“Today, I’m going to do it!”—and that was the end of whatever problem they were facing. I tried that approach, but my efforts invariably lasted all of two days. I always assumed that I had no self-control, or at least not enough, and gave up on the whole idea.
Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13b–14 (NRSV)
Of course, my problems—laziness, distance from God, too much TV—would rear their heads again. Yet when I finally began to face them, I discovered that all of my assumptions were utterly wrong: self-control isn’t about one decisive declaration. It’s making choices over and over, day after day, and starting over again when we slip up, which we will. It’s reminding ourselves what we are trying to accomplish and why it’s important. As Paul said, we are runners with our eyes fixed on the prize. Self-control isn’t saying once and for all “I’m done with X,” or “I’m going to do Y.” It’s living out those words every day.
PRACTICE SELF-CONTROL: Galatians 5:22–23 names self-control as evidence of a life led by God’s Spirit. Talk with God about the attitudes or behaviors over which you want to gain control. Ask for strength to keep trying and courage to start over when you slip.