For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)
Relate: There’s a game I have played with various groups in a variety of ways. It is a fun one to play with intermediate or higher level ESL learners but I have also played with American kids (and adults, it makes a great icebreaker game for small groups). In a normal setting I would get my group in a circle. I would say a word and then the person to my right would say the first word that comes to their mind as soon as I have spoken. Then the person to their right will say the first word that answer brings to mind. You can let this just go and see how fast you can get words shouted out as you move around the circle but I think it is more fun to frequently break the game so we can have explanations. “Why on earth did you say race car when I said monkey?” The way people’s minds work sometimes…
I am quite positive that if we were to play that game right here and now, anyone who has not memorized this verse in their Sunday school classes would not make an association between power, love, and self control. Maybe your minds work differently than mine but when I hear the word power, I think of something like this. Now it doesn’t have to be a person. Muscle cars, heavy equipment, feats of strength… all of these belong with the word power. Whatever the image, power in my mind brings an image of unbridled, uncontrollable feats of strength. I am not a big fan of wrestling but nothing fits my mental image better than the Rock putting his head back, with tongue out right after shouting at the top of his lungs, “Can you smelllllll what the Rock is cookin!”
The word love in my mind pulls forward a very different mental image. It looks something like this. I love the Notebook. Please don’t clip my man card just yet. I love history and historical fiction and that is why I love the Notebook. Really. Don’t look at me like that, I’m serious. Anyways, I know that love should bring to mind things like 1 Corinthians 13, self sacrifice, and the cross. It does when I sit back and think or discuss the word. But I am a sinner with broken thoughts and I have to admit that the immediate knee jerk reaction to the word love would be two people throwing themselves at each other in a passionate kiss while Diana Ross and Lionel Richie croon the soundtrack. Sorry. It is what it is.
Self-discipline or self-control brings a third, completely unrelated image to mind. Now this one might be a little different for you I have to admit that my ADD factors into this one a lot. I have never been any good at a cubicle / desk work type job. The concept of working diligently pushing papers for eight hours a day, five days a week just boggles my mind. How can anybody have enough self control to be even remotely successful in such an environment? Even as I am writing today, I am sitting at my couch at home and in the past hour I have probably had thirty-forty minutes of effective work. I have spent nearly half my time getting off the couch to do one pointless thing or another. This is why I normally try to write at a busy public location like Starbucks. Even there, stick me close to the counter or the front door and I will be fine. Put me in a secluded corner and nothing will be accomplished. Without distractions I will distract myself. I know that this has a lot to do with how I am wired biologically and I believe it helps make me a great teacher and preacher but I just have to admire the perceived self-discipline of those who are wired to sit behind a desk hour by hour day by day helping to move the wheels of our modern world keep spinning.
React: This verse from Paul to Timothy is one I have memorized so long ago and have heard so often that it is a rare thing for me to think about how counter intuitive the word association is at first glance. These three words just don’t seem to belong together, but maybe they do. To achieve true power one needs both love and self discipline. Dwayne Johnson did not just wake up one day and decide, “I think I want to see if I can’t be a muscle bound actor and wrestler today.” It takes hours upon hours of hard work in the gym and discipline in his diet to achieve that type of physique. Nobody looks like that without love and self discipline (and perhaps a bit of performance enhancing substances but that is a different issue. Just pre-empting some of you commenters) Then when you think of the notebook, the backdrop that makes this image and the movie itself so beautiful is the undying love that stretches decades and pretty much everything life and tough circumstances can throw at it. That is a strong love. It is a disciplined, lasting love. As undisciplined as I might view myself I have had more than one person look at me and shake their head at the fact that I have now been writing here on The River Walk for more than four years putting out on average more than six devotions a week, every week, for the past 210 weeks. I don’t think of it as self-discipline. I think of it as love. Beyond that, they say that it takes ten thousand hours to become an expert in a field. Those who are disciplined will become powerful and effective. This is not a possibility, it is a fact. So yes, these three words do belong together. Strong, loving, and disciplined. It is an unstoppable combination and it is also what the Spirit of God makes of us when we allow Him to work in our lives. How does this trio manifest itself in you?
I know and understand that I am completely and totally dependant on Your Spirit. Without You, I have no strength. I cannot truly love. I will never have the self-discipline I so long for. I pray for more of Your Spirit. Help me to love more, act stronger, and live more disciplined than ever before so that I might ever bring greater glory to Your Name as I am about Your Kingdom’s business.