Make Plans to Develop Self-Control
It’s easier to resist temptation when you have a plan
Doug Britton, MFT
Are you frustrated in your efforts to resist temptation?
Note: This free online Bible study is adapted from Defeating Temptation: Biblical Secrets to Self-Control.
It can be frustrating to intensely want to overcome a temptation and then fail again and again. This can be especially hard if you are a Christian and feel discouraged in your desire to grow in the Lord and overcome sin.
If you sometimes find yourself in this position, it may be because you do not go beyond making good intentions or vague plans. You may say, “I’ll try harder” or “I have to do something about this.” In addition, you may pray for hours. Or you simply may mutter a quick prayer without much thought.
Make a plan — Good intentions and prayer are not enough
Good intentions and prayer are important in your struggle against sin, but be sure to also make a precise, practical plan about how you will battle the temptations in your life. When you combine prayer, determination, and a plan based on God’s word, you will find victory.
The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. (Proverbs 21:5)
An upright man gives thought to his ways. (Proverbs 21:29)
Pick one temptation to work on
Have you ever made a long list of changes you want to make? Most of us have done this and soon have felt overwhelmed by trying to do so much. Instead, start slowly.
Personal application — Write one temptation you want to overcome:
Analyze your temptation and sin patterns
If you can identify patterns when you sin, you will be able to make a better plan. Even if a temptation seems to come out of nowhere, if you pray and think about it, you can usually identify patterns in your behavior. This can help you understand why you sin and how to be an overcomer.
For example, you may discover that every time you think your spouse mistreats you, you “give yourself permission” to become angry, get drunk, flirt with someone else or engage in a sexual sin.
With whom are you tempted to sin?
Are you more likely to sin when alone or when with certain people? Do you give in to peer pressure?
Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in wicked deeds with men who are evildoers; let me not eat of their delicacies. (Psalm 141:4)
Personal application — People with whom I am tempted to sin:
Where are you tempted?
Where are you usually tempted to commit this sin? At home? At school? On the job? Somewhere else? Stay away from dangerous situations if you can. If you must walk on a dangerous path, be alert.
In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares, but he who guards his soul stays far from them. (Proverbs 22:5)
Personal application — Where I am tempted:
When are you tempted to sin?
Is there a certain time of the day or week when you are more likely to sin?
Personal application — When I am tempted:
Why are you tempted?
What are your excuses for sinning? Do you justify your sin? Does it seem as if it “just happens”? Do you realize you are rebelling against God when you sin?
Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 4:8)
Personal application — Why I am tempted (my excuses for sinning):
Related: Guard your thought life
What are the first steps you might take on the path to sin?
What is your thought process before you sin? What are your first steps?
Personal application — First steps I might take on the path to sin:
Choose Scripture verses to read and memorize
Identify Bible verses that speak to you personally about holiness and the particular sin you want to overcome. These could be from your personal Bible study, a sermon, or a book such as Defeating Temptation: Biblical Secrets to Self-Control. Watch for verses that jump out at you.
Once you find some verses, read them regularly. Memorize what you can, but don’t feel guilty if you can’t memorize them all.
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11)
Meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. (Joshua 1:8)
Personal application — Scriptures I will meditate on to strengthen me:
List preventive actions to overcome temptation
Personal application — Steps I will take in my daily life to avoid dangerous situations:
Related: Counterfeit freedom
Related: Watch out for cultural contamination
Write how you will resist when tempted
Don’t play around with sin. When tempted, flee!
Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:14)
Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue Righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:22)
Personal application — Steps I will take to resist sinning if I am tempted:
About Doug Britton, MFT
Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)
Copyright © 2020 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.) See reprint policy.