The other day I was gathering the trash from the house and collecting it in our larger trash cans in our garage. One of them already contained a huge bag of Lay’s potato chips. It was there on top of some leaves. It was empty.
This was a bit strange because we don’t buy chips very often at our house. So I asked Karen, “Do you know anything about a big bag of Lay’s potato chips?”
Karen would cave at a police interrogation because she broke at the first question. “Yes, that was mine!” “When did we have a big bag of Lay’s in the house? I never saw them?” I asked, wishing I’d had a few myself.
“Well, before we came home the other day I looked in the kitchen at church to find something to snack on. There was a bag. I was hungry. So I grabbed it. By the time I got home it was pretty much all gone so I threw it away so I wouldn’t be tempted to finish it off!”
I just smiled. She said, “I know. I have no self-control when it comes to chips. And why are you smiling at me like that?” “Because,” I said, “my next sermon is on ‘self-control.’ You just gave me a good illustration of what it isn’t. Can I use it?”
She gave me her blessing because she knows and I know you’ve been there too, haven’t you? Maybe chips aren’t your kryptonite. But what about spending? We spend $1.33 for every dollar earned, according to the Census Bureau. Or maybe its anger you can’t control. A recent study from the USA Today found 60 percent of Americans report feeling angry or irritable. Anger leads to problems at home and elsewhere in life. Or maybe it’s something at work. People get fired for bad time-keeping, gossip, and complaining at work.
You can probably identify some area of your life in which you lack control. But you can have control over those areas. You don’t have to be a prisoner to them. Self-control is the steady capacity to direct yourself to accomplish what you have chosen or decided to do and be, even though you “don’t feel like it.” You have self-control when you are able to do what you intend to do.
Self-control may not be a natural tendency of yours. But it is a supernatural one. That’s what God’s word tells us. Galatians 5 tells us self-control is a fruit of the Spirit in our lives. “… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Self-control is attainable through the Spirit of God.
God gives self-control to us when we align ourselves with his Spirit. That happens through disciplines like worship where our affections are turned to God. Or study where we get a vision of God’s desire for our lives. Or fasting that teaches us we can control our bodies and not let them control us.
When you have a vision of what your life can be and add some intention towards living out that vision then mix it with the means of spiritual disciplines you will see self-control growing like fruit in your life.
Your relationship to God will mature and increase. Your relationships with your family and friends will flourish. You may even be able to eat just one chip.