Post-it Note #17: The Problem with Self-Control

Sunday morning I had the kids ready for church and started trying to get myself dressed.  I grabbed a skirt and put it on.  Hmmm.  Funny.  This skirt feels a little snug.  Oh well, I’ll just wear these pants over here.  Hmmm, those feel really snug.  How did that happen?  So I grab the bigger jeans and settle on those.  They are more comfortable and don’t feel so tight, showing the truth.  It’s a story as old as time.  I wonder what type of leaves Eve sewed together in the garden?  The most flattering, no doubt.

And like Eve, back in the garden, when we are faced with who we really are, and we aren’t comfortable with it, our method to cope is usually to cover.  If our bodies are getting plumper we don’t get to the root of the issue, we just cover them with bigger clothes.  And that’s typically how we deal with most everything.  If there’s something about ourselves that we don’t like, is broken or causes us problems, we pretend like it’s not there and try to cover it up with something else.  Joking, spending money, shopping, Facebook, books, movies, substnaces.  We do whatever we have to do to keep our attention (and everyone else’s) from the heart of the issue.

Let’s face it.  At the end of the day we all want to feel good about ourselves.  And we want to be content with who we are.  With the choices we make.  Outward circumstances can never accomplish contentment for us.  Contentment is a state of mind and we can be content in any circumstance according to God’s Holy Word (Philippians 4:11)  So why, are we so often discontent with ourselves?  We can beat ourselves up like nobody else can.  We can feel ashamed of ourselves and really dislike who we are.  If the Bible says we can have contentment, then why aren’t we content?

I think a major reason is we have let the enemy of our soul guilt us.  Friends, the Bible tells us there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1).  Guilt is of the Devil.  If the voices you are listening to are telling you that you are nothing, you are bad and can never be good, you can’t win, you’ll never make it….that’s NOT God.  That’s Satan.  And Satan is a liar.  Conviction – not guilt – comes from God.  And conviction is when you see yourself for who you really are, humbling yourself.  But also seeing God for who He really is and know that He will help you become all you are meant to be.  That His grace is extended to you.  Conviction is empowering.  It’s recognizing that the Holy Spirit WILL help you and you CAN change because you can do all things through the power of Christ. (Philippians 4:13).  We can’t mistake conviction for guilt.  One is of God and the other of Satan.  When you listen to Satan it will immobilize you. When you listen to God it sets you free.

Another reason we are so discontent in life is our lack of self-control.  Proverbs 25:28 says, “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.”  Don’t you feel just like that sometime?  Like something is broken?  When I put that skirt on Sunday morning and it didn’t fit, how did that make me feel about myself?  Especially knowing there is nobody to blame but me.  When you’ve fallen into the same habit or sin AGAIN, how do you feel about yourself?  When you’ve tried to give up smoking again.  Tried to stop yelling at your kids so much.  Tried to be nice to your co-worker.  Tried to read your Bible every day.  Tried to control your tongue or your temper.  Tried to _______________? And you’ve failed.  How do you feel?  You feel terrible.  And the way we cope is to cover it up and make excuses.  I like these jeans better anyway.  I’m just so busy.  If they hadn’t ____________ then I wouldn’t have ____________.

Sometimes it just gets old doesn’t it?  We want to kick ourselves.  Been there.  Done that.  Doesn’t work.  Beating ourselves up is not the answer.  We already tackled that.  Guilt is not of God.  So don’t even go there.  Self-control is the answer.  And I’m not in fantasy land either.  It can be ours.  Galatians 5 tells us clearly, “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.”  Take a good look at that list.  The things we get most upset with ourselves over is when we are lacking in the things in the list.  We want to make ourselves be more kind, loving, be at peace, self-controlled, etc. We rake ourselves over the coals when we are not.  But where do these things come from?  They are the FRUIT of the SPIRIT.  Friends, hear me: Self-control isn’t about how strong you are.  Self-control that generates from SELF….that will always fail eventually.  It’s about your willingness to yield.  To yield to the spirit of God.

I’ve been in ministry for a long time and heard lots of people say, “I’m not strong enough to have victory over __________.”  You know what.  They aren’t.  You aren’t.  I’m not.  We want to will ourselves to victory and prove our ability to overcome and be strong.  We’re going about it all wrong.  We need to recognize our weakness as humans and lean hard on the grace of God.  Let His Spirit do the empowering in us.  Let His strength be our source.  Let His grace be enough.  Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).

There’s a passage in Ephesians that has always been interesting to me.  In 5:17-19 we find these verses:  “17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,”  I believe verse 18 is dealing with a whole lot more than getting drunk.  When you are drunk you are out of control.  The alcohol controls you.  It’s saying don’t get drunk on wine BUT be filled with the Spirit.  In other words, don’t let something besides the Spirit of God control you.

Friends there’s something a whole lot better than self-control and that’s Spirit-control.  When we yield to the Spirit, He produces self-control and we are victorious over the things in our lives that threaten to control us.  When I look at my life and there are things I cannot say “no” to, then I know I’m not submitting to the Spirit.  It’s a good test for you too.  If you HAVE to have the sweet treats, the coffee or the diet coke and you get grumpy or irritable if you don’t, then it is controlling you and that’s contrary to “Spirit-Control”.  If you HAVE to be on the computer, surf the net, use social media and you go into withdrawals without it, then it’s controlling you.  If you have to watch a certain tv show and people are going to get hurt if you don’t!!…then it’s controlling you.  Anything that you are obsessed with and can’t say “NO” to………food, drink, habits, starving yourself, unhealthy relationships, etc…… controlling you.

If you’re not sure if you HAVE to HAVE it, then see what happens when you can’t HAVE it.  If going without it changes your mood, attitude, temper, or grumpy level then it is controlling you.  Maybe you think you can quit at anytime.  Well try and see.  Then you’ll know if it’s controlling you or not.

So the answer is found in Ephesians 5:18 – Don’t get drunk on (controlled by) ____________________…..Instead, be filled with the Spirit.  It may not be an easy solution, but it is a simple one.  And it IS the solution.

If you want to be content with who you are then stop listening to the lies of the Devil and yield to the Spirit.  If that’s what you want, then God will meet you where you are.  He never sends a thirsty soul to a dry well.



One Comment

  1. i learned a long time ago that if you give in to the devil you might as well give up . Nothing you want ever works out if you do it the easy way and give in to the way satan wants you to. Well the easy way is not the best way.i always told my kids do not take short cuts to get what you want. Work for what you want and you will appreciate it more,I truly believe God helps those that help themselves. The way things are going in the world today proves that. People are so into their i pods and they dont sit down and take the time to find out what is happening in the real world. It looks like the Bible is being fulfilled every day we live. And at times i just pray Lord come on now. Maybe that is wrong but seeing what our children and grandchildren will have to go thru just really hurts so bad, They need to know the truth and that with God all things are possible.If it is meant for you to have certain things then by praying to the Father the decision will be made by Him and He sees that we are taken care of . He has for us and we have never been hungry or without food and clothes. If more people would depend on Him they would be a whole lot better off.Maybe we are an odd couple but i never wanted fancy jewelry or a fancy house or car and we have always gotten by. Hopefully God will see us thru until we go to be with Him,thank you for this blog i enjoyed it a lot. your friend in Christ

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