Reading time: two minutes. Am I self-controlled or Spirit-led? Hmmm. There’s room for confusion here. Galatians 5 teaches that the Spirit is the source of love, joy, peace, patience… and self-control, so is the Spirit leading me or turning me over to self-control? Our Marker of Wellbeing states: “As I grow in God’s grace of Physical SELF-CONTROL, I am finding joy in the VITALITY that flows from practicing healthy choices.” “Choices” sounds pretty self-determined. I’m the one responsible for my choices, aren’t I? There’s a free will discussion lurking around here somewhere. “Self-Control” in Greek implies having power, being “in charge.” So who’s directing the choices I make about my physical wellbeing if self-control is the fruit of the Spirit? There’s actually a very simple, gospel grounded key to unlocking the mystery. In Ephesians 4, Paul uses those who don’t know Christ as an example of people who let their passions and lusts run away with their health and wellbeing. Speaking mostly about their sexuality, he says they follow the urges of the body without regard to consequences, because their driving internal force, their will, knows nothing of the will of God. “You, however, did not come to know Christ that way” (Ephesians 4:20). The will of a Christian is shaped by the Holy Spirit of God. That’s different. My body still yearns for comfort and pleasure, but my will to walk in new life, to serve as I would wish to be served, and to sacrifice my own pleasure and comfort for the sake of the advancement of the kingdom, trumps my own desires of the flesh. Self-control is simply the Spirit’s gift and power to bring my fallen nature into submission to his will. That’s where the joy of self-control makes it’s appearance. Eating junk food, indulging in too much food or drink, staying up late and watching endless hours of TV can all be a lot of fun, and may even bring a measure of comfort to ease the pain of stress and anxiety, but they are all behaviors that can hinder my responsiveness to the Lord’s call to serve. My desire, implanted and guided by the will of the Spirit living in me, is to serve; vigorously and joyfully. Paul used the analogy of the athlete in 1 Corinthians 9. He “beat [his] body into submission” for the sake of the race, to finish that which he desired more than anything else, to share the good news. Self-control is simply submission of my body’s yearnings for the sake of the ministry. We’re Lutherans. We enjoy a good party, a tasty treat, a refreshing beverage and all of God’s good gifts. We also steward the wondrous gift of this human body, so that our indulgence knows the restraint that keeps us fit for service. Spirit-led? You bet! He leads me in the desire to be fit and able to go where he leads. And he gives the gift of self-control to be in charge of my hours of rest, my bodily intake, and a good brisk walk on a regular basis. My the Spirit bless you with the joy of fitness for service! Do you serve on a professional church worker conference planning committee? Our staff has vast experience leading groups of all sizes from every church work background through innovative wellness programs custom designed to meet your needs. Contact Program Director Darrell Zimmerman today to begin exploring the possibilities or visit our website to see some of our ideas for your conference!