The art of self control
Yesterday, I was in the market, having a conversation with my husband when he declared, “You have more willpower than anyone I’ve ever known.” He was talking about my ability to not cave to my desire to fill our basket with the sweet treats I was eyeballing, but it led to a longer conversation as he recalled my ability to stop smoking, stop drinking alcohol, have balance with my eating habits, among other things. I thanked him for his observation and praise and I said, “I just decide deep down what I want more, and why... and that's it- it’s done.”
This got me thinking about self control, one of the fruits of the spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. Self control is about having the strength to choose what is right over what our desire is right now. In fact, in verse 24 it says that, “Those who belong in Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” If you know anything about crucifixion, it is not a fast, easy or pretty process. So when we think about this scripture saying we are to "crucify the desires of the flesh," we can pretty much be prepared for a tough battle. But please do not be discouraged! There is a formula for mastering self control. And it is SO worth it in every way, as the reward FAR outweighs any temporary passion or desire. So, let's start the process together...
The first step to learn how to have more self control is making the choice. Choose what you really want and why. You can’t control yourself if you don’t have reason and motivation. Why are you choosing God’s way? Is it because of what he can do for you or give to you? Or is it because you love him and want to be in a closer relationship with him? No matter how many times God blesses you with “things,” or saves you from situations, our human selective memories tend to be very short and eventually our wants and desires for right now outweigh what he did for us yesterday or possibilities of what he might do tomorrow. (Want proof of that? Check out the history of the Israelites!) The only true success to consistently do things God’s way is because we love him. And just as when we love our children, spouse, parents, etc., we would do anything for those we love.
The second step is prayer. Prayer is the key. I know, I know… that seems too simple and cliche. But I’m not talking about a generic, “Lord, take this thought from me. Thx!” kind of prayer. I’m talking about the equivalent of an “ugly girl cry” kind of prayer. Something like this:
“Lord, I am SO weak. Why is this still an issue for me? My body is desiring to (for example) smoke right now. But my spirit knows I should not because it is damaging to my body and your word says my body is a temple for the Holy Spirit. Lord come to my rescue now, please. I can’t picture Jesus or the apostles walking around preaching the gospel with a cigarette hanging out of their mouth. I want to be more like Jesus!! So Lord, make the smell and thought of cigarettes vile to me. I need you to strengthen my faith so I want more of you and less of what this world has to offer. My desire is to smoke because it relaxes me, but nothing of this world can relax me like your perfect peace. Fill me from the top of my head to the tips of my toes and throughout the marrow of my bones with your perfect peace and joy. Soothe my soul, Father. God, you are so good and so faithful. I know you care about every detail of my life. You know how hard this temptation is for me at this very moment. Come to my rescue. I trust you. I choose you. I believe in you and I LOVE YOU. I repent of my continued sinful and selfish thoughts and lift up my praise and worship to you now. I humbly request for you to sustain me again today. You are my Helper in times of trouble. I need you now. And when you bless me Father, I pray for the courage to share this testimony with others to bless them and glorify your name! Thank you Abba for your protection, patience and love. In Jesus name, AMEN.”
I used the example of smoking because this used to be a struggle for me. I asked God to make cigarettes vile to me and boy did he ever! When I smell cigarette smoke now, it gives me a pounding headache and smells literally nauseating to me. God always delivers!
And finally, we need to remember gratitude! When God strengthens you, you can feel His power, peace and joy overtaking your life in such a lovely way. Thank him for his grace. We cannot earn it and we most certainly don’t deserve it, but he loves us anyway. Bless!
Learning to master the art of self control takes honesty and patience. You will not always get it right so please don’t self sabotage by expecting perfection from yourself. But friend, no matter the issue, when you make the decision, you have your “why” and continually give your weaknesses to God with brutal honesty, he will NEVER let you fail!