“Keep watch and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
I have control over my desires. I desire what is of the highest good.
The night that Jesus was betrayed by one of his own disciples, he went to pray in the garden of Gethsemane. He left all his disciples to pray alone, and asked them to keep watch and pray that they will not fall into temptation. But his disciples fell asleep. Not once, but three times. And each time Jesus came back and asked them again, to keep watch and pray.
Jesus’ disciples had good intentions, and I’m sure they really wanted to stay awake. But they simply couldn’t. Sleep was a hurdle too high for them. They lacked self-control.
We can all tell the difference between the things we need to do, and the things we want to do. We know we need to go for that run. We know we need to put down that cupcake. We know we shouldn’t gossip about the head of the PTA. We know we shouldn’t send that snarky email. And when we do those things, we try to explain them away. Or defend ourselves saying we can’t help it, it’s just who we are. But what we’re actually saying is that we have no self-control.
Self-control isn’t when someone else stops you from doing something. It’s when you control yourself. No one is going to take that cake off your plate. You need to stop yourself.
To have self-control means to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us. Jesus had so much power. He performed miracles daily. He healed the sick. He walked on water. He calmed the storms. But he still only did what God told Him to do. He didn’t give in to his own selfish desires, especially at the time of his arrest and crucifixion. Jesus himself said he could call on God to send down a legion of angels who wouldn’t have hesitated to defend him against the soldiers who arrested him. (Matthew 26:53)
Jesus was able to exercise all that self-control because he was filled with the Holy Spirit. He spent his entire life on Earth waiting on God, listening to God and walking with God.
We too can learn, acquire and exercise self-control by waiting on, listening to, walking with and talking with God. All we need to do is “keep watch and pray”. Doing this will allow us to become more familiar with what God wants for us. We will be able to see and know more and more what is good for us and what isn’t. We will be able to say no to our own selfish desires in order to say yes to God’s will for us.
By praying, we ask God for the strength to overcome all obstacles and temptations. And by watching, we become mindful and aware of the temptation when it comes our way. And when that temptation does come, then we need to pray even harder. God will never give us more than we can handle.
We’re all human. But God knows our weaknesses. He knows what our flesh wants. But He also knows deep in our hearts that we want to do the right thing. Because the disciples didn’t have self-control, they were caught unawares when the mob came to arrest Jesus. When the flesh makes its demands, it can sometimes be very hard to control or fight against. But we need to watch and pray. We need to remain spiritually alert.