“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” ~Galatians 5:22-23
My husband and I are currently doing Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, which is an awesome Christian based ‘financial makeover’, that is designed to help you budget your money wisely, pay off debt, and save. His approach is opposite of this world’s system in a lot of ways as far as finances go. In fact, his mantra is, “Live today like no one else, so one day you can live like no one else.” Essentially the program teaches you how to apply spiritual truths relating to money, in addition to practical knowledge and self-control.
Starting this program has sparked a lot of conversation with my husband about how taking care of our finances relates so much to how we take care of the bodies God has entrusted to us.
One day when my husband and I were talking about Financial Peace, he said, “Sure God wants to bless us, provide for us, and take care of us financially, just as any good father desires to provide for their children (Philippians 4, 3 John 2), however, we must use self-control and wisdom with the money He has entrusted to us. If we don’t, then at the end of the day we can’t blame God for our money troubles.”
Many times when it comes to financial problems, it’s not that God didn’t provide, but rather it may be that we are spending unwisely or we simply have a lack of knowledge on how to budget, save, and what and where we are spending our money.
This relates so closely to how we take care of our bodies. God told us in His Word that our bodies are ‘temples of the Holy Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). He goes on to say that He bought us at a high price, so we should honor Him by taking care of the body He has given us. If we fill our bodies with junk food and we don’t exercise, we simply can’t expect our bodies to work in the perfection He created them to.
So many times, I believe that Christians end up on one side of the ‘road’ or another, (I know I have done this myself many times.) What I mean is, it can be easy for us to get ‘hung up’ on physical truths and try to change and fix things according to the world’s systems (ex. diets). On the opposite end, people try to fix everything from the spiritual perspective (ex. asking God to help us get fit while continuing to sit on the couch). There is nothing wrong with either ‘sides’ of the road, but choosing one or the other will ultimatley land us in a ‘ditch’ that God never intended us to be in.
The way to overcome this is to simply balance out the spiritual truths of God’s word with proper planning, wisdom, and taking action on our part. In order to make any change that will last, we must begin by renewing our minds with the truth of God’s word. In this case, we must renew our minds with what God has to say about our health, taking care of our bodies, and even our identity and worth that can only be found in Christ….But, at the same time, we must also use self-control and wisdom when it comes to the food we eat, and practice discipline when it comes to being active on a consistent basis.
Now, you may be saying to yourself, “I just don’t have self-control in the area of eating and exercise. Every time I try to resist that brownie, it is only a matter of time before I end up eating the whole entire pan!” …OR… “I start an exercise program, do good for a couple days, and then fall off the wagon completely! There is no use in even starting!” If either of those sound familiar, I have good news for you!
The Bible says that if we have received Christ as our Savior, then we have all been given the Holy Spirit to live on the inside of us! And when the Holy Spirit comes to live in us, He comes bearing gifts…A “Fruit Basket” if you will! :) The Bible says in Galatians 5:16 that we must make the choice to yield to the Spirit of God inside us. “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” And guess what one of the ‘fruits’ are that will grow if we choose to be led by the Spirit of God? The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). That means that each one of us is able to have self-control in any situation if we choose to be led by the Spirit!
Think of this practical example when it comes to taking care of our bodies, no one can make you eat something, or force you to sit on the couch instead of exercising! Only YOU have the ability to make the choice to be led by your ‘flesh’ or the ‘Spirit’. When you make the choice to be led by the Spirit, the fruits of the Spirit will then be produced naturally. It won’t be long that the fruit of self-control will be so abundant in your life that you won’t even have a problem saying no to that second or third cookie or yes to being active!
Not only do we have the ability, but God’s word instructs us to use self-control! 1 Peter 13 says, “Think clearly and exercise self-control.” Proverbs 25:28 tells us that, “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” It sounds to me that God wants us to use this gift that He has given us for our own peace and protection! Now that is the ultimate definition of a good dad! :)
Now, all this being said, how do we actually apply all of this? It comes down to one simple application! All we have to do is make the choice to be led by the Spirit of God that is in us! Once we do this, the fruit of self-control will naturally be produced! We never have to ‘make’ the fruit appear or muster it up in our own strength, it will just grow! The more we are led by the Spirit, the more that fruit will be produced…It’s that simple!
So in order to be led by the Spirit, we must first of all believe that He is inside of us and that He is leading and guiding us into all truth! (John 16:13). By putting our trust in what God says about us in His word, making the choice to listen to that still small voice inside of us, and choosing to lean on His strength, we are walking by the Spirit! It can take some time to learn to walk by the Spirit if you are accustomed to giving your flesh whatever it asks for. Some practical tips on strengthening your ‘spiritual muscles’ are praying, spending time in the Word, fasting, and denying the flesh when it is screaming out to get it’s way! It is THEN that nothing will be impossible or to hard for us, because the fruits of the Spirit will be growing and developed within us!
Now please hear me when I say it may not be easy to apply all of this, especially at first. The Bible tells us that, “Discipline is never pleasant at the time, but that in time it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). However, once you have made the choice to consistently be led by the Spirit, the fruit of self-control will be so abundant in your life that you will find that it is ‘easy’ to resist eating that whole pan of brownies that was at one time screaming your name!
Now, on a final note, I do want to clarify a few important things relating to this topic of self-control that could easily be taken out of context. First of all, I will say that I know from personal experience that for some people ‘self-control’ can be taken to dangerous levels when it gets over into a ‘controlling’ mindset. If you have found that this is the case with you, be sure that you are aware that you are following the Spirit of God inside of you, and not just trying to ‘control’ things on your own. This can and will always lead to failure and can even be dangerous, because God never intended us to depend on our own strength. (Remember, I said following the Spirit of God will produce ‘self control’ effortlessly. As you follow the leading of Spirit of God, it will also produce other ‘fruit’ in your life which is love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness, (Galatians 5:22-23). So if you don’t have peace, check with the Word of God to confirm that it is the Spirit of God that is leading you.)
Also, what if we do slip up and make mistakes and lose all self-control? Does this change the way that God sees us? Absolutely not! After all, the Bible tells us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). It is important to remember that God’s love for each one of us is unconditional. He knows each of us individually and loves us with a love that has no beginning and no end, simply because He IS Love.
So, the message for today is that if you have found yourself trying to ‘work up’ self-control in the past only to find that you always seem to ‘give in’, just know that the Holy Spirit is ready and willing to lead and guide you in all areas of your life! All you have to do is make the choice to walk with Him and follow His leading! As you make the choice to be led by the Spirit, His fruit will grow and mature inside of you, and you will find that self-control will come without any effort! Remember, the Holy Spirit who is inside us has everything we need to live a victorious life. All we have to do is make the choice daily to believe this and choose to submit to His leading!