While we often worry about the future, it is not so common for us to adjust our current course of action in any meaningful way. What we do today has a much greater impact on what will happen in the future than a week of sleepless nights worrying about it! Also, what we do not do today will impact the future.
Let’s suppose that you want to run in the Boston Marathon next year. Maybe you just want to do it so that you can say you did. Maybe you don’t care about winning, but just want to finish. However, maybe you actually want to win. What would you have to do? Start training…today.
How would you train? Would you run a mile? Two? Certainly training at running long distances would be a big part of your program.
However, what you did not do would be just as important. For example. If you were a smoker, it would be a good idea to quit smoking while you are training. Maybe you might not want to order that pizza every other night. Perhaps you would put down the soda and reach for a bottle of water instead.
One thing you would learn very quickly. Your desire to do well, or even win in the Boston Marathon will have no impact whatsoever on the desires of your body. Your body wants what it wants. Left to its own desires, it will be Twinkies, and not carrot sticks that you find yourself eating.
The Apostle Paul spoke of just such an athlete in his letter to the Corinthian church.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
But I keep under my body, and bring itinto subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
He used the analogy of an athlete in training to illustrate the self-control needed in the Christian life. We also are running a race; and we are told to lay aside every weight, and sin, and run it with patience. (Hebrews 12:1)
Let’s suppose you and I actually want to finish our spiritual race well. Let’s suppose we desire the hear “Well done.” Let’s suppose we long to receive rewards at the judgement seat of Christ. How will we do it?
We will exercise temperance in our daily lives.
The Apostle Paul said that although his race was a spiritual one, there was a physical dimension. He daily brought his body into subjection. Why? Because the lusts of the flesh war against the desires of the Spirit. Consider what Paul said in Romans 7:
Romans 7:18-23 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.
Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
Do you see that battle going on here? It is just like the person who decides to run a marathon. They are convinced in their mind, but their body remains devoted to pizza, soda, and walking. It will fight against the training at first. In fact, getting in shape is only half the battle. Staying in shape is an ongoing fight. The body tends to decay.
The same can be said of our spiritual race. Success in an area of our spiritual lives today is no guarantee of success tomorrow. It is a daily struggle.
We are told, then, to mortify our members. In other words, as Paul said, we are to bring our body into subject to our spirit, through the help and power of the Holy Spirit. Our physical actions should support our spiritual aspirations. This will require temperance. There are things, which may not be sinful, which would be best left alone if we are to accomplish our goal. There are things, which in moderation are fine, but in excess are detrimental, which we must keep a careful eye on.
If I want to get up every morning and read my Bible, then I must make my body get out of bed. Just because I desire to do it does not mean my body will have the same desire when the alarm goes off 30 minutes earlier than it is used to.
Waiting until your body feels like it is not the way to win in this spiritual race, any more than it is the way to win in a physical race.
The Holy Spirit helps us, if we are walking in submission to Him, to have self-control we need to accomplish the task God has given, and run the race He has set before us. Are you seeking that fruit in your own life today?