According to goskills.com, the ten most common New Year’s resolutions are:
Learn a new skill or hobby
Live life to the fullest
Save more money / spend less money
Spend more time with family and friends
When you think about it, most of these resolutions have one thing in common: self-control (or the lack thereof). Our resolutions to improve our lives boil down to controlling ourselves.
The word translated “self-control” in the Bible literally means “in power.” It refers to mastery of one’s own desires and impulses.
Sounds very simple, but it’s easier said than done. Aristotle called self-control “the hardest victory.”
Financially, we are out of control. According to NerdWallet’s annual analysis of U.S. household debt, the average revolving credit card debt for Americans is almost $7000.
Physically, we are often out-of-balance. Either we are overweight, obese, with no exercise…or we are totally obsessed with the way we look and go to all extremes to lose weight and look great.
Emotionally, it seems like our culture is out of control. Suicides are as high as they’ve ever been. School killings, road rage, out-of-control kids and teenagers.
Morally, we seem to have lost our bearings. What was once taboo and rejected, is now applauded. There seems to be no more limits. Whatever you want to do, it’s okay. And we seem to be addicted to everything under the sun.
So, we can be out of control with our tongues, our thoughts, our time, our treasures and our tempers. As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us.” My biggest problem is…me. Little ‘ole me is a big ‘ole problem! So, what can I do to truly master myself? Because as one Greek philosopher said, “No man is truly free until he masters himself.” I feel the Apostle Paul’s pain when he stated that the things he wanted to do, he didn’t do; and the things he didn’t want to do, he actually did (Romans 7). As we all know, when it comes to mastering ourselves, the struggle is real. Let me mention THE foundational principle and practice that will help us experience self-control:
Abide in Christ.
This is really the key for developing self-control and defeating any sin in your life. Imagine putting a tea bag in a cup of hot water. As the tea bag remains, or abides in that water, the tea begins to color and flavor the water until that water begins to take on the color and taste of the tea bag. The longer the tea bag abides in the water, the stronger the color and taste of the tea. That is exactly what happens when we we abide in Christ and He abides in us. The longer we abide in Christ, the more the influence of Christ will pervade our lives, so that we begin to reflect His nature and character.
That’s why Galatians 5 says that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. It is a by-product of what Christ produces in our lives when we abide in Him. So, if you are trying to develop self-control in an area of your life, the most important thing you can do is focus on Christ. Focus on Christ more than focusing on your issue. Here’s the key: the branch does not produce the fruit; it only bears the fruit. It is the vine that produces the fruit. Remember Jesus is the vine and you are the branch (John 15)
Finally, what does it practically mean to “abide in Christ”? In John 15, Jesus gives us four practical things we can do:
1. Study the Word of God (John 15:7)
2. Do the work of God (John 15:5)
3. Obey the will of God (John 15:10)
4. Accept the love of God (John 15:9)
May you and I abide in Christ in 2019, and see the fruit of self-control (and Spirit-control) in our lives!