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Self-Control for Success

Like a city whose walls are broken through
    is a person who lacks self-control. Proverbs 25:28

Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho once wrote in one of his novels, “If you conquer yourself, then you will conquer the world.”  Sounds like a great plan, right?  But why do so many of us suffer from lack of self-control, either with our eating habits, exercise routines, emotions, studying, words and more?

According to a study revealed in Scientific American the act of self-control can be equated to using your muscles.  To be successful at it we need to practice and practice.  Our self-control muscles also get fatigued as we use them to keep our bad behavior at bay.  So it needs to be replenished.  Maybe that’s why the weight loss program, Noom, encourages its participants to indulge on occasion.  We need a break from our self-control workout which might come in the form of a spa day, special food treat, a day of binge watching, or in one of my daughter’s cases, a day free from talking to anyone.

Years ago, psychologists surmised we needed to work on self-esteem for success in life.  But they are now finding self-control to be the true factor.  Self-control leads us to higher self-esteem and success with relationships, careers, and more.

Friend, when we accepted Jesus as our savior, we were given a self-control workout coach – the Holy Spirit. He is there both through the Word of God and the Spirit’s nudging to remind us of the benefits of self-control. We keep our tongues.  Keep our emotions in check.  Treat our bodies as God’s temples.  Use our minds to better ourselves and those around us.  Self-control is not some Puritan dirty word.  It’s the secret word.  It’s the key to unlock all that God wants for us.  It’s the lesson Jesus taught the apostle Peter throughout the Gospels.

Gracious Father, so often I want to lean toward the desires of my flesh. Speak to me through your Word and the whispering of the Holy Spirit to refresh my self-control and keep me from falling off track.  Amen 

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Guard Your Heart

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23

I’ll admit to you right here for the world to read that I have a serious problem with cursing.  Once upon a time I was innocent with my expletives.  I’d say, “Jimminy Crickets!” and “gosh darn.”  And then I started working in a restaurant.  By the time I’d graduated high school my responses to things that went awry or to not nice people weren’t so innocent any more.  Up until recently I figured I just needed to work harder at stopping.  But I was reminded that overcoming sin requires more than just “working harder.”

I read a devotional that convicted me of the root of my sin – the status of my heart.  It shone a light on what was flowing from my heart — anger, pride, unforgiveness, lack of compassion, lack of self-control.  Although James was spot on with his imagery of the tongue being like a fire, I realized that that fire is sparked by my heart.  

My “ah ha” moment that day was how much anger I allow to swirl around in my head and in my heart when someone doesn’t act how I expect or when the world doesn’t stick to My Plan.  Instead of compassion, kindness, love there’s *@%!   A truly ugly use of my God-given heart and tongue.  And a heart change can only take place with the help of the Holy Spirit.  My gal pals know I’ve joined forces with the Holy Spirit to remind me of the fruits of the spirit whenever I leave my house (because I never seem to have a cussing problem in the quiet confines of my She Shed!).  I cannot produce this fruit; I can only bear it because I am closely attached to the vine of Jesus. 

Friend, the world doesn’t think cussing is any big deal these days.  In the past, you’d never hear cuss words on tv or on the radio.  If you’ve ever spent more than a few minutes at an elementary school – yes, elementary school – you’ll find our lax attitudes toward this sin have affected our children.  But we are called as Christians to be different.  To be transformed.  We are to guard our hearts from taking in and spewing darkness.   I, for one, take the pledge.  How about you?

Holy Spirit, guide my choices today in what I take into my mind and heart and help me to return to the world the fruits of your Spirit – kindness, compassion, patience and most of all love.  Amen

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We’re In Control…Aren’t we?

“Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.” 

Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

As I read through the fourth chapter of James I hear one word over and over – control. Even the most passive among us desire control. Control over our decisions, over what jobs we want, over people around us, over people not even around us. Control over our thoughts, your thoughts, over our emotions and yes, over yours. I know a woman who is incredibly sweet and demure. She defers to everyone. She’s a chronic apologizer. You know those folks — they apologize when you are late. It’s seems to be a uniquely female quirk. She is discovering, with God, the woman she’s supposed to be. But what she also wants is to control the emotional outcome for every situation. By thinking we have that type of control over others frequently leads us to decisions resulting in the exact opposite outcomes.

“What causes fights and quarrels among you?  Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”

James 4:1

Ouch. Again.  There’s that “log in your eye” message.  You know, the one that says, before you worry about the speck in someone else’s eye, first remove the log out of your own.  In modern times it’s called “baggage.”  Why does the sweet, demure woman desire control over emotional outcomes of others?  We frequently make decisions to protect ourselves from negative situations.  Negative situations we probably experienced growing up.  We are either in protect mode or attack mode to keep us from getting harmed.  Our triggers call for us to “shields up” (for all you Star Trek nerds).  We start playing chess matches of one.  Trying to predict if we say or do something we can outmaneuver our adversary.  Our human desire to control and predict our lives is fertile ground for satan to work his wicked ways.


the (perceived) power to influence or direct people’s behavior or the course of events.

I added the “perceived” part because so often we think we have control when we don’t — causing the friction within ourselves. In the realm of God there’s only one type of “control” He wants us to seek – self-control.  For when we seek to control our minds, our tongues, our bodies, based on His desires, only then can we find true peace.  I love the expectation God has for us to build upon our faith.

“For this very reason make every effort to add to your faith goodness, and to goodness, knowledge, and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.”

2 Peter 1:5-7

Self-control is smack dab in the middle.  With knowledge of what God expects of us we must then set our minds and behavior up against that knowledge and control them.  And without self-control we cannot persevere.  Pretty logical.  Without self-control with my diet I won’t make it to my goal.  Without self-control over my tongue my marriage might not survive.  Without self-control over my body I might put myself in physical harm.  


The ability to control oneself, in particular one’s emotions and desires or the expression of them in one’s behavior, especially in difficult situations.

Between trying to control others or self-control, only one of these are we guaranteed to be successful at on a regular basis.  The rest, shall we say, needs to be left to God.  Self-control is when we make a commitment to commune with God and study His Word each morning.  It’s when we are faced with a conflict we are slow to speak and quick to listen.  It’s when we are tempted by food, drink, anger, sex, (fill in the blank) and we turn our mind to God and His Truth – not the truth we are conjuring up in our minds to justify wrong-mindedness.

This chapter of James tells us to lose our grip.  Not on our minds but to lose our grips on our relationships, our big plans, our need to know “what’s next.”  It’s scary.  We are all control-freaks in one way or another.  But really, how well has that been working out for you thus far?