Self-control. How many of you just cringed at the sight of that word? Did memories of overeating, binging, overspending, exploding emotions, or some other sinful act come to mind? I wonder how self-control got such a bad reputation? It is a fruit of the Spirit after all (Galatians 5:22-23). I think too often we misuse the word and confuse the definition of self-control with the definition of restricting. I’m on a new mission to put self-control back into the positive light.
Since it’s a fruit of the Spirit, we all have the ability to use it. Therefore, we all have the ability to be in control of our selves. It takes imperfect progress and practice, but it can be done. If I can teach my 5 year old to take a deep breath, talk to God, and then calmly express her feelings, emotions, or thoughts, then by golly, so can you!(No more of this not taking responsibility for your actions nonsense).
Did I mention I’m also learning as I teach my daughter? For me it’s been a difficult discipline to exercise and train. One of my life dominating sins is selfishness. It’s one of those generational sins, ya know… I have too long given over to my flesh’s desire and believed the lie that I don’t have self-control. It was life changing, the realization that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit and as a follower of Christ I have the fruit of the Spirit; then, it’s simply up to me to harness that power. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that in every aspect of our lives we require self-control. It’s not just in our diets or attitudes, which are my main focuses. How about your spending habits, what you watch on tv, how much time you spend with your family verses your hobbies, or learning the balance of work and family?
Remember how I said I’m on a mission to change the view of self-control? Here’s my theory: we have believed Satan’s lie that self-control is restricting some sort of pleasure from our lives, and it’s going to be a miserable road ahead. Here’s the truth: when you exhibit self-control you are aligning your heart with God’s will, ie being submissive, and there is great joy in being submissive to the Lord.
Self-control isn’t just restricting, or holding yourself back from doing something. Let’s take a look at someone who is trying to make healthy food choices. If you’re thinking to yourself over and over again,“I can’t have it. I can’t have it. I can’t have it.” What happens? All you think about is that you want it. Instead of viewing self-control as giving something up, let’s decide that self-control is feeding your body nourishing foods. Change your focus. Switch your thought process. Well Fed Women is a podcast that helps women change their mindset about food, body image and self love. It has been life altering for me!
What other areas of your life are you struggling to contain your flesh? I recently found out that when I am not in the Scripture, I am an awful human being. It is necessary for me to sink into the Armor of God every day if I want to control my flesh. I have to harness self-control when I feel like yelling at my husband, I have to harness self-control when I really want to watch the next season of Gray’s Anatomy but have been convicted of what I can and can’t watch.
I haven been talking with my friend Sheri about self-control this past week and we want to know: Why is it easy to exercise self-control in some areas of our lives but so difficult in others? What is it about our hearts that hold on so tightly to that one thing we know we need to let go? Why is it such a daily battle to say no to that bread roll, but it’s simple to say no to that show? And what is it in one persons heart to change their behavior or sinful actions, but another who struggles with the same thing falls from great heights?
As I think about the ease with which some choices come and the difficult strain it is to make others, I am reminded that those easy decisions weren’t always easy. When I was in the midst of my alcoholism and battling the desire daily, it wasn’t easy. But because I have used the strength of Holy Spirit to help me through those bleak days, I can now, with more ease, say,“No, thanks!” or“Get behind me Satan, and deal with the glory of my God who is my rear guard!” It took time, energy, prayer, tears, relapses, and self-control to get to the point I am at now. I have not arrived though. There are still plenty of other areas that my self-control is lacking…like Thanksgiving morning when I have 4 savory rolls and 1 cinnamon roll before lunch. Had I been tapping into the strength and power of the fruit of the Spirit I could have passed on 4 out of 5 of those rolls. I may have also been able to have 1 piece of pumpkin pie instead of 2.
I want you to ponder self-control, especially as we approach the season of overspending, overcommitting, and overeating. Self-control is not about what we can control, and it’s not about what we can say no to.It’s is about being submissive to God, and saying yes to Him first.