“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” (Proverbs 16:32, NKJV)
Self-control. Discipline. Willpower. The King James Version of the Bible calls it temperance. Whatever word we use, self-indulgence is easier than self-control. Ask anyone who abandoned their New Year’s resolutions sometime mid-January.
Self-control is something we develop in our lives, not something we are born with. It isn’t an “either you have it or you don’t” characteristic. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines self-control as “restraint exercised over one’s impulses, emotions, or desires.” It is our ability to restrain ourselves from a myriad of feelings, impulses, and desires. This is something most of us will work on our entire life, especially in areas where we are weakest.
Galatians 5:22-23 lists self-control as an attribute of the fruit of the Spirit. When it is missing from our lives, it leaves us vulnerable, exposed to whatever the enemy may bring against us. We are like a city whose walls of defense are broken down, leaving it open to attack. Without self-control our spirit is open to the temptations of sin. Satan, like any good strategist, will take aim at the point we are most susceptible.
Only you know your weakest areas. Is it anger, immoral desires, overspending, wasting time, food, covetousness? I could list many possibilities, but you are the only one who can answer the question. The apostle Paul said, “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (I Corinthians 9:27, ESV). He understood his vulnerability without discipline.
To succeed in our walk with the Lord we must possess self-control, but how do we develop it in our lives? Here are a few things that will help us.
Practice using self-control. An athlete grows stronger and more proficient by consistent training. That’s how he becomes a champion. First Corinthians 9:25 says, “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable” (ESV).
Remove yourself from the things that tempt you. Do not put yourself into situations that you know will be difficult to resist. “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14, ESV).
Remain alert and prayerful. We must not grow negligent and fall into Satan’s traps. “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41, NKJV).
Show accountability. Yes, we are accountable to God and to ourselves, but it is also a good practice to make yourself accountable to a spiritual mentor. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16, ESV).
Some people play the blame game. It’s not their fault they lost control, they say. However, circumstance do not make us lose control. Nor do those around us. The problems we face in life do not cause our loss of control. The pressures we face and the people we encounter only reveal what is already inside us. We are responsible for our own actions. Only we can rule our spirit.
Lord, help me to exhibit self-control in my life. With Your help I will build up the weak places so the enemy of my soul cannot use that weakness as a point of attack. Help me to stay alert, always on guard so I do not give in to temptation. My greatest desire is to live a life that pleases You and reflects Your character in my life.