Read Galatians 5:13-26 (read again verse 22-26)
For those of us who find it hard to get the recommended amount of daily exercise within the curtilage of our own homes help is at hand. The former Olympic athlete Daley Thompson has devised a simple programme of exercise that will keep us fit while we’re “locked down” and help us stay healthy. If you want more information my understanding is that he has a website.
Karen, Sam and I are enjoying our one period of exercise a day on our walk and yes Pepper the Golden Retriever enjoys it even more but I suppose if she could talk she would ask why don’t we go further? If I were Dr Dolittle I would answer in one word. Knees! Well, anyway, back to the subject in hand. Exercise is often a matter of self-control or discipline if you want to put it in those terms but Paul has an interesting take on this whole subject as he writes to his young apprentice Timothy (1st Timothy 4:7-8). “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
As we conclude our study of Galatians 5 and the Fruit of the Spirit we thought yesterday about how the Fruit of the Spirit develops as Christ’s character is formed in us. That doesn’t of course happen automatically or accidentally so that one day we just discover magically that we display these qualities. No, like physical fitness or competence in any subject you learn and you remember and you gain competence by practice. Well the thought that struck me last night was that this all depends to a large extent on self -control or self-discipline if that helps us understand better.
Paul of course is primarily talking about resisting temptation and the desires of the flesh but I’m not sure that is the whole of the matter. Self-control is not only negative its positive as well, doing things we don’t in ourselves want to do like taking exercise. The Olympic swimmer may not want to be out of bed and in the pool at 4 or 5am but success depends on that kind of self-discipline. So, just as muscles when exercised become stronger and more efficient, the more we exercise self-control in the spiritual disciplines of prayer, bible reading, simplicity in living, solitude, meditation and so on the more likely it is that these graces will be produced in us – these Christlike qualities.
That is the thing that for me connected with Jesus on the way to Jerusalem. He knew what lay ahead, he knew how the week would end with arrest flogging, insult, condemnation, a cross, death and bearing the sin of the world, yet he kept going. “Ride on! ride on in majesty! Hark! all the tribes hosanna cry; O Saviour meek, pursue Thy road with palms and scattered garments strowed.” This wasn’t a mistake or a miscalculation by Jesus. He was following the Father’s will and that required the maximum self-control to stop himself turning the donkey round and heading back to Galilee.
Paul’s parting shot is “Since we live by the Spirit let us keep in step with the Spirit.” The picture there that comes to mind, for me at any rate, is how bad it looks on a state occasion when one soldier is out of step with the rest. It looks awkward, it is potentially trouble if he tripped another soldier up, and it displays disharmony, lack of training and discipline. To keep in step with the Spirit is to follow the Spirit’s leading, to live in harmony.
A PRAYER : Lord help me today to walk in step with the Holy Spirit so that the fruit of the Spirt may be faithfully produced in my life. Each day Lord give me self-discipline and courage to follow your will and the Spirit’s leading so that Christ is honoured in everything I am and do. AMEN