[notice] A fortnightly column by Anna Heydenrych: the seventh in a series of reflections on the nine fruits of the Spirit (Galations 5:22-23)[/notice]
I remember a particular day when I was younger, and my sister and I were spending the day with our Gran. On this particular day, Granny bought us each a packet of jelly tots. My sister, out of the goodness of her little heart, decided that rather than eating the whole packet herself, she would save some to give to our mom when she collected us later in the day. However, as the day dragged on, and she peeked into her little packet at the remaining sweets, she decided that Mom wouldn’t mind if she ate just a few more. She soon found herself with one remaining jelly tot. Now, this presented a bit of a problem when she became further tempted to indulge in a little more sweetness. She really wanted to give her mom this last jelly tot as the goodness of her little heart had originally prompted her to do, but she also really wanted to nibble a bit on the sides of this little sweet. She told herself that Mom would not mind, and proceeded to take little bites out of the jelly tot for the rest of the day. Fortunately enough, when out mother arrived to collect us, there was still a little piece of chewed on jelly tot to be presented to her! Mom however graciously declined and let my sister finish it off.
And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. — Romans 7:18-20
Now, I recount this little story, not to suggest that my sister’s temptation to eat sweets was driven by sin, but rather as an illustration. I am sure that we can all relate to the battle that Paul speaks of above. In order to overcome this battle, we need to develop self-control, one of the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. It is important for us as Christians to be aware of sin and not to fancy ourselves above it. Paul, one of the most incredible Christian role-models ever to have lived exposes his struggle in Romans 7; he bears open his soul and recognises that when he does wrong, it is because there is sin living in him.
To overcome this urge to give in to sin, we need to exercise self-control. We need to be able to control ourselves. Nobody else can do it for us. We will find the strength to overcome by welcoming the Holy Spirit into our daily lives, but we each need to make the choice to follow His promptings over sinful urges each and every time. If we do not exercise the gift of self-control, we will end up biting out chunks of our good intentions until we become satisfied with living lives that do not glorify God.
A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. — Proverbs 25:28