24: Self-Control -- What stone will you take or sacrifice will you make?
Self Control, as found in the fruit of the Spirit, is a word that used to be translated as “temperance.”
In my family McKeown Bible from the 1870s, there are pages filled with births, marriages and deaths. Strangely and I am sure purely accidental, the only page that is blank was the page entitled “Temperance Pledge,” which in the day meant a pledge against partaking of alcohol.
As a result of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, our “self” is controlled by God’s presence and Holy Spirit, not as a result of will-power or simply by “thinking.” In BELIEVE, the first 10 weeks is on how to “think” like Jesus, but it is more than that. It is as the title states, we need to really believe that Jesus is with us always and at all times and then behave and become like Jesus.
In the story of David and Goliath, all of David’s brothers and Saul’s army believed in God but only David put his faith into action. With Abraham, he believed but it was only evidenced and actually realized when he offered Isaac as a sacrifice. Hebrews says “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.”
David’s faith led him to go to battle with a sling and a stone. Abraham’s faith led him to pledge that both he and the lad would return from Mount Moriah (Gen. 22:5, Heb. 11:19). What action is your faith leading you to have “temperance.”
Today's devotional comes from Randy Frazee. as we finish out the week of preparation for BELIEVE.
How does God free me from addictions and sinful habits?
God desires all of us to have self-control over things that can destroy us and others. The writer of Proverbs places options before us, clearly showing the virtue and benefit of self-control.
• Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city. (Proverbs 16:32)
• The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. (Proverbs 17:27)
In essence, self-control means having power over one’s own impulses, reactions and desires.
The Bible offers practical instruction on how to grow in the virtue of self-control. One of the primary applications is to “flee” — flee from the person, environment or situation that tempts us to lose control.
We can tame our tongues, reduce fights and quarrels amongst us, control our selfish desires and mitigate against the negative influences of the world and the devil. But ultimately complete self-control is unattainable. Our sin nature, or flesh, eventually wears us down and gets the best of us. The ultimate solution to gain self-control is “God-control.” The believer has the presence and power of God within them to live a life not undermined by our inner desires and the corruption of the world. As believers, we are to draw on this power to live productive and effective lives.
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:11–13)
I have the power through Christ to control myself.
KEY APPLICATION: What difference does this make in the way I live?
As we develop the virtue of self-control, our sin will decrease and our character will increase.
Let me tell you a story. The late George Gallup Jr. was a good friend of mine who significantly helped me in the early journey of forming these thirty key ideas of the Christian life. In one of our several all-day sessions in Princeton, New Jersey, tucked away in the gunroom of the historic Nassau Club, we were discussing this virtue of self-control.
I was pontificating proudly on how Christians just need to get their act together and be self-controlled. In George’s always kind and gentle demeanor he stopped me and said, “Randy, you’re not an alcoholic, are you?” Startled by the question, I said, “No, I’m not.” He went on to say, “Well, I am. My father was also an alcoholic. When I took my first drink, something happened to me that likely didn’t happen to you or many others. I was hooked and couldn’t stop. Even as a Christian, I tried and tried and tried. I felt so defeated, and it was ruining my life. Then in a moment of quiet desperation, I heard Jesus whisper to me, ‘George, if you never lick this, that is okay. I died for this struggle in your life, and I still love you deeply.’” He paused for a moment, reflecting on that tender encounter with the Savior, and then said, “From that very moment I haven’t had a drink. It has been over thirty years.”
At that meeting, we added the phrase “through Christ” to the key idea of self-control: “I have the power, through Christ, to control myself.” Yielding to the love, grace, and presence of Christ in us is the only way we can be victorious. While not every Christian struggling with an addiction may experience the deliverance George did, the truth of Christ’s commitment and deep love applies to all of us.
Why is self-control important in living a Biblical lifestyle? How does self-control relate to other fruit of the Spirit?