Several years ago, I was watching a sports program and a sportscaster was interviewing Greg Maddux who was, at the time, the best baseball pitcher in baseball. Being a Cubs fan, I was still bitter about the fact that they let him get away. He went on to play spectacularly for the Braves. The sportscaster asked him, What is the difference between your pitching now and a few years ago? His answer caught my attention. He said (my paraphrased version) that he used to get rattled by what was happening in the game around him. Now, all he focused on was his next pitch. For non-baseball fans, Greg Maddux is arguably the best pitcher in the history of the sport when it comes to controlling his pitches. I recall thinking there is much more to this than baseball! There is a life lesson here.
In Genesis 3 we read about the fall. The serpent told Eve and Adam that they would be like God, knowing good from evil. Like Adam, I would like to be like God. If I am like God, then I am in control of everything. Where do I sign-up? We all have issues with control. While I am busy trying to be like God, I often neglect to be in control of, or take responsibility, for myself. The problem is the more I focus on controlling others, the less control I exert over myself.
There are many forms of controlling people. We typically think of a controlling person as someone who stomps around demanding to have things their way. This is a form of control, but there are others. For example, there is the nice controller. This person tries to make everyone happy or tries to make sure no one gets upset. Their intention is good, but they cannot make someone else do anything! They are focused on controlling something outside of their realm of control.
What is in our realm of control? Let me suggest there are 4 things within our realm of control:
1) My actions and behaviors.
2) My words.
3) My thoughts.
4) My interpretations.
The common denominator is the word my. There are exceptions to all of these, but for the most part, I can control these four things. Feelings are not on this list. How we interpret any given situation determines our feelings. I look outside my window in winter and see snow and frost. I think “it’s cold outside”. For many people, they interpret this as bad. They think, “I dont like the cold!” and feel disappointed. Personally, I interpret the cold as a positive thing. I think, “This is great! I can go ice-skating!” therefore, I am happy. How we interpret our thoughts informs our feelings and attitudes. Most of us do this automatically and unconsciously. But if we start paying attention to the four things we can control, then we can control them more consistently and effectively.
Galatians 5 provides us with a list of the fruits of the spirit. One of these fruits is self-control. If I am focused on the four things I can control, I will be more responsible, effective, healthier and joyful. When I am doing my part and letting God do His part, then self-control will grow as a fruit in my life.What’s your next pitch? Let me suggest you meditate on I Peter 1: 4-8
“This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this, you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.”