The operational definition of self-control is “instant obedience to the initial promptings of God’s Spirit.” At salvation, a person is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit within reminds the Christian of God’s Word, convicts him of sin, and comforts him in trials. The Spirit’s direction will always be in accordance with God’s Word and His ways. Many people in the Bible learned to recognize God’s voice. The Spirit’s promptings are not audible but can be perceived within a believer’s spirit. A Christian develops sensitivity to the Holy Spirit by spending regular time with God and responding immediately when He speaks. The Holy Spirit may prompt a believer to rise right away when his alarm rings, to give a Gospel tract to a stranger, or to respond graciously in a frustrating situation. Although anyone can seemingly control himself for a time, only the person yielded to God’s Spirit can experience freedom from sin. (See Romans 6:22–23.) The indwelling Holy Spirit has the power to transform a Christian’s desires as well as his actions.
The opposite of self-control is self-indulgence. Self-indulgence is a lack of restraint, evidenced by a misuse of the good things God created. For example, God gave us taste buds so that we can enjoy eating our food. However, this pleasure is misused when a person overeats. God designed rest to rejuvenate the body, but this necessity is abused when a person is slothful. A self-indulgent person does whatever he feels like doing, even if it goes against God’s Word. He lacks the self-discipline to limit and deny himself. Proverbs 25:28 warns: “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.” Yielding to one’s natural desires leaves a person vulnerable to spiritual attacks and painful consequences. If children do not learn self-control when young, as adult citizens they will not govern themselves responsibly. Consequently, they will require more oversight by authorities, who will govern with excessive laws and regulations. Self-control safeguards society from corruption, because human desires become harmful when they are indulged, abused, or fulfilled outside of God’s boundaries.
- Do I carefully consider what I am about to say and do before taking action?
- Is my eating controlled, or do I indulge in too much food?
- Am I willing to trade extra sleep or playtime for daily time in God’s Word?
- If someone wrongs me, do I react in anger and try to retaliate?
- What personal limits have I set for myself to guard against temptation?
- Am I committed to speaking well of others and rejecting gossip?
- When do I set aside times to abstain from food, entertainment, or other pleasures in order to spend focused time with God?
- Am I quick to listen and slow to speak, or do I react hastily?
More About Self-Control
God enables me to:
Avoid acting impulsively.
Not equate my desires with rights.
Set my own limits.
Consider myself dead to sin.
Walk away from things that are not right.
See anger as a sign that something is wrong.
Yield to righteousness.
Choose to fast.
Self-Control in Scripture
A Perfect Opportunity for Revenge
Revealed in Nature
Biblical Character Illustrated Curriculum
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Free Resources for Self-Control
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