Revive Our Hearts Podcast

You Can Develop More Self-Control

Leslie Basham: Trials could be very helpful to you in 2010. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You want to be spiritually mature? Then you’ve got to have staying power—steadfastness. You want to have steadfastness? Then you have to have trials to test it. It’s not just having the trials that makes you steadfast. It’s responding to those trials with faith and joy. There are a lot of people who go through trials and don’t come out steadfast. You only come out steadfast if you receive them and count it all joy.

Leslie: You’re listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, January 15.

One of our listeners had this to say about the program that aired yesterday:

The message today is an answer to my prayer. Right now at this moment, I’m struggling intensely with sexual purity. I was not raised in a Christian home, but I’ve always felt in my heart that intimacy outside of marriage is wrong. Now I know firsthand just how destructive it can be. I look forward to the message tomorrow on how to get self-control. Please pray for me.

Well, we’re about to hear that message on self-control. It’s part of the series, Adding to Your Faith.

Nancy: We talked in the last session about self-control being self-denial, limiting, voluntarily placing limits on our freedom, not just giving into our bodies or our flesh. I think we all agree that self-control is important. It’s something we need. It’s something we feel we fail to have. But I want us to understand today that this issue of self-control is not primarily a matter of sheer human effort or willpower.

There’s a sense in which an unbeliever can exercise willpower. I mean, unbelievers can go on diets and lose weight. They can just say, “I’m just not going to eat this,” or “I’m going to go on Adkins,” or “I’m going to go on Weight Watchers,” or “I’m going to go to this class.” They can sign up at the “Y” for an exercise program or aerobics class and stick with it by just sheer will power. It has nothing to do necessarily with God enabling self-control in their lives.

Unbelievers can be disciplined in their use of time. They can be highly disciplined people. But I find many Christians who are striving and struggling to be more disciplined, to exercise self-control and finding that it often leads—if it’s just human willpower or human effort—it leads to one of two things.

The first is frustration and failure. You find that you blow it. You may have many areas of your life that are well-disciplined and under control, but then there’s that one area of your life, and you keep getting stuck in that.

I find for me, and I’ve talked about this on Revive Our Hearts before, the issue of food is one of those for me. Sometimes my reasoning goes like this, “I have to be disciplined in every other area of my life, so why can’t I have this one thing where I just let my hair down and let go?” The problem is, and some of you who are my friends know this, when I let go in that one area of my life, other areas start to tumble.

Well, if we just exercise sheer human willpower, we’re going to find there are one or more areas of our lives where we just get frustrated and fail. Then we’re tempted to give up. We get discouraged. We get into this recurring cycle of defeat.

Or perchance we succeed. That leads to that sin of self-righteousness. “I’ve got it down. I’m a disciplined person. I kept my New Year’s resolutions.” Sheer willpower—neither of those is pleasing to the Lord.

The biblical view of self-control goes way beyond sheer willpower. It goes beyond what we can do on our own. It’s something that’s supernatural.

But self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. We need the Holy Spirit to deal with the passions, the drives, the desires of our flesh. That’s why we read in Ephesians chapter 5 this contrast. “Don’t get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery.” That’s excess; that’s lack of self-control. That’s self-indulgence. I think you could say instead of “Don’t be drunk with wine”—“Don’t go on an eating binge,” or “Don’t go on a spending binge.” Don’t do anything that is excessively just giving in to the lusts and the passions and the drives of your flesh.

“But instead,” here’s the contrast, “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (verses 18-19). Get under the control of the Holy Spirit. Instead of excessive, intemperate living, be under the control of the Holy Spirit in every area of your life because He is your source of power to say "no" to your flesh and "yes" to God.

Now in that light, let me ask you to turn to the book of Galatians chapter 5. Let’s just read through a passage there that I think gives us such hope and help in this area of self-control.

Galatians chapter 5, first verse 16. The apostle Paul says, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh."

If you find that you’re being under the dominion of the drives and passions of your flesh, then that means you’re not walking by the Spirit. You can’t be under the control of the Spirit and at the same time be a slave to your flesh.

So he says, instead of just telling them, "Don’t gratify the desires of the flesh.” He says, “Instead walk by the Spirit,” in the power of the Holy Spirit. You’ll be doing one or the other. You’ll either be walking by the Spirit, or you will be gratifying the desires of your flesh.

Now go down to verse 19. He says,

Now the works of the flesh are evident. [If you are giving into your flesh, here are the kinds of things that are going to come out in greater or lesser degrees.] Sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, murder, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.

So if you think whatever your besetting sin is wasn’t on that list, that’s why he adds, “and things like these.” That’s to include your sin. He says,

I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (verses 19-21).

He’s saying the children of God will not be characterized by these things, by excess. That doesn’t mean they will never perhaps do some of these things, but it means this will not be a way of life. They will not be characterized by these things. They will not embrace these things. They will not enjoy them. They will want to be free from the dominion of their flesh.

And then he goes on to say,

Instead of the works of the flesh, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and [what’s number nine?] self-control (verse 22).

The last of those nine virtues and graces contrasted with what we just read in that other list: fits of anger, sexual sin, drunkenness, carousing. Those things are the opposite of self-control.

Then verse 24, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

You know what that means? You are no longer under the control or the dominion of your flesh if you’re a child of God. You have the power through God’s Spirit to say “no.” You don’t have to be a slave to spending or to eating or to sex or to hobbies that take more time than they should.

So verse 25, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”

Just consider these questions as you think about the issue of self-control in your life:

  • Do you have any recurring, besetting sinful habits, any areas of bondage in your life, areas where you’re not free?

Every time Satan yanks your cord you come running. Every time he rings the bell, you come running to answer.

  • Are you enslaved, addicted to anything that’s not holy, healthy, or wholesome? 
  • Do you exercise self-control with your tongue, with your words, in your moods, with your emotions?
  • Are you self-controlled in your body, what you eat, what you drink, how you treat your body?
  • Are you self-controlled with your time, entertainment, hobbies, habits?
  • Are you self-controlled with your spending?
  • How about sexually? Are you self-controlled? Do you possess your body in honor and purity as Paul said to the Thessalonians.

The computer, the Internet—are you under the bondage, under the control, or perhaps in an emotional entanglement in the work place or electronically on the computer. Listen, with this email and Internet thing, one of the most dangerous things for women is developing these relationships through electronic means. They’re not real; they’re not holy; they’re not healthy. They lead many times to greater and sexual sin.

Are you in bondage to something, someone you’ve been communicating with? You know it’s wrong. You’re sharing things you know you shouldn’t be sharing. You’re sending emails you know you shouldn’t be sending. You’re responding to instant messaging or whatever some of these things are. If you need to get rid of your computer, get rid of your Internet service, whatever you need to do, I just want to challenge you. This is not an area worth losing self-control. It will destroy you. It will devastate you. It’s not worth it.

I just want to encourage you in whatever the areas of your life are that you see a lack of self-control, a need for self-control to say, “Lord, I’m indulging my flesh in this area. I’ll be honest. This area of my life is not under Your control. It’s an area that’s controlling me.” Name it to the Lord, whatever it is. And then say, “Lord, by Your power, by Your promises, by Your grace I surrender control of that area of my life and every area of my life to the power and the control of Your Holy Spirit.”

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been offering us practical steps to developing that elusive quality, self-control. She’ll be right back.

That message is part of the series, Adding to Your Faith. When you donate any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts, we’ll say “Thanks” by sending the entire series on CD. Imagine driving around listening to this message in your car CD player. Think how valuable this reminder on self-control will be as pressures hit you throughout the day.

Along with the series, you’ll also receive the booklet, Making the Most of Your Time. Crucial reading in January.

You can donate at ReviveOurHearts.com, and we’ll send both resources to you, or donate by phone. The number is 1-800-569-5959.

Now, let’s get back to the series, Adding to Your Faith.

Nancy: How many of you have a can of WD-40 in your house? If you don’t, you should, right? Do you know what WD-40 means, where the name came from? I just learned that recently. WD stands for “water displacement.” This is a formula that was developed to prevent corrosion which is done by displacing water. Don’t ask me to explain that.

But the number 40 stands for how many tries it took the chemist to get the formula. So he tried 39 times, failed, and on the 40th attempt he succeeded. So the message of your WD-40 can in your house is: Don’t give up. Don’t quit when you meet obstacles.

But perseverance, steadfastness, is something that every one of us is called to have as a child of God. Every believer is called to have that.

The word perseverance or steadfastness in the original Greek, in which the New Testament was written, is actually a compound of two words. The first is the word for under and the second is the word for abide or to stay. It means "to stay under," "to abide under something." It has to do with patience or endurance, particularly in relation to things or circumstances.

There’s another word as it talks about patience as it relates to trying people, difficult people. We need both of those, but in this particular context, it’s talking about persevering, enduring when you find yourself under difficult circumstances in your life. It has to do with staying power. In the time of trial or testing, the person who has steadfastness or perseverance doesn’t crater under tough circumstances.

So perseverance/steadfastness has to do with enduring patiently, but it’s not just a passive word. It’s not like: "I’m just going to grit my teeth and bare this, and I’ll get through it, somehow." It’s actually an active word. It has to do with overcoming difficulties. Not just surviving them, but overcoming them by responding to them with faith and joy. That’s steadfastness. That’s perseverance.

Some of the antonyms or opposite words in the New Testament for perseverance or steadfastness are interesting. Opposite words are: indignation, anger, and wrath. You say, “Wow! I wouldn’t have thought that anger or wrath or indignation was the opposite of steadfastness or perseverance.”

But think about it. If you respond to the circumstances that come into your life, the testing, trials in your life, if you respond to them with faith and joy; then you’re not going to be ripped off. You’re not going to be groaning, complaining, resenting the circumstances. You’re not going to be blowing off steam and talking about how hard it is and being angry at your circumstances. You’re going to be embracing them, holding up and holding firm under those circumstances. So it’s an active word.

Now indignation, anger, wrath: those are natural ways. Irritation. I used to tell some of my friend’s kids when they were little, and I was involved in those kids' lives, I would say, “I never get irritated.” Those kids actually believed me! They believed that I never got irritated. Well, I do get irritated at times; and sometimes, a lot of times, it’s inward. Sometimes it comes outwardly. It’s a natural response.

Somebody cuts you off on the freeway, or somebody doesn’t show up on time for an appointment, or your husband forgets some important anniversary in your life or a date or something he said he would do, or he signs you up for something and doesn’t check with you first. I mean, life is just full of—you get started, where do you stop? It’s the little things, it’s the big things, but it’s natural to resent those things, to chafe against them, to get irritated, even angry.

But when we look at the Scripture and the New Testament in particular, about how we are to respond to difficult or irritating circumstances, it’s really clear how God wants us to respond. I’m just going to read these verses, they’re familiar to you, but I think we need to be reminded of them from time to time.

James chapter 1:

Count it all joy, my brothers [and sisters], when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces [here’s that word] steadfastness [to hold up under]. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (verses 2-4).

  • You want to be spiritually mature? Then you’ve got to have staying power, steadfastness.
  • You want to have steadfastness? Then you have to have trials to test it.

It’s not just having the trials that makes you steadfast. It’s responding to those trials with faith and joy. There are a lot of people who go through trials and don’t come out steadfast. You only come out steadfast if you receive them and count it all joy.

Same thing in Romans chapter 5: “We rejoice in our sufferings.” Think about those words. “We rejoice.” This is the apostle Paul who knew a lot about suffering. “We rejoice in our sufferings?” How? Why? Because we know that “suffering produces endurance.” Same word: to hold up under. And endurance/steadfastness “produces character [godly character], and character produces hope” (verses 3-4).

We want the end result: the hope, the character, even the steadfastness—without going through what it takes to get there. There is only one way to develop steadfastness, perseverance, endurance, and it’s to go through trials. There are no shortcuts. There are no other ways to get this quality in our lives. It requires circumstances that seem to be unbearable or unfair.

It may be just general trials, it may be chastening for sin, it may be undeserved affliction. 1 Peter 2:20 says, “If you do well and suffer for”—there are a lot of different kinds of affliction, a lot of different kinds of suffering, but to all of them, the Scripture says we endure. We face it with joy. We run this race with endurance because we keep our eyes on Jesus, who endured. As we look to Him, we’re able to endure and not to grow weary or fainthearted in our trials (see Hebrews 12:1-2).

As we endure we remember that there is a reward promised for steadfastness. What is it? James chapter 1:

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him (verse 12).

There’s a crown waiting. There’s a reward. There’s a resurrection after the cross.

So stay up under the trial. Be steadfast; WD-40 however many times. You say, “Yes, I wish it had just been 40 times with my husband. It’s been 400 times or 4,000 times.” Well first of all, your husband has probably had to endure some things with you, too.

But regardless, God is a faithful God who endures us, is patient and longsuffering with us. He calls us to be steadfast, to persevere, maybe through seasons of unanswered prayer, unexplained providences, things God does that you just can’t understand—persevering when you’re waiting for God to act, even waiting for God to change the heart of that son or daughter or that mate or to change your life circumstance.

Maybe you’re single and just longing for marriage and children, and you feel like that’s what you’d like to give your life to, but God hasn’t brought that to you. Persevere. Endure.

Maybe you are married but it’s to a man who is not a believer or he’s not quite sanctified yet—imagine that. God calls you to persevere, to endure.

It may be that you’re caring for elderly parents in that tough season of life. Endure. Persevere. Hold up under it. “Count it all joy.”

It may be that you’re home schooling four or five or six little ones, maybe it’s just one little one but it seems like four or five or six. It’s not just one day you have to endure, it’s day after day after day, and you say, “I’ve got years left of this.” Endure. Hold up under it. That’s why God gives you His promises and His power so that you can be steadfast.

I think of one of our listeners who is caring virtually 24/7 for a 23-year-old quadriplegic son. Endurance. Steadfastness. She’s developing steadfastness because she’s persevering under that trial, and God is giving her grace.

Maybe you’re persevering through failure, through obstacles in your fight to overcome sin and those sinful habits. Persevere. Endure. There’s a reward. There’s a crown promised.

The persevering may be in your church. It doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, and you’re so burdened. You say, “I want to see revival in our church.” Endure. Be steadfast under trial. There’s a crown promised.

And so we ask ourselves these questions:

  • How does your faith hold up under pressure, under fire, under circumstances, under testing?
  • Do you keep trusting and loving and obeying God even when His choices for your life are not what you would have chosen? You say, “I wouldn’t have written the script that way.”

Listen, God knows how to write the script for your life. He’s wise; He’s loving. The question is: Are you enduring? Are you steadfast? When hard times come, as they will, do you throw in the towel? Do you give up after a few days or weeks or months? You say, “It’s been years.”

Listen, in light of eternity, years are nothing. I know there’s something right now while you’re enduring them, but fix your eyes on eternity. Say, “Lord, there’s a crown. It’s for those who are steadfast and loving and show their love for You by being steadfast. I want to love You through this.”

Think about the trials or afflictions, little or big, that you may be facing at this time. Are you enduring steadfastly? Are you counting it all joy? Are you rejoicing in your tribulations?

“Blessed is the person who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test . . .” And God knows how long this course needs to last. “When he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

Leslie: When you develop the quality of steadfastness, you will experience great joy. I hope that message will stay with you as you face small or big trials today. That message is part of the series, Adding to Your Faith. I hope you’ll find out how to get a copy for yourself at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Have you ever thought through why God uniquely created you as a woman? Revive Our Hearts is inviting thousands of women to explore that question in 2010. I hope you’ll make plans to join great multitudes of your sisters who will gather to hear from God’s Word, worship together and understand how they can impact the world by embracing God’s call on them as women.

The True Woman Conference will be in Dallas and Indianapolis later this fall, and it’s coming to Chattanooga March 25-27. If you register before January 31, you’ll get the early bird discount. So you’ll want to contact us soon. The first True Woman event sold out, and many women are making plans to hear from Nancy along with Pastors James MacDonald, Voddie Baucham, Kay Arthur, Mary Kassian, Fern Nichols, and many other powerful speakers in Chattanooga. Register and get all the information you need at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Do you ever wish you could just get zapped and instantly become godly? Nancy will talk about the process of godliness Monday on Revive Our Hearts.

 Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

 

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