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Updated: Jun 12, 2023

Spiritual Training Cycle: Examination (wk. 10/13)

The journey of life is filled with choices, which is a wonderful thing. The freedom to choose is a good gift from our good God who loves us and created us in His image. Because you’re reading this, my assumption is that somewhere in your journey of life, you started another journey – your fitness journey. At some point you decided the movement of your physical body was a good choice, and you began to do that consistently through sport and/or exercise.

As the fitness journey continues, though, your choices begin to change. It’s not if you will work out, it’s how hard and how long. It’s not if you will eat healthy, it’s which food and combination of foods will take you where you want to go. The pursuit of fitness is all about learning to choose that which is better.

“The better choice” may be the simplest way to define our spiritual need for self-control. Too many people become hyper focused on avoiding the wrong choice. For them, self-control is a prison that limits their freedom. But quite the opposite is true. Self-control is the result of the righteous exercise of our godly freedom to choose. There’s more freedom in making the better choice than you might realize. That’s because there’s something better on the other side of self-control. Self-control is a better journey to a better destination.

In 1 Corinthians 9:19-27, Paul uses the metaphor of an athlete to describe the Christian life. He explains that, just as an athlete trains their body to compete for a prize, we too must exercise self-control and discipline to fulfill our spiritual purpose.

Physical exercise requires focus and self-control. We must push ourselves to run that extra mile, lift that extra weight, and endure the discomfort that comes with it. Similarly, spiritual exercise requires us to exercise self-control in our thoughts, actions, and speech. We must resist the temptation to give in to our own desires and instead focus on the things that are pleasing to God. Pleasing God is the better choice.

Just as an athlete must train daily to become stronger and more agile, we must also develop the habit of exercising self-control in our daily lives. This means being intentional about our choices and actions and seeking to align them with God's will. We must train ourselves to respond with better choices such as patience, love, and kindness – even when it's difficult.

In verse 27, Paul speaks of disciplining his body and bringing it under control, so that he would not be disqualified from the race. He recognized the importance of self-control in achieving his spiritual goals, and he was willing to make sacrifices to attain them.

As followers of Jesus, we too must be willing to exercise self-control and discipline to achieve our spiritual goals. This requires a conscious effort to align our thoughts and behaviors with God's will, and to resist the temptations that would hinder our progress. It means developing the habit of daily prayer and meditation, seeking the Holy Spirit's guidance, and being purposeful about the choices we make.

In spiritual fitness, we define the end state, or ultimate outcome, as shalom, a richly textured Hebrew word meaning richness, fullness, flourishing, and completion. It is the expression of what it means to be deeply connected to God and to live in existence with Him. This is the better destination self-control takes us to. While eternity with God is the final destination for those whose faith rests in Jesus, self-control is the earth-bound side of that journey. Self-control draws us closer to God today. If you want to experience Heaven on earth, live a life full of choices pleasing to God. Live a life full of self-control.

Questions for Reflection

When is self-control easy for you? When is it difficult?

Why does self-control feel limiting? Is there freedom for you in self-control?

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