your parents, even when you don’t feel like doing it. Don’t forget to ask God for help. Go, “live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,” in whatever you do and wherever you go.