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Overcoming Addictions 07/05/18

Seeking Self-Control: A Lifelong Resolution

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The menu description could not have been more tempting: “Fresh baked double chocolate brownies topped with vanilla ice cream and draped with a rich dark chocolate hot fudge sauce.”

“My, that sounds delicious,” my mouth and my stomach messaged to my brain (who I had put in charge of enforcing my decision to cut back on calories).

My waist and thighs cried out, “Have mercy!”

Then my longing heart joined the pro-brownie team, adding, “Remember how soothing and pleasing a chocolate dessert makes you feel?”

My brain’s pleasure center had maxed out on the choc-o-meter and willfully rejected its duty to hold me to the diet plan. “I’ll have one of those please,” a cheery voice chirped from my lips.

Later, when the taste no longer lingered and my waistband was uncomfortable, I thought, “My gosh! I’m like an addict when it comes to chocolate!” I love the taste of it, the smell of it, the thought of it … I could go on and on. It’s my comfort food; a warm and calming friend. Had the dessert been apple pie, the mutiny would not have taken place aboard my vessel. The goal of calorie reduction is somewhat safe UNLESS an irresistible chocolate temptation comes my way.

As I pondered the defeat I had just handed myself, I was reminded that what I lack is self-control. What most addicts lack is self-control. Unfortunately, it’s not something we can pick up at any store or order online. We have to figure out how to get some. Here’s a little recipe we can use.

Recipe for Self-Control

Ingredients: Self-Denial, Truth, Commitment, Prayer, and Holy Spirit

Directions: Begin with a commitment to change - verbalize it to yourself, to God, and to another person. Whatever it is we want to stop or start doing, without strong commitment to this change, nothing will be different. Avoid using the statement, “I’m trying to …” and instead say, “I’ve made a commitment to …” The purpose of telling another person is for accountability. As the days, weeks, and months pass, we should be in regular contact with this person, letting them know how we are doing with the change, confess any missteps, and talk about struggles. You could even set up a specific day of the week or time of each day for an accountability conversation (working it out beforehand as to who is calling who when.) Being willing to be held accountable demonstrates commitment. 

Second, open the scriptures on a regular basis and read God’s Word. If you don’t know where to start, try one of these books: Psalms, John, Galatians, Proverbs, or Colossians. You might also want to get a Life Recovery Bible by Tyndale Publishers, as it has wonderful devotional readings for making life changes. When you read the scriptures in the Bible, take a moment along the way to ask yourself what God is saying to you personally in the reading. We feed our souls and minds truth as we read God’s Word and He helps us apply it to our lives.

Take regular heaping amounts of self-denial by simply saying “NO” to yourself. We must deny ourselves the pleasures that our bodies and minds desire that are outside of God’s will for our lives. Jesus tells us in Matthew 16:24 to “turn from our selfish ways.” Change does not come for those of us who give in to temptation. As the old saying goes, “let your ‘no’ be ‘NO!’”

Add prayer generously to the mixture of commitment, truth, and self-denial. We need to pray when we know we are being tempted, asking for us to be able to withstand the temptation without giving in. We need to pray when we realize there is inner turmoil and ask Jesus to help us choose correctly. We need to pray when we find ourselves in and/or as we’re removing ourselves from situations where temptation is strong. If we are going to have the finished product of self-control, it’s really a matter of seeking supernatural strength from Holy providers to accomplish the task.

Hindsight

As for me, I needed to pray when I was obsessing over the decadent brownie dessert (in earlier years the prayers were to be free from desires to smoke or drink). I needed to ask God to help me withstand the temptation. My desire to curb my calories is for His glory, as I want to keep this vessel healthy. I could have prayed for Jesus’ help to fold up the menu and/or order something healthy. I could have left the restaurant and prayed silently on the way out the door, thanking God for giving me the courage to get out of there if that was the surest way to avoid the temptation. Regardless of the situation, our God will provide a way of escape. He promises to do that when we seek Him (1 Corinthians 10:13).

In that brownie-moment, I chose to give-in instead of choosing to seek God's help and look for the way of escape. Thankfully, in my decades of getting free from alcohol, pot, cigarettes, co-dependency, and unhealthy eating, I know that focusing on Christ decreases the chances of giving in to temptation. 

Lifelong Resolution

This is now my lifelong resolution and I hope you’ll make it yours too:

“I relinquish my control and lack of self-control to the one who relinquished His life for me.”

I believe that through a constant and sincere desire and actively seeking to know Jesus more and more, He will give us the gift of His self-control through the Holy Spirit that dwells in us who believe in Him. We thank God for tenderly loving us through the transition.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control [emphasis mine]. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit's leading in every part of our lives. Galatians 5:22-25 NLT 

Copyright © Beth Livingston, used with permission.

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