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In our world today we are all about strengths. Maximize your strengths, stick with your strengths, play to your strengths. While I agree with some of the principles and concepts associated with the ‘strengths philosophy,’ I believe the most overlooked and underused strength is restraint. It does not take much skill, humility or wisdom to engage brute force. However, the greatest of all strength is the ability to harness that power and focus it in the right amounts at the right time in the right ways. That is restraint and no one has ever demonstrated it like the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob and like God’s Son, Jesus, the Messiah. One of the words used to describe Jesus in scripture is ‘meek’. Though it rhymes with ‘weak’ it is anything but weak. Meekness means ‘strength under control’ and it is the greatest of all strengths.
This past weekend the Christian Church celebrated Easter where the resurrection of Jesus and His conquering of death is recognized. (The fact that Easter was celebrated a full month before Passover, the Biblical context of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection will be the topic of my blog in coming weeks.) The love demonstrated by Jesus to die a criminal’s death after living the only perfect life to ever grace the earth is the epitome of restraint. Every time I consider the cross, it is not the pain of the nails that moves me the most but the arrogance and insults of those mocking Jesus that unnerve me. It is one thing to wound a man physically, it is another thing to to mock and shame him publicly. To know that Jesus endured both for my sake is an overwhelming reality. The recognition that he did it willingly and without retaliation is to confirm His Divine nature! In Matthew 26, Jesus Himself references the fact that He has all authority to call down legions of angels to overcome those that came to arrest Him… but He does not so that God’s master plan of redemption can be executed fully. In John 10, Jesus reminds us that no one is taking His life away from Him, but that He is laying it down freely, and will raise it up again! What kind of strength is this that allows itself to be defeated so that ultimate victory can be experienced by all? It is restraint and is desperately needed in our world today.
It is somewhat ironic that many school Spring Breaks will take place this week after Easter and that Spring Break is often celebrated for its utter lack of restraint in every sense imaginable. It is human nature to take things to extremes and to throw caution to the wind. However, it is also the human experience to deal with loads of regret, shame and debt because of our lack of restraint. We all want the benefits of restraint while living to the extreme, but it doesn’t work that way. We see the damaging effects of the lack of restraint in our nation today with our lust for more that has produced the greatest national debt in the history of the world. We see it in the broken families that have been torn apart by the lack of restraint in our work, in our play, in our relational boundaries and in our curiosities. As long as we feel that restraint is a prison that ‘violates my rights to personal happiness’ we will continue to destroy one another with our ‘strengths.’ But if we will embrace the cross that shows us how to lay down our rights for the sake of others we will start to see healing and restoration in the world around us. This is counter to our human nature but is made available to us through the cross of Jesus.
We all have paid the price for indulging our strengths and forcing our way through life. However, the grace and mercy of Jesus not only frees us from that prison but empowers us to offer that same restraint in our life circumstances moving forward. Your greatest strength will be found in bringing your strengths and desires under control so that they may be focused for the health and benefit of your family, your work place and your entire sphere of influence. Be meek as He is meek and unleash the strength you have as you submit it to His control.
“Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” – Proverbs 25:28 NIV
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” – Matthew 11:29 NIV
“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” – Matthew 26:54-56 NIV
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