Denying Yourself and Following Jesus

If you’ve ever tried it, you know that denying yourself can be a difficult, sometimes gut-wrenching task. As someone who has struggled with impulse control, it can feel almost impossible.

Before I was committed to following Jesus, I rarely denied myself anything. Everything was fair game—if I wanted it. As you can imagine, that is no way to live a spiritually, mentally, emotionally, or physically healthy life.

In fact, it was quite destructive.

1 John 2:16

16 For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father, but is of the world.

Over the Top

Living out 1 John 2:16, I overspent, overate, and overindulged in whatever I was doing. Needless to say, I certainly wasn’t producing fruit, like self-control. Instead, I was living as the prodigal daughter.

Did you know that prodigal refers to a wasteful way of living? I did not.

But, it is something I know well—from experience.


This is one area where my flesh won out every time.

Overeating and emotional eating were huge struggles for me.

Though the Bible tells us that we have counselors in Jesus , scripture, and the Holy Spirit , whenever I was faced with any type of stress, I turned to food.

It became my go-to source of comfort.  I lived a self-medicating lifestyle—with no hope of self-control.

As a result, my weight continued to climb, while my self-esteem continued to drop. At my lowest point, I sat crying, eating and praying for God to intervene. Thankfully, he heard and answered my cries for help.


Whenever I thought about the scripture that referenced the glutton, I always thought in terms of food but I was gluttonous in what I was buying as well.

Home decor, excess food, unnecessary clothes, and ruining things (that I didn’t take care of) were just a few of the ways that I wasted money. 

My overspending was much like my overeating — I didn’t notice it until it started to weigh on me.

At one point, I had stacks of (unopened) bills, maxed out credit, defaulted student loans and no savings. I had no idea how to live without. I had no idea how to deny myself.

Despite being in those predicaments, I continued to spend. It was only by prayer and the grace of God that I recognized the need to deny my wants.

Once I allowed God to lead instead of my desires, I was able to reverse the damage of my prodigal spending habits and live in a financially healthy way.


On some days , I am reminded of the Apostle Paul and the extreme battles that can take place between our spirit and flesh. These are the periods when denying yourself can feel the most challenging.

Although there are times when I walking in the Spirit, there are also those days when my flesh is the fiercest opponent and enemy imaginable. In those moments and seasons , I am in over my head and drowning. 

But, my afflictions keep me tethered and God reliant instead of prideful and convinced of my own strength and will.

Even in my struggles, I take comfort in knowing that every morning, his mercy is new.

The Reality of Denying Yourself

Self-denial is hard and can feel like more discomfort than we can bear. Look at the parable of the rich ruler. Afterwards, Peter and Jesus have an interesting exchange:

Luke 18:28-30

28 Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to comeeternal life.”

Note the level of difficulty in what (or who) we may have to deny (or sacrifice) in order to accept Christ.

For the ruler, it was wealth and possessions. For others, it may be the people in our lives. Whatever the case, it won’t always be easy. Thankfully, we have a Father in heaven to rely on.

How to Start Denying Yourself

  1. Pay attention to your choices. Identify any areas that are hard to deny or undeniable.
  2. Pray for help with the strongholds that are the hardest to break.
  3. Periodically fast from thoughts, behaviors, and actions that interfere with your relationship with Christ.
  4. Spend time in the Word feeding your spirit. Remember that what we feed grows stronger.
  5. Remove temptations (including people)and notice how you feel emotionally and spiritually.
  6. Have self-compassion. God understands that we will struggle and has provided his Spirit to help us run our race.
  7. Be patient. Denying ourselves and renewing our minds is a daily process and takes time to solidify change.
  8. Get help from prayer warrior friends. Start seeking God’s will and wisdom over worldly advice.
  9. Be intentional about your choices. Sometimes, we coast through life on autopilot—driven by old habits.
  10. Seek God in everything you do and take all your struggles and victories to him.
denying yourself to follow Christ list 1-5

Benefits of Self-Denial

Denying ourselves has benefits that go far beyond the perceived pain and temporary discomfort of telling ourselves, “NO”. For me, learning to choose the hard right over the easy wrong:

  • brought calm into my chaotic storm
  • taught me patience
  • helped be discern between powerful wants (lusts of the eyes/pride of life) and actual needs
  • trust in God’s timing
  • seek Jesus over worldly cares, possessions, or people
denying yourself and following Christ list 6-10

As you can see from the list, I also benefitted from more than just saving money and weight loss. I gained a relationship with Jesus. Learning how to read the Bible as more than just religious instruction changed my life. The wisdom and guidance contained in studying scripture and sitting at the feet of Jesus are priceless.

At the end of day, denying myself meant finding myself and living abundantly.

<mark style="background-color:rgba(0, 0, 0, 0)" class="has-inline-color has-black-color">Char Aukland </mark>
Char Aukland

Hi! I’m Char Aukland…Christian, wife, homeschool mom, and U.S. Army veteran.

A love for Christ, sharing the Gospel, and experience from my personal struggles fuel my writing.

Additionally, I am the author of Life’s a Trip, a lifestyle workbook that takes an inside out approach to inner and outer weight loss.