I’m not a risk taker. I’m not someone who will easily step out of my comfort zone to try something I’ve never done before or try something I am really terrible at.
At the same time, I too easily give in to temptations. Particularly when it comes to food. There’s no self-control there sometimes! A couple weeks ago, I got a whole bag of Starburst jelly beans and ate the whole thing in an hour. I felt terribly sick that day from the overload of sugar and, well, sugar.
One of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5 is “self-control” (v. 23), and against such thing there is no law. But as I’ve grown in my faith, I’ve seen that, more and more, sometimes I have too little self-control and sometimes I have too much self-control.
Not enough self-control is at the heart of all giving into temptation. When I give into temptation to lust or anger or over-eating, I am forgoing my control of my own body and giving control to a carnal desire that I have. I am led by something that is inherently me but is also not me.
When we become Christians, we are given a new heart and new desires. But the effect of sin is that it still remains, and in certain areas it remains in a big way. There’s no telling sometimes how deep our sinful nature can drag us down. In those instances, our self-control dwindles and our flesh reigns.
What’s the negative here? Well, I am affected by the sins I commit and the negative things that happen when my self-control disappears. I disobey God. I choose sin over obedience. I am rejecting God’s way as perfect and worthy of my obedience. Praise God for the grace of the Gospel here that covers all my sins, but I am still shown as weak and needy.
Too much self-control is often the result of a basis of fear. If we fear something – commitment, danger, heights – sometimes we have too much self-control that holds us back from experiencing things that we should perhaps be experiencing, things that would be good for us.
When I have this amount of self-control, risks are impossible to take because risks are, at their core, a giving of one’s self to the unknown, something too much self-control does not allow.
When following God, I am free to take risks and lose a little self-control because God is ultimately in control and He works all things together for my good and His glory. When I do not take risks, my faith often shows itself to be small and lacking.
Grace Frees Us to Make Mistakes
The awesome thing about the Gospel is that it helps us in both of these situations.
First, it gives us grace when our self-control gets away from us. When I give into the temptation to let my anger run wild or my lust lead me to sin, I disobey God in at least my heart and mind, but also potentially my actions. The grace of the Gospel says that God doesn’t hold that against me, that, while it is sinful and disobedient, it does not affect my standing with God presently or eternally. He still loves me, He still cares for me and He still is working in my life.
Second, it gives us grace to pursue the unknown because, even if we make a mistake by taking that risk, God’s forgiveness is there. If I choose to do something that ends up being the “wrong decision,” God loves and forgives. And if I choose something that ends up being the “right decision,” I’m good. These situations help build your faith and your trust, which grow your love for God.
I need to grow in my self-control, but not so much that I don’t do anything. If I don’t do anything, I won’t go anywhere. And that’s no good. God has not called us to sit still.