A person without self-control is as defenceless as a city with broken-down walls. Proverbs 25:28
Do you lack self-control?
That’s the question I had to ask myself a couple of weeks ago as I lay in bed, full and extremely uncomfortable because I’d eaten WAY too much food. I had to be honest with myself and admit that I did indeed lack self-control, that I couldn’t help myself from consuming enough food to feed me for the next two days. From that point on, I saw how my lack of self-control had spilled into other areas of my life and having a negative effect on my walk altogether.
The truth is as human beings, we need to exercise self-control regularly. This is even more so as Christians. We are no longer slaves to our flesh, and this should reflect in every area of our lives. For the purpose of this post though, I’d like to zone in on the areas of the food we eat and the words we speak.
Food. We all consume it in varying quantities daily, some of us LOVE it whilst others see it as a necessity to stay alive. Wherever you fall within the spectrum, we can all agree that food plays an important part in our lives. The choice of food we consume either feeds or fights diseases. It either contributes to helping or hurting our bodies. We also live in a culture where over-eating is at the very worst encouraged, and at best accepted as normal. However, in 1 Corinthians 6:19 we are told that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, subsequently, in verse 20 Paul says that we should glorify God with our bodies. These scriptures are commonly used or seen in the context of sex but I believe it also applies to how we take care of our bodies through the food we eat.
God has called each of us to fulfil a unique purpose on this earth, and our health will play a role in how effective we are in carrying out this work. We cannot neglect our bodies by constantly eating junk food and NOT exercising and be surprised when we fall sick or constantly feel sluggish/tired. We need to learn to exercise self-control and say no to unhealthy meals. Don’t think because you’re a University student on a low budget that gives you a legitimate excuse to live on a diet of junk food. Because it doesn’t. Yes, fruits and vegetables may be a little bit more pricey but when you sit down and calculate how much you spend on take outs and unhealthy meals, you’ll find that it’s actually cheaper to buy healthier ingredients and prepare meals yourself. If you don’t know how to cook
then I’m giving you the side-eye there are a ton of free resources and websites such as Pinterest that provide easy recipes to follow.
The type of food you eat is important but also important is the quantity of food you eat. As I mentioned earlier, we live in a culture that encourages over-eating and so it might seem normal to feel bloated and uncomfortable after every meal. This might simply be a by-product of a lack of self-control. If you can’t exercise self-control in the seemingly little things like the amount of food you eat, how do you expect to do so for larger things like sexual desires, and anger?
God has called each of us to fulfil a unique purpose on this earth, and our health will play a role in how effective we are in carrying out this work.
The opening verse above likens someone who lacks self-control to a city with broken down walls. A city with broken walls is not protected. Enemy forces can easily gain access to it and destroy the people, houses, etc Similarly a person who lacks self-control is giving the enemy free access to themselves and as a result such a person is more likely to fall prey to sin. Christ died so that we would no longer be enslaved by our fleshly desires. Paul tells us in Romans 8:12 that we are no longer obligated to do what our flesh urges us to do.
The other area I want to highlight is our words. This is an equally crucial area where self-control is NEEDED. The words we speak have a much greater impact on the lives of those around us and even ourselves. Proverbs 18: 21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue; and they that love it shall eat its fruit. Not too long ago, I posted a little rant on Facebook about how this verse does NOT support the popular idea that we as human beings can ‘speak things into existence’. That’s a post for another day but this verse is important in highlighting that the words we speak are very powerful and can either be used for positive & good things or evil things.
James 3:7-8 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
People, not every. single. thing. that comes into your head needs to be spoken. This is a valuable lesson that I’m constantly learning. When in doubt, sometimes it is better to keep silent. We cannot un-say words. Once we’ve spoken them, they are out in the open. Even if we apologise and didn’t really mean it, the fact remains that the words have been said. I’ve seen firsthand how the words we speak can cause unnecessary arguments, resentment and division with those around us, particularly loved ones.
Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
2 Timothy 2:23 Again, I say don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach and be patient with difficult people.
It’s not everyday you must say what’s on your mind, clap back or try to put people in their place. It’s also not everyday that you must repeat what you’ve been told in confidence to a third party. In fact, you shouldn’t ever really do that unless what you’ve been told is a cause for serious concern and you think could lead to very horrible consequences.
We are no longer slaves to our flesh.
Proverbs 10:19 Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.
Alright, so it’s all well and good for me to shout ‘Exercise self-control!’ but how exactly are you supposed to do so? It’s simple: the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 1:7 that God has given us a spirit of self-control aka the Counselor, the Advocate.
John 14:26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
The Holy Spirit will teach you how to exercise self-control. This isn’t something that happens overnight. As you read this, the Holy Spirit may have already highlighted one or both of these areas and particular scenarios where you could have done with controlling yourself in the past. This is good! What you shouldn’t do is feel bad and condemn yourself for past indiscretion (Romans 8:1) Instead, thank God for sending the Holy Spirit who is transforming our lives from the inside out and making us look more and more like Christ and less like our old selves (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Now that you know better, you also need to do better. The Holy Spirit will help you, guide you and convict you but the Holy Spirit will not physically hold your mouth so you don’t say certain things or eat too much food. Ultimately, it is down to you to make better choices with how much/what you eat and the words you speak.
For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.