Recently I had the honor and privilege to participate in a digitally recorded audio interview with the Dean of NFL Referees Jim Tunney and successful business owner Stephen F. Skinner. Our wonderful host, Phil R. Taylor facilitated a discussion on the importance of self-control to achieving success.
After our session, I spent some time reflecting on the ups and downs I’ve encountered in my life. Very quickly I realized why self-control is the foundation for creating and sustaining what we truly seek most from life: love, growth, health, security, inner peace, friendship, etc.
During my earlier years because of my lack of self-control I experienced the opposite. In fact, life seemed only to offer: frustration, loneliness, unhappiness, fatigue, and dissatisfaction. Fortunately, for me, a man I respected and admired (Russell) taught me a life lesson. He shook a coke can and asked me to open it. Of course, I refused. He asked me why, and I replied, “Because what’s inside the can will spew all over you and me. Next, he said something I will never forget “John, that’s what you do when you’re working with other people, and things don’t go your way. You have several talents, but talent will get you nowhere. Until you learn to lead yourself, you will feel empty and never achieve success.” The lesson was clear, what I don’t manage manages me. Thankfully, Russell continued to mentor me and shared a Bible verse, with me that sparked the beginning of me becoming a life-long learner.
Whoever loves discipline loves to learn; whoever hates to be corrected remains ignorant. ~Proverbs 12:1
Next, I set out to learn why I behaved in ways that caused me to spew all over others. Here’s what I discovered. My beliefs about success: be strong, be smart and be responsible worked well until other people were involved. As you might imagine when other people disagreed with me or seemed to have better ideas I became fearful and felt threatened. My behavior was cruel, inconsiderate, rude, cold or selfish. During these times, I acted like a scared child or know it all parent.
Coming face to face with the truth set in motion the desire to manage my emotions instead of my emotions managing me. Continuing my learning journey, I discovered several examples of biblical characters that experienced a war within just as I did. That war within is between the flesh and the Spirit as described in Galatians 5:16-17:
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
Isn’t it interesting that we want to do the right thing, yet our beliefs or desires prevent us from doing so. Galatians 5:18-19 describes the works of the flesh as strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, etc. When walking in the flesh, I was focused on satisfying my needs and considered others a threat to believing I was responsible, smart, and strong. This threat led me to behave in ways that caused harm relationships and trust to erode.
However when led by the Spirit, I am able through His power to practice self-control and produce joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness…the behaviors to show love. Unfortunately, the wars within remain alive and well, but now I have a divine power to fight the battle for me.
Peter is a biblical example that when led by the flesh was known to say things or behave in ways he would later regret. Soon after Jesus was arrested Peter was questioned about his association with Christ. Fearing for his life, Peter denied knowing Jesus not once but three times even though earlier he stated his never-ending commitment to Christ.
After his transformation, Peter walked in the Spirit and stood firm in the face of adversity. In Acts 3, we read that Peter and John healed a lame beggar. The beggar entered the temple jumping with joy praising God. His new behavior led to the arrest of Peter and John. They were brought before the high court that crucified Jesus. The court asked them by what name did they heal the beggar. Previously under pressure, Peter denied knowing Jesus. You might even expect him to blame someone else for this act but not this time. Instead, the transformed Peter proclaimed it was Jesus who the courts killed, and God raised from the dead that gave the beggar perfect health in the presence of everyone.
By focusing on the power that was available to him through the Spirit, Peter did not cave into his desires or the pressure to protect himself. The power to walk in the Spirit is available to everyone that believes in Christ. Weaknesses in our flesh are revealed and transformed into strengths and thus become the catalyst for self-control.
For me, Psalm 119-9:11 sums up how to walk in the Spirit.
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, which I might not sin against you.
The answer is to read God’s Word and allow His divine power to renew your mind and His Spirit to transform your behavior to glorify Him. Here’s a personal example of how God is helping me overcome my self-control struggle of eating unhealthy.
First, I asked God to reveal the verses from His Word that will serve as the daily affirmations for renewing my mind. Through prayer and reading God’s Word I learned:
- Food is not for comforting my emotions. “Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.” 1 Corinthians 8:8.
- Food is fuel for the body, so plan my meals. “Don’t stuff yourself, bridle your appetite.” Proverbs 23:3
- My body is a temple where the Holy Spirit lives. “…do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
- God wants me to have a healthy body. “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health as it goes well with your soul.” 3 John 1:2
- God leads me on my journey to becoming healthy. “And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” Isaiah 58:11
With the a sound foundation based on God’s Biblical Principles and led by the Spirit, I am now following a 3-step process for eating healthy.
- Prepare – I asked my wife Laura to help me by cooking foods that have not been processed. Now, we plan our meals weekly and purchase foods recommended by the Daniel Plan.
- Perform – With her loving support I am now eating lean meats along with plenty of healthy grains, fruits, and vegetables. Additionally, I am working to eliminate refined sugars such as soft drinks and sweet tea from my daily routine. Instead, I am now drinking water. Lastly, we are reducing the number of times we eat at restaurants each week.
- Perfect – I do not expect to be perfect on my journey of healthy eating. Instead, I am tracking my flawed progress and repeating the process of prepare, perform and perfect to honor God with a healthy body.
Our interview will be part of the 17 Biblical Principles of Success audio program available on CD and digital download formats set for release in Mar 2016. The program includes 51 Magnificent Business Leaders, Speakers, Authors, Teachers and Pastors sharing their life experiences and insights about the power of Biblical Principles that have guided them towards success throughout their lives and careers.