I love it when Teri is giving a workshop and tells moms that the alarm clock is their friend not their enemy. That statement is usually followed by either chuckles or outright laughter from many in the audience. I suppose a mom hearing that the alarm clock is her friend is similar to a dad who is told that work is a blessing from God. He is likely to laugh at that thought. Through the years I have heard so many men complain about their jobs and how they dread going into work.
The “flesh” is something isn’t it? Not wanting to get out of bed in the morning and complaining about work are examples of fleshly responses to God’s calling for our life. Even Paul said, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Romans 7:18-19). In one way, it is surprising to me that even Paul had a struggle with the flesh. On the other hand, it shouldn’t be a surprise because Jesus said, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
Jesus was saying that in regard to doing the right thing, our flesh is weak. The inverse is true as well because the flesh pulls strongly toward what is wrong. When I look at the struggles in my life, I see that I’m at war with my flesh. Like Paul, I know what I should do, but sometimes I don’t do it.
I suppose my greatest fleshly struggle is with eating too much. I know mentally what my body appropriately needs to sustain itself, yet, I often choose excess. A person can know what’s right to do but still struggle because the flesh is weak. I suspect that most reading this have a struggle with excess in some areas.
Jesus said we are to watch and pray if we are to avoid giving in to a temptation. Watch means as we would expect—to be vigilant and observant for those things that are contrary to the Spirit. It means we are to make a conscious decision, a choice that we will be on guard against a temptation to do something to which the Spirit has said, “No.” For me the majority of the problem is that I really don’t want to be on guard against the temptation of eating too much, because I enjoy it. We prefer to embrace the temptation. A poor defense indeed would be for the soldier to be on the front line watching and guarding, but when the enemy comes near, he gives him a big hug.
The added difficulty with overcoming the flesh concerning food is that in a sense it isn’t wrong. Everyone has to eat. Yet, if our eating isn’t done in moderation, it is wrong, and there will be consequences for it. Normally, the consequences come in the form of gaining weight and putting one’s health at risk. Overindulgence in food is so prevalent among believers today. However, overeating is just one area of many where we can end up being a slave to it.
The person without self-control is similar to a city with no walls for protection. “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls” (Proverbs 25:28). Without protection a man is open to being spoiled by others. The most likely spoiler in overeating would be disease of the heart and arteries. I’ve been amazed when I’ve been in the doctor’s office. When I look around the waiting room, I see that the vast majority of those there are significantly overweight. There appears to be a definite connection between being overweight and ill health.
In 2 Timothy 3:3-4 we read of the bad “company” a person who is incontinent—without self control—keeps. “Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:3-4). Sinful behavior goes hand-in-hand with lack of self control.
In addition to the possible consequences to my health, I’m troubled by my lack of self-control and the knowledge of setting a bad example for my children. My desire is that I’m an encouragement to my children in raising them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, not that I would be a detriment. What makes matters worse is that when we lack self-control and are covetous of things, whether it is sleep, food, sweets, soda, pleasure, entertainment, or whatever else it might be, we will likely foster similar appetites in our children. Then, instead of bringing up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4), we are causing them to stumble.
To take it a step further, we could look at what leads to overeating. Isn’t it being covetous of good tasting things and the pleasure they afford us? I don’t know about you, but I have yet to covet food like lettuce, brussel sprouts, and carrots. We covet the things that thrill the taste buds. “For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Ephesians 5:5). We might be tempted to excuse being covetous, but when a covetous man is called an idolater, there is no mistaking it for the sin that it is.
Jesus said there are two things to help with lack of self-control—vigilance and prayer. To be vigilant means we have to be watchful for something that poses a threat. For me that is the greatest struggle. My flesh doesn’t consider food harmful. As a first step, it is needful to take appropriate verses such as I’ve used in this Corner, memorize and then meditate on them to acquire God’s viewpoint. Then, once we have the Lord’s mindset, we can be watchful for temptation. However, it takes a moving of the will, a conscious decision to agree with the Lord. Once we have made that choice, prayer is then the vehicle for adding grace to the decision for moderation in a particular area.
I have previously followed this path for other areas of struggle, and now it is time to deal with the food issue. I need to cry out to the Lord for grace in being a man of self-control, and I need to be vigilant in having before me the seriousness of my example in the lives of my children. May we be the men of God that God desires and enables us to be.