Welcome to week eight of our Renew Your Mind Challenge! I am so glad you have joined us! In this 13-week challenge, I am sharing with you the single most life-changing truth I have personally discovered.
I will update the links below as I post them.
1. Back to the Beginning
2. Fix Your Mind
3. Accepting His Love
4. Love Into Joy
5. Joy Into Peace
6. Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness
9. Overcome Evil With Good
I used to be depressed, needy, easily offended, anxious, stressed – the list goes on. Now I am happy, fulfilled, and at peace. I discovered the answer at 29 years of age. The secret to happiness lies in your inner response to life: perceptions, intentions, feelings, thought patterns, beliefs. Come along with me and let your faith come alive to you in a new way – a way that will change everything. Each week, we will focus on one small yet powerful action we can take to change our inner life, and renew ourselves into the love of God.
For most of this challenge, we have focused on developing the fruits of the Spirit inside us, and on letting our actions and reactions to life flow out of right heart responses. Now, we have come to the end of the list. There is only one more fruit: self-control.
It is easy to see that self-control is the natural endpoint that the fruits of the Spirit lead to. We begin with love, and progress to joy and peace, which together create a secure and fulfilled state of heart. Out of this heart, patient, kind, good, and gentle responses to the people and situations around us flow naturally. Over time and with practice, we develop faithfulness, as we grow stronger and stronger. The natural next step is that of self-control. Self-control occurs when we are no longer striving and struggling to control our wayward actions. We are no longer covering up lustful, empty selfish desires and cravings. Self-control occurs when we are filled with the Spirit on the inside, and our outward actions reflect the true state of our heart.
We often view self-control as will-power. We think that people with self-control must be miserable, because they deny themselves what they truly want. We assume they are controlled by the same lusts and selfish motives inside as everyone else, but are somehow strong enough on the outside to overcome these desires. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no such thing as outer strength arising from inner weakness.
On the contrary, true self-control is control of the inner self. Control of the inner self does not happen by domination, by drowning out, resisting, or covering up its demands, placing a band-aid of “right actions” over inner emptiness. Control of the inner self occurs when its demands are met; when the only remedy that can satisfy its lusts, once and for all, is provided. Divine love – it’s what we were all made for and it is the answer to every desire, every urge, every lust, every hurt, every brokenness.
A heart whose lustful urges and selfish desires have been silenced in the satisfaction of divine love is the secret to self-control. The only way to truly demonstrate control of one’s self is not by conquering one’s self but by letting the inner self be overwhelmed by the love of God. Then the self-control demonstrated by outward actions is genuine, and in line with inner desires.
The Bible teaches that we must deny ourselves and our lustful desires. This happens as every day, in every moment, we consciously make the choice to surrender to divine love on the inside. As we do this our selfish desires slowly die. We don’t need them anymore. We have found a better way of living. When God (Love, the Spirit: all different words for the same thing) is inside us, our inside looks like God and our outer actions in turn look like God. That’s what this whole study has been about.
The challenge for this week is to focus on self-control. In those times when you are tempted to indulge yourself in a way that is wrong or unhealthy for you, notice your level of self-control. Has it grown naturally over the past few weeks since we began this challenge? Is it easier to say “no” to lusts and cravings? Take yourself back to that space of love inside your heart when you are tempted to eat 10 cookies instead of 2. Or when you feel the need to snap at your spouse in frustration. Rest in that space; feel how loved, secure, and deeply happy you are. Do you still feel the need for that extra cookie? Do you still feel an urge to snap?
Week Eight Challenge: Allow your self-control to grow naturally by letting your inner self to be flooded with the love of God. Don’t strive or struggle against wrong desires and cravings. Rest in the satisfaction of love and let the desires and cravings be swallowed up in love.