Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fruits of the Spirit - Self Control

Okay, time to hit a much belittled fruit: self-control.

Every time we Americans think of self-control the first thing our minds jump to is FOOD! “Lord, give me self-control with my food. I don't want to eat every unhealthy thing in sight!” But we fail to grasp the full meaning of self-control. Our thoughts rarely go past the dinner table.

Self-control means control of self (who'd a thought?). Self-control is the control of self, controlling your reaction in a situation, whatever it may be. That includes emotions, thoughts and actions. See the huge area that encompasses now? Every area of our lives should be touched with self-control, from our relationships with family and friends, to our evangelism, to our workplace – everything is touched by self-control.

I'm sure you remember the story in Numbers 20 of Moses speaking to the rock; let me sum it up for you: God told Moses to speak to a rock that would then provide water for the Israelites in the desert during their wanderings. However, Moses–being very angry and irritated with the people–struck the rock. Because of Moses' disobedience to God, he was not allowed to enter the promised land.

That's a pretty hefty punishment for disobeying God, but why did Moses do it? He didn't have control over his anger. Moses needed self-control. The same for David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11) and Samson (Judges 14-16). They all needed more self-control. However, self-control is not only needed in the areas of anger and lust, but, as I said, all areas of our lives. Having self-control is knowing when to speak and when NOT to speak (remember all of the times Peter in the New Testament basically put his foot in it? Luke 9:33 in particular.) Knowing when to help someone and–as bad as this may sound–when NOT to help someone.

If we could learn self-control we'd get ourselves in a lot fewer messes. It is self-control that understands our much extra credit to take or how many activities to get involved in. It is self-control that tells us to get up early and have devotions. It is self-control that tells us to control our fear when teaching or witnessing. It is self-control that keeps our anger in check when things don't go as planned or when we have been wronged. It is self-control that tells us the appropriate reaction in a situation.

Now since self-control is so very important, the new question is: How do I get self-control?

The best answer is to read the New Testament.

1) Find out what Jesus did in His situations. The classic What Would Jesus Do? question will always come in handy. Look back and find out what Jesus did when faced with a similar situation.

2) Read Paul's letters to the early church. Paul dealt with just about every situation you could think of, and in his letters he gave the appropriate response. Proverbs also gives some VERY good advice on responding and acting to different circumstances.

The most difficult part about self-control is actually using it! It's so easy to get swept along into what feels right in the moment but quickly turns into sin. What I find helpful for me is to stop everything–even if it's only for a few seconds–and really think about what just happened and what I should do. If someone just cussed at me for no reason I just stop everything for a moment and think about what my reaction should be. Not what feels right, but what is right. Showing self-control is when I follow through with my decision.

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