Self Control: The Self Discipline of Spirit, Soul, and Body

1 Peter 5: 6-9

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

Today I want to discuss and hopefully answer a hot question:

Is it better to be Sitting at the Feet of Jesus, simply depending on him?
Or, is it better to focus on serving others in a sacrificial way?

Or is it better to prioritize self care, self discipline, exercise, health, and bodily excellence?

 

These questions create quite a stir in the Christian world.

There are plenty who see value of sitting at the feet of Jesus and cry out for more dedication to that activity.

There are plenty of people who see the great needs of the world around us and cry out for people to serve, to lay down their lives for their neighbors.

There are plenty of people promoting the way to achieve peace in your life is to first prioritize your own health above all else.

And we see positive results from all of these in other people’s lives don’t we?  How about in your own life? Where do you see results from each of these pursuits?

One of my favorite times with Jesus I remember was on a rare trip to Hawaii- for an entire week!
It actually was a business trip, but I also spent numerous hours reading the Bible, praying, journalling, and listening.  My mind was freed from the daily distractions and I was able to sit and listen for God. Such a rich time. And he spoke to me in quiet ways and in exciting ways.
Sitting at the Feet of Jesus is a precious opportunity to acknowledge who he is and the power he has over all.

 

What about serving others?

 

I’ve had some of my favorite moments serving others.  At the Bible School, where we worked for years, I was frequently involved in food service. Quite often, I’d get a crazy idea to bless the people I was feeding with something decadent or beautiful- in spite of the current resources available.  There is no explaining the joy and fun of creating beauty, serving food to others, and watching them be delighted by it.

Some of my favorites were- almost yearly, I’d make a graduation cake for the students graduating.  Most were rather unreasonable in their construction. No cake from the grocery store. Nope, I did a mountain with a glowing cave of treasure, a path up to golden gates with trees lining the way and electric lights to guide the footsteps, a tilted cake with hand crafted edible orchids, iris, and daisies…and so many more.

Other times, our family had the opportunity to cater a meal for anywhere from 100-200 people after a funeral.  There is something so wholesomely satisfying about feeding grieving hearts, supporting families by minimizing their concerns around the meal. And nothing can beat the pleasure of watching my family all cook together in the kitchen- all the way down to the smallest in the family.  The joy over family teamwork is addictive.

I could list countless ways I’ve served over the years- meeting needs, spreading joy, loving others. It’s the Martha job.  It’s in a way, serving Jesus by serving others and it’s wonderful.

Then, of course, there is taking care of me.  My health, my sleep, my exercise, my food choices, my daily routines, my space.  All the things that when they are done, I find myself better able to respond to others. When I get 8 hours of sleep, it’s infinitely easier to control my temper than when I’ve only had 2.  Isn’t that important?  When I exercise and keep up my energy level, I’m much more willing to say yes to the active things my family wants to do together. When I am responsible to eat what nourishes my body best, I am primed with a clear mind and stable blood sugar to endure the length of the day. Isn’t this maintenance of priorities important?  The most crucial of self discipline?

I think we all have one of these categories that we gravitate towards first. The truth is though that they are all important and it is necessary to keep them in balance.  There are ditches to fall into with each one.

Self discipline is about staying on the road and out of the ditches, regardless of the road you are on.

Let’s look at how each of these has a ditch and then what we can do to avoid them.

 

The key here is MOTIVATION

 

What is your motivation behind WHY you are choosing one or the other.

When we are motivated by the choice to surrender to him and that draws us to focus on Jesus and his goodness- sitting at the feet of Jesus- and choosing to discipline ourselves towards spiritual health is profitable.

However, when we are motivated by fear of the unknown and uncontrollable to escape from action- then we can call it Sitting at the Feet of Jesus, but it’s actually resistance to stepping out in faith.

So, to check in on this discipline, ask yourself

Am I praying, connecting with Jesus in order to surrender my life to him and listen for his voice as to how I proceed next?

Or am I praying, connecting with Jesus in hopes that the problem will be solved without me needing to take uncomfortable steps?

Similarly, serving can have it’s own ditch.

When we are serving from a motivation of surrender to God’s call on our lives, even when it’s difficult, then service for God and choosing to discipline ourselves towards sacrifice is joyful and rewarding.

 

However when we are motivated by fear of the unknown and uncontrollable to escape from change- then while we may call it service, it’s actually resistance to change- even change that God may be calling for.

To check in on this discipline, ask yourself

Am I serving because God laid this on my heart?

Or am I serving because I’m afraid of what might happen if I don’t?

FInally, self care and prioritizing good health choices requires an equal amount of balance.

When we are taking care of our body, health, diet, exercise, time alone from a motivation of surrender to God and acknowledgement that he is on the throne, then our self care becomes an act of good stewardship of the resources God has given us.

However when we are motivated by pride and the idea that nothing can progress unless we are perfect first, then while we may call it self care, it’s actually pride, idolatry of man, and/ or fear of man that is at play.

You can check in with your motives by asking

Is my conscience clear before God about how I am stewarding my physical body and mind?

In the verse I read at the beginning, I find the instructions that Peter gives intriguing.

First, he urges believes to humble ourselves before God. This reminds me of the ultimate position of surrender- sitting at the feet of Jesus.  Honoring our dependence on him, acknowledging his power. Trusting his grace and wisdom, and listening to his commands.

Secondly, he encourages us to cast our anxieties on him.  How often is our service more from fear of what will happen to others, fear of how we’ll be thought of, or fear of letting go of a long standing commitment?  Cast all your anxieties on him!  Acknowledge his power over every situation and only fight the battles he calls us to fight.

 

And then in verse 8, he commands us to be sober minded, and watchful. Wen we aren’t the devil has an easy target.  To me, this includes care for the physical.  What helps you have the most clear mind on a daily basis? Healthy mind and body? Taking care and stewarding this life he has given you well?  I am much more equipped to resist the devil when I am going to bed on time and well rested instead of scrolling social media or binge watching movies. I make better decisions when my blood sugar is stable.  I have more energy to say yes to what God calls me to do when I am conditioning my muscles.

So, back to the original question, which by now you probably realize is a trick question:

Which is more important, sitting at the feet of Jesus, service and sacrifice, or self care?

 

The answer is they all are important when they come from a place of surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and in fact cause us to trust him both in word and in action.

Before we wrap this up, which one is your natural tendency?  Where are you most likely to get out of balance? Don’t focus on the one you have a tendency to do the best at. Stretch a little.

I know I tend to resist the sitting at Jesus feet.  I think, “Sigh…it doesn’t get anything DONE!”
So, that’s the one I’m zooming in on this month for self discipline. I, by faith, surrender all my plans to Him and gaze at his face and listen to his voice.

What one next thing are you called to work on this week?
You can always write and tell me at mary@maryaldrichcoaching.com
Or Leave a comment directly on this podcast page. Simply visit fruitpursuitpodcast.com and click the link for this episode, Self Control: The Self Discipline of Spirit, Soul, and Body

That’s all for this week, have a great day loving God, loving others, and enjoying it!

 

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