Powerful words, right? God gets the credit. You may find this in the fourth chapter of Genesis. Cain, son of Adam and Eve was upset because his brother, Abel’s offering was liked by God while Cain’s offering did not receive God’s approval. As God noticed Cain’s frustration, these words were spoken, “Why this tantrum? Why the sulking? If you do well, won’t you be accepted? And if you don’t do well, sin is lying in wait for you, ready to pounce; it’s out to get you, you’ve got to master it.” You know the rest of the story, Cain did not master “it” and instead, killed his brother. While neither you nor I moved to the extent of enacting murder against someone (at least not physically) perhaps you like me have struggled with something that if not “mastered” can cause significant damage. As we embark upon the first week of 2019, I wonder, what must you master?
For some of us, it’s an addiction to food or overspending, or an abusive relationship, fear of pursuing a dream, or being comfortable in one’s own skin or identity. Frankly, each of those complexities can play out in the course of a week, day, even an hour. Sometimes, the struggle continues for years, and although attempts may be made, without Christ, the propensity to continue is inevitable. And just as God encouraged Cain to master his anger, He has a similar message to us today. As much as we’d prefer, we cannot always avoid that which challenges us. We must commit to developing a methodology that enables us to cope, to manage, to conquer. First, we must identify the problem. James 1:5 affirms, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” If we cannot go to anyone, we can go to God! We must develop a comfort to ask God to help us to see that which we are having difficulty mastering. Secondly, we must go to 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Once we have knowledge and awareness of our shortcomings, we have opportunity to go to God, ask forgiveness and walk in our deliverance. Next, we must create a strategy of accountability. The best framework is the Word of God. Psalm 119:105 reads, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” As we remain grounded in the Word, the likelihood to follow through with the temptation will lessen. Further, we learn through the Word to be patient with ourselves. Our struggles do not emerge overnight. Each of us if we dare, can reflect upon a pattern of behavior that we developed over time. Nevertheless, we must accept that change takes place over the long haul and thus as proclaimed in Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” If we are doing well, and stumble, may we not torture ourselves with our mistakes. Instead in our quest for divine self-care, may we extend grace to ourselves for our moments that lack strength. Finally, even as the struggle presents itself again (and it will), may we stand upon Ephesians 4:6, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” This part is major, for it’s here that God allows anger but instructs us not to sin. Cain failed this directive, but as long as we have breath in our bodies, we can master “it.”
While there certainly is great excitement (as it should) for 2019, we can be equally jubilant about the grace and mercy we are extended daily. If we keep that at the forefront, perhaps we can master that which may hinder us. God sent his son into the world so that we might have life, and that more abundantly (John 10:10). He has grand plans in store for us. Often when we experience hurdles we attribute them to the enemy. To be sure, he stays on his game, but we cannot underestimate the role that we play when we behave like a supporting actor. May we collectively hold each other accountable to master “it” or else “it” will destroy us. As God said, “You got to master it!”