Changing selfishness into sanctification.

My friend Caleb gave me a wonderful gift when he was visiting us.  On Friday evening, we were sitting on the front lawn watching the littles run and scooter around the neighborhood while we talked.  Ellie kept trying to ride in the street, was told no, and when she did not get her way, exposed her defiant side to her new friend.  As I sat down after dealing with her, Caleb quietly declared, "Stubborn.  I wonder where she gets it?" as he looked me directly in the eye with a mocking grin on his face.  I shared that I was a completely compliant child, and then wondered out loud if I could currently be defined as "stubborn."  I have always confessed that I am controlling, but stubborn?  And that is where our conversation ended, because we were interrupted for the 47th time that evening.

But I thought about his comment all weekend ... "I wonder where she gets it?"  What made him say that?  Where did he see me in Ellie?  And why was it so obvious to him?

So, on Sunday, while we were sitting in church waiting for the service to begin, I asked him.  And how he answered took me by surprise.  "Michelle, you are a woman of determination and perseverance.  Both of these traits are the result of sanctified stubbornness." 

Sanctified stubbornness.  Hmm.  I have never heard such a phrase and I was not sure I understood him.  But since he is a scientist, and ridiculously intelligent, I knew he would clarify it for me at once.  And he did.  "Stubbornness is a result of the flesh wanting its own way and refusing to take anything less than what it wants, when it wants it.  But when we let the Holy Spirit take control, stubbornness yields itself to change - and it becomes determination and perseverance.  You still want something, but you are willing to see it through the lens of biblical thinking rather than selfishness.  
Remember when you told me about your boundaries as a mother, not allowing others to influence your children in certain areas regardless of what they think of you as a result?  That is determination - you are going to have it your way.  But the desire and "why" behind it are motivated by Scripture and a desire to obey."

I sat there staring at him for several seconds and then - heartily agreed.  It was encouraging to take a look backwards and see that one of my greatest weaknesses is slowly being turned into something GOOD.

The reason I say he gave me a gift is because I felt like he shed light on an area that I have never been able to fully dissect and reassemble to any satisfaction.  And now - I get it!  But the Lord was not finished.  He kept me thinking about it, and then - pushed me into Scripture to support it.  

So, I began a somewhat exhaustive search on the three words:  stubborn, determined, and persevere. And I must say, I was pleasantly surprised to see how neatly the dictionary definitions fit with Scripture, and - horrified to see how unattractive the character quality of stubbornness really is.

-unreasonably or perversely unyielding
-suggestive or typical of a strong stubborn nature
-performed or carried on in an unyielding, obstinate or persistent manner
-difficult to manage, handle, or treat

Synonyms of Stubborn
adamant, bullheaded, hardheaded, headstrong, immovable, implacable, inconvincible, inflexible, opinionated, self-willed, stiff-necked, obstinate, unbending, uncompromising, unrelenting, unyielding, willful  (aren't these adjectives horrible?  who would ever want to be described by any of them?)

“But my people did not listen to My voice; Israel would not submit to Me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels.”  Psalm 81:11,12

Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone walked in the stubbornness of his evil heart. Therefore I brought upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not.”  Jeremiah 11:8

“But they would not listen, but were stubborn, as their fathers had been, who did not believe in the Lord their God.”  II Kings 17:4

“But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.”  Jeremiah 7:24

-having reached a decision : firmly resolved

Synonyms of Determined
bent (on or upon), bound, decisive, firm, intent, purposeful, resolute, resolved, set, single-minded

Don't you feel better already?  While still powerful descriptions, these words create an image of strength rather than selfishness.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” Hebrews 12:1

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 2:12-14

“But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.”  I Timothy 1:12

“But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.”  Isaiah 50:7

-to persist in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counterinfluences, opposition, or discouragement

Synonyms for Persevere
carry on, persist

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”  Galatians 6:9

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  James 1:2-4

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23

“So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” II Thessalonians 2:15-17

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” I Corinthians 16:13

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”  I Corinthians 15:58

Isn't this GREAT?  Do you see what I see?

We are born into sin.  Our flesh seeks its own way from the moment we take our first breath, and it is not until we accept the gift of forgiveness and salvation from God that we are able to FIGHT the flesh and walk in the Spirit.  Friends - it is a choice.  Every day we must choose whether we will live out our selfish wants and desires, or die to self and let the Holy Spirit take over and lead us on the path of righteousness ... in the pursuit of holiness.

the flesh dies
the Spirit dwells
sanctification is seen and lived out

-to set apart to a sacred purpose or religious use
-to free from sin
-to impart or impute sacredness
-to make productive of holiness or piety

Synonyms of Sanctify
cleanse, purge, purify

“Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.”  II Timothy 2:21

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  I Thessalonians 5:23

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

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