What is Self-Control and How Do I Get It? Part One
Titus 2:4-6 Train the young women . . . to be self-controlled . . . Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.
God, give me self-control! I was 14 or 15 years old, praying this desperate prayer repeatedly, wondering why God did not answer. My testosterone-soaked mind was frustrated by impulsive thoughts that seemed beyond my control.
I did not really understand what I was asking God at the time. Twenty-five years later, I still misunderstood, and continued to pray the same desperate, frustrated prayer. God, take this addiction from me. Why will you not answer?
I was frustrated because I misunderstood self-control, my flesh nature and God. At age 14, I was asking God to magically take testosterone and/or its effects from my flesh. I wanted my desire to be supernaturally removed. I was asking God to emasculate me, which thankfully, He did not do.
I often pray this way. I do not go to God, asking what I need to change. I go to God asking for Him to change only what I want. I want to be skinny. Make me hate pizza and love broccoli. I want to be sober. Make me hate drugs and love feeding the poor. Taken to this extreme, it is easy to see my folly, but still, I pray this way sometimes.
When Paul talked about self-control, he did not tell those in his audience to do nothing but pray for it. He used action words like train, press on and put on, insisting that this is something we must choose to work at or it does not happen. This is not God-control, where He makes us automatons. This is self-control, where we learn the discipline to deny self to pursue Him.
When I change nothing, nothing changes. Being a Christian does not mean I get to circumvent this reality. I do not get to do nothing, claim the name of Christ, and magically avoid the destructive pursuits of my flesh.
So how do I gain self-control? That is for Part Two, tomorrow.