Our topic at MOPS this month was “self-control”. Probably not the most popular topic. I mean, who really wants to talk about denying self, right? And, yet, I think it’s an important subject. If you are anything like me, you have probably felt more “out of control” than “self-controlled” in one area or another at some point in time…maybe even right now.
Does self-control seem out of reach? Impossible? Unrealistic?
I have felt like that at times and, in some areas of my life, I feel like that now. Yet, God’s Word says to think clearly and exercise self-control (see I Peter 1:13). Do you think He would have instructed us to exercise self-control if it were impossible to do so? Remember what you feel and what is true are often two different things.
I’m definitely not an expert when it comes to self-control. I still struggle in areas. But, I have learned a few things on the subject in my lifetime that I would like to share with my Christian friends, and remind myself of, at the same time.
1. It is not impossible! You can change! How do I know? I use to bite my fingernails down to the wick. I quit. I was in a destructive relationship and living a destructive lifestyle. I was able to change. I use to recklessly spend money. I got out of debt and am now very frugal. If I can do it, you can too! Nothing is impossible with God! (Luke 1:37)
2. You can not do it alone (but you can do it)! It takes reliance on the Holy Spirit. You can try all the positive thinking techniques and “fast and easy” schemes out there. They might even work for a time. But, most likely, you’ll fall back into old habits. Truly practicing self-control requires a dependence on what I call “Spirit-control”. Knowing we can not do it within our own strength, but we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13). I’ve heard people say, “God never gives us more than we can handle.” I believe God gives us more than we can handle all the time, but He never gives us more than He can help us handle! You are able because He is able!
“But the Holy Spirit produces...self-control…Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” Galatians 5:22-25
3. You aren’t going to “just change”! It takes a lot of Thinking and Praying to see lasting results! It requires a change of mindset. We have to think about what we are doing rather than merely going through the motions of everyday life. It takes active effort and thought. Even more so, it requires persistent prayer. We have to ask God for strength, will-power and to help us think clearly. We have to speak to Him often, asking for His help, throughout the day. We must recognize our moment by moment dependence on Him. Perhaps that is why His Word tells us to pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17).
4. The enemy will try to discourage you! Don’t let him. You’re probably going to mess up at some point. A mess up doesn’t equal failure. Instead of beating yourself up, repent, move on and do better next time. He will tell you that you “can’t” and that you “won’t” and that your not able. He is a liar! He wants you to give up. Stand on the truth of God’s faithful Word rather than the whispers of a lying thief whose goal is to destroy you (I Peter 5:8). He wants to keep you in a place of defeat. If you are a believer, remember greater is He (the Holy Spirit) that is in you, than he that is in the world (the enemy)! (I John 4:4)
Self-control truly is not out of reach. We don’t have to live feeling like areas of our life are “out of our control”. God gave His Holy Spirit to those of us who believe for direction and power. Wherever you are struggling, know He knows and cares and will help you if you seek Him.
Let’s review! We must remember, it is NOT impossible. We can not do it alone, but we CAN do it! It takes thinking and praying. And although the enemy will try to discourage us, God’s Word is full of encouragement!
"So do not fear, for I am with you; be not dismayed because I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10