Your spirit is a two-edged sword. It can cut away life’s troubles and leave you happy on top of the world. Or it can slice your soul to where your pain cannot be described. It is your wisdom to keep your spirit with all diligence, so that you can use it for your profit.
A wounded spirit is more painful than a wounded body, for the spirit is more vital to your happiness. If the spirit is wounded and hurting, it does not matter how healthy and strong your body might be. If you allow any difficulty or sorrow to gain the victory over your spirit, the crushing pain can be intolerable. Fools will seek the comfort of bodily death.
Ruled and directed by wisdom, your spirit can help you survive any difficulty. Allowed to rule you when wounded, it is unbearable to you and others. Ruled and directed by the Spirit of God, you can be cheerful in any adversity. Allowed to run free, it can and will drive even conscientious men toward suicide. Are you ruling your spirit today?
Natural men have done incredible things under horrible stress, pain, danger, and difficulty by a strong and courageous spirit. Their exploits are wonderful to read, but a Christian can do better. For the knowledge of present reality and future expectations, and the sustaining help of the Spirit of Christ, are things the wicked know nothing about.
Ruling your spirit is the best evidence of Christian maturity and the means to help others. Fighting heretics or troubles on the outside is easy. Ruling an angry, impulsive, melancholy, or offended spirit on the inside is much more difficult. Growing in grace and walking in the Holy Spirit to bear His fruit will result in the wise rule of your spirit.
Is there a godly and great man to stand up and be counted? Is there a virtuous woman?
Nothing you do in life is as important as ruling your spirit. If you let it rule, you are a loser (Pr 25:28). If you rule it, you are greater than a man who defeats a city himself (Pr 16:32). Your spirit is the vital force behind your benefit to others or your burden to them. Your spirit can arm you to accomplish great things or keep you from ever being useful.
When Job ruled his spirit, he worshipped and blessed God, though his circumstances were terrible (Job 1:20-22). When Job let his spirit run wild with thoughts about his great losses, he cursed the day he was born and wished he were dead (Job 3:1-26). And he went downhill from there, until Elihu and God corrected his self-justification and self-pity (Job 32:2; 38:1-3). His spirit first sustained him, and then it nearly destroyed him.
What did Job do wrong? What happened between Job 1:20-22 and Job 3:1? He thought too much! And his friends were worthless. Self-examination is good, if it is done within the limits of scripture. Negative pity parties are ungodly and unproductive. Job should have fasted and prayed and asked his friends to join him (Jas 5:13). Instead, he let melancholy reflection take him down to self-righteous questioning of God (Job 2:11-13).
When David faced his greatest crisis in running for his life from Saul, when his own friends wanted to stone him, he “encouraged himself in the Lord his God” (I Sam 30:6). And his true friend, Jonathan, strengthened his hand in God by encouragement (I Sam 23:16). Here was a true friend, in great contrast to Job’s three miserable comforters.
A man ruling his spirit in the fear and joy of the Lord has a continual feast, regardless of circumstances; but a man allowing his spirit to be afflicted can find negative things every day of his life (Pr 15:15). Ruling your spirit with joy brings a cheerful disposition, but unchecked sorrow breaks the spirit (Pr 15:13). What a horrible choice! A merry heart heals the soul, but a broken spirit will dry up your life. See the comments on Prov 17:22.
It is possible to dance in economic failure (Hab 3:17-19). Peter and John rejoiced to be beaten by the Jews (Acts 5:40-43); Stephen prayed for his murderers (Ac 7:60); Paul and Silas sang in a dungeon (Ac 16:25); Paul had a picnic in a storm at sea (Acts 27:33-36).
The martyrs of God, from Abel to present persecutions in Muslim nations, have suffered horrible tortures with cheerful, overcoming spirits by keeping their hearts focused on Jesus Christ by His Spirit. The world is not worthy of these great spirits. You have never faced their difficulties, but do you have days or hours in which you despair of life?
Happiness is a choice. Do you grasp this simple but profound rule of life? Happiness does not depend on circumstances, contrary to what most think. It is a choice. Bitterness of soul or an offended spirit is also a choice, and most circumstances cannot help the man that makes the foolish choice to be bitter or offended. Be glorious – choose to be content and thankful for your life, and pass over the transgressions of others (Pr 19:11; I Ti 6:6).
King Ahab pouted in bed with his face to the wall and refused to eat, because he could not have Naboth’s vineyard (I Kgs 21:4). His wife took advantage of his melancholy mood and killed Naboth to appease her inconsolable husband. Let no Christian man act like this toward wife or family, for you mark yourself a very wicked man (I Kgs 21:25).
Even Elijah was discouraged after his great victory over the prophets of Baal, when he wished for death (I Kgs 19:4). We learn his passions were normal (Jas 5:17), yet being cast down and destroyed are two very different things (II Cor 4:8-11). A ruled spirit might be discouraged, but it will not turn to sinful melancholy excesses of self-pity.
The early days of World War II cost the British enormous losses of ships and crews by German U-boats. Seeking to save lives in the horrific events at sea, they discovered that older, more experienced men had a higher survival rate than younger, more physically fit sailors. More years of life’s hardships fortified the spirits of the older men and gave them an advantage over the younger men in survival situations. The head of this research, Kurt Hahn, applied this knowledge in forming the Outward Bound training program, which increases a person’s fortitude by controlled, progressively more difficult challenges.
This principle of building the spirit was revealed much earlier than 1941, for God builds your faith and patience (enduring of difficulties) the same way. He carefully prepares afflictions and trials to increase your spirit’s strength (Jas 1:2-4; Rom 5:3-5). You will not face any temptations today you cannot escape and defeat (I Cor 10:13), if you will see a faithful God in their design and the personal profit of working through them.
Paul could face great adversity and personal infirmities by the knowledge that Christ’s grace would sustain him (II Cor 12:7-10). And cannot you do the same, knowing that all things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28)? You are more than conquerors through Him that loved you (Rom 8:35-37). The Lord is able to heal your broken heart and bind up your wounds (Ps 147:3).
Sin will destroy a right spirit, but confession can restore it (Ps 51:10). David groaned under the Lord’s heavy hand of chastening for his heinous adultery and murder (Ps 32:1-5; 38:1-11; 39:11; 51:8). But confession and repentance bring refreshment, favor, and joy (Job 33:19-30). Peter wept bitterly for denying Jesus, but fifty days later at Pentecost he was a powerhouse. If sin is pulling your spirit down, confess it fully to God right now.
Unforgiven sin can bring hell this side of eternity that cannot be told. Cain’s pain was “greater than he could bear” (Gen 4:13). Saul’s despair drove him to consult a witch in his great grief (I Sam 28:15). Ahithophel and Judas chose strangling as the cure for their pain (II Sam 17:23; Matt 27:3-5). They tasted only a drop of hell, but the excruciating torture of that punishment was far too much. How much more the full dose for eternity!
Do you rule your spirit? Or do your spouse and family know the little setbacks of life put you in an irritable mood or silent depression, when you snap at others or ignore them in your selfish withdrawal? What folly! What childishness! Grow up, today! Your spirit is a pain to have around, and it is a sin. Rule your spirit today. They and you will benefit.
Christians experience heaviness through many afflictions and manifold temptations (Ps 34:19; I Pet 1:6), but the Lord will deliver out of them all. Joy will come in the morning.
Jesus Christ faced greater darkness, adversity, and agony in Gethsemane than your mind can fully measure, yet with sweat like blood dropping from His brow, He found comfort and strength in doing His Father’s will (Luke 22:41-44; Mark 13:43-44). He looked ahead to the joy before Him, and He endured the calamities (Ps 16:8-11; Heb 12:1-4).
Will you crumble today from slow traffic? Too many projects at home? A disappointing career? A bad hair day? A frustrating day at the office? A few pounds overweight? A disappointing spouse or child? A fiery dart from hell that you are a loser? Let the shame of these questions drive you to joy and strength in the Lord, for the thought of such insignificant things wounding the brothers of Jesus Christ is disgusting and ridiculous.
If you have a melancholy spirit bent to inward thinking, take precautions. Stop thinking, and go do what you should be doing, now. Get outside yourself. Blocking out others is foolish: you need them. Use your spouse, family, and brethren for counsel and comfort. Go to the Lord in prayer and find His peace that passes all understanding (Phil 4:6-7).
Keep your heart with all diligence. Rejoice, and again I say, rejoice. Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal. Your spirit can be better quickly by the power of God’s Spirit.