GrowingBigInGod

Teaching, Helping and Encouraging Spiritual Growth

Principles of Spiritual Growth 4

Hello! In this session we are going to focus on self-control. We all need self-control, don’t we? Have you ever wondered why is it that so many Christians struggle in their walk with Jesus? Why is it that the temptation to sin is stronger than their ability to resist?  And why is it that when faced with tough trials, the trials easily defeat them and doubt fills their minds about God’s love for them? What is wrong? What is missing in their walk with Jesus?

The problem is that they lack self-control. Without self-control you will never be able to deal with temptation and get your sinful behavior under control, nor will you ever be able to face tough trials and be the better for them. What is missing in their walk with Jesus is a real commitment to live out the goodness of Jesus and live out God’s Word in their daily life. It is this powerful combination that produces great spiritual growth and the strength to be self-controlled. You need self-control to deal with temptations and to deal with the trials that challenge your faith that life dishes out. I hope you find this session helpful. God bless, Dick

WHAT ABOUT SELF-CONTROL?

In this session we are going to talk about SELF-CONTROL. Self-control is the ability that develops from adding goodness and knowledge to your faith that brings about great spiritual growth. As you submit yourself to Jesus and make a commitment to live out the goodness, virtues, values and character of Jesus, and as you commit yourself to reading and knowing God’s Word and living it out, a spiritual dynamic occurs. God’s presence increases in you. The more you humble yourself before God by living like Jesus, and the more you know God’s Word and live it out, the more of God’s divine grace God’s gives you.

James 4:6 AMPL But he gives more and more grace. That is why He says, God sets Himself against the proud and haughty, but gives grace continually to the lowly – those who are humble-minded.

Grace is God’s influence and empowerment that enable you to grow stronger spiritually and, in your faith, and accomplish His will in your life. As you grow spiritually, God equips you with the power to be self-controlled. This precious gift from God enables you to control your sinful desires and overcome difficult trials and do the good works of God’s grace. The key to having self-control is living like Jesus and by living out God’s Word. Without this kind of commitment to Jesus, self-control is reduced to human power, and in time this always fails.

Having self-control is necessary in the transformation process. Moving away from the old ways of your past to the new ways of God that changes you requires self-control. Self-control gives you a choices. Self-control enables you to break the grip of your sinful nature. It takes self-control to become like Jesus in character, power and behavior.

In a book by Francis Frangipane, he writes, “What men call ‘salvation’ is simply the first stage of God’s plan for our lives, which is to conform us in character and power to the image of Jesus Christ.If we fail to see our relationship to  God as such, we will allow too many areas within us to remain unchanged. Pulling down strongholds is the demolition and removal of these old ways of thinking and behaving so that the actual Presence of Jesus Christ can be manifested through us.”

In order to continue to change, you must have self-control. Without self-control you cannot tear down the sinful strongholds that still exist in you. Self-control empowers you to move away from your past sinful thinking and behavior, making it possible for you to develop new thinking and new behavior that conform to the likeness of Jesus.

As you add goodness and knowledge to your faith your personality gets an overhaul. As God’s Spirit takes over, His nature can be seen in your everyday life. The “fruits of His Spirit” come to life in you. What does God’s nature produce in you? What are the fruits of the Spirit?

Galatians 5:22-25 AMPL But the fruit of the (Holy) Spirit, [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, (meekness, humility) gentleness, and SELF-CONTROL (self-restraint, and continence). Against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus, the Messiah, have crucified the flesh – the Godless human nature – with its passions and appetites and desires.

As you continue to live out the goodness of Jesus and live by His Word, God’s Spirit flourishes in you. His divine traits become a part of who you are. Things like love, joy, gladness, peace, patience, even temper, forbearance, kindness, benevolence, faithfulness, meekness, humility, gentleness and SELF-CONTROL become apparent and prevalent in you and can be seen in your new personality.

SELF-CONTROL is a FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT.

Your ability to consistently control the sinful passions and desires of your human nature is directly tied to your commitment to live out the goodness of Jesus and live out God’s Word. When you yield to God’s grace and live it out, real change happens. God’s influence begins to be dominant and brings good changes to you. Your thoughts change. Your attitudes change. Your demeanor changes. Your desires change. Your priorities change. Your focus changes. Your speech changes. Your behavior changes. Your personality changes. You change.

As you faithfully live like Jesus and follow His instruction from the Bible, your human spirit becomes less of a force and God’s Spirit becomes more of a force within you. As you humble yourself by adding goodness and knowledge to your faith, you are filled with more and more of God’s divine influence, strength and power (grace) that enables you to be self-controlled. In developing self-control by God’s grace and your faith you become equipped to deal with the powerful temptations that challenge your faith. Adding goodness, knowledge and self-control to your infant faith prepares and equips you to take on trials of all kinds and defeat them.

WHAT ABOUT TRIALS?

Trials are a fact of life. They are here to stay. The question is not, “How do you get rid of them, but rather, how are you going to handle them?” Trials challenge your faith. Have you ever heard Christians ask the questions like?… “If God loves me so much, why does He keep allowing these trials to happen to me?” “Doesn’t God care about me?” “Doesn’t God love me?” “What have I done wrong?”

There is something you need to know about trials. The devil uses trials to weaken and destroy your faith in God and ruin your relationship with Him, while God uses the same trials to build you up and strengthen your faith and draw you closer to Him. Satan uses trials for evil, whereas God uses the same trials for good.

The word “trials” means, internal or external trial; temptation or enticement to do something wrong, provocation, or adversity.”
There are two kinds of trials; INTERNAL and EXTERNAL.

WHAT ARE INTERNAL TRIALS?

Every Christian is familiar with internal trials. These are the trials that only you are aware of. They are internally in your thoughts and feelings. Internal trials may be because of a certain sin you have a weakness for, or because of something hurtful another person has said or done to you, or a tough situation that causes you internal stress and strife or doubts about God that fill your mind. Can you identify?

If these internal trials are not handled properly, they can create doubt in your mind about God’s love and awareness of you or your situation that can undermine your faith and relationship with God. This is the devil’s intent. He wants to destroy your faith  in God from within.

WHAT ABOUT EXTERNAL TRIALS?

External trials are things that happen to you from an external source like a boss that won’t let up, or a serious health problem, or a marriage that is going bad, or financial issues, or hard-headed teenagers, and these kinds of trials can be so intense that you are ready to give up.

However, good can come from these kinds of trials, both internal and external. God uses trials of all kinds to test your faith and resolve and determination in your walk with Him. God uses trials to see if you truly love Him in the most difficult of circumstances. He wants to know.

Deuteronomy 13:3 NLT The Lord your God is testing you to see if you truly love him with all your heart and soul.
This is the good purpose for trials. Trials reveal the depth of your love for Jesus. In overcoming trials and resisting temptation by self-control, you become stronger in your faith and God can “see that you truly love Him with all your heart and soul.”

Trials are necessary to advancing your spiritual growth and growing to maturity in your faith that bring a real change in who you are.

James 1: 2-3 NIV CONSIDER it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

This verse begins with the word “CONSIDER.” Consider means, “to look past present suffering to the future,” This first line  could read, “Look past your present suffering to the future, my brothers, as you face trials of many kinds.”

God says to “consider” the trial you are going through with the right perspective. You are to look past the present suffering to the future when you have overcome your trial and have received the blessings of overcoming the trial. Look at trials as the tough training of a spiritual Marine that is being toughened up for battle against the forces of Satan. If you see trials for what they are, and what they are accomplishing in the strengthening of your faith, it will change your perspective. You will have a different attitude about trials. This is what God means when He says, “look past the present suffering to the future.”

Instead of being depressed and discouraged and down about the trial you are going through, have the attitude of knowing that God is with you, and in the end, you will have achieved God’s purpose for the trial. You will be stronger and better equipped to serve God in all circumstances reliably and efficiently.

James 1: 2-3 NIV Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face TRIALS of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

TRIALS: “A putting to proof, by experience of good or experience of evil. Solicitation, discipline, provocation, adversity, temptation.”

God’s intention is that the trials you go through prove your faith to be genuine. Trials test the strength of your faith. God wants to know if your faith in Him is real and genuine, or if under the pressure of really bad times you will give up on Him, or in really good times you will forget Him. Trials can be a temptation to do something wrong that can test your faith. This is what solicitation is. The legal charge for prostitution is “solicitation”, meaning to tempt a person to do something morally wrong that  comes from an external source.

Trials can be a strong desire or craving for something sinful that comes from your human nature internally.

Trials can be certain people or circumstances who aggravate you, frustrate you or anger you that can test your faith.

Trials can be a misfortune, poverty, trouble or constant calamity in your life that can test your faith.

Trials can be pain and suffering that become unbearable that can test your faith.

Trials can be success that replaces your reliance upon God with reliance upon yourself and a great job or a big bank account that can test your faith.

Success can be just as much of a trial as experiencing the suffering of the downside of life.

Getting through these kinds of trials really test your faith. This testing proves your faith to be genuine and strong enough to endure any trial and remain loyal and faithful to God.

James 1: 2-3 NIV Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the TESTING of your faith develops perseverance.

The word “testing” in this verse means, ” trustworthiness, trial.” Trials test your trustworthiness. Can God “trust” you to be  faithful no matter what?

This word “testing” was used in the first century to mean “sterling coinage” for money which was genuine and unalloyed. It meant testing directed toward an end. To ensure that the coinage was genuine, the metal was put in vats and then boiled. As the metal began to boil the impurities rose to the top. These impurities were called “slag.” The slag was scrapped off until the pure shiny metal could be seen. This process was repeated over and over until all the impurities were gone. This made sure that the coinage was pure of all imperfections and the coin had the strength to endure. The coin could be trusted as being genuine.

God used this same word to describe what happens to Christians when they go through trials. Experiencing and overcoming trials purifies you from all your impurities (sin) and makes you strong enough to persevere and endure over the long run.

James 1: 2-3 NIV Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops PERSEVERANCE.

Going through trials and overcoming them produces extraordinary spiritual strength in you. This strength is called “perseverance.”

In the next session we will study what perseverance means.

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