Self-control is not optional, it is a fruit of the spirit. About a month ago I thought it would be a good idea to give up sweets for a month, so my wife and I did. Now if you know my wife you would know that this isn't an easy task because she loves chocolate. Also, if you know me at all, you know that I love Coca-Cola. I would rather drink Coke than eat any dessert any day of the week. I really love it, but I had noticed that there was some extra area around my sides that I didn't always have so I thought giving up sweets would help eliminate that and get me back down to "fighting weight." My wife, who is a total fox, just did it with me to show her love and support. Seriously, she is awesome.
So it's been about a month and it hasn't been the easiest thing. Through the process I've noticed two things. One, I really drank a lot of soda and ate way more sweets then I thought I did. And two, that self-control is hard. Throughout this month God has really been giving me a new picture of self-control. The phrase "self-control" appears in the Bible six times. It's most famous appearance comes in Galations 5:22-24 which reads, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires." Now I won't claim I am a Bible expert but this sounds pretty straight forward to me and I am going to write it out in my own words and really emphasize the self-control part. All the other parts are important but I am just talking about self-control.
The fruit of the spirit, which you are given by God when you ask him to take over your life, is self-control. Self-control is not a spiritual gift, it does not come down like a lighting bolt and take away all your bad desires immediately. It must be practiced, it must be trained and it must grow, like fruit does. God has given you self-control when he gave you His spirit so stop asking for it over and over again thinking that it will come down on a cloud and engulf you, it won't. If you have a bad habit that you want to stop, start using the spirit of God that dwells in you to stop it. Stop saying "we'll pray about it" and start saying "God has given me self-control and with his spirit all things are possible and I will stop." I think we've gotten so wussy as Christians and if something is hard we give up and chalk it up to "trials" and sweep it under the table, when really, we should be using the power of the almighty God to help us quit what we are doing.
If your overweight it's only up to you to lose weight. If you bite your nails it's only up to you stop. If you look at porn it's only up to you to stop. If you are addicted to drinking it's only up to you stop. If you are a liar it's only up to you to tell the truth.
God has given us the free gift of his spirit to bless our lives and to live the way he desires, why don't we unwrap that gift and take advantage of the power it holds. I am not saying that addictions aren't hard to break and habits can be reversed overnight, but I am saying let's stop making excuses and start living the spirit filled, self-controlled lives that God wants us to.
In Philippians 4:13 it says, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Why aren't we using the strength? What are we waiting for?
It's been a month and I still want to drink a Coca-Cola more than anything. The desire is still there but the self-control, by the power and grace of God, is outweighing the desire. If you have something you want to quit or stop or not do as much it will take practice, it will take time, but it is possible. God will help you if you have his spirit within you, but you have to make the first step, you have to go for it. My practical advice is to tell someone, post it on facebook or twitter. Tell people that you are going to try something that will be hard and have them get around you and hold you accountable, support you and even join you. Take that first step, use God's spirit, practice self-control and your life will change for the better.