Most people who want to manage or gain better control of their thoughts, diet, exercise, use of technology, responses, time management and relationships struggle at one time or another. The Bible makes it clear that the greatest reason we struggle with self-control is not a matter of raw, God-given ability or resolute will but with what the Bible refers to as the “weakness of the flesh” or our fallenness. We want to change but often lack the power to do so since some competing desires that are less than helpful are very powerfully at work within us. The problem pops up in all areas of life. The song, “Say No To This” in the contemporary Broadway Musical “Hamilton” is an all-to-often refrain with those who intend well but cannot live up to their intentions. Paul, in the Romans passage below, would have been considered to be one of the most resolute people in the pages of the Bible. Even he admits that he often struggled with the best of them when it came to control and restraint.
The best way to gain control in our lives is to give control away. As odd as that sounds, it is precisely what enables us to live a controlled life. By giving God the keys to our life, he not only knows where our struggles lie, but will give us His Holy Spirit to fill us, change our minds and motivations and empower us to live in ways that seem difficult for us. Surrender is the starting point to gaining control. From there, we ask God to help us understand the difficulties, confess them and allow Him to fill and empower us to regain control of the things that have seemed out of control. When He does that, our desires change, our priorities shift, and strength to please Him in our lives increases.
A Spirit-led life is one where we see our limitations, confess our failures and seek His power to overcome. The truly self-controlled life is not self-controlled at all, but Spirit-controlled. That kind of life is one where the best of us comes out as the worst in us is diminished.
In what areas of life do I need more self-control?
What have I done that has failed?
What seems to hold me back from doing and being what I want to do or be?