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 “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” (James 1:19)

A friend informs you that your neighbor has just been nominated to receive recognition as a generous community servant. Over the course of the last few months, this neighbor has been uncompromisingly nasty about a comment you had made concerning pet boundaries.  Your friend has no idea that an issue has recently developed with this neighbor who is a mutual acquaintance.  You clear your throat about to make a few choice remarks.  And then you hesitate, wondering if your comments would really serve any useful purpose. Or perhaps you are at work when your boss asks if he might see you for a few minutes. As you go into his office, a new work opportunity is laid out before you. Over the course of the next year, the company has identified you to be part of a special work project that will offer you bonus pay. If you consent, you will be agreeing to work many extra hours. The recently established hobby time during which you have been able to bond with your teenager will ultimately suffer. Also, that weekly Bible Study that you have committed to teach will have to be put on hold for now.  Your boss would like an answer, but with all things considered – you might be sacrificing a lot more than you would gain. So . . . you decide to hit the pause button. More often than not, our tendency to give deliberate reflection to the choices directly in front of us frequently gives way to flaw-filled impulsivity. We are quick to criticize, hasty in our decision-making, and often thoughtless about how the choices we make might ultimately affect not only ourselves but those around us as well. While there are occasions in which it is imperative that we act quickly, an impulsive person is habitually quick in the wrong way. They jump too soon and have a tendency to look before they leap. They repeatedly lack vigilance, failing to give proper attention to the potential consequences of their thoughts and actions.

Impulsive behavior is now new. A good example of an impetuous person was one of Jesus’ chosen, Peter. When the Lord told His disciples that He must suffer and die, “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’ (Matthew 16:22-23). When Jesus told his disciples that those closest to Him would scatter and deny Him, “Peter declared, ‘Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you’” (Matthew 26:33). At times, Peter’s hastiness placed him in danger. When a band of soldiers came after Jesus as He was betrayed, “Peter drew a sword and slashed off the right ear of Malchus, the high priest’s slave” (John 18:10). We see that Peter’s impulsiveness often demonstrated a lack of understanding. As he said to Jesus: “You will never ever wash my feet!” Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.” (John 13:8). Many people in Scripture made poor choices because they became impatient.  The Lord used Peter’s thoughtless statements to teach some very important lessons about the Christian life and how the believer should deal with sin. Even though Peter made many missteps and blunders in his life, Jesus understood his passion. God needs followers like this apostle who are ready to step up and prepared to obey His will. This prompted Jesus to say: “you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). Going forward from the Day of Pentecost, Peter became one of the greatest preachers the church ever had.

Colossians 1:11 tells us that we are strengthened by the Lord to “great endurance and patience.” Reducing impulsivity and developing patience does not occur overnight, yet you will not have a meaningful Christian journey without it. “So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” (James 1:4). It’s crucial to seek God’s power and goodness for its maturation. At times – it’s necessary to just stop what you are doing, catch your breath, and take a moment to turn to the Lord.  Consider what He wants you to say; simply imagine what Jesus might tell you about what you are experiencing. To have a vigilant heart, one needs to rely on a check valve rather than a heart valve. Peter came to realize that while we must “prepare our minds for action” – we must also “exercise self-control” (1 Peter 1:13). Learning to hit the pause button from time to time will make you a more effective witness for Jesus . . . and it is there where you will find your just reward.

REFLECTION: Describe situations in which you find it difficult to persevere and have a tendency toward impulsiveness? Can you think of times when it may be right to act hastily or be quick to speak?  How will you work at developing a greater reaction time when asked for an opinion or decision?


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