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How to Stay Motivated to Remain Self-Controlled, Part 1
Self-Control Word Study, Lesson 10
Over the last couple months, we’ve learned why self-control is important, and we discussed several strategies for building self-control, self-denial, and self-discipline. Now comes the hard part—actually doing what we know is pleasing to God. In Lesson 7, we learned that developing self-control is a process. First, we must have knowledge. Then we practice self-control. Then to continue in self-control, we must have perseverance (see 2 Peter 1:6). So in this lesson, we will address the following question:
How do we stay motivated to persevere in our pursuit of self-control?
It’s one thing to know what we should do. It’s something entirely different to remain motivated over the long term to continue to implement those positive changes in our lives. As humans, we often just get tired of trying so hard to do what is right all the time. It’s even harder when it’s something we don’t really want to be doing or that goes against our natural instinct. We become weary, and when we are weary, it’s so much easier to give in to temptation. When it comes to self-control (and many other Christ-like habits), what mindset must we have to remain motivated, even in the hard times?
The Bible gives a simple answer to this—simple in concept, but not so simple to follow. What is that answer? We must fix our eyes on Jesus. All. The. Time. Several Bible verses support this answer:
Hebrews 12:1-2 – Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Matthew 6:33 – But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [the needs we worry about] will be given to you as well.
1 Chronicles 16:11 – Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.
These verses tell us that in order to persevere, we must fix our eyes on Jesus. We must continually seek God and his kingdom. If we focus on ourselves, we are likely to stumble and fall. But if we fix our eyes on Jesus, we can “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” So the next question we want to ask is:
Why is focusing on God consistently the answer to motivation?
We’ll look at three key reasons for why focusing on God helps us stay motivated. We’ll discuss the first two in this lesson and the last one next week. I had originally planned one lesson for this, but that would have been really long, and the verses were just too good to not mention them.
To help you process your thoughts as you go throughout this lesson, a reflection journal sheet is available. You can access it by clicking here.
Reason 1: God is the Source of Hope
When we struggle with something, it’s easy to lose hope. We think about how much work it will be to get from where we are to where we want to be. We get discouraged when we think about all the times we’ve failed, especially when we’ve failed yet again. We think about how tired we are; we feel like we just don’t have the strength or energy to keep trying. We feel a weight in our chest that says “I can’t do it anymore.”
Those are all signs that we’ve started to fix our eyes on us and our own situations rather than on God. If we look to ourselves, we lose hope. If we fix our eyes on God, we are reminded that God is a God of hope, as we learned in the Characteristics of God study. Romans 15:13 says:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
When you focus on a God of hope who fills you will joy, peace, and power, doesn’t that make the weight on your chest just a little bit lighter? And the more you focus on God, the lighter that weight will be. Matthew 11:28 says:
[Jesus said,] “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Not only does the Bible tell us that God is a God of hope, it tells us why we should have hope. John 16:33 says:
[Jesus said,] “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
The reason we can have hope in this world is that we know that this world isn’t the end. Jesus has ultimately conquered sin and death through his death on the cross. If we continually fix our eyes on Jesus and his victory, we know that we will have victory eventually too, even if we have trouble or struggles now on this earth.
Reason 2: God is the Source of Strength and Power
Having hope that comes from fixing our eyes on God is essential to developing a mindset of self-control and perseverance. But hope is an attitude, not an action. To change our habits, that mindset of hope must be followed by a change in behavior. I don’t know about you, but as soon as I think about actually changing my behavior, that weight is back. I start to focus on me again. I feel weary and burdened again by all my past failures and by the energy it takes to keep moving forward.
That’s why we must focus on not only God’s hope but also God’s strength as we try to make positive changes in our lives. If we focus on Christ, we can begin to embrace our weaknesses because that is all we have to offer. That brings us to a place where we know that our only strength is from God. Paul says this eloquently in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
God knows that we are weak. He knows that we will mess up. He knows that we will fail, again and again. But if we have our eyes fixed on him, he will not let us fall. Psalm 37:23-24 says:
The Lord makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
The key to these verses is that in order to not fall, we must delight in God. God doesn’t promise that if we claim to believe in him, we can do whatever we want, and he will make our life easy and perfect. In fact, many of the verses we’ve looked at in this lesson make it clear that we will have struggles in this world. But the Bible is also clear that God does not grow weary like we do. And if we focus on God—if we put our hope in God—then he will give us his strength. Isaiah 40:28-31 gives evidence of this:
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
God is the only one who can renew our strength day-by-day and moment-by-moment to give us the motivation to keep striving for self-control and to keep building other habits that draw us closer to him. If we focus on God as our source of hope and source of strength, we will find that eventually, we will soar like an eagle.
Where are you trying to make improvements or positive changes in your life? For many people, self-control and self-discipline play a big role in these changes. For others, maybe the concept of self-control or self-discipline doesn’t connect as much. Either way, sticking to your goals requires motivation. And that motivation comes from fixing our eyes on what really matters—a relationship with God. What can you do today to begin fixing your eyes on Jesus?
Next week, we’ll look at the final piece of motivation—focusing on the eternal rather than the temporal. Making positive changes that require self-control and self-discipline is a long-term commitment. To make these changes, we have to have long-term thinking. We have to focus on what is important for eternity, not just what is important for the here and now. Come back next week as we finish up this study.
To help you process your thoughts as you go throughout this lesson, a reflection journal sheet is available. Journal sheets can be downloaded and used now or later. They can be printed and filled in by hand or saved and filled out electronically.
You can access all the resources for this study by clicking here: Premium Resources