Monday, June 3, 2013

Self-control


My husband is generally self-controlled when it comes to food. He can say no to cinnamon buns and cake, and no to a second helping even if he doesn’t yet feel full. I’m not as good at this discipline, but learning. Last night, we both gave in.

Our weekend was filled with good things, accomplished chores, quality family time, fun and games, and an excellent church service. On Saturday, we went to a store well known for delicious pies that are also over-size. A lattice topped strawberry-rhubarb called to us and we figured our neighbors would come and help us eat at least the first half. However, they were occupied with grandchildren yesterday, and instead of having a small slice each, we had a big one. I might not need food all day today.

An occasional slice of pie (slab, hunk, wad, gob, mass, chunk) probably will not kill us, but for me trying to live a self-controlled life, it was another oops that easily leads to lack of discipline in other areas. We all know the excuse, “Tomorrow, I will start eating healthier.” That mentality also translates into, “Tomorrow, I will be more obedient to the Lord.”

Today’s devotional has me back in Titus 2 with this passage that talks about obedience and being self-controlled.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ... (Titus 2:11–13)

First thing that I notice is that living a self-controlled life is a product of God’s grace and salvation. Other verses say it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. That is, if my life is controlled by the Spirit, then I will not fulfill the desires of the flesh – which includes eating too much pie, and self-indulgence in other areas that fall into those categories of ungodliness and worldly passions.

Self-control is important. It is to be modeled and taught. The verses before today’s passage say so three times…

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women… to be self-controlled… that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. (Titus 2:1–8)

I skipped a section that includes other things the older women are to teach the younger, however my experience is that few older women have all of these in place, so how can I pass on self-control to anyone if I don’t practice it myself? Without it, not only do the next generation fail to learn, God’s Word can be mocked as well.

The cost for self-indulgence is high in other areas too. It messes with my health and personal relationship with God, but can also ruin my effectiveness as His follower. Can I take seriously the preaching of someone who is a hundred pounds over-weight? Can I expect anyone to listen to me if I am feeding my every whim? It could be eating whatever and whenever, but what about a closet full of shoes, or a mouth full of gossip, or time wasted playing computer games? What good is following Jesus Christ if it does not change our selfish habits?

When my husband says no to something he could have but chooses not to have, I am impressed and convicted. Being self-controlled is even a bit contagious. Yet of all the traits Christians are supposed to have, this one might be the most elusive, at least in affluent countries like ours where full pocketbooks ensure full pantries and refrigerators, and the mall reaches for our dollars.

I’m eying that pie differently today. Maybe the neighbors spent extra calories playing road hockey with their grandkids and will help us finish it so it won’t go to waste, but since there are two ways to spell waste/waist, my options are not limited to simply eating the thing.


2 comments:

LaughingLady said...

I LOVE that last phrase!! "...but since there are two ways to spell waste/waist, my options are not limited to simply eating the thing." SO TRUE!

I struggle with self-discipline as well (in all areas, but particularly with eating) and am trying to train myself a little more aggressively these days as well.

LC said...

A recent lecturer pointed out that both the Serpent in Eden and Jesus Christ invite us to "take and eat" - our challenge is to figure out which voice we are hearing! For me, this is really practical. I tend to want to eat when I don't need food, which is such a waste/waist!!