This is part five of a series that asks the question: how can we live a life on target for God? God lays out some clear targets for our lives: the Fruit of the Spirit. When these are flowing from our life we know we are hitting God’s desired target. This week we’ll focus on self-control on Target.
Years ago, I weighed nearly 300 pounds and decided it was time for me to get things under control. So, at the first of the year, I undertook a vigorous new diet and exercise plan. Every day for two weeks I counted my calories, ate foods I didn’t like, didn’t eat the foods I loved, didn’t snack, and even ensured exercise for the first time since high school. After two weeks of massive sacrifices I lost…one stinking pound! I felt so deflated. One day, as I drove past McDonald’s, I lost all self-control. I figured since these sacrifices weren’t doing anything I might as well order a couple of Big Macs, fries, and a shake. As I sat in the perpetually long line of the Oskaloosa McDonald’s I was able to regain my self-control. I remembered why I was trying to lose weight, recommitted to the plan, and pulled out of line. Over the next few weeks my diet and exercise began bearing fruit, and in the end I lost over 100 pounds.
Self-control is one of the most difficult fruits of the Spirit for me, and I’m guessing you struggle with it too. I’m not just talking about eating, but about the more important ability of controlling our sinful desires. See, here is the reality of the world: it is pretty much completely out of control because of sin. In the same chapter Paul gives us the fruit of the Spirit, he also talks about how out of control the world is:
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21
Self-control is when we choose to do the opposite of those worldly things. In other words, self-control happens when we make the often difficult decision to follow God’s ways in an out of control world. Sometimes we can look at passages like this and say: that’s just legalism! That’s not what Paul is talking about. Paul encourages to demonstrate self-control in the face of sin and temptation because self-control leads to the best life for us. See, God doesn’t want us to follow Him over the world to make life harder, but to make it better for us and others.
The next time you have “Big Mac” type self-control incident, being tempted to sin, remember the big picture. God has a BIG PLAN for us. We need to commit to it, even when it’s difficult.