Two weeks ago, we talked about how the Holy Spirit leads and the devil drives. How God always gives you a choice. God can tell you what to do in a situation but the choice is always yours to make. You can choose to do it or not to do it. There will be consequences either way, but God will never force you to do something.
Yes, we are talking about self-control or strength of spirit from Galatians 5:22-23 which says, “But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions: joy that overflows, peace that subdues, patience that endures, kindness [sweetness] in action, a life full of virtue, faith that prevails, gentleness of heart, and strength of spirit. Never set the law above these qualities, for they are meant to be limitless.”
Continuing on from that, the choice part, that’s your will. That requires your soul to cooperate. Your spirit may know what is right because it is joined to the Holy Spirit but is your soul (and body) going to submit to your spirit and do what is right or is it going to act independently and do what feels good or feels right? What is right and what “feels” or “seems” right are not always the same thing.
Put simply, on a rainy day, when it is cold outside and it is nice and warm in my bed, what feels right at 7am on a Sunday morning after a long week is to sleep in till midday. But what is right is for me to get up so I can get ready to go to church and be where God wants me to be. Self-control is as much about what you do as it is about what you don’t do. Self-control is as much about telling self, “No you are not going to eat that 3rd slice of cake.” As it is about saying, “Yes, I know I am working from home but I am still going to show up to work on time and do the right thing.”
Remember last week we talked about submitting to God and resisting the devil, James 4:7. It takes self-control to do both. Submitting to God includes acting in obedience to what God has said to us. God has asked me to do some crazy things over the years that didn’t feel right to me but that were right. Like the time I was in financial hardship and I was looking at my budget and I could not make ends meet and was thousands of dollars away from where I needed to be and I felt God telling me to tithe anyway. Tithing is always right. Whenever in doubt and when asking yourself, “Should I tithe?” The answer is always yes! I can tell you now, my soul didn’t agree with that decision because it did not make sense financially. I could use the money, I really needed it. But, my spirit knew it was the right thing to do. So, I tithed, and I saw supernatural provision from God and every need was met.
Self-control isn’t just about diets and abstaining from pre-marital sex or adultery and all the physical things. It includes all those things and more, but it also goes to a spiritual level. It is all about learning to prioritize God over self. Making God Lord over every area of life. Choosing His will above our own. I mentioned last week that self-control is about Lordship. Yes, it is about God’s Lordship over your life. You can have as much “self-control” as you want but as long as you are not submitted to God, your life will end up being out of control.
Strength of spirit (as it is phrased in our verse) is spiritual strength from God to enable us to keep our soul in submission to our spirit and our body in submission to our soul. Our soul is all about what’s logical or what feels right. The body is about what feels good. The soul wants what the soul wants and the body wants what the body wants, it takes submission to God for everything to find its right place.
What God asks us to do may not be logical to us and may not even feel good to us. We may cry whilst doing it, but the end result will be good. Like in my situation, my tithe did what Malachi 3 says. It enabled God to open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing to take care of my needs.
So, when we think about self-control, we need to ask ourselves, “Who is in charge right now? Is it me or God?” If God is Lord, we can’t both be in charge. Don’t rush into making you decisions, wait so you can hear from God and make God decisions. Sometimes we look at self-control as denial but it is about balance and boundaries. Obeying God helps us to get both. God is a good God. He is a good Father, and He always wants what’s best for us. You can trust Him.
Love and blessings,