Updated: May 10, 2020
SELF-CONTROL is a fruit of the Spirit. A mark of discipline. Something we all struggle with day by day! Confession: Self-Control has to be one of the hardest things I’ve worked on growing. Of course it’s been the hardest for me, controlling myself means that I have to tame my flesh.
“Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” – Proverbs 25:28
No, I’m not behind on bills, my job isn’t giving me any issues, and all my important relationships are in tact. So from the outside looking in, there doesn’t seem to be an issue. But the lack of control I’m talking about, is the control of what’s in my heart, for all of life flows from it (Prov.4:23). From simple things, such as how I respond to others, to something many can relate to, eating habits, it is a daily battle to not give in to myself and actually do what I know I ought to do.
Some signs you too may be lacking self-control:
You are easily DISTRACTED! Gosh, sometimes I think I have the attention span of a goldfish. I get set up to write something and I end up on facebook for an hour. #FAIL Or I’ll tell myself that I’m going to YouTube to watch a sermon but end up watching all types of music videos. The big one lately is after work I tell myself I’ll just unwind a little bit with some tv and that turns into three hours later of Netflix and I tell myself it’s too late to read my bible. Even now as I write this I have to fight the strong urge to check social media or gaze out of the window for no reason.
You REACT before you think! I’ve been guilty of this myself. Someone says something to you and it doesn’t sound right so you lash out. Not taking the time to process how you should actually respond. Or my personal favorite: always saying “Yes”. That isn’t being nice, it’s poor control of your time. Instead of taking the time to check with God if that’s what He even wants me involved in, I just dive head first into someone else’s expectations of me. Outside factors are dictating your actions.
You are led by your EMOTIONS! Ouch. I know I can’t be the only one who is super emotional. I feel everything, it feels like sometimes (see what I did there). There are moments when I’m mad and I don’t even know why. Or I’m sad and have no clue what’s causing it. Instead of praying or leaning into God’s word, I run with it. If I feel bad, then my words, thoughts, and actions will follow suit. I will turn into bad company really quickly. This comes up a lot in my relationship with my husband (thank God for giving him patience with me). He can ask me a simple question, but if my emotions are telling me to be snappy, then I snap at him for something he hasn’t even done. A big emotion that is hard to control is FEAR. God’s word tells us to not fear literally hundreds of times, but the second we get a little scared, we forget God’s promises and are led by fear into disobedience and unbelief.
You do what you KNOW IS WRONG! Who’s ever identified with Paul’s struggle to do what he wants to and the fact he couldn’t stop doing what he didn’t want to do (Romans 7)? *raises hand* Every day we are faced with a plethora of choices to make. Many times we know what to do. We know what God is telling us to do. But we lack the control to do it. You know that old friend is no good to be around or you have no business being at that party, but you give into your fleshly desires and you hang out with them or go to that party. We make the promise to ourselves of “never again” or “this is the last time” and then we go on to break that promise. I’ll tell myself this is my last cookie and then follow up with two more.
I tell myself I won’t be distracted, react the wrong way, or be led by my feelings and then something happens and I choose not to control myself. I just give in as though there is no defense – no walls. If you think of an ancient city, the people would build strong walls around them as a sign of strength and defense. Outsiders could not come in and out of the city without the guards allowing it. Without walls, however, outsiders could come and go when they pleased, taking whatever they wanted. When we don’t control our flesh, we are the same way, letting external things come and go as they please.
What are a couple practical ways to help develop Self-Control:
Spend TIME with God! Go before God and let Him teach you. We learn how to hear from God when we bury His word in our hearts and spend time with Him. Spend time in scripture learning what God has to say and what His plans for you are. The more time you spend with God, the more your thoughts will align with His thoughts. The more time you spend with God, the more you will truly learn how to lean on Him for your strength. I know I need to be totally led by the Spirit, not just give the Spirit 5 minutes at a time when it’s convenient for me.
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me…” – Matthew 11:28-29
FAST! There is a lot of thought about fasting out there in terms of what kind of fast, how long to fast, etc. But spend time with God and allow Him to convict you about your fast. If you aren’t being led by the Spirit then what in your flesh is controlling you? If distractions are a struggle for you, maybe you need to unplug for a while from social media or tv. If you, like me, find that sweets control you, then fast from food. If you can’t help but go back to negative environments God has already called you away from, then you need to take a step back in your social life. Whatever it is, it’s control of you will lessen when you remove it from your life. Teach yourself to go without it and depend on God instead.
“Walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” – Galatians 5:16
You already know putting your flesh in check is easier said than done. We can not do it in our own strength! That’s why Self-Control is a fruit of the Spirit. It is the Spirit of God working in us that develops control over the flesh. Don’t just quote Philippians 4:13, but live it. Believe Christ will strengthen you to do the right thing.