Making Time for God- Luke 9:23, Proverbs 25:28 (NLT)

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.

COMMENTARY

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself
The fact that it is hard to prioritize God is not a mistake. That you find it difficult to do is not an indication that you are broken. Perhaps you have told yourself that it’ll be easier to make time for God later. It won’t be. It’s not going to be easier once you have your degree, or the kids are a bit older, or you’ve retired. Coming to God will always be a challenge. It has been designed that way.
Because the obstacle in your way is your own self. Coming to Him will always mean denying what you want right now in favor of what He wants. The self is always with you, and so the challenge forever remains. The sooner we accept that this battle is with the self, and not our circumstances, the sooner we can take a stand against it.

A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls
So yes, it is hard to prioritize God, and for that reason alone, making time for Him builds character. By devoting ourselves to Him, in spite of all the noise in this world, we are learning the essential art of self-mastery.
All of the spiritual blessings that follow acts of faith are then extra blessings on top! Learning how to govern yourself is already worthy enough of a cause. You are bending your will to higher things, and becoming a better version of yourself for that effort. You are becoming godly.

Peace in the Storm- Matthew 14:29-30, John 16:33

And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

COMMENTARY

But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and began to sink
In the world ye shall have tribulation
Storms exist, they really do. Sometimes we make up pretend afflictions in our own heads, but even if we had the best of attitudes we still would have more than enough real troubles. Overcoming the world, therefore, is not simply a case of mind over matter.
Jesus, himself, attested that in this world we would have tribulation. It is unavoidable, because each of us is necessarily tied to a body that is subject to the world.

And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus
And so we do not deny the presence of life’s storm, we only deny them power to control us. They might be able to affect the body, but we decide whether they gain access to the soul.
The storm was already raging when Peter stepped out into the water, but he overcame it by asserting that there was a higher power than it. Then he faltered and began to regard the storm more than his Savior. It was only then that the storm was able to claim him.

But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world
The problem with “mind over matter” is that it still tries to put the storm-defying power in us. I can clench my fists and grit my teeth and tell myself that I don’t feel the storm, but it won’t work. I’ll only exhaust myself and still be swept away. Have I overcome the world? No, only Christ has. Peter was not being sustained not by his mastery of the storm, only by Christ’s.
So forget about “mind over matter,” the correct mantra for overcoming our trials is “Christ over matter.”

Our Dual Nature- Ether 12:27, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

COMMENTARY

I give unto men weakness that they may be humble
One thing about the garden of Eden is that once there, Adam and Eve really didn’t need God in their lives. They needed Him to create them and to plant a garden that would cater to their every need, but after that they lacked for nothing and could have continued forever with no further involvement from Him again.
But that isn’t how humanity was designed to live. We come from God, and so we have a hole in us that only He can fill. Each one of us is born with flaws, things that undermine our attempt to be entirely self-sufficient. No matter how firmly we deny it, we have weakness that are just too big for us to handle on our own. We need help.

Then will I make weak things become strong unto them
For when I am weak, then am I strong
But if there were no weakness, there could not be any strength. There is no value in a victory that was gained without opposition. No muscle grows without resistance. The man who has been beset by lust, but with God’s help has mastered his passions is strong in his fidelity because it takes strength to maintain it. The woman who is weighed down by shame but has embraced God’s message of inherent worth is powerful in her self-love because she puts effort into sustaining it.

Trial Before Blessing, Pleasure Before Anguish- Summary

This study certainly turned out to be rich with references and lessons. I hadn’t anticipated running with this subject for so long, but there just continued being more and more to explore. Frankly I think I could keep going for a while yet, but I think we’d start just making addendums to the principles we’ve already discovered. Let’s see if we can sum up what we’ve learned.

It is in Our Nature to Seek Immediate Pleasure

Each of us is born with senses that divide our experiences into those which give us pleasure and those which give us discomfort. On the surface level these serve a purpose of protecting us, such as learning to avoid touching a hot stove because of the immediate pain that follows.
Eventually, though, each of us will come to learn that not all sensations can be judged so immediately. Regularly overspending may provide instantaneous pleasure, but cause suffering when it comes time to pay the bills. Not only this, but some moments of immediate discomfort might be followed by a later reward, such as cleaning up a house now so one can relax in an orderly environment after.
Though our minds are able to eventually pick out these patterns, the body still struggles to adjust. Suppressing momentary pleasure is difficult. Enduring momentary discomfort even more so.
Hebrews 12: 11 (NIV)- No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.
Proverbs 20:4- The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.

God Empowers Us to Overcome that Nature

Added to our mind and body, though, is a spirit. Like the body, the spirit has its own needs. It develops certain habits to see that those needs are met. Some examples of this are how we crave to be good, and to make others happy, and to feel God’s love.
More than this, though, God also gives us a taste of His goodness even before we have earned it. Many a time I have noticed that He inspires me with thoughts of good things I can do and with the thought comes a sample of the spiritual pleasure that would follow such an action. Then He allows for me to carry the behavior out, rewarding me as if it had been my idea the whole time.
By this careful tutelage God plants in me the understanding and desire sufficient to overcome by carnal nature.
1 John 4:19- We love him, because he first loved us.
Hosea 10:12- Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy.

Doing So Reveals a Higher Nature

Though the spiritual blessings that follow good works are reward enough, there is the additional benefit of how they change us over time. Our divine nature is inherent in each of us, but needs to be cultivated over time to come to full bloom. Bit by bit, every time we choose the good over the carnal we change who we are.
Thus we see the necessity for trials before blessings and pleasure before anguish. Were things reversed and evil actions provided immediate pain while good actions provided immediate pleasure, then our behavior would be perfect, but never would we have learned self-mastery. We would do right things simply by default, not by any intentional will. Thus we would never actually discover our divine nature, which is God’s ultimate intention for us.
James 1:2-4- My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
Hebrews 5:8- Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.