The irony of how I have put off writing this blog entry is not lost on me. The subject is the fruit of the Spirit of self-control. It was supposed to be yesterday’s entry. I have sat down to write this several times only to let myself get sidetracked onto something else.
Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” When you think about it, including self-control in this list is a bit redundant. If I have Spirit-led self-control, I will be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, and gentle. And this makes sense when you think about the fact that the Greek word for “fruit” in Galatians 5:22 is singular, not plural. In other words, there is but one fruit that includes all of these characteristics. If you choose to be truly led by the Spirit, you can’t pick part of the fruit and leave another part for someone else.
But the whole singular vs. plural thing aside, self-control can be so much more than the other qualities that make up the fruit of the Spirit. Self-control encompasses behaviors that aren’t at issue with these other characteristics. It encompasses behaviors that involve one’s relationship to self as opposed to one’s relationship to others.
I have been thinking about self-control lately because it has been a struggle for me to maintain self-control when it comes to my eating habits. I eat when I am stressed, and what I eat when I am stressed is not usually healthy foods. It is usually cookies, chocolate, ice cream, potato chips, etc. I don’t have to be hungry, and seldom am, when I eat these things. It is just a habit I have lost control of.
I didn’t see this as a big problem until recently when some new pants I bought right before Christmas started feeling too tight when I put them on. And when I get dressed in the morning, the choice of comfortable clothing in my closet is much smaller than the entire collection. I know this is a result of my lack of self-control when it comes to what I eat.
There have been other habits in my life that I have struggled to control. I can think of one instance in which I confessed such a struggle to a good Christian friend because I didn’t know what else to do. I had tried over and over to break this habit on my own. She prayed with me, and I finally came to the realization that I couldn’t control this habit on my own. I cried out to God to help me, and He miraculously gave me the power to overcome the habit. I thank God that I have not engaged in that behavior even once, and have not even had the desire to do so, since the day I finally said to God, “Help, I can’t do it alone.”
So today I bought lunch for a group of editors that I am working with. I selected a local deli for sandwiches, knowing they sell the most delicious cookies (chocolate chip coconut). The deli includes a regular chocolate chip cookie with every sandwich, but I bought two of the chocolate chip coconut ones also (they are buy one, get one free). I really didn’t need that cookie. At least I only ate one. But I wonder why I even put myself in the position of being tempted by that delicious treat? Why not just select another local deli that doesn’t have cookies that are so good? There are several to choose from.
I think I have finally reached the point where I need to say to God, “Help, I can’t do this on my own!” I don’t have any willpower on my own. But I do have the Holy Spirit if only I would choose to rely on His power and not my own.
Jesus told His disciples, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Matthew 26:41. I know that is the key. Before the temptation is even before me, I need to pray and seek the fruit of the Spirit in my life. I know from experience that self-control is an available fruit of the Spirit, now I just need to take advantage of His powerful gift.