I struggle with telling myself no.
I’m great at talking myself into undisciplined and greedy behaviors, and I have a hard time refusing myself those indulgences.
- Let’s have a few more potato chips. Ok.
- Let’s skip exercising today. Hmm, ok.
- Let’s knock off work early and head over to Hobby Lobby. Great!
- Let’s rush through our time with the Lord and move on to checking emails. Sure, just this once.
- Let’s not bother to make the bed today. Sure, no big deal.
- You deserve a dessert tonight. Well howdy. I think you’re right!
But I’ve discovered that, while I often think my indulgences are harmless enough, my lack of self-discipline potentially hinders my effectiveness for the Lord. Without self-control I could render myself unfit for some of the opportunities He has planned for me.
Try as I might, I can’t just will myself to have more self-discipline. Most of us have run out of gas somewhere on the road paved with good intentions, right? We know that simply mustering up a little more will power will not get us to our goal.
Paul tells us in Galatians 5 that self-control is a component of the fruit of the Spirit. If I’m going to experience victory in an area of life where I’m frequently tempted to over-indulge or slack off, then I’ll need the Holy Spirit to supply me with that ability.
But while real self-control is a grace gift produced in our lives by the Spirit of God, we are still tasked with cultivating that gift.
And there’s the rub.
If I refuse to cultivate self-control in my life because of either my over indulgence or my laziness, I may very well disqualify myself from the call God has placed on my life. Simply by minimizing the importance of self-discipline and believing that my indulgences don’t really matter, I jeopardize my testimony and my ministry.
In Titus 2, Paul addresses four groups of people – older and younger men and older and younger women – and instructs each group to demonstrate self-discipline. Sure, our translations of the Bible employ words such as “temperate,” “not enslaved to much wine,” “sensible,” and “dignified.” But the common denominator in all of those attributes is an ability to say “no” or “that’s enough” or “not now” to one’s self.
Especially for the older person who is mentoring and pouring into the younger, Paul requires self-control as a baseline demonstration of a life submitted to and empowered by the Lord. Without a consistent display of self-control in one’s life, the power of God could be called into question.
- If my appearance reveals that I am a glutton, then how can I teach others that God provides an escape from every temptation? (1 Corinthians 10:13)
- If my words are not adequately filtered, then how can I teach others to speak only gracious words? (Ephesians 4:29)
- If I am physically out of shape and always exhausted, then how can I encourage others to do all that they do heartily, as unto the Lord? (Colossians 3:23)
- If my finances are askew because of overspending, how can I teach others to manage wisely the resources God has entrusted to them? (Luke 16:1-13)
- If my home is mismanaged, cluttered or filthy, then how can I generously offer hospitality to strangers? (Hebrews 13:2)
- If my calendar is crammed full and I’m constantly running late, how can I give sufficient time to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice? (Romans 12:15)
Self-control is much more than a polished physique, a budget in the black or a well-run household. Self-control is a vibrant testimony of God’s power in my life. It’s a tell-tale sign of God’s amazing grace at work in me.Self-control is not about polish and perfection; it's about God's power overpowering me. Click To Tweet
So how do I cultivate self-control?
I can’t create roses, but I can cultivate the ones that God grows in my garden. You and I can cultivate self-control, too.
- First, daily ask God to fill you to capacity with His Holy Spirit. Ask Him to show you any area of your life where you’ve prevented Him from moving in and taking over. Repent of that, and welcome His sweet interference.
- Identify areas in your life where you need to tighten the belt, so to speak. Consider: your spiritual disciplines (such as church attendance, prayer and scripture reading), finances, eating habits, physical fitness, sleep patterns, words and speaking habits, entertainment choices, work ethic and schedule.
- Practice the power of God in that area where you are currently lacking self-control. Here’s how I’m doing that right now: When I have a choice to make – to be disciplined or to be lazy, gluttonous, wasteful, etc. – I say out loud, “By the power vested in me by the Spirit of the Living God, I am exercising four days this week, and that includes today!” and I put on my running shoes and head out the door. Or I say, “By the power vested in me by the Spirit of the Living God, I am eating healthy and sensibly this week, and that includes right now!” and I make myself a healthy snack instead of going to Dairy Queen.
- Speak kindly, but firmly to yourself when you blow it. Don’t reprimand or ridicule yourself; that only aggravates and defeats. But do address your undisciplined behavior for what it is and determine your next course of action.
- Enlist some accountability. You could use an app, text a friend, walk with a buddy, keep a journal or simply log in your activity throughout the day. Accountability isn’t a cure-all, but it is a good tool that nurtures self-discipline.
In what areas do you need some improved self-control? You can pray for me to be more disciplined in eating healthy and keeping my house tidy. I’d be glad to pray for you as well. And if you have additional tips for cultivating self-control, we’d all love to read them, so leave a comment.
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