Surrender and Be Free
by Pastor Robert Maxie
And after fasting 40 days and 40 nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ – Matthew 4:2-4
One of the hardest things to do is to admit that we have failed or that we are powerless to do something. We see it as weakness to admit that we are being whipped, but admitting that there is an area in our life where we have lost control is the first step at gaining it back.
For years, I have had the honor of working with people battling all manners of addictions. I currently work as an addiction counselor at a hospital here in Baton Rouge, and I have found that counseling in the secular community can be a bit different than dealing with addictions through pastoral counseling. Sometimes I feel that I am walking a thin line between what the church believes about addiction and what my profession teaches. Even with the many differences, I believe there is one thing every person dealing with hurt, habits or hang-ups must deal with to be successful in either arena – the issue of self-control.
Self-control is the restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions or desires. The word itself implies that we alone can control or fix ourselves, but when we look through the scriptures we find that God himself is the originator of self-control. In the book of Timothy, the Bible tells us that God created and gifted every believer with the capacity to control oneself. “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 2 Timothy 1:7
Why is it then that so many people struggle with self-control? We tend to focus on those who have a drug or alcohol problem, but what about those who have problems controlling their anger, who lash out at their loved ones only to say sorry over and over again? If we are honest, many of us have areas in our lives where we lack self-control (our “thorn” in the flesh), but I am persuaded that victory over those issues is found in Jesus.
Jesus is our ultimate example of self-control. The book of Matthew tells us that after fasting for 40 days, Jesus was tempted by the devil to turn rocks into bread. Personally, there are many things I don’t like in this world and one of them is being hungry, so it is a good possibility that I would have turned those rocks into a turkey sub.
Can you imagine having the power to do anything you want and you haven’t eaten in 40 days! Most of us would have given in, but Jesus shows us how to deal with temptation and the concept of delayed gratification, and he does it by the word of God. When faced with temptation, Jesus turned to God’s word. When feeling weak and hungry, Jesus turns to God and in this, we find the answer to the problem. We must understand that self-control comes from within, that it is only found when we submit our entire lives under the power of the Holy Spirit, the power greater than ourselves!
The first three steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are called the surrender steps. They are the most important steps because in them, we find that we are living in self-will, trying to will ourselves clean. The problem is when I attempt to use my willpower to fix a spiritual problem, then I am trying to do it alone and without God.
When I give up on my will, I gain the grace to do what I could not do on my own because self-control is from God. It is a fruit or gift that I get to exercise when I am in God’s will. My will led me to destruction and I will never trust my will again. Through surrender to God’s will, we find freedom and the power of self-control.
Pastor Robert Maxie served 16 years in the US Navy, completing nine deployments, including three in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. He currently serves as Director of Crossroads Recovery Ministry and as a Christian counselor at Heartsease Family Church. He and his wife, Aminga, have six children and one grandson. The family attends Heartsease Family Church pastored by Philip Pimlott.