Self-control, also known as self-discipline, is one of the nine fruits of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23). It is something that humans have struggled with since Adam and Eve couldn’t exercise it in the garden. This everything-at-your-fingertips-immediately, me-first culture we now live in makes it harder and harder to exercise self-control. We are constantly being bombarded with “do what makes YOU happy”. But this is so contrary to how God calls us to live:
“and he (Jesus) died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” – 2 Corinthians 5:15
And what God says about lack of self-control:
“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” – Proverbs 25:28
The reason this has been on my mind lately is because I have set some physical goals for myself. I have never struggled with the working out aspect of fitness. I love to go to the gym and lift weights or play basketball, but where I do struggle is with food. I love food, but I’ve come to a point where I cannot achieve a better fitness level without consistently having self-control with food. I, probably like many who are reading this, would love to sit down and eat pizza, a juicy cheeseburger, or some other delicious, carb-packed dish for every meal, but if I want to achieve my goal, that can’t happen.
Now I’m not saying that anything I’m doing is “holier than thou” or my self-control with food has anything to do with the verses above (however, I do believe that at a certain point lack of self-control with food becomes gluttony, but that’s a topic for another day). What I have noticed is that introducing some self-control into my life in areas that may not necessarily be sinful, helps me with self-control in the areas that are sinful. It’s empowering to take control of something that you really enjoy. It shows you that you aren’t a slave to that thing.
Here’s what Paul says about being a slave in Romans:
“Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” – Romans 6:16
Now at this point, you might be thinking about something that you are a slave to in your life; something that you just can’t get rid of, but that you desperately want (or even need) to. Well, here comes the best news of all:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” – Titus 2:11-14
You are not alone. God is there to help you to “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions”. Whether its something as (ultimately) meaningless as being self-controlled with food for a fitness goal or eternally meaningful as a sinful behavior that is turning your heart away from God, just take it one day at a time. Also, and most importantly, pray that God would give you the strength to push through that sin and draw closer to Him.
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” – Titus 3:3-5