In ancient times before the invention of artillery and heavy ordnance, to lay siege to a city took a lot of energy, time, and manpower. It took Nebuchadnezzar, who had by far the strongest army at his time, a year and a half to take the relatively small city of Jerusalem. A few hundred years later it took the mighty army of Rome years to accomplish the same feat. But, the battle of self-control is even greater.
It is greater because the enemy is within. The battle of self-control is not an external battle but an internal one. The war of the soul is a civil war. It is a war between our flesh and our spiritual nature.
Paul speaks of this inner battle in Galatians 5:17: For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. For the Christian there is the battle in the soul to do what is right and to do what is pleasing to the Lord. If you do not have this civil war in you, then more than likely you do not have the Holy Spirit in you.
It is also greater because the enemy is unpredictable and cannot be tamed. In ancient times some races of people were harder to rule than others. Some would take defeat very easily while others would fight until the last man was dead. Let us realize that the enemy that we fight in the battle of self-control will not quit until it is dead. The battle between our flesh and the Spirit will continue all the days of our lives. There will be no treaty, NO peace until we get to heaven. The flesh will continue to strive to pull us away from God, to lead us down the roads of temptation and sin. Our sinful nature will be totally put to death when we are glorified in Heaven with Jesus Christ our Lord.
Self-control also requires a greater effort than storming a city because the enemy has great power at times. And the enemy, which is our flesh, is given that power by the one who is trying to defeat it.
Can you imagine a general shipping arms and ammunition to the enemy? Yet that is what we do with our own old, fleshly nature. We give to it what it needs to hinder our spiritual nature. We feed it through our own sin, giving in to its desires and lusts. We give in to the flesh until we have built strongholds in our lives. And it is our fleshly nature that dwells in those strongholds, waiting for us to try and defeat it.
It also takes a greater effort because the enemy that we are dealing with is subtle. What does Jeremiah 17:9 tells us: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?
Let’s realize that our flesh is always in the state of plotting treason against us. When all looks safe, that is when it will strike. Our own hearts are deceitful. It will lie to you because it is tainted with sin. It is desperately wicked; prone to turn us from God. Our flesh strives to have us ignore the Word of God and follow the desires of that wicked heart—the lusts of the flesh in our thoughts, in our actions, and in our words. Yet, we can defeat our deceitful heart. We can destroy those strongholds and destroy those walls. And we can begin that by practicing self-control.