I used to be a sugar hound. Marshmallows, brownies, candies, and cookies seduced me every time. In order to take control of this obsession, I needed a clean, hard break, so I decided to fast from desserts and candy for a whole year. From doing this fast for almost a year now, I have learned six keys about the nature of self-control.
Self-control is messy, unpleasant, and painful.
Somehow we conceived the notion that controlling ourselves is supposed to be easy, but nothing could be farther from the truth. For the first few sugar-free days, I was absolutely exhausted. Everything within my body was crying out for sugar. Resistance hurt, and I was not a happy camper. Even though making the hard choice to practice self-control hurts in the here and now, later it leads to rewards. Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
Self-control is not an uphill battle the entire way.
At first, fasting can be grueling. Consistently saying “no” can steal much of our time and energy. However, if you persevere, you will quickly discover an adjustment to the new normal. Once you become accustomed to your new standards, keeping them is fairly simple. At the beginning of my sugar fast, resistance required all of my energy. Now, I can quickly fend off my occasional cravings. I have discovered that it is far more productive to fast for a longer period of time. You give yourself time to adjust to the new normal, which makes a fast less grueling.
Self-control hurts, but the consequences of not practicing self-control can be life destroying.
If you consistently lack control over your diet, you’ll end up with a boatload of health issues. If you regularly fail to turn the smartphone or computer off at a reasonable time, you will look back on your week to see wasted time and unfinished work. If you refuse to stick to a budget, you will find yourself in a hole of debt later on. Avoiding the consequences of self-indulgence is worth the fight.
Practicing self-control is like building a protective wall.
Proverbs 25:28, “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.”
When the self-control walls are broken down, anything and everything has access to you. The self-control walls prevent you from eating three pieces of chocolate cake. The self-control walls keep you from staring at Facebook for two hours. The self-control walls stop you from spending two hundred dollars in one mall trip. Even though building a wall is never easy, fortifying yourself is a necessary guard against temptation.
Self-control brings satisfaction supreme.
Having the power to say “no” to a previously powerful temptation is AWESOME!!! Talk about indescribable satisfaction! Being in control over temptation is wonderfully freeing. Take that ice cream and brownies; there’s a new boss in town!
We only have the ability to serve one thing.
In the Gospels, Jesus tells us that we can only serve one master. However, many people are trying in vain to serve two or more masters. Anything that controls you can become a master, such as sugar, social media, and spending. When we serve earthly things, we take some of our focus off of Jesus. We are now called to put aside our old, uncontrollable flesh and take up the new man. Galatians 5:24-25 says, “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” When we depend on God to help us overcome our temptations, resisting becomes easier because we are given supernatural strength that we could have never acquired on our own.
In the end, practicing self-control is never easy, but it always leads to benefits and freedom. The initial period of time during the beginning of a fast can be grueling (believe me, I know!), but it eventually becomes easier to say “no”. Self-control can prove to be fun, not only because it gives the control back to us, but because we are doing the right thing. Finally, gaining control over temptation frees up more of our devotion to be centered on Jesus.