November 26, 2009

Learning a big lesson from a small problem

For months I’ve tried to lose 5-10 lbs. The first few were easy, but this became a battle that I could not win. At the time, a book called Born Crucified and my devotions were convincing me that this was one area of my life that I was trying to control and needed to give the whole thing to Jesus.

It took a while, but finally the Lord helped me understand that the issue was not weight loss but self-control. The Bible says this quality is something given by the Holy Spirit, but I was focused on the “self” part and was not letting the Spirit do His work. I could argue that I was afraid of what might happen, but have to say it was more like I didn’t want to give up the control of eating anything I wanted whenever I wanted it.

Yet the Lord persisted and finally I gave up. I couldn’t reach my goals and told Him to do whatever He wanted about this situation. In my struggle, I did learn some good things. I now have greater sympathy for those with dozens or even hundreds of pounds to shed. This is not easy. I also learned that it is a battle of the will. No matter what my common sense says, that chocolate cake or extra slice of pizza will find its way to my plate unless I decide otherwise.

After giving this over to the Lord, an odd thing happened. It seems small and one of those “why didn’t I think of that” kinds of solutions, but for me it is huge and, no, I didn’t think of it. The Lord’s cure is that His Spirit is making me strongly aware of my choices. Instead of just eating and then later saying that I shouldn’t have, He has changed the timing of His conviction.

For instance, I can eat pizza, but if I’m about to take the next piece that will put me over what is right for my health, the Holy Spirit gives me an instant awareness that now I must decide. Because I know that He will give me the self-control that I need, my decision at that point is not so much about the eating as it is about who I will let be the boss in my life: my wants and appetites, or God.

He also gave me a verse to encourage me. It says, “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified (unfit)” (1 Corinthians 9:27).

Today’s devotional reading is further encouragement to obey God. If I want to keep my life clean from any sin, I need to pay attention to that conviction about my choices. The verse says, “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word” (Psalm 119:9).

The author of my devotional book adds that any godly conduct that produces spiritual stability depends on obeying God’s Word because the Bible cultivates godly attitudes, thoughts, and actions. He offers an analogy. If a policeman sees a person about to break the law, he will arrest him. In the same way, godly thoughts produced by God’s Word are like that policemen. They arrest the sinful flesh before it commits a crime against the standards of God. Yet if these attitudes and thoughts are not on duty, they can’t make the arrest, and sinful me will easily feel free to violate the biblical commands.

The New Testament says that only spiritual weapons will help me win this battle against my sinful flesh. By using the right weapon, I can take “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4-5) because the Holy Spirit is there to give me the self-control I need to say no when the choice is presented. Of course it is better to have the crime stopped before it happens then to eat too much and be filled with regret.

However, the main lesson in all this is not about the weight loss, even though that is happening. It is about self-control and listening to His voice in all the details of life, many of which are far more important than making sure my clothes still fit.

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