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Self-Control: The Breakthrough Factor

Today we are focused on what I think of as one of the toughest traits to exercise: self-control.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but there is so much freedom in restraint. When we exercise self-control, we will always encounter breakthrough. Even in the little areas. When we practice self-control in one area, it automatically influences all other areas of our lives.

A lack of self-control can tend to create a spirit of greed & not being satisfied with what we already have.

Greed can lead to a cycle of addiction. That insatiable hunger for always wanting more. It gets in the way of our destiny, joy & progress. Greed can take the shape of many things: the constant longing for something, never to be satisfied, worrying about loss, becoming addicted to our pain...the list goes on.

When we cling to our pain it feels like hoarding and is a form of greed used to soothe us mentally, physically, and emotionally. This is in essence a pain addiction. & this will lead us in an endless cycle of being unfulfilled.

It leaves us stranded in a way, never reaching our full potential.

With phrases like “Follow your truth” , “Do you”, or just following whatever feels “good”, no wonder we find it hard to focus on controlling our emotions, passions, desires, addictions, etc. Being led by self & not by the Holy Spirit is a choice.

We have the freedom to choose what we allow into our minds & bodies. One is life & the other produces death (strongholds, addictions, anxieties, confusion, etc) in our lives.

The wonderful thing about self-control is that it produces total freedom. We have the choice if we are going to live a Spirit-led life or not. Letting the Spirit lead us will fully empower us & steer us towards our destiny.

One thing that has really helped me, is the realization that no temptation is too strong that the Holy Spirit is powerless to intervene. It is a conscious choice to choose temptation and we are given the Holy Spirit (the same Holy Spirit that dwelled within Jesus when he was tempted) to conquer whatever we come up against. The more we practice self-control, even in the small areas, the more making wise choices will become a habit.

I love the Message Translation of this verse below. It paints a vividly realistic picture of how life goes when we are living through and for ourselves.

It says:

It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; an accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit the Kingdom.” {Galatians 5:19-21- The Message Translation}

I never really thought of those things as being a result of lack of self-control. I love the way that self-control is phrased too- from the lens of trying to get your own way all the time.

So what are some practical ways we can go about walking in self-control?

There are two practices that I believe are key to inspire self-control & the desire to choose a Spirit-empowered life.


This is so important when it comes to self-control. It gets things that we are struggling with out & verbalized. Finding at least one person who you can be accountable and honest with & have them ask you, “Where are you?”

Explain to them where you are at in life, whatever the problem may be. Then have them ask you, “Where do you want to be?” & respond with what you would like to see transformed in your life. An example of this would be:

“Where are you?”

“I can’t stop spending money on shopping sprees or even on just buying things because they are on sale!”

“Where do you want to be?”

“I want to be able to walk past a shoe store or browsing online, be able to admire the shoes & keep walking.”

This is a minor example, as we almost all have pretty intense things with which we are dealing.

This is a sort of discipline, but the exciting thing about discipline (in any area of our lives) is that it starts to turn into a desire to live a life that is life-giving.


Fasting is one of those things that is initially unpleasant as we sort out areas of our lives that need addressing.

We can choose to fast from food, certain foods, tv/Netflix, social media, soda, caffeine, sugar, the list is endless.

Fasting causes breakthrough.

One of my all time favorite theologians/psychologists, Dr. Dan Allender, says this:

“Fasting enters the terrain of loss for the sake of hope. It requires relinquishing one’s body at the point when it most craves satisfaction. Fasting is a testing, a cleansing & a desert struggle with the idols that dull the body. Fasting calls us to enter our orphaned, exiled & widowed heart. Fasting is the act of ridding ourselves of our fullness to attune our senses to the mysteries that swirl in & around us.”

I had never heard fasting put like this until I read these words. They are so true. It is a cleansing & an acknowledgment that our own strength is not enough.

In this we begin to know peace. It is a detox & a ridding of counterfeits to our spirit. I like the idea of fasting from habits like TV, social media or junk food like sugar, caffeine, or alcohol. Some people, like me, are unable to do day long fasts from food, but I have found that I love intermittent fasting!

Choosing a window of 8 hrs in your day where you eat is not only a physical discipline, it is also incredibly good for your health. It eliminates gimmicky diets, and it’s been proven to lower disease and inflammation, improve brain health, & regenerate the body at a cellular level. In every area though, make sure you are listening to your body & doing a lot of your own research as well.


Take at least three days to fast from something in particular that you have made sort of a habit or that you’ve relied on in your everyday life. Something that is not a necessity. Examples could be sugar, coffee, a Netflix show, drinking, fast food, social media, etc.

Write down how you are progressively feeling each of the three days. Did you miss the thing you gave up? Did it get any easier? Did you not really think about it? Then at the end of the three days, take time to reflect on how your attitude was shifted, how your character was strengthened or any breakthroughs that were experienced!

If you are used to being on social media or in front of the tv, for a certain time every day, try cutting that time in half for at least 3 days!

Write down a list of any unhealthy habits, food choices, addictions that you may have. Start slow & pick just one area that you want to focus on dealing with.

Over the course of 3 weeks, greatly reduce your engagement in whatever activity/food/etc that it is. Track how you are feeling & the emotions that arise from working towards getting to the root of whatever it is that has drawn you to this habit or that would make it hard to give up.

Giving up things is never easy.

Over the next few days (or really however long you like!) start to implement at least one new, healthy habit that takes the place of something that you are giving up or working towards decreasing in your life. Make it something that is not only beneficial, but enjoyable too! It could be anything from picking up a new hobby, finding a way to serve someone, creating a new recipe that is a delicious alternative to an otherwise unhealthy food, etc. .

The possibilities are really endless!

Practice minimalism! Even in the small areas.

Take some time to write out at least 10 practical areas or ways that you can simplify your lifestyle. I find that my mind is significantly clearer after deep cleaning and getting rid of a lot that I don't need or use. A few other ways to practice minimalism: create a budget that helps limit unnecessary spending and encourages saving. The practice of fasting is also a form of minimalism. (Minimalism blog post coming soon!)




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