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By Mary Carothers
Ugh! Who wants to read about self-control! For that matter, who wants to write about it!
My carnal nature (the sinful nature we all have inherited from Adam and Eve) immediately said, “No Way!” My carnal nature wants to do and to have whatever it wants, whenever it wants.
But, to my surprise, I felt my spirit rise up and say, “Yes!” Our spirit is where Jesus promised in John 14:23 that He and our Heavenly Father would come and live in us.
When I say self-control, I don’t mean the “stiff upper lip” sort of thing. I’m talking about the kind of self-control that the Holy Spirit will cause to grow in our spirits.
The first scripture I turned to was Galatians 5:22-23. Self-control is listed there as a fruit of the Holy Spirit, part of the nature of our Lord. The next verse I found was Ephesians 5:1, where we are told to imitate God (His nature, including His self-control) just as beloved children want to imitate their fathers.
Remember when Jesus urged His disciples to watch and pray just before He was arrested? He went on to say, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41). Jesus meant that as far as spiritual things go, our spirits are generally willing but not naturally strong. Our spirits – like our bodies – have to exercise to become strong (see I Timothy 4:7-8).
If we want to become skilled in anything – from playing the piano to developing self-control we must practice, practice, practice. No athlete can reach any level of success unless he or she is willing to train, train, train.
Because Jesus lives in us, His nature – including His self-control – is in our spirit. How can we practice letting self-control grow? When we are tempted to become impatient, or angry, or to feel sorry for ourselves, we can ask Jesus, “Lord, if You were here in my place, how would You react?” Then try to react as we believe Jesus would. That’s imitating our Heavenly Father as Ephesians 5:1 tells us to.
Ephesians 3:20 tells us that God can do so much more in us and for us than we can even imagine – by His power that is at work within each of us. God wants us to grow in self-control (see II Peter 1:5-7) and He will use His mighty power to help us.
Do you feel that you are so weak spiritually that you just can’t imagine yourself ever being strong in the Lord? In II Corinthians 12:9 God tells us that His power is most effective in weak people. His power that is in us works best when we admit, that in our own strength, we can do nothing. Proverbs 28:25-26 tells us that only a fool trusts in himself, but whoever trusts in the Lord will prosper.
We could say that we have “inherited” the potential for self-control from our Heavenly Father. It’s there in our spirits, already developed to some degree, waiting for the opportunity to continue growing. So be of good cheer! If God is for us – and He is – we are more than conquerors through Jesus who loves us with an everlasting love!