Self-control What is it?

Google defines self-control:

The ability to control oneself, in particular one’s emotions and desires or the expression of them in one’s behavior, especially in difficult situations.

Jennifer Cohen, author of good article on this topic, (5 Proven Methods For Gaining Self Discipline)” wrote,

 Whether in terms of your diet, fitness, work ethic or relationships, self discipline is the number one trait needed to accomplish goals, lead a healthy lifestyle, and ultimately, be happy.

Like us, Jennifer’s experience verifies the teaching of Scripture. The Bible clearly teaches the importance of self-discipline. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:27,

But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

It’s common knowledge that if we want to make it to heaven, we must develop self-discipline as the fruit of the Spirit so we can learn what it means to truly live. This has been taught since the foundation of the Church. An example of this is Paul’s lesson to Felix in Acts 24. We do not have the record of what was said, but there was a strong reaction of fear from Felix about it in verse 25.

Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.”

It only makes sense. If we do not learn to control ourselves, we will continue to fall into sin and lead a life of hedonistic pleasure-seeking. This has been the ruin of many people!

Staying Inside The Lines

But how do we know if we are falling into a trap of a lack of discipline? What can we use as guidelines or markers so we know if we are heading toward problems? Here are a few things to watch.

It Starts With The Bible

This one is obvious. Look at what God calls us to do on a regular basis, and then watch how often you practice it. There are things we know that we should do often. How are we doing? Would we say that we regularly engage in them? Here are some examples of repetitive activities that are required and/or are good for us to practice regularly.

  • Attend worship services and classes. Would anyone call your attendance “habitual”? Would they know where you were on a Sunday if they knew you well?
  • Read your Bible. This should be a regular part of our walk. How often should we read? Daily is recommended by many, but whatever schedule you fall into, do you have a schedule?
  • Evangelize/talk about God. This one shows commitment levels and also self-discipline. Do you have a “regular” commitment to this?
  • Avoid sinning. This is the easiest way to test your self-control. We all make mistakes and we all fall into weaker moments. The question is, do these moments define you, or are they the exception?
  • Pray without ceasing. While that doesn’t equate to 24/7 prayer, it does suggest that it is something that defines who we are.

Look To Social Norms

It’s not wrong that society has norms and rituals. It’s not even bad that society expects certain behaviors from us to a certain extent. These social norms can train you and help you become a “normal” member of society. (This will help you as a Christian as long as “normal” is not “sinful”.)

There is such a push in our culture to be different. We all feel it. But there is a part of all of us that wants to be the same as others too. That’s why you see people “rebelling” against norms in clothing (for example) by choosing to wear the same kinds of clothing as other “rebels”. The irony is rich, but we all fall into this sometimes.

Keeping your lawn mowed, shaving/trimming appropriately, wearing clothes–these are examples of self-control. Better yet, these are ways society can help us to develop self-control.

Get Serious About Your Life

If you want to stay on the path and have the best life possible, you must develop self-control. There is no other way! In the article mentioned earlier, here are the 5 practical methods for self-discipline, especially as it relates to health and wellness:

  1. Remove temptations.
  2. Eat regularly.
  3. Don’t wait until it “feels right” to act on something.
  4. Schedule breaks, treats, and rewards for yourself.
  5. Forgive yourself and move forward.

But I like to have a larger picture of the process. How can I gain self-control in all areas of my life? And here are a few suggestions to help so that you can have the best life possible.

Find Your Mission

As cheesy as it may sound, you should know what life is about for you. We all might have generally the same reason for life as Christians–to glorify God, but you need to develop it a bit more for your set of circumstances, opportunities, and abilities. What makes you get out of bed in the morning? What are you living to accomplish? If you could do anything in the world–money, time, and ability not being a problem–what would it be?

When you are able to answer that, and you understand your “mission” in life, you are already striding ahead in the self-control department. You see, we are all able to control ourselves. We just need to offer ourselves something better than what we face immediately.

If your mission does not motivate you, you have not defined it clearly yet. Do yourself a favor and work on this!

Set Goals For Yourself

Once you know your mission, set goals accordingly. These should be clearly defined. When you do, you will begin to train your brain to function as it was intended to function. You will find yourself doing things you never thought possible, and doing them consistently and regularly!

Pray About Your Goals

Some people are afraid to ask God to help them meet goals. If your goals are ungodly and evil, you should be afraid of that. But if your goals are what He wants for you to do in life, as outlined in His word, why WOULDN’T you ask Him to help you? Here’s some incentive from Jesus in John 15:5-8.

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will[b] ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

Did you notice the last sentence from Him? Why would God object to you bringing true glory to Him through your growth? Also, note that this relates to being seen as one of Jesus’ disciples.

Do you want to be seen that way?

You Can Do It With God’s Help

One thing I’ve learned through studies and personal experience is never to discount God’s ability to surprise you utterly and consistently! You are not in this alone. In fact, you’re not the one “in it”. He’s the one working in your life. You’re just there to contribute to the work by your decisions to act in faith. In fact, it’s not your ABILITY that makes the difference. It’s your AVAILABILITY that allows God to work through your life.

Overcoming and succeeding spiritual, including the development of self-control must be on our minds as Christians. We want to WIN in the end, right?

Only you can decide to develop the self-control you need.


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