Every battle in the history of mankind has been about one thing: Power and control.
Whether the battle is between nations, political candidates, spouses, siblings, roommates, neighbors or church members, the common denominator is desire for control over something that matters to us. We want something, and the other is withholding it, blocking our path to it, or taking it from us, so we fight and quarrel to get what we want.
Some of us fight the battle for control aggressively. Bob uses angry and shaming words when he doesn’t get what he wants, stomping out and leaving others feeling hurt, fearful and rejected. Sandy shuts down in angry and punishing silence, all the while proclaiming that she’s “just fine.” Marie is quick to focus on what she sees as wrong and offer advice and correction, but claims she only wants to help.
Others of us shun the more obvious efforts at control and take a more veiled approach. John seeks to manage other’s opinions of him by always appearing agreeable, up and positive. Cassy takes on more work than she can handle in an effort to please and find worth in the eyes of her boss. Sally scrambles to handle and hide problems with the kids and money from her husband in order to keep life at home running smooth. Joe indulges in just one more taste of pleasure in order to escape the realities of his life at home.
Now, every one of these folks is in a battle they hadn’t anticipated. They are battling to save their marriages, their relationship with their children, their mental and emotional and often physical health. It’s absolutely true. The harder we try to control life, the more out of control things become.
Note to self: Any time I try to control what I cannot control, I will end up in trouble. I will cause pain and hardship for myself and others.
But there is a control that will lead to health and much happiness. It’s called self-control. In fact, I am the only thing I really can control and the only thing God expects me to control.
Second note to self: Anytime I don’t take godly control of myself, my thinking, my beliefs, my actions and choices I will cause pain and hardship for myself and others.
See, the real battle for control should not be outward, but inward. The problem is not ultimately other people or circumstances, it is what is controlling me. Am I controlled by lies or truth? Am I controlled by love or self-centeredness? Am I controlled by the Holy Spirit or the spirit of fear? And here I have the choice. I can take control.
Without Christ in our lives we are enslaved to a life of needing to control things that are impossible to control or merely living as a victim and reacting to what others seem to control. That is slavery indeed!
Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit of God. It comes as I allow him to speak to me through his word, as I commune with him in prayer and as I rely upon him to enable me to put into practice all that he teaches me. It comes as we trust him to control what we cannot control. Self-control grows as we reject lies and choose to live by the truth. That is freedom indeed!