Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Conversations with Peter - Part FOUR - Alert Discipline

Wednesday, July 2, 2014
So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others.  With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus.  Without these qualities you can’t see what’s right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.   2 Peter 1:5 - 9 (TMSG)
Once again Peter speaks from personal (and painful) experience.  The idea of “alert discipline” or self-control connected with Peter’s early walk with Christ could be compared to the image of a four year-old in a doctor’s lab coat; he is standing next to the space shuttle doing a final check before launch.  Who would believe that scenario; a pre-K child entrusted with a gazillion-dollar spaceship and the lives of several astronauts? 
In the same way, Peter’s impetuous, act-before-you-think ways were like a horse without a bridle; the horse may travel wherever the grass is greener, but its master will never have control.
We all recognize immaturity’s do-what-I-want, not-as-I-ought syndrome; many of us recognize it as a painful reality in our daily walk with Christ.  Sometimes, even after years of church-going, Bible studies, prayer meetings and revival tears, discipline is more groggy than alert!
One problem with most of us who fail at this point of spiritual fruitfulness is we depend on the wrong idea of who the “self” is in self-control.  One writer put it this way:
…self-effort always fails in the long run because it may control the body but does not affect inward desires.[1]
Affecting/changing the inward desires…ahh…there’s the rub!
Here is an example from my own “Peter-tendencies”.  Out of my desire to please my Lord I make good food choices in the short run.  For a while I can eat healthy foods in reasonable portion sizes and combine that good practice with exercise.  But something always shows up as a “Rocky Road” temptation.  At a weak moment, when Russell’s self-discipline is napping, two bowls of ice cream will disappear from the fridge!
I’ve come to realize that the problem is not that my prayer isn’t answered for God to give me strength to honor Him with my food choices.  Russell has been depending on Russell’s ability to hold off the forces of ice cream’s allure; I’ve never really accepted the reality that such strength is not absolute in Russell.  I’m depending on the wrong source for my strength.
It’s not that God isn’t willing to answer my prayer; He just won’t say “yes” if I pray for the wrong thing.  God knows it is my inner desire, my passion for ice cream that needs addressing; when a person wants ice cream more than pleasing holy God, the problem is with the person’s “wanter” not God who hasn’t answered the prayers.  In short, God is waiting for me to pray to overcome the inner desire.  My prayers have been that either the fridge would conk-out or Breyers would decide to go out of business, so I won’t have to face the temptation anymore.
That’s not facing the reality of life in a fallen, temptation-ridden world. 
And that’s what God wants me to do – alertly stand with Him to conquer the desires inside me which would lead me into all sorts of things besides excessive compulsive ice cream consumption. 
Fill in the blanks with your inner flaws here:                                            
For You, Today
How’s your alert discipline shaping up? 
Are you good with the way your prayer-life lines-up with progress in the Kingdom of God?  Inner desires being conquered regularly?
Upon what or whose power are you depending?

[1] Life Application Bible Commentary: 1 & 2 Peter & Jude© 1995 by The Livingstone Corporation. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois.

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