Think about it. If we could grow to perfection, we would be abundantly loving, joyful, patient, kind, good, faithful and gentle. Why would we need self control? We would already be perfect! But God tells us we will grow more self controlled. Therefore, we will never be perfect and should not beat ourselves up if we aren’t perfect in all the other areas.
Have you ever known someone who lacked self control? We all lack it in some way or another, but have you ever known someone who had virtually no self control? Chances are, he or she was in a sad situation. I read a Proverb this morning that I had never heard before. “A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.” That’s quite an image isn’t it? If we don’t practice self control, all kinds of things can go into us and come out of us, just like a city that isn’t protected by walls.
God tells us that we are going to be tempted. Even Christ was tempted. You can read about it in Matthew 4. After Jesus had fasted for 40 days, Satan tempted him by telling him to make stones into bread. Jesus’ answer started with, “It is written.” When we are tempted, a great way to combat that is to follow His example and go to the Word. The more we study and the more we pray, the more self control we will develop.
According to Romans 12:1-2, we are to be a living sacrifice to God. That means that we are to work to give up our own wants to follow Him and do His will. The problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar. We have to put ourselves back into the will of God over and over and over. We will keep messing up, and we have to keep repenting and trying again.
Just like everything in life, self control gets easier with practice. I was thinking about the time a few years ago when the Beetle got a Ripstick for Christmas. In case you don’t know what that is, it’s a skateboard with crazy wheels. It only has two wheels instead of four, and they move in every direction. You have to use balance and skill to make the thing work.
The Beetle wanted a Ripstick so badly, and he was so excited when he got it. I insisted that he wear protective gear, and I reminded him before sending him out the door that we had no medical insurance. He went outside, jumped on and immediately fell down. He got on again and fell again. This child of mine was so determined to ride that thing that he got on over and over and over again, and he fell over and over and over again. Pretty soon, he could stay on for at least three seconds before falling. Then, it was five seconds. He worked at that thing for hours until he was exhausted and bleeding. The next day, he did it again, and the next day, he did it again. Eventually, the Beetle got pretty good at riding the Ripstick, and he could stay on for a while unless he hit a bump. Fast forward a few years of practice. Now, the Beetle rides that thing better than he can walk. It is amazing to watch him. He can whip in and out, avoid bumps and keep himself falling even when he hits a bump. He still falls occasionally, but more often, he stays on and makes it look easy. Through practice, he prevailed.
That is so symbolic for what our lives should be! When we are new Christians, we will fall constantly. With practice, living the life we should will get a little easier and a little easier. Over time, we will get better at walking the Christian walk. We will become more loving and more joyful and more of all of the fruits of the spirit. After years, we may even reach the point where we make it look easy. That doesn’t mean we will never fall, but it does mean we will fall less and succeed more. When we do fall, we will know how to pick ourselves up and start again.
My hope for you and for me is that we can grow and develop in the ways of Galatians 5:22-23. I pray that our fruit will continue to grow and that we will grow more self controlled day by day. On days when it is harder, remember that you are running a marathon. It won’t always be easy, but endurance is the key. Hopefully, some day, we will be able to quote Paul and mean it as we say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” (2 Tim. 4:7) -Al