In the 1976 Summer Olympics, 26-yr-old Shun Fujimoto competed in the
team gymnastic competition for Japan. In a quest for the gold, Fujimoto
suffered a broken right knee in the floor exercise. But his injury did not
stop him, for during the next week he competed in his strongest event,
the rings. His routine was excellent, but he astounded everyone by
squarely dismounting with a triple somersault twist on a broken knee.
When asked concerning his feat, he said, "Yes, the pain shot through me
like a knife. It brought tears to my eyes. But now I have a gold medal and the pain is gone."
Do we have the self-control to grit our teeth during difficult times so that
we can win for Jesus Christ? Self-control is a difficult word, because we
all prefer a life of freedom and ease. The Greek word "self-control"
literally means "holding oneself in" (Gal 5:23). It has to do with
restraining passions and appetites. It is the mastery over one's spirit, desires, & impulses. It is the ability to carry a credit card and not abuse it.
The idea of self-control was used in the context of athletes who would
abstain from rich foods, wine, and sexual activity in order to focus all
their strength and attention on their training regimen. To be without self
control (2Tim 3:3) is like a driverless car that moves haphazardly and
crashes into whatever gets in his way. Realistically, a person without self
control becomes a slave to his/hers passions and ambitions.
Interestingly, in I Cor 9:24-27, Paul uses the word "self-control" in the
context of comparing our spiritual life to an athlete. "Do you not know
that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run
in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games
exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable
wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not
without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline
my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I
myself will not be disqualified." The apostle Paul reveals 4 vital
ingredients for a successful spiritual life.
1. A successful Christian is one who lives a life with the determination to
be the best that God desires him to be (24). Paul is telling Christians to
run with all the determination, drive, and zeal. We should not be content with just being in the race, but to do our best for Jesus Christ.
2. A successful Christian is one who has self-control and discipline (25).
Just as a competitor will practice self-control (limiting his freedom) for
months leading to his event, likewise, a Christian must have self-control
and discipline so that he may avoid sin or anything that would hinder his spiritual effectiveness. Self respect is the fruit of discipline; and the sense of dignity grows with the ability to say "No" to oneself and others.
3. A successful Christian is one who is goal-oriented (26). Each goal
determines the discipline; without a goal, discipline is nothing but mere self-punishment. Paul notes that he competes deliberately, and every
move he made in the course of the race or boxing was calculated to further his pursuit of the prize. Likewise, are we merely playing Christianity, or does our spiritual life have a purpose and goal for Christ?
4. A successful Christian is one who practices self-control, so that he will not be disqualified. Paul's desire was to have mastery over his body, so that that nothing hindered him from progressing towards his goal. The word "disqualify" means unapproved, worthless, or discredited. Paul is not thinking about being kicked out of the Olympics (the loss of his
salvation), but failing to compete in the event that he has trained for (losing his crowns through failing to satisfy his Lord).
Self-control is a tough topic! But guess what? Through the grace of God
we have it as a gift of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, use it this week!
-Pastor Mike Kotrla