I was born with a sweet tooth and have struggled for all my adult life to curb my appetite for sweets and chocolate to control my weight and maintain a healthy body.
As an author, I find it easy to succumb to the distractions that are all around me: i.e., social media, phone, social and recreational events, and chores that can be put off until another time. I have to discipline myself to use my time and energy wisely.
Athletes preparing for the Olympic Games must exhibit self-control. To be prepared to compete, they must maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly to condition their bodies, practice long hours to perfect their skills in their sport, and curtail their social life. We respect these athletes, not only for their skill, but also for the self-control maintained to be ready to compete.
In Scripture, the Christian is compared to an athlete. According to 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, the participant in a race must be “temperate in all things” to be able to win. The prize for this is a “perishable crown,” a temporary, earthly wreath and acclaim. Paul said he disciplined his body in order to live a godly life and maintain a pure testimony before others. That way he would win an “imperishable crown,” an eternal, heavenly reward as God’s faithful servant.
A new country, strange customs, a foreign language, a pagan religion, different food—how could Daniel remain faithful to the Lord God? “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank….” (Daniel 1:8)
Joseph, a young man given the stewardship of Potiphar’s home and possessions in Egypt, became the focus of sexual seduction by Potiphar’s wife. Joseph said, “No,” and ran away from her. He showed great self-control for the right reason—he didn’t want to sin against God or betray his master’s trust. (Genesis 39)
Both Daniel and Joseph demonstrated an inner strength and sound judgment that caused them to make the right choices in times of personal conflict. They desired to please God. Life did not instantly become easy for them. Joseph spent time in prison and Daniel in the lion’s den. But both men were used by God to build up and restore the Jewish people. Their ability to say no to sin and yes to God make them examples of self-control to us today.
In the great ‘faith’ chapter, Hebrews eleven, the writer lists many forerunners whose stories of faith under trials encourage us. He continues, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1) We are encouraged to let nothing stand in the way of our testimony for Christ.
When you review the list of the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness—do you see their relationship to self-control? Each virtue requires setting aside a selfish, me-first mentality, putting others before yourself, and placing God first. The Holy Spirit is then able to produce spiritual fruit in you to the honor and glory of God.
coming July 12, 2022