CONTROLLED CONTESTANTS (Olympic Lessons 14) 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 4:7
Can you stand on your hands and walk around a room? What about standing still on just one leg for 10 minutes? Can you do a double back flip and land on your feet? Gymnasts can do all these things and more. They can do them because they train for them. They develop power, coordination and muscle control through hours of hard work. They need to do it because without great body control, they can’t do well in their sport.
To do well living our life for God we must develop control as well – spiritual and emotional control. We are not to get angry when someone hurts us. We must forgive those who have done us wrong. We have to have patience for others, and patience waiting for God to work. We must have self-control so we don’t give in to temptation. It takes long, hard work to develop these skills. The control comes from the Holy Spirit, it’s not something we whip up. But we must develop the ability to lean on His power to help us with what we do and don’t want to do.
Cosmas Ndeti of Kenya was one of the top marathon runners in the world in the 1990’s. He won the Boston Marathon in 1993, 1994 and 1995, an almost unbelievable accomplishment. He wasn’t always a top runner, though. He was just one of a dozen talented Kenyan runners and didn’t give 100% to his training. Then in 1993 he accepted Jesus’s free gift of salvation and things changed. “With faith in Jesus, anything is possible” he said. “Before I became a true Christian, I was following some bad things … drinking and smoking … I might drink even though I had to run tomorrow. But then I couldn’t run. But when you know Christ, you can be more disciplined.” That’s the key – self-discipline. You can’t really have it without Jesus. “You have to put God first. Then you worry about other things. After my running career is over, I’d like to be a preacher … be a good example to people here in my country.” Winning races not the most important thing to Cosmos. “When someone has Jesus in his life, victory is sure.”
Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). In Bible times when someone made a list, the first and the last items on the list were the most important. Love and self-control are emphasized because encompass everything else in the list as well.
The term SELF-control is misleading. It is really SPIRIT control for only then is self not in control but self is under the control of the Holy Spirit. In our own power we can’t control our self any more than we can fly to Europe without a plane. It takes a deliberate act of our will when we choose to allow God’s Spirit to rule in our life. We recognize our need of Him and tell Him to take charge and work through us. Then we sense His guidance and leading and follow. When we act independently, in our own strength, we confess the sin and put ourselves under His guidance. God commands us to do all kinds of things that are impossible for us to do: trust, love, forgive, humble ourselves, serve, give, etc. He doesn’t require us to do anything that He doesn’t give us the strength to do. So, when He requires these things, He also provides the control to do them – Spirit control (Philippians 2:13; Ephesians 3:20-21; Philippians 4:13).
If you think doing a double back flip is hard, what about turning the other cheek to someone who has taken advantage of you, forgiving someone who purposely hurt you and didn’t apologize, resisting your favorite temptation, controlling your anger, fear or lust, resisting Satan and his demons or putting others before yourself? The Christian needs self (Spirit) control to overcome the challenges of life just as an athlete needs physical self-control to overcome the challenges in their sport.
Start by making your decision to live by the Spirit. Be willing to give up present pleasure for future gain. You received the Holy Spirit at the moment of your life, but He doesn’t fill you and use you until you surrender to Him to do so (Ephesians 5:18).
Where in your live have you seen God increasing your self-control? Thank Him for it and continue to be sensitive to His leading in this area.
cto Rev. Dr. JERRY SCHMOYER
Christian Training Organization
(India Outreach, Spiritual Warfare, Family Ministries, Counseling, World View)
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