For years I disliked reading the list of the fruit of the Spirit. You know the list: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and da-da-dum, self control.1
I had the other eight qualities, but that last one always tripped me up. Then I heard a speaker say that these are not fruits of the Spirit but fruit, singular. Which means if you have the Holy Spirit living inside you, you have self-control.
I have to admit, that kind of freaked me out. If I don’t have self-control does that mean I don’t have the Holy Spirit? Because it was a given that I didn’t have self-control, at least where sweets were concerned.
We also call this willpower. As a matter of fact one of the definitions of willpower is self-control or the ability of a person to exert his or her will over the inhibitions of their body or self.
I could do that for a short amount of time. I was a really good dieter. I could deny myself stuff for a season, several months, long enough to lose a lot of weight. Then I would hit my goal and reward myself with foods that contains my nemesis and willpower would go out the window.
I wanted the Fruit of the Spirit, but one of my fruits was missing. I didn’t know how to find it.
Light bulb moment
I had a light bulb moment listening to Steven Furtick from Elevation Church this morning. He said, “I am not going to start this year with willpower. I am going to start this year with the oil of anointing.”
What that means is I don’t have to do whatever I am called to do under my own willpower. I do it with God’s Spirit large in my heart.
Then he had to go and mess with my weight loss theology. One minute he made the sun shine on my life and the next he brought in dark clouds.
“It’s not the size of your waist, it’s the size of your heart. Don’t just look the part, live the part.”
He talked about how God told Samuel when he anointed David king. “People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”2
Weight loss theology
My unspoken weight loss theology said that God is happy with me because I am doing what He told me to do for years. And I think it does bring God joy when His children follow what He tells them to do.
However, He doesn’t really care if I weigh 430 pounds or 167 pounds. He just cares that my heart follows hard after Him. Part of the acknowledgement of that is by my actions, that I obey the things He’s made clear I should do.
Self-control, then, is not me exercising my willpower to resist certain foods. It’s me turning my heart towards what I know God wants for my life.
He wants me to prosper and be in good health. He wants my soul to prosper.3 He wants that for me. He says my bones will vibrate with health when I trust God from the bottom of my heart.4
It begins in a moment
It’s really hard to describe to people what I did to lose weight. I just know there was this moment when I admitted I have a weakness for processed sugar and I began to give it up. I laid it on the altar and surrendered it, not for a season like I’d always done before, but for the rest of my life.
I knew I was bound to another god other than God. It felt an awful lot like that god was my stomach.5 I chose God all over again. I had to learn to walk by the Spirit and not “gratify the desires of the flesh.”6
I didn’t do it on my own strength. I did it by focusing on Him.
When I surrendered that desire, I immediately felt God’s grace propelling me forward. Kris Vallotton says it this way, “When you obey God, it’s grace that gives you the power to do what you couldn’t do one second before.” That, I believe, is the definition of self-control.
When we fully obey, we get the fullness of the fruit of the Spirit, every juicy morsel. It is the missing piece of the pie (excuse the obvious analogy). We see it as a case-by-case decision. I’ll obey if I want to, but I have free will. Of course you do. God doesn’t force you to make the right choices, He only clearly shows you what they are.
Self-control is the key to the entire fruit of the Spirit. Self-control is being under the Holy Spirit’s control or obeying Him.
My self-control was not missing. It was there all along.
All I had to do was obey and everything else followed.
1 Galatians 5:22-23
2 1 Samuel 16:7
3 3 John 2
4 Proverbs 5-8, MSG
5 Philippians 3:19
6 Galatians 5:16
Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds and Stopped Trying To Earn God’s Favor is available on Amazon by going HERE. The companion book, Sweet Grace Study Guide: Practical Steps to Lose Weight and Overcome Food Addiction are available HERE.