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Fruits of the Spirit 10 - Self-Control

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Reading: 1Corinthians 9:24-27
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  1 Cor. 9:25 (NIV)

I.   Pew Potatoes?

     A.  Trains and Bicycles

           1.  In one way becoming a Christian is like getting on a train.

                 a.  Once you get on the train, the train takes you to where you’re going.

                 b.  Once God gets a hold of you he never lets go.

And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. John 6:39 (NIV)

           2.  In another way becoming a Christian is like getting a new bicycle.

                 a.  The bike is a gift, but it needs peddling if you want to get anywhere!

                 b.  Once you get a glimpse of God you will want to run (peddle) to Him with all you’ve got!

Run in such a way as to get the prize!(v.24)

     B.  The Math of grace

           1.  God does it all — but that doesn’t mean we don’t do anything.

           2.  One way God works is to move us to action — but he always leaves it up to us to act.

           3.  God is persistent, but not in such a way as to violate our will.

     C.  What More do you want?

           1.  You’ve come as far as you’ve come. Do you want to go farther?

           2.  The minimum effort vs. The maximum benefit.

           3.  The whole point of self-control is that we do whatever we are able to do to move closer and deeper in our walk with God. (...run with God?)

II.  In Training (“strict training” in v.25=“self-control”)

     A.  Learning the moves

           1.  Practicing scales, chords and “licks.”

                 a.  “I’d give anything to play piano like that”

                 b.  “Well, you didn’t. It just takes practice.”

                 c.  It takes self-control; self-discipline; self-mastery to learn something well.

           2.  From awkward to expert

                 a.  Learning to drive a stick-shift feels unnatural, at first. You have to think through every step: a)lift up on accelerator and depress clutch c)move shift lever to appropriate gear d)release clutch and depress accelerator

                       (1)      At first the car jerks and stalls and seems to laugh at your attempts.

                       (2)      After about a month, you do it without thinking. (Though every once in a while you still stall it at a stop sign!)

                 b.  When we start trying to do what God asks us, sometimes it feels awkward and we want to give up and go back to the “automatic.”

                 c.  It works best to learn one major new thing at a time.

                       (1)      It’s not wise to start learning to drive by taking a loaded semi through San Fransisco!

                       (2)      Start with what you can do and add to it.

           3.  From unnatural to genuine

                 a.  We sometimes resist change because the new thing feels unnatural — it’s not us.

                 b.  However, training ourselves to do something new, or in a new way (if we’re convinced it’s a better way) will help us get passed the unnatural “forced” stage to adopt a new behavior that feels and is genuine. e.g. Active listening.

     B.  Unlearning bad Habits

           1.  Bad habits slow or stunt our progress.

           2.  It takes as much, or more, self-control to unlearn bad habits as to learn new ones.

           3.  Letting go of bad habits has done more to help me grow than learning new ones!

     C.  A Healthy Diet

           1.  An athlete in training takes charge of even what he/she even allows him/herself to eat.

                 a.  Some things are required, other things prohibited.

           2.  What we “eat and drink” spiritually has everything to do with our spiritual health and vigor.

                 a.  A spiritual athlete exercises a great deal of self-control about what he/she takes in.

                 b.  The wisdom God gives us teaches us to stay away from meeting our needs in ways that don’t nourish and strengthen us.

III. Running for the Prize

     A.  Worth the Effort

           1.  People will change only if the pain of changing is less than the pain of things staying the same. (Or if the blessing of changing is so much more than the comfort of things staying the same.)

           2.  Paul points out the great efforts athletes go through to get a trophy that doesn’t last. He compares it to our crown which will last forever.

                 a.  Paul says this: “If a momentary prize is worth that kind of effort, how much effort is an everlasting prize worth?”

     B.  In the right Direction

           1.  It is not merely effort that is important, it is effort focused in a direction.

           2.  Ecclesiastes talks about how much human effort is a “chasing after the wind” (lots of movement, little results).

           3.  Self-control/Training keeps us focused on the goal — the finish line. It keeps us in the lanes and moving forward.

     C.  Hungry for the goal

           1.  Great athletes have an insatiable hunger to do better than they did the last time.

           2.  Jesus said “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

           3.  Suppose you don’t have much of a hunger, suppose you don’t have much in the way of self-discipline, or self-control, suppose you find it easy to slip into old habits and hard to keep in the race. What if your self-control fruit is small and green and sour? What can you do about it?

The Bottom Line:

Cultivate your desire to Improve and Awaken your determination to Run for the Prize.

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