Today: Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Fruits of the Spirit #9: Self-control    (2/28/2016 )

A man went to the airport. While waiting for his flight, he spotted a machine that said, “Insert a coin, step on the plate, and I'll say your name and your destination.” The man was very curious, so he put in a coin and stood on the machine.

The screen lit up and a message appeared: “Your name is John Smith and your destination is New York.”

John Smith was astonished, and very impressed. He could not resist testing the machine again, so he put in another coin. The same message appeared.

How could a mere machine know his name and where he was going? He was so fascinated that he put in another coin, with the same result.

He tried the machine many times. It never let him down. As he came to his last coin, he stepped on the machine and it told him: “Your name is John Smith and your destination was New York—but you've just missed your flight.”

A lot of things in life are tempting. But our desire to indulge needs managing, or what appeared to enjoyable can turn into a disaster. The difference between a pleasant evening and a state of drunkenness? Self-control.

Self-control is the ability to regulate our lives so that we're not dominated by the things which tempt us (those things may be entirely wrong in themselves, or they may be OK in moderation, as long as we don't over-indulge). It means remaining in control of our attitudes, thoughts, desires and habits—so they don't overwhelm us and dictate our behaviour.

Self-control isn't easy. It can be hard to say no to that extra slice of cake, or yes to the gym when we just want to relax. Difficult to get up and go to church when you're tired. Hard not to lose our temper with a misbehaving child, or to resist breaking someone's juicy secret. But not controlling our baser instincts can hurt ourselves and hurt others…and hurt God. Because God wants to see us managing our lives well, and resisting sin. He wants to see us loving and caring for one another, and living a life which tries to reflect that of Jesus. And a lack of self-control will get in the way of all those things.

Without self control, we're exposed to many dangers: not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually. It we allow ourselves to lose control, we can become angry, deceitful, jealous, rude, unkind—and even violent or murderous.

Fortunately, we're not on our own. When we become Christians, God says he will fill us with the Holy Spirit—and that is when the seeds of the fruits of the Spirit are planted and begin to grow in us. One of these fruits, St Paul tells us, is self-control. If we give over our lives to God, we get a supernatural helping hand in our ability to control our thoughts and behaviours, as the Spirit in us guides our feelings and our actions.

As John Smith discovered to his cost, what really matters is our destination—but we won't get there unless we remain focused on what's important. What's your destination? 

Pray: Father, I know that I have weaknesses, and I don't enjoy them - and I hate to admit them. But you see them all, as if I was stripped bare. By your Holy Spirit, please grow in me the self-control I need to live a life more pleasing to you. Amen.

Think about: Is there an unhealthy aspect to every pleasure, if we over-indulge?

Challenge: Keeping a New Year's resolution is difficult enough - because we just don't have enough resolve. Why don't you pick one thing (perhaps that you should do, but don't; or which you don't do, but should) and ask God to help you find the resolve to change that one thing about yourself. Perhaps you need to gossip less; perhaps you need to spend more time with the children; perhaps you could read the Bible more often? Or why not ask God to show you where you need more self-control?

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