Could There Be Self-Control Without Grace?

Could There Be Self-Control Without Grace?

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.” – Titus 2:11-12

This year has been marked by lessons from my food addiction, loving nudges, encouragement, confirmations and affirmations from my faithful Father pointing out why He’s doing His work.

In the middle of the year God hammered home a very significant point.

For many years I had trusted God with working out all of the Fruits of the Spirit in my life. I had prayed Ephesians 5:22 – 23 and asked for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and….

Well….no.

Didn’t ask for self control.

I didn’t ask for that. It was the last one that always threw me. Always. What God pointed out to me was that I had trusted Him to work in me all of the other fruits of the Spirit, but not self-control.

That one was on me, I thought.

That one, I had to work out in my own flesh, I thought.  I had been striving in my flesh all this time to produce self control on my own. I was not trusting God that by abiding in Him, staying close to the vine and allowing Him to do the work by way of the Holy Spirit working through the vine and out into my life, that He would produce the fruit of self-control.

Abide. That’s what it was about.

That led me to study the concept of abiding. What does that look like for me? God proceeded to  unpack that in a loving and clear way and it was simply this: to hold fast and cling to Me, The Vine, and as one grafted into the vine, my Holy Spirit will work in you to produce the fruit. ALL of the fruits.

The pieces were coming together. I was starting to see it. Another piece came one day when Psalm 37:4 jumped out. I read.

“take Delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

I’ve read it SO many times, but THIS time was different.

God used my sweet husband to illuminate this piece as he said to me one day, “what if in Psalm 37:4 God is saying that the desires of our heart are really His desires? That what He is leading us to do in our lives is really His desires that He places in our heart, that as we abide in Him all of our old desires are replaced with God’s desires?”

As I pondered his words, it made so much sense.

As we take delight in the Lord, meaning, as we love Him, glorify Him, and have joy in Him, trust Him, thank Him and have true fulfillment in Him. He gives us the desires of our hearts.

If He’s the one giving the desires, then where did they originate? In His heart!

They are His desires that He’s giving to us. The connection  was that my desires to seek food for my comfort had been my old desires. God’s desires for me,  the ones that He put into my heart,  are for me to seek Him for comfort. What I was understanding was that as we take delight in Him, our desires change because they come from God’s heart.

Restoration. So humbling and powerful.

On Sunday August 6th, via a Pastor’s sermon, God brought it all together. The sermon talked about how we can “improve our serve”. I was moved as a trembled in my seat, heart racing,  knowing that the words that were being spoken were straight from God’s heart to mine. This really tied it all up for me. The sermon centered around having a pure heart that God could use.

We all have skills and are designed to serve our Master, our Lord and Savior, however if our heart is not pure then we have missed the mark.

Second Timothy 2:21 was the reference. ”If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.” The visual illustration was two forks that we could choose to eat with. One clean and shining, and one dirty, looking as if it was covered with mud. If we are going to choose one to eat our meal with, we’re going to want the clean one, untainted, pure and without blemish. The clean one is an instrument for special purposes.

It became crystal clear during the message that God’s plan of restoration included this purification, this deliverance from the prison of food addiction so that He could use me for His purposes.

A quote from years past that has always been significant to me came back to my mind, “Our character has to catch up to our calling”. Our Pastor shared the same sentiment during this sermon.

What hit home for me that day was that I had a dream that had been dormant in my heart for decades. Passions in specific areas of ministry that I was too afraid to step into, because I was more concerned about what the body of Christ would think of me as a food addict.

The lies that I was believing, that were holding me captive and imprisoned, were that God’s people would not see me as a legitimate child of God who loved her Lord deeply while I struggled with gluttony and lack of self control through a food addiction.

Prior to this beautiful restoration I had buried dreams that I just couldn’t bring myself to even consider, because of my physical size. The dreams that tugged on my heart and the passion for Titus 2 Mentoring Ministry, and a few other ministries,  I walked away from over the years, full of fear, believing the lies about how Christians would view me. I walked away because, in my estimation, how would anyone take me seriously or think that I could really love God deeply if I I’m not self controlled and disciplined?

When the truth of Titus 2: 3-5 hit me, I began to see how perfect God’s timing has always been throughout this entire process..

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” – Titus 2:3-5

The truth that became clearer, that this passion in my heart, the desire that came from God’s heart, to mentor and disciple younger women, the mandate from God’s Word in Titus 2:3-5, might not have become a reality if not for God breaking me out of prison, the cage of shame where I used food for protection and comfort instead of abiding in HIM for comfort and pleasure.

The prison cell where I believed that self control was in MY control and I gripped it with all my strength. God the Redeemer, the Deliverer, the Restorer, was working all this time, almost four decades, to bring about freedom and restoration and to show me that the Holy Spirit brings the fruit of self control.

Could it be that He knew that I needed to be at a place where I could see that it was undeniably Him that broke the chains and unlocked the prison door?  It is MOST clear to me that He began this good work and will bring it to completion.  It is, without a doubt, Him. My only effort has been to abide, trust, and obey His lead.

The outcomes from this transformation and restoration have not only been spiritual, but physical and emotional as well. This last year I have experienced new desires and love for hiking, biking, spinning and longs walks. I no longer eat to satisfy loneliness, anxiety and stress. I have learned to listen to by body cues, as God has designed it, and I eat when I am hungry, only.  I have read and learned much about nutrients and how they affect my body so that I fuel it properly. I still enjoy ice cream, birthday cake and chips, but those things don’t pull me in and satisfy any emotional need or serve to comfort me any more. God released me from that prison.

As of today, I am 4 clothing sizes smaller, and 72 pounds lighter.

Praising and thanking God from the deepest places of my soul, today, for His sacrifice, grace and immeasurable love to lead me to this place of freedom and restoration.

If you missed the prequel of this Proverbs 31 Woman story, click this → Confessions of a Recovering Food Addict

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