“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such there is no law.”
Have you heard of the locus of control? I have in several contexts from business to dieting to self-efficacy theories. The premise is that people generally have either an internal or external locus of control (sometimes internal in one situation and external in another). This determines whether they believe they can make changes in their lives versus believing that other people dictate the direction and outcomes in their lives.
Someone with an internal locus of control is often able to overcome obstacles simply because they believe they can figure out how to make change happen. This is extremely helpful when trying to lose weight, build a business in the midst of adversity, or change an unhealthy behavior.
On the other hand, someone with an external locus of control often believes that someone else is holding them back and they can’t do anything about it. For instance, they can’t stick to a healthy diet because their roommate, spouse, or children keep junk food in the house. Or perhaps they believe they can’t bring about change at work because their boss micromanages them. This belief often keeps people from even trying new things or stretching beyond their comfort zones.
Over the past few months, I have seen my internal locus of control strengthen as I branch out and try new things. I’ve started working my business with fewer “I can’t do this because…” statements, I’ve begun eating healthier despite what everyone around me eats, and I’ve learned to have more self-control in stressful situations. These are all great benefits that happen when we stop focusing on what others control and start making intentional changes to move our lives in the direction we want to go.
An internal locus of control builds self-efficacy (the belief that you can do something even if you’ve never tried it before) and confidence as you succeed in meeting goals. But there is a danger that we need to be aware of; we can focus too far inward when we fail to look upward.
If we aren’t careful to remain mindful of the One who is truly in control, we’ll begin to believe that we have sole command of our destiny. I truly believe that having an internal locus of control is healthier than external. But if that internal focus does not acknowledge and submit to the Holy Spirit, we will soon either be so self-centered that we forget about loving those around us, or we’ll be so prideful that we judge those who struggle to break free of their own self-doubt.
The only true and perfect locus of control is to have a Holy Spirit locus of control. For when the Holy Spirit is in control, we will experience so much more freedom than either an internal or external locus of control can offer. Read Galatians 5:22-23 again: love, joy, patience, peace, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control. Those all sound pretty good to me. We can’t produce them on our own, we may develop a cheap counterfeit, but the true and lasting fruit only comes from the Holy Spirit’s work in us.
With the Holy Spirit in control, when our inner self says, “I can control my life and I can make things happen if I try hard enough! It doesn’t matter what anyone else does.” The Holy Spirit will remind us:
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.
1 Corinthians 10:23-24
As followers of Christ, we have the right to do anything, but not everything is beneficial to us or those around us. Somewhere between our rights and seeking the good of others lies the sweet spot of walking confidently with God and caring compassionately for His people.
God gives us the ability to do everything He calls us to do. It is not from our own strength or skill but through the power and grace of God.
Philippians 4:13 says it best. In the middle of “I can do all things” and “through Christ who gives me strength” lies the Holy Spirit locus of control. Without God, we can do nothing. With God, there is nothing we can’t do.
If your life feels like a cage where the key is held by others or your own self-doubts, remember that it is God who sets us free. The truth is you hold the key to change, you simply need to turn to God and watch Him open the door. Let the Holy Spirit lead you to a life of freedom and hope as you pursue true liberty and fulfillment in Him.
May the Holy Spirit spark fruitful work in your lives.