The Fruit of Self Control
The holidays are officially upon us, which means a time for gathering with family and friends, and a time for feasts and treats! This wonderful time of year can also be a time of temptation to overspend, overeat, and over indulge. This may seem harmless in many ways, until January comes, and the reality of bills and weight gain sets in.
If this sounds familiar, I have good news…It doesn’t have to be that way this year, or ever again for that matter! If you have received Christ as your savior, then the Spirit of God lives inside of you. When he came to live in your heart, He came bearing gifts…a “fruit basket”, if you will! The fruits that the Spirit of God brought with Him are 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.
God's Kind of Self Control
Now, before I say anything else on this topic, 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. Following the Spirit of God will produce ‘self control’ in a balanced way and it will never be based out of fear or obsession. Remember, god calls us to be balanced (1 Peter 5:8), which means we can enjoy all things in moderation, which means enjoying a cookie at times!
Not by Might but By the Spirit of God
Now that we got those two very important points established, you may be saying to yourself, “I just don’t have self-control in the area of eating and exercise, especially around the holidays. Every time I try to resist the Christmas cookies, it is only a matter of time before I end up eating the entire batch!” Or, in the area of exercise, you may be thinking to yourself, “I hate exercising. The moment that I begin an exercise program I do good for a couple days, and then fall off the wagon completely! There is no use in even starting!”
This, my friends, is where self-control comes in! Think about it…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 of God, 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!
The great thing is, He is the one who strengthens us to walk in the Spirit! Ephesians 3:16 says "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being." This is just one of the many promises that the lord will strengthen us by His Spirit when we depend on His power, rather than our own might.
Why Use Self Control?
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.” The Word even talks specifically about using self control in relation to food. Proverbs 25:16 says, "Do you like honey? Don't eat too much, or it will make you sick!" It sounds to me that God wants us to use this gift that He has given us for our own peace and protection.
In addition, If we want to fulfill the purpose that God has for us here on this earth, we need to be in good health! In order to run the race God has set before us with full strength and vigor, we need to use wisdom on how we treat our bodies. This includes getting enough rest, eating a balanced diet, and getting regular exercise.
How do We Draw out the Fruit of Self Control?
Now, all this being said, how do we actually apply all of this? It comes down to making the choice to submit to God and be led by the Spirit of God that is in us every single day. (Romans 12:1) And believe me, it is a daily choice! Another way to do this is to build ourselves up in the spirit so that we do not easily give into the desires of our flesh. This can be done by praying, fasting, and studying and meditating on the Word of God (Romans 12:2). When 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 as we grow in the Lord. 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 will walk 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, and fasting- which is one of the most powerful forms of denying the flesh.
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 plate of Christmas cookies that was at one time screaming your name!
Progress Not Perfection
Having said all of this, it is important to note that we are all on a journey, and none of us are perfect. We will all have moments where we do not walk perfectly in self-control. So, what do we do if we do slip up and eat more than we should have, or one too many cookies? Do we have to go around guilty and depressed? Absolutely not! After all, the Bible tells us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Therefore, when we do “miss the mark” so to speak, we simply repent before the Lord and keep running our race with our eyes fixed on Jesus, rather than our past mistakes.
It is also important to note that our failures do not change the way that God sees us. The Word 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 and unchanging. 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!
Prayer: Lord, I ask that you would help me to see my body as your dwelling place. Strengthen me to be disciplined and well balanced in order to properly take care of my body. Help me to make healthy choices and to be wise enough to know when I am no longer operating in the fruit of self control. Help me to be motivated to exercise and to get enough sleep and rest so I can have the energy needed to run my race with strength and endurance! In Jesus' Name, Amen!
For more devotionals like this, be sure to check out my new devotional book: Devotions for a Healthier You!