The Art of Self-Control

So I went to Jerusalem and was there three days. Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem… I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Dragon Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire. Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was no room for the animal that was under me to pass. Then I went up in the night by the valley and inspected the wall, and I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, and I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and the rest who were to do the work. Then I said to them, ‘You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem…’ And they said, ‘Let us rise up and build.’ So they strengthened their hands for the good work.” Nehemiah 2:11-18

Nehemiah is a manual for godly leadership. Upon hearing report of Jerusalem’s trouble and shame, this Israeli official fasts and prays, then strategically asks for permission and provision to return there to help his brothers. God honored his humble, measured reaction by granting him generous favor from the heathen king. When he arrives in Jerusalem, he once again exhibits self-control; rather than exclaiming at conditions or talking up his plans, he quietly, privately inspects the city, thoughtfully (and prayerfully, we can assume) makes his strategy, and presents his plan persuasively to those who would do the work. No need for broad loud announcement, no place for drawing attention to himself or for excess chatter. And the leaders bought in, inspired by his focused leadership.

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When faced with a problem or task, do I spontaneously react, or with self-control assess and respond? Do I immediately go to friends or the internet, or to all-wise God? Do I crowd my mind with others’ ideas and advice, or ask God for His perspective? Do I start spilling out my words and plans, or quietly seek the Holy One? Do I scatter information about my doings, or simply get to work with those who are part of the solution? How well am I allowing the Holy Spirit to measure and direct my actions?

Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” “Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord. The wise of heart is called discerning.” Proverbs 17:27; 16:20-21

Lord, develop in me maturity in discernment, and Your Spirit’s fruit of self-control in my thinking, speaking, and doing. I commit my work to You that You might establish my plans, to the praise of Your glory. (Galatians 5:22-23; Hebrews 5:14; Proverbs 16:3)

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