Picture a tug-of-war contest. Two sides struggle against each other, straining to gain control. Can both sides win? Of course not—that’s the nature of the game. In this message, Dr. Stanley sheds light on the internal conflict each of us must face: the battle between obeying God or indulging our flesh. It’s a high-stakes struggle with only one winner. But as children of God we’re not left on our own—with the Holy Spirit on our side, we’re each equipped with self-control. Learn how this fruit of the Spirit tips the scales in your favor. For more messages from Charles Stanley, including this week’s broadcast, go to www.intouch.org/watch

start your day off right with the free

in-touch devotional

subscribe today


is there any area of your life that you

would consider

as being out of control

what about your finances you out of


what about your moral life

would you say that’s out of control

what about your relationship with other


is it out of control what about

your attitudes towards some people

like jealousy

when you think about your life is there

any area of your life that you say well

i think that’s out of control for

example you drink

and maybe you

take drugs or maybe you gamble a little

bit you say

and what about gossiping

what about just having a critical spirit

what about being lazy

none of those fit who we are

that’s why paul said to the galatians

the fruit of the spirit is love

joy peace patience

kindness goodness faithfulness

gentleness self-control

so when you think about your life would

you would you say that your life

is under control

or would you say that there are some

areas of my life that certainly

are not in control

well it’s a battle

and that’s the title of this message the

battle for self-control

we all want to be in control of our

lives and now

what i mean by that is this we want to

have the relationship with that lord

by which we are submitted to him to the

point that we’re not always

battling because watch this when things

are not right between you and god

it’s like a tug of war god wants you to

do the right thing

you’d like to but but but you don’t and

so there’s tension

and stress and uneasiness

and oftentimes unhappiness

lack of peace lack of joy lack of all

the things that paul just mentioned you

see you cannot be living

a life of disobedience to god and have

love joy peace goodness and all the rest

you can

you say well i’m sort of happy the way i

am sorta

but you cannot have real happiness

real joy real peace real love

when you and the lord jesus christ are


in agreement with that your life so i

want us to think about this whole

issue of the battle for self-control in

our lives because

all of us either have had a battle

or are in the battle right at the

present time so think about this

would you say that your life is under


that you have a sort of a healthy

attitude about all of these things

the desire for acceptance by others

how strong is that desire that you have

that you want to be accepted by

everybody else

the desire to be loved by others do you

want people to love you

that is have a close relationship

what about desires for all types of


does that characterize you it just

whatever is fun

whatever makes you feel good for the

moment that’s what that’s what you’re

looking for

what about sex do you have sexual

desires that are outside the will of god

we’re living in a very sexually oriented


and paul lived in a society there was a


of immorality

and so he knew about it what about

desires for wealth and security

where does that rate on your list of

important things wealth and security

what about desires to achieve and to


is that a healthy desire you have or do

you want to excel above other people

you you want to be better than

what about the desire to have notoriety

and fame

you see this is the reason people do

such atrocious things

as murdering other people they get the

name on television

and the picture and in the newspaper but

look what it cost them

what about would you say that you have a

strong desire for happiness

if that’s true what are you doing to be


what are you being to be happy

what about your desire for personal


is that wrong no it’s not wrong but does


uh demand a lot of your time a lot of

your thinking

do you just want to look good or do you

want to look good better than somebody


so you feel the friction of that if i

could just if i could just fix my hair

like she fixes hers

or if i could just dress like like like

she dresses or heat dresses

what about a desire to control

do you have a desire to control other


somehow you you just got to be number


and in your business you are not number

one but you’d like to be you want to be

and then for example a desire for


i just want to be able to accept myself

the way i am

you and i will never be anyone else

so think about that no matter what you


how you see yourself what you intend to

do with your life

you will never be you will never be

like someone else god made you just the

way you are

now whether we distort that by our

actions and our attitudes

that’s another question but as you think

about all of these

would you say that your life is under


that you have a sort of a healthy

attitude about all these things

now let’s talk about what self-control

is self-control is basically

thinking before you act which is what a

lot of people do not do

thinking before you act and considering

seriously the possibility of the results

that you’ll have would you say that’s

true of your life

your life’s under control you think

before you act

so the battle for self-control now

beginning in the 19th verse of the fifth


paul sets us up for the fruits of the

spirit by saying

verse 19. now the deeds of the flesh

notice what he says there are fruits of

the spirit

that is this is the these things we just

mentioned love peace and joy

these attitudes come from the work of

the holy spirit within us

but notice how he contrasts that in

verse 19

in the fifth chapter now the deeds our

actions of the flesh the way we live

are evident which are and the first

three of them have to do with sexuality


he says immorality

impurity sensuality then idolatry

sorcery enmity strife jealous outbreaks

of anger disputes dissention factions

indian drunkenness carousing

things like these of which i forewarn

you just as i have

forewarned you that those who practice

such things will not inherit the kingdom

of god

now watch this verse

you may be seated here or out there

somewhere and you’re saying

then i guess i’m not going to heaven

because i’ve done i’ve done one of all

of those things

the key word in this passage is that i

have warned you

those who practice such things and so i

won’t get into the greek of the

of the verb here but what that means is

it’s a way of life

not not that it has not happened in your

life because more than likely

when i look at this list all of us to

some degree have it

sometimes probably committed one or all

of those

but it’s not a practice it’s not a way

of life for us when you trusted jesus


those things do not fit who we are so

he’s saying

those who practice such things it’s

their lifestyle

a person who drinks all the time it’s

their lifestyle person who’s always into


sexual it’s their lifestyle you can just

go ahead and list

if this is your way of life this is what

you’re committed to

he says you’ll not inherit the kingdom

of god

so we’re not saying that a person who

does one of these

is not going to heaven but if you’ve

come to the place in your life

you practice those it’s the way you

think that’s who you

are it’s because you’re not saved you


live like that continuously and really

be saved

you say well now i thought no listen to

what he said those who practice those

things will

not inherit the kingdom of god

so that’s our actions but what about the

fruit of the spirit

so let’s think about that for just a

moment and

ask ask you a few questions and

when i think about that and think about

the society in which you and i live

think about the fruit of the spirit


what we live around and ask yourself the


would you be considered a follower of

jesus with your conduct

the things that you that do and see and

the thing places you go how you spend

your money

in other words are all those things in

your life that

you consider important that they fit who

you are

when you trusted christ as your savior

you turned your back on sin

doesn’t mean that you’ll never sin again

turns your back on sin

and so your commitment to the lord has

to be obedient to him to walk in his


because you want the fruit of the spirit

in your life of love and joy and peace

and goodness and gentleness

and all these fruits you want in your

life because

you’re going to be more satisfied you’re

going to be more secure

you’re going to be able to relate to

other people totally different

than what you used to so as you look at

your life would you say

at this point that you are walking

in the spirit and those who know you

would you say

they know you as a person who walks in

the spirit something different about you

or do they see in you this tension

this stress this anxiety this it’s like

a tug of war

how do you break that tension stress and

all the rest

by surrendering to the lord by turning

your life over to him

by saying god the way i’ve been living

it doesn’t work

that’s not the way i want to live in my

life and i think about people who live

their whole life

captured by some sin living in slavery

in their hearts and their minds many


live and die and never experience the

love of god

the goodness of god the freedom of god

the gentleness of god the rewards of god

let them live their whole life

and never experience that so if somebody

should say to you today

well at this point in your life whatever

your age where would you say you are

would you say that you’re a person who


the love of god a person who

recognizes that he’s the source of


would you say that you’re a person who

loves other people

you’re happy when you see other people

being blessed

you’re happy when you see other people

be saved

you love listening to the word of god

could that be said of you or would you

have to say

i can’t exactly explain it but i’m


unhappy i’d like to be different there

are things in my life i’d like to get

rid of but

there’s some things in my life that i

just can’t give up

yes you can there’s not anything in your

life you can’t give up

when it comes to sin if you are willing

to surrender

your life to jesus christ and tell him

i’ve made a blunder of my life

i’ve messed it up i’ve heard of the

people i’ve sinned against you i’ve

sinned against myself

sinned against the people i love the

most god can you help me here’s my life

will it help you change your life

change everything about you self-control

would you say

that your life is under the control of


if not let me ask you a question are you


no you’re not you’re satisfied with how

you’re doing in life no

you can’t be living outside of god’s


and plan and purpose for your life and

be happy you cannot

not real joy not real peace not any of

those fruit of

that’s not going to be in your life

the fruit of the spirit not of the flesh

and the thing that concerns me most is

how people

live their lives and look back and think

well why did this happen to me

what what why wasn’t i blessed

was it not because you didn’t listen to


if you live disobediently before god you

suffer the consequences

in other words all of us who claim to be

followers of jesus

there is no acceptable excuse

for our not attempting to live a godly


whereby the holy spirit is in control of

our thinking

and of our actions and when he’s in

control i think

before i act and my actions will follow

his purpose and his plan and his willful


so what is the key to our self-control

and so this brief passage of scripture

is paul’s way of giving us an

opportunity to examine

ourselves to see where we are in our

relationship to the lord so

self-control requires that we think

we before we act you gotta get that down

self-control requires that we think

before we act

and this is the problem people act

before they think

and then they’re sorry and so

you must have a strong desire to obey


if you don’t have a strong desire to

obey god you’re not going to live

a godly life you’re not going to


most anything without that strong desire


him in your life to enable you

so you’ve got to believe in your heart

that the holy spirit who lives within

you is going to enable you now think

about this

jesus knew all about temptation and

trials and everything else

therefore when he promised us the holy

spirit he knew

how awful society was in those days

when you trusted him as your savior the

spirit of god came into your life

to enable you to live in whatever

society you live in

to overcome all types of sin

so it’s not just you against your

environment it’s you in the holy spirit

who’s promised to give you

whatever you need to be victorious he’s

there for the asking and the yielding of

your life

so when you think about that you think

about you have someone to help you

through this so

you should consider seriously the

following questions think about it for a


before you do anything ask yourself

these questions

how will this affect me spiritually

secondly how will it affect me


and how is it going to affect my health

many people

today are where they are physically

because they have violated

the physical laws that god has given us

and then they wonder why they’re where

they are

so oftentimes it’s a violation of a

principle god’s given us

so think of it how’s it going to affect

me spiritually financially how’s it

going to take my health

and how will others

how is it going to affect how others see

me well they look at you and say

she’s really committed to the lord i can

tell he’s really committed to the lord

you will never talk them into going a

place like that

they will never allow that in their life

that is when you think about your life

how do others see you

not perfect none of us are perfect but

do they see you

watch this do they see you as a true


do they see in you a person who not only

claims to be a christian

but person who lives it out not perfect

but they see the difference in you and


you ask this question all these


and ask this question what are the


of my actions do the people i work with

do they see me as having lived a

christian life

do my friends see me as someone who was

honest today in this situation

do others see me as somebody who’s very

reckless with my money

reckless with my morals reckless with my

attitude in other words

is the fruit of the spirit evident

in our lives every day all day

now think about this for a moment god

has provided his very very best for you

and listen

i didn’t say his best was easy it’s not


it’s difficult sometimes to have god’s

best but let me ask you a question

what’s better than god’s best

nothing and so when paul wrote this


book of galatians he he

listen to what he says for example

he says in the last chapter do not be


god is not mocked whatever a man sows

this he will also reap

all through this these six chapters he’s

encouraging us

to live a godly life and what does he

say don’t be deceived there was

don’t believe the devil’s lie you know


you you can’t you can’t mock god so i

don’t believe in god and all the rest

whatever a man sows he will also reap

although he believes it or not god is

not mocked for whatever man sows

this he will also reap period

you say i don’t believe you always reap

what you sow than what you’re saying god


i’ll tell you another reason you can

believe it look around you

look around your friends who drink who

are on drugs

who are living in immorality day after

day after day

who cheat when they can lie when they

can and brag about getting away with it

you don’t you don’t want to live that

kind of life because listen you cannot

change the law of god

you can’t change his law and his law is


whatever we sow we’ll reap and think

about this

you’ve been sowing something all these


now god says you’re going to reap a


does god miss anything no does god

is he a judgmental god no

what the problem is we hear what he says

but we don’t believe what he says

for example if somebody said to me oh i

tell you what pastor

if you just step out all the way down


and here’s what’s going to happen if you

do that you can break your leg

would not be foolish to look down for

steps and say i’m going to do it anyway

you know what that’s exactly what people


when they hear the word of god they

listen to the word of god

they say yeah i do believe that walk

right out

and do something totally opposite now

listen carefully

it is it is a dangerous thing

to listen to the word of god

and then deliberately willfully


disobey god dangerous

because whatever man sows he’s going to


reap what he sows more than he sows in

later then so we don’t like that part

just because you’re not having a bad

time at this point in your life

and you’ve been getting you think you’ve

been getting away with sin

you haven’t gotten away with it i’ll

tell you why

god loves you too much to let you get by

with it

he loves you too much for that besides

that he would not be

being himself god has chosen the very


for those who willing to listen

surrender and walk in his ways he’s got

the best

don’t look around and compare yourself

with somebody else

god has a plan for your life

he’s got the best plan for your life ask

yourself this question

what am i doing in my life that’s watch

this carefully

what am i doing in my life that’s

cheating me

out of god’s best

what is it what are you doing that’s

cheating you out of god’s best

creating stress and tension and strife

tug of war in your life

what is it in your life that you just

can’t let go

what is it in your life that you want

that you don’t have

what is in your life that you’re doing

that slam the door

on the blessings of god

when i think about how awesome

loving god is

and then the people who hear the truth

and walk away

thinking there are no consequences

listen to me carefully if you will

listen carefully you’ll hear the devil

tell you this

the devil is saying you don’t have to

believe all that you don’t have to

believe all that

but on this side god is saying you’re

going to reap what you sow

we have a choice and i will say to you

it’s a dangerous thing to hear the


it’s very dangerous if you listen to the

gospel and turn it off walk away

because then you’re responsible for

knowing the truth

denying the truth and saying no to god

it’s a dangerous thing to hear the


and it’s an awesome wonderful thing to

hear the gospel

it depends upon how you respond how you


let’s pray father in jesus name

what a critical moment this is

the people seated here and people who

are listening and watching

their eternity

may hinge upon their decision in this


oh god may your love sweep over them


may your love surround them and

undergird them

may they be wise enough to recognize

that you’re god


the only true god and you have the best

the best plan possible for them

from this point on if they’re willing to

say yes lord

yes yes yes lord in jesus name