“Blessed are you when people INSULT you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in Heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
So, when people criticize you for believing in Jesus—call you names, insult you, ridicule you, and lie about you—trying to dishonor you—don’t take the ‘bait’. Refuse to retaliate, and entrust yourself to God—who judges justly. (“Never pay back evil with more evil…If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. And never avenge yourself. Leave that to God, who has said, ‘I’ll be the judge and I’ll take care of it.’” [ Romans 12:17-19 ]). You don’t make the world ‘brighter’ by blowing out everyone else’s candle!
Any fool can fight back and retaliate, but God says that He will ‘bless’ you when you respond with love. The greatest persecutor of the Church in Jesus’ day, Saul, became the greatest ‘apostle’, Paul, (after he ‘met’ Jesus), and is responsible for over two-thirds of the New Testament—more than any other author!
So, we all have to decide what’s more important to us—the ‘praise’ of others, or the ‘smile’ of God. Popularity on earth is not part of the ‘guarantee’ of being a Christian, but ‘rewards’ in Heaven are guaranteed!
“God blesses those who are persecuted because they live for God: the Kingdom of Heaven will be theirs! You will be blessed when people insult you, and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” [ Matthew 5:10-12 ].
God has seen fit to reveal His purpose not only to reward with exceeding joy the afflictions of His people, but to make those afflictions the means of working out that joy.
In other words, rejoice and be glad in the midst of suffering for righteousness and for Jesus, because that very suffering will receive a very great compensation and a very great reward.—and the greater the suffering your faith endures, the greater the reward you will receive in Heaven. God is looking for brave people of courage, who will ‘stand’ for Jesus—no matter what.
It so happens that the final sentence of the Beatitudes says: “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” [ Matthew 5:12 ]. God has promised that He will ‘make it up’ to them–and more—a “hundredfold” compensation for every pain!
God is sometimes most ‘glorified’ when a watching world looks at a sick or persecuted believer and they remain ‘faithful’ to Jesus and tell others about His love—they are amazed by that. Then, more times than not, they ask the believer “why,” and the believer then has a ‘softened’ heart that may fully consider Jesus for their Savior!
There is a ‘price’ to pay when you live the kingdom life. But the fruit of living such a life is eternal (Matthew 5:10). Even though men may take away everything you possess in this world, they can’t touch what God will give you in the next!
Some believe affliction, suffering, and persecution should be expected only of those called to a deeper Christian walk—what they sometimes mistakenly label discipleship. But that fails to account for the good affliction works in the life of every believer—all of whom are disciples. Do not dread persecution. Rejoice that God uses it to ‘fashion’ you into a fit inhabitant of His Kingdom! (James 1:2-4).
To follow Christ will cost many dearly, but will result in eternal blessing. Are you ‘allowing’ yourself to be ‘persecuted’ for Jesus’ sake? Are you willing to pay the cost?
“Insulted” Related Bible Verses:
Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.”
[ Proverbs 11:12 ].
One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless.”
[ Proverbs 14:16 ].
Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you.”
[ Proverbs 20:22 ].
A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”
[ Proverbs 29:11 ].
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
[ Matthew 5:38-39 ].
”You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”
[ Matthew 5:38-42 ].
To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.”
[ Luke 6:29 ].
“Never pay back evil with more evil…If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. And never avenge yourself. Leave that to God, who has said, ‘I’ll be the judge and I’ll take care of it.'”
[ Romans 12:17-19 ]
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FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT #9:
We will never control some things. We cannot stop the tides from going in or out. As much as some would like, we cannot control the weather so that it won’t rain on our ‘parade’. We must admit that there is far more over which we exercise no control than that which we do.
Perhaps the supreme irony is when we realize how little control we exercise over ourselves. We find ourselves enslaved, even addicted, to habits created and engraved on our character over years of ‘practice’. This discovery can be a devastating, humbling blow to the ego. It often occurs after an intense study of God’s ‘standards’ of thinking, speaking and behaving, in contrast to the way of the world we have willingly and, in many cases, thoughtlessly followed. Once, there was no fear of God before our eyes, but when He begins to come into focus in our mind’s eye, and we care what He thinks about us, then we begin to be concerned about ‘controlling’ ourselves.
The thing is, God doesn’t ‘require’ that we try to control what is beyond us or that we fret because they are beyond us. Some things in life we must learn to accept peacefully, yield to and work our way through. Otherwise, we could find ourselves “beating our heads against a wall” and driving ourselves into a psychological ‘tizzy’ of always seeing ourselves as victims.
The Greek word for self-control is, “egkrateia” (pronounced: eg-krah-the-ee-ah). It can also be translated as “temperance.” Webster’s tells us that self-control is the ability to exercise the will so as to restrain one’s desires, emotions, and behavior. The word “restrain” implies that if we don’t control our fleshly desires and emotions, they’ll get away from us and our behavior will be unruly and offensive to God. Much like wild horses, these desires or emotions might take us ‘places’ we don’t want to go or shouldn’t go. The Greek word for self-control used here in Galatians is also a compound word that begins with the word for “strength” or “power” and attaches the prefix meaning “in” or “within.” In other words, it is God’s strength and power ‘in’ us—in the form of the Holy Spirit—which gives us this ‘fruit’ of self-control. Thus it refers to the mastery of one’s desires and impulses, and does not in itself refer to the control of any specific desire or impulse.
It can also be noted that self-control requires an exercise of the will, but we must realize that our own will has its limits. When we let God’s Word rule our will—and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us—then we make decisions based on what pleases God. This gives us the ‘power’ to exercise self-control in a consistent and godly fashion. We actually are relinquishing our will to God’s will—conforming our will to God’s will.
Self-control is the ability to say “no” to your self in order to say “yes” to something else. That ‘something else’ is God’s will for our lives. Letting God’s will take place in our lives brings Him great glory.
Self-control is extremely important to any relationship that we have, but especially marriage. When we say “no” to our selfish will in regards to our sexual drive outside of marriage, we are saying “yes” to our spouse—and to God’s will for our lives. When we can’t control our emotions or desires or behavior, we end up hurting one another severely.
Undoubtedly, self-denial, self-sacrifice and self-control are inextricably linked in Christian life—each is part of our ‘duty’ to God. Yet human nature exerts a persistent and sometimes very strong force away from God: “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be” [ Romans 8:7 ]. It is this ‘force’ that each Christian must overcome. Controlling ourselves, denying human nature its impulse to satisfy its desire, and even sacrificing ourselves, are necessary if we are to stop sinning as a way of life. When we add the concepts of self-denial and self-sacrifice to our understanding of self-control, we can see more easily how large a role self-control plays in the Bible.
When we are faced with a stressful situation we can often lose control and are unable to focus on what really needs to be done. Self-control enables us to react with wisdom and restraint in ‘heated’ situations. “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control” [ Proverbs 29:11 ].
Keeping focused requires control—not allowing distractions to interfere with the responsibility at hand. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” says Jesus (Matthew 6:33). Here, the issue is single-mindedness. James writes, “[H]e who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind…[H]e is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:6, 8). Controlling our focus can go a long way toward making our lives ‘run’ successfully.
The reason it is so difficult to exercise self-control is that we still battle our ‘flesh’. These self-centered desires and tendencies pull us away from God when we give in to them. Paul says we must live by the Spirit—this is the only way we can live without gratifying the desires of our sinful nature. Only the Spirit of God is strong enough to overcome our self-centered fleshly desires. When we say “yes” to the Spirit, we can say “no” to our flesh—and when we say “No” our flesh, we can say “yes” to God and one another. These are not works that we accomplish in our own strength. It’s only by relying upon the Spirit, that we can see this ‘fruit’ being produced in our lives.
We gain control by ‘surrendering’ control. What?! You may feel out of control with your passions and desires today—and you’ll never be able to change this in your own ‘strength’. But if you’re prepared to turn to Jesus and confess your sin and receive His forgiveness, you, too, can receive the Holy Spirit, and the strength to become the person you were created to be. It requires a ‘decision’ that will, from time to time, bring intense pressure upon you to control yourself against strong ‘drives’ and to go in an entirely different direction. But you must control yourself if you are to receive ‘help’ from God.
Our eyes make us the recipients of a multitude of impressions. Many of them can excite us to desire something evil, and if we are complacent, we can be trapped in a sin almost without thinking. That is precisely the problem! We must be thinking to control what we have power and responsibility over, and turn from such things as if a hot ‘poker’ were about to be jabbed into our eyes! When Joseph was about to be lured into sin, he ran, controlling his own part in that unfolding ‘drama’ (Genesis 39:11-12).
The body and mind possess appetites and needs that can easily lead to sinful excesses if not controlled. They can lead any of us away in a hundred different directions from the supreme devotion to God that He desires for our good. Note that our culture is trying to ‘mold’ us to seek ample provision for the flesh and material comforts far beyond our needs, ‘drowning’ our spirit and producing needless anxieties. We have to learn to subordinate the drive to satisfy these insatiable appetites so they do not master us and lead us into sin.
What impressions we allow to be made upon our senses, the indulgences we grant our appetites, the satisfactions we seek for our needs, and the activities we engage in must now be controlled according to God’s standards. Paul writes, “He who sows to his flesh will…reap corruption” (Galatians 6:8). Paul also instructs that we should, “discipline my body and bring it into subjection” (1 Corinthians 9:27). Here is a powerful yet simple lesson from the Bible: “The body is a good servant but a bad master. For our own good and God’s glory, we must be its master.”
The solution to all of this lies in our relationship with Jesus: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in My presence only, but now much more in My absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” [ Philippians 2:12-13 ]. This is the only thing that will give us complete self-control, and it will not fail.
When we nourish ourselves spiritually on the Word and stay obedient to Jesus, we are ‘filled’ with the Holy Spirit. Out of this relationship and godly lifestyle the fruit of the Spirit will be manifested. We will exercise self-control when we live by the Spirit.
“Self-Control” Related Bible Verses:
Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”
[ Proverbs 13:3 6 ].
“Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.”
[ Proverbs 16:32 ].
A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.”
[ Proverbs 25:28 ].
“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.”
[ Romans 8:7 ]
“He who sows to his flesh will…reap corruption.”
[ Galatians 6:8 ].
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
[ 1 Corinthians 10:13 ].
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
[ 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 ].
“Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”
[ 1 Corinthians 9:25 ].
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”
[ 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 ].
“But hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.”
[ Titus 1:8 ].
“Training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,”
[ Titus 2:12 ].
“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.”
[ Titus 2:11-14 ].
“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.”
[ 1 Peter 4:7 ].