Friday, September 18, 2020
Living In The Spirit Of Faithfulness and Self Control

First United Methodist Church

Glen Rose, Texas

 August 31, 2014

Series: “Life In The Spirit”

 “Living In The Spirit Of Faithfulness and Self Control”

(Galatians 5:22-25, Colossians 3:12-17)

Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn


     Lay’s Potato Chips: “Bet you can’t eat just one. De-Lay-cious” That was a phrase that most of us grew up with in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, “Bet you can’t eat just one.” Lays was the first snack food company to purchase commercial air time on television in 1944 with Bert Lahr (the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz) as their spokesperson. Shortly after the merger of the Frito Company and Lay’s in 1961, Frito-Lay introduced the now iconic commercials and tagline “Bet you can’t eat just one,” which boosted their sales so much that they went international.

     Apparently the line resonated with people so much because it's true. It IS difficult to eat just one potato chip. You open the bag and, before you know it, you've somehow eaten the whole bag. There've even been scientific studies as to the physical and psychological reasons why it's true.

     According to two different studies I looked at, it all has to do with "bliss point," "mouth feel," "taste," the brain's pleasure and reward centers and something identified as "hedonic hyperphagia" which is a fancy term for pleasure eating without hunger which often times leads to the point of over indulgence.

     They've gone so far as to use Magnetic Resonance Imaging to compare the brains of different groups of rats while eating regular food, regular food pumped up with the same amount of carbs and fat as potato chips and then potato chips themselves. The reward centers show much more blood flow with the greater intake of fat and carbs. But they said when the rats ate potato chips, all the reward centers lit up like Christmas Trees. (1)

     Why it happens is still up in the air, but it does happen. I personally think it’s because of the fall. The Hebrew language in the creation story uses a word to describe us: Nephesh. While it means “living being” my OT professor said the best way to translate it is “a bundle of appetites” and the image associated with it is baby birds waiting to be fed.

     The reason I point that out is because many, if not most, of us are driven by our appetites. Whether it’s food, wealth, work, pleasure, power, acceptance, alcohol or drugs; we’re all driven by our appetites.

     And that’s some of what Paul is addressing when he talks about the Fruit of the Spirit. He includes Faithfulness and Self-Control in the list. That’s our focus today: Faithfulness and Self-Control.


SCRIPTURE Galatians 5:22-25 (NRSV)

[22] By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,

[23] gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.

[24] And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

[25] If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

Colossians 3:12-17 (NRSV)

[12] As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

[13] Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

[14] Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

[15] And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.

[16] Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.

[17] And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.


     A. A church secretary spent her vacation at the beach. As she sunned herself, a little boy in his swim suit approached her and politely asked her a series of questions. "Ma’am, do you believe in God?"

     The woman was a little surprised but the questions but said she did.

     Then the little boy asked, "Do you go to church every Sunday?"

     The woman told the boy that she went to church every Sunday and even worked at the church during the week. This little boy persisted with his interrogation and asked, "Do you read your Bible every day?"

The woman told the boy she read her Bible every day. He kind of frowned and thought for a little bit, trying to make a decision. And then all of a sudden a big grin broke out on his face and he said: “In that case, will you hold my dollar for me while I go for a swim?” (2)

     Obviously, after his interrogation, that little boy was satisfied that if this woman was faithful to God, by reading the Bible and going to Sunday School and Church, he could trust her with his dollar.

     In Luke 16:10 Jesus said, "Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much."

     B. In the classic Dr. Seus book "Horton Hears A Who," one day, Horton the elephant hears a cry for help coming from a speck of dust. Even though he can't see anyone on the speck, he decides to help it.

     As it turns out, the speck of dust is home to the Whos, who live in their city of Whoville. Horton agrees to help protect the Whos and their home, but his neighbors refuse to believe anything could survive on a speck that small and they make his life miserable.

     But Horton won’t budge. He gave his word and he stands by the motto that, "After all, a person is a person, no matter how small." That's his motto, that's his code.

     And through all the trials and tribulations Horton remains faithful saying: “I meant what I said. And I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful 100%.”

     That is the Faithfulness Paul is talking about. Faithfulness that consistently does what is right even when it is difficult. Faithfulness that consistently does what is right even when it appears we might fail. Faithfulness is doing what is right because it is right.


     A. Just   as Love, Joy and Peace help build our Patience which leads to Kindness and Gentleness; Faithfulness added to mix naturally leads to Self-Control. Self-Control is a product of Faithfulness.

     Self-control was one of the virtues most emphasized by philosophers and respected in Roman society. Philosophers often taught that the wise needed no law to regulate them, because their virtue itself was a law. Paul says that people of the Spirit fulfill the moral intent of the law by the power of the Holy Spirit guiding their lives.

     One of Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegard’s favorite stories is about an emperor, touring his kingdom and receiving the accolades of his people. When the emperor and his entourage reached the market square of one village, his carriage was surrounded by cheering villagers and peasants. To everybody’s surprise, one young farmer, boldly stepped out of the crowd and made his way to the emperor's carriage.

     “Give me a boon, Sire,” he pleaded. “Grant me a special blessing.”

     The villagers were even more amazed at the emperor's reply: “Of course, my good man,” he said. “Get into my carriage. Come with me. Live in my palace. Eat at my table. Marry my daughter. Be my son-in-law.”

     The young man was absolutely delighted. Who wouldn’t want to be the emperor's son-in-law! Then he thought about it. No more Saturday nights at the pub with his friends. No more plain old comfortable peasant clothes. He'd have to get dressed up. He'd have to take a bath - maybe every week. He'd have to clean his fingernails. He'd have to learn the manners of the court.

     Sadly, he shook his head, lowered his eyes and said, “No, Sire, I’d be too uncomfortable. It would be too hard to live up to. It would take too much out of me. If you want to do something for me, give me a plot of ground, a farm, a house of my own; but to live in your palace, to eat at your table, be your son-in-law – that’s too much." So he declined it. (3)

     You see - he wanted the emperor's blessing; but he wanted it on his own terms. He wanted to be blessed in doing what he wanted to do - not what the emperor wanted him to do. He wanted to be blessed right where he was, not moved out of his comfort zone or made to change his way of living. He wanted the blessing, but not the responsibility that went with it.

      Too often we are like that peasant. We want the blessing but we don’t want to do the hard work that goes along with receiving the blessing. We love the promise in Romans that, "We are the children of God; if children, then heirs - heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ." (Romans 8:16-17) But we have a hard time submitting ourselves to the disciplines needed to live as heirs. Often times we live as if we’re strangers to God not heirs of the Kingdom; brothers and sisters with Christ.

     B. The combined elements of the Fruit of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and generosity help us be faithful and strengthen our Self-Control.

     Maybe you heard about the couple in one church. The wife who sang in the choir and the husband would sit in the service holding their infant son. It seemed to work out perfectly. One Sunday, though, this normally quiet and well behaved little boy he let out a terrifying scream right in the middle of the pastor's sermon. As he continued to cry, Dad got up and went out to the foyer. As he went out someone

overheard him say, “Okay, John, just take it easy. Don't get excited. It'll be okay, John. Settle down. Just relax, John, just relax.”

     When the service ended, the woman who overheard Dad's conversation with his infant son, remarked to the wife, “I really admire your husband's patience with your baby John.”

     The wife looked confused and replied, “My son's name is Chris. My husband is John,”

     Our faithfulness helps us with Self-Control in situations like that.

     Will it help you eat only one Lays Potato Chip, I can’t tell you that. If you used me as your test subject or model then I’d have to say probably not because I can’t eat just one; chips are my weakness, my kryptonite, I admit that.

     But can the Fruit of the Spirit which is Self-Control help me not eat ANY chips? Absolutely. We all know what it is to give up something we love for Lent. When we make that commitment to God and put it under God’s control, our Self-Control is strengthened and we are strengthened to be Faithful because God is faithful.


     A. We struggle with Faithfulness and we all struggle with Self-Control. We’ve all been tempted. We’ve all been there and once in a while we’ve all failed. We’ve all fallen. We’ve all blown it. The Good News is that God doesn’t throw up His hands, turn His back and walk away. While we may hang our head in shame and remorse, God still loves us. God’s desire for us still remains the same. And God’s promise to walk with us and strengthen us is still in effect; Because God is Faithful.

     In Deuteronomy 31:8 we read the promise God made through Moses to the people of Israel, "It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed."

     In John 14:18 we read the promise Jesus made to the disciples at the Last Supper: "I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.” Referring to the coming of the Holy Spirit.

     In Psalm 36:5 we hear the Psalmist praising God, “Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.”

     And in 2 Timothy 2:13 we hear Paul’s profound words of encouragement. “If we are faithless, Christ remains faithful— for Christ cannot deny himself.”

     B. On January 22, 2003, NASA researchers and Scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Deep Space Network reported they received the last signal from the first spacecraft to travel beyond our solar system. Pioneer 10 fell silent after traveling billions of miles from Earth on a mission that lasted 31 years. At that time, the spacecraft was 7.6 billion miles from Earth. Traveling at the speed of light, the signal took over eleven hours to reach Earth. The last two signals from Pioneer 10 had been very faint. Though scientists attempted to contact the spacecraft again on February 7th, there was no response. And there’s no plan to attempt contact the spacecraft again.

     Pioneer 10 was launched March 2, 1972. The spacecraft was the first to pass safely through the asteroid belt, and then obtain close-up images of Jupiter. Pioneer 10 functioned so well that it continued its journey, becoming the first manmade object to leave our solar system in 1983.

     Pioneer 10’s official mission ended in 1997, but scientists continued to track the spacecraft as part of a study of communication technology for NASA’s the current New Horizon’s Interstellar Probe mission which is scheduled to reach Pluto sometime next year. Larry Lasher, project manager for Pioneer 10, says, “It was a workhorse that far exceeded its warranty, and I guess you could say we got our money’s worth.” (4)

     Things and people that meet and exceed our expectations are rare. And as trustworthy and dependable as Pioneer 10 was, it’s nothing compared to the faithfulness of God. And because God is Faithful we are strengthened to be Faithful, too. And when we’re faithful, God strengthens not only our Self-Control but every other Fruit of the Spirit in our lives.


     We are called to a life of Faithfulness which leads to and empowers our Self-Control. We are strengthened to be Faithful because God is Faithful. And the Good News is that even when WE blow it, even when WE fail, God is still Faithful because God doesn’t break God’s promises. If we are seeking to be Faithful; if we seek fellowship and a relationship with God, though Christ God will pick us up and help us start again.

     Years ago when I farmed, I had a big old melon patch. I raised cantaloupe, honey dew melons and four different kinds of watermelons. I like watermelon, but there was no way I could eat all of those melons. But the thing is, I didn’t raise them for me, I raised them to give away. I loved icing them down for the youth or for a church outing. I loved going to church on Sunday morning and after worship letting the tailgate down on my truck and saying, “Help yourself.”

     One of the things we have to remember is that this Fruit of the Spirit is produced to be eaten and consumed. We’re not called to simply to admire it or to be admired or put on display because we have it. People around us are starving for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and all the other graces of the Fruit of the Spirit. We’re called to share this Fruit which comes from the King’s garden, with those around us. When they find these Fruit in our lives and they taste it through offering them a generous portion, it strengthens them and inspires them to share with someone else.

     We don’t bear the Fruit of the Spirit for our own consumption; we bear the Fruit of the Spirit so others might be fed and helped, and so Christ can be glorified. Oh, we reap some of the blessing from the Fruit but our purpose is to share it with others.

     And unlike Potato Chips it’s OK to eat more than one. Instead we’re invited to share and give away as much as we can from this all you can eat feast of God’s Grace through the Fruit of the Spirit.

     But once you start sharing, “Bet you can’t share just one.”

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.



1. Why We Can’t Eat Just One: The Science Behind Junk Food Addiction

    The Science of "Bet you can't eat just one!" by Kayt Sukel

2. Parables, Etc, Dec 1998      

3. The Sign in the Subway, Carveth Mitchell, CSS Publishing Company, 1-55673-056-X

4. Associated Press, February 25, 2003. Submitted by Jim Sandell    

Other References Consulted

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