Written by Adam Brown / April 2017
Self-control. A term that college students are very familiar with. From eating and homework habits, to physical health, all the way to alcohol, drugs, and sexual immorality, self-control is very prevalent topic in our lives. For the first time we get to control how we live. We don’t have our parents there to tell us how to react to temptations or what kind of habits we should adopt. We may not have the guidance we need to create life-long practices that will reflect our Christian identity. However, these temptations, and many more, will be the initial tests that all of us will face on our way to a life full of self-control. I hope these next few passages along with my personal experiences will encourage you to be more aware of the ongoing temptations you face every day, and to always remember that God will be by your side as you fight those temptations.
The first passage I have selected is a section of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians where he is providing examples of what we should use self-control to avoid. Paul alludes back to the children of Israel and all the temptations they fell victim to as they were coming out of the land of Egypt and into the Promised Land.
1 Corinthians 10: 6-13: “Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
Whenever you are faced with self-control issues or you are identifying common temptations, it is so important that we go back to God and ask him to help us build those walls and keep those temptations at bay.
As we read all the examples of what we should avoid as followers of Christ, the passage ends with a comforting reminder. Paul reminds us that God knows that we cannot overcome temptations by ourselves, but through His grace, He fights those temptations for us and in us. We have the assurance that Christ has provided an escape from the consequences of the temptations that we fall victim to everyday with the forgiveness that has been bought by Christ’s blood on the cross. Although the children of Israel fell into temptation many times, Paul encourages us to take our troubles to the Lord, and He will guide us down a path of righteousness.
The next passage to encourage self-control was also written by Paul. However, instead of displaying what we should avoid, he points to the qualities that God seeks in His servants.
Titus 1:7-9, “For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.”
Although self-control is a building block to many of these other qualities, the characteristics of a servant of Christ reach beyond self-control alone. The words of Paul give followers of Christ a great understanding of the qualities that we should all strive to adopt in our daily lives on our mission of creating a lifestyle that is God-pleasing.
The last verse that I want to draw your attention to (though there are many more) is from King Solomon in the book of Proverbs. As one of my favorite books of the Bible, Proverbs is a great place to go if you ever want to read a few verses that will really get you thinking.
Proverbs 25:28, “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.”
As college students, as I mentioned before, we are just starting to form habits that could ultimately last a lifetime. King Solomon gives us a great simile to describe the extreme importance of self-control. Without building a firm foundation on God’s Word, our spirit is left vulnerable to attacks from the devil and all his temptations. Whenever you are faced with self-control issues or you are identifying common temptations, it is so important that we go back to God and ask him to help us build those walls and keep those temptations at bay.
The development of self-control will never be an easy task and is a quality that all of us need to improve. Paul provides examples of what we should avoid and the characteristics we should strive to attain, and King Solomon displays the importance of self-control. But how do we actually improve? I don’t have the answers, but I want to suggest some ideas that may help.
One of the best ways to resist sinful urges is to have the desire to resist them.
1) Christian Fellowship: One of the pieces of my own spiritual well-being that I used to take for granted. It was not until this last year that I finally realized just how important it is to take part in Christian fellowship. Conversation and collaboration with fellow believers is one of the best ways to motivate and encourage yourself along with others. I have found that my faith and self-control have strengthened immensely just by interacting with peers about the beliefs that we share. Whether it be a daily, weekly, or even monthly gathering with your Christian peers, you can absolutely strengthen your self-control.
2) Study of Scripture: Dusting off your Bible and reading God’s Word. Apart from Christian fellowship, you can study Scripture by yourself and on your own schedule. I find it very helpful to follow a daily reading schedule and reading from different parts of the Bible to gain different Biblical perspectives. Also, not only reading, but writing down your opinions and taking notes can be very beneficial for organizing your thoughts and improving your self-control.
3) Prayer: Any time, any place. Having a conversation with God is one of the most motivating aspects in my life. Even if I stop to pray for 30 seconds, I always feel more confident that I can handle any situation after I have talked to God. Our Lord is always listening and is always ready to answer our prayers. We should always take advantage of that opportunity to ask God for His continuous support when fighting temptation.
4) Find the Gospel: The encouragement we need. One of the best ways to resist sinful urges is to have the desire to resist them. The Gospel is the place to find encouragement after we have reflected on God’s Law. Our appreciation and love for God’s Law comes from the fact that He loved us first, which is why we need to hear the Gospel. We need to talk about the Gospel in our Christian fellowship and find it in every section of the Bible as a hidden treasure. We need to reflect and meditate upon the Gospel and apply it to our own lives. The Good News will unlock another level of motivation and desire to live a life full of self-control.
God works in mysterious ways, and will never put us in positions where He will not help us. He will always provide us the tools and resources that we need to overcome every single challenge in our life. Being a college student, sometimes it can be very difficult to turn away from temptation because it is in our face every day, and as we continue to pursue a life full of self-control, there is no doubt that we may fall short. Nevertheless, we need to rise up, ask forgiveness, and continue to strive to glorify God in all that we do.
I will leave you with the powerful and encouraging words from Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”