The Power of Self Control

It’s February, just a few weeks since New Year resolutions. How is it going? Some victories, some changes? By now, some people may have given up or forgotten their new direction and desire for change.

When I decide to make a road trip I plan the route, clean the car, put my packed suitcase in the back, take food and drinks for the ride, and I’m ready to go. But if there is no gas in the car, with all my planning and preparing I’m not going anywhere. Like the road trip, I can make plans and have the best intentions for change but I need something important to get going. I need the power of self-discipline and self-control. Daily!

Right now, we are living in a time where self-control is almost nonexistent. We often hear people say, “I just can’t stop it”, “It’s just part of who I am.” Even Paul, the Apostle of Jesus admitted: “I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind.” Romans 7:21-24, NLT

The world around us and our own sinful nature war with our minds trying to stop us from doing what is right. So what do we do?  Give up?  Where is the power to change? Even on a long road trip, eventually you will need to fill up with gas again when you are running on empty. Are you running on empty?

Thankfully, as believers in Jesus we have the power that never goes empty. Paul went on to say, “Who will free me…Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 7:25 NLT

Jesus told his disciples, “Apart from me you can do nothing…but if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.” John 15:5, 7

We can’t accomplish anything but through Jesus’s power. As we walk with, “remain” with Jesus, reading and “remaining” in God’s Word, then we will want what Jesus desires. Our desire will be to produce spiritual fruit. Then when we pray what Jesus desires Jesus will grant our requests. Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit who will produce this fruit: “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives… the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives…self-control.” Galatians 5:16, 22-23

As believers in Jesus, we should be the best example to the world around us of self-control. Yet, we often look like the world with little or no power. I call it spiritual “amnesia”. We have forgotten Jesus, His words and His promises to answer our prayers. We have forgotten the power He has given to us through the Holy Spirit to live the Christian life. Jesus desires for us to change and He is willing if we just ask. It is a new year with new resolutions- a new week, a new day, a new direction. Don’t forget the gas, the power of self-control to keep you on the right track. Ask Jesus for His power:

Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for your power to not only forgive my sin and make me your own, but also the power you give me through the Holy Spirit to live a fruitful life. Thank you that you desire to produce the fruit of self-control in my life. I give you my life and my lists and ask that you would change these areas. I am trusting in you to bring these changes. I need the Holy Spirit in my life moment by moment to guide me. Thank you that you promise to answer my prayer in your will. I look expectantly for what you will do in my life this year and desire to give you the glory for the change. In your powerful name, Amen

Self-Controlled Choices

blog - World Cup

Talented and trained soccer athletes have descended on Sao Paulo, Brazil this week to participate in the 2014 World Cup. These individuals have spent time and money in training their bodies and minds for one purpose – to win. Like all athletes, they know the importance of self-control in order to become the best at what they do. Many people look up to these athletes but don’t realize the sacrifices they have made and the physical pain they suffer to train their bodies.

Being self-controlled shows itself in choices. Athletes make choices about how much time they spend in physical training, who trains them, what to eat or not eat, and mentally training their minds to know the sport and think about winning. Athletes that win are self-controlled and disciplined. They sacrifice what others would not in order to gain a reward.

As a follower of Jesus, my goal and desire is to know Him, to abide with Him, and to glorify God, the Father. Jesus said, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:8). Abiding with Jesus and bringing glory to God has eternal rewards. The writer of Hebrews said, “…for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Even Moses chose to follow God and His people for an eternal purpose, “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” (Hebrews 11:26)

Living in this world I can be constantly sidetracked by things around me that distract from the goal, the eternal rewards of knowing Jesus. I have to be determined and focused like an athlete who wants to win the prize. I must have self-control in all my daily choices and ask Jesus to give me the strength to say “no” to things that will distract me or say “yes” to things that will lead me to an eternal reward.

Paul knew that self-control was crucial to following Jesus and the eternal reward it would bring. Paul’s life choices made him qualified, like an athlete, to be an example of Jesus as he preached to others. He wrote:

“Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:25-27

As I abide with Jesus, He gives me the strength to have self-control in my daily choices. I will have to make daily choices to spend time with Him, listening and praying and reading His Word. I will have to make choices about what I put in my mind, what I read and look at that influence my speech and writing. I will have to make choices about how I use the resources God has entrusted to me – my finances and possessions. I have many choices in my training today.

How about you? Are you ready to make self-controlled choices in your daily training to receive the reward?  Take some time to watch this and let me know what you think.

Self-controlled Words

Last week I heard of another person making a foolish remark on Twitter…again.  This happens every day on social media sites.  Yet I ponder the foolish, hurtful remarks communicated face to face daily.  People feel more and more entitled to say what they want to say no matter how it comes out or who it hurts.  Ouch!

Self-control seems so hard, but especially self-control of the tongue.  James, a New Testament writer and brother of Jesus wrote:

“For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way…a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire… no one can tame the tongue…Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!”  James 3:2-10

Thankfully, Jesus gives us the power through his Holy Spirit to live self-controlled lives, even control of the tongue. “The fruit of the Spirit is…self-control…”  Ephesians 5:22-23.  “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7.  Even self-control of what we say or what we communicate through our written words to others.  As we abide with Christ and learn from Him, we can instead use our words for good.

Self-control keeps us from speaking evil.  We have the power from Jesus to speak truth instead of lies, hope instead of discouragement, love instead of hate, peace instead of fear.  Jesus changes our words and the world is amazed!

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation [Jesus Christ] for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,”  Titus 2: 11-12

As I abide with Jesus I will trust in Him to produce self-control over my tongue and to use it to share words – spoken and written – for His good and the good of others. Speaking His praises and His truth to others always brings a joyful heart – a reward from practicing self-control.

“Cold words freeze people, and hot words scorch them, and bitter words make them bitter, and wrathful words make them wrathful. Kind words also produce their image on men’s souls; and a beautiful image it is. They smooth, and quiet, and comfort the hearer.”    Blaise Pascal

Fruitful Words

It was another Sunday morning cajoling our toddler to get ready for church.  Life was a whirlwind on Sunday mornings.  We had moved from China to Illinois for Lowe to attend Trinity Divinity School.  Having given birth to our daughter in China, I never felt I was doing everything right as a new mom.  To some Chinese I was doing everything wrong and now I didn’t feel confident in America either.  Our outgoing, active, busy, never-tired, yet sweet toddler was a challenge.  However, God sent one experienced mom from India into my life that morning who spoke words of life to me.

Serita was my neighbor on campus , attended the same church and was studying children’s ministry while her husband was getting a PhD.  She always had kind words to say and I could see the fruit in her life from her children.  She worked in the toddler Sunday school class with our daughter.  Seeing my concern she encouraged me, “Your daughter is wonderful to be with and very smart.  It will be a challenge to raise her but God has a special plan for such gifted and bright kids.  Keep doing a good job and just love her.”

I can remember those words from over 20 years ago. Why?  Because words are powerful.  Words show the fruit in our lives.  Words speak of who we really are and what we think.

Words have significant influence on our lives.  They can change the way we think and how we act. We can remember words people speak to us for decades.

When I write, I often double check grammar, delete words, or add thoughts that would be helpful.  But when I have said something I can’t change my words.  Sometimes I wish I could go back and delete something I said or change the words or just add an “I love you” or “you are special”.  Sometimes I just need to delete the whole thing and keep silent.

Instead of doing a “spell check” on my words this week, I’ll plan on a “fruit check”.  I will ask God to help me speak words which will be fruitful – full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control and the gospel message.  God’s words from the Bible are a great way for me to do a “fruit check”:

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 6:24

“Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.”  Psalm 34:13

“Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts, And I will tell of Your greatness.” Psalm 145:6

“…A time to be silent and a time to speak.”  Ecclesiastes 3:7

“Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”  Colossians 4:6

“Do not let your speech cause you to sin.” Ecclesiastes 5:6