What is a key difference between spiritual giants and spiritual babies?
Question: What is an absolutely essential component in successful Christian leadership?
Question: What is one character trait we should definitely want to instill in the next generation?
Self-control is so valuable in God’s eyes that we need to major on it. Let’s learn more about it by asking 8 questions and thinking carefully through the answers.
Question #1 – What is self-control?
Self-control means getting a grip on you.
It is keeping your various appetites in line.
It is disciplined self-restraint for the sake of winning the prize.
It means you refuse to be a prisoner of your passions.
It means you avoid excess so you can see things clearly.
It means you reject anything that interferes with your goal of following Christ.
It means you are grateful for your desires, but you restrain them.
God doesn’t take away our passions when we become Christians but helps us to tame them. They become our servants, no longer our masters.
Before you joined God’s family you did your own thing, but when the Holy Spirit moved into your life when you started to follow Christ, He helps you grow in self-control which frees you to live in obedience to Him.
In Bible times self-control was seen as a positive trait of rulers who never let their private interests influence their governing.
“Self control is the virtue
that makes a man so master of himself
that he is fit to be the servant of all.”
Question #2 – What parts of our lives does self-control include?
Self-control includes control of the tongue – which is certainly not demonstrated in many TV shows and tabloids.
It includes control of your temper – which is certainly not demonstrated in much of our daily news.
It includes control of your sexual desires. Interesting: shortly before she died Marilyn Monroe said sex had become so out of control in her life that it lost all meaning.
Self-control includes managing money wisely. The staggering debt of so many families and countries today is evidence of reckless, destructive financial decisions.
Self-control includes responsible driving. We are told in 1 Peter 2:13 to submit to every law of man – and that would include speed limits.
Self-control includes control of our eating. How many people today are ruining their health and shortening their lives by gorging on food?
Self-control includes restraint of alcohol consumption. All the drunk drivers and shocking drunken conduct is evidence this is a no small issue.
Self-control includes wise personal regulation of comfort, time, hobbies, and possessions.
Bottom line: Self-control involves all of you. All.
Question #3 – Where do we see self-controlled people in the Bible?
Of course we start with Jesus as the best example – as His entire life is exhibit “A” of self-control.
It took self-control to grow up as a human when you are also God and are walking on the planet you created. Yet, Jesus never said “This is boring” regarding His early years. He was faithful to His calling.
Jesus had the power to zap His numerous enemies. He didn’t.
When John 6:66 rolled around and many of His followers abandoned Him – a verse that shocks and pains us – he could have abandoned disciplemaking. He didn’t.
When on the cross He could have gone into a rage at the blindness of men killing their own Savior and refused to suffer. He didn’t.
But – and this is a significant – there were times Jesus shocked His audience. Take Matthew 23 for example. That chapter contains the most blistering words ever uttered by Jesus on earth, the equivalent of a blow torch comes out of His mouth. Read the entire chapter on your own, but for a sampling look at : 27,28,31-33.
Jesus, do you know whom you are talking to? Your audience is the leadership, the elite of your own country. Are your harsh words necessary? You are hurting their feelings, upsetting them, provoking them greatly. How can you be showing self-control and be so angry?
And the answer is His audience had earned those comments. He is talking to the national leaders who are taking the country to hell with them. Doesn’t that sound like adequate justification for strong words?
The message to us is there are times when it is OK to give strong negative feedback to people who deserve it and be self-controlled at the same time.
Well, what about the two times Jesus cleansed the temple. John 2:14f is at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. He did the same thing near the end of His life.
Why is it OK for Jesus to do this? Because worship matters to Jesus. You disrespect holy things to your own peril. This temple courtyard that had been turned into a stockyard and a market place for businessmen to make a hefty profit was supposed to be a place where non-Jews could worship God. But instead gentiles see this materialism & greed?
Jesus is not out of control. He is very much in control of Himself. His temple victims get what they deserve. If we have problems with Jesus’ conduct, we don’t understand the sacredness of worship.
Other Biblical examples of self-control:
Joseph – when he doesn’t succumb to Potifar’s wife, when he works diligently in jail instead of withdrawing in self-pity. When he faces his brothers and had the power to kill them or torture them – remember his power is almost unlimited – but doesn’t.
Daniel – when he diplomatically refuses to eat unacceptable food, when he refuses to stop praying but doesn’t retaliate against his enemies.
Paul – 2 Corinthians 11:23f where he stays totally on message, focused, energized and moving out for God in the face of life threatening, continuous persecution and distraction.
You can find other positive examples but there seem to be more examples of lack of self-control in the Bible including:
Cain killing Abel
Moses hitting the rock
Sampson and his women
David and Bathsheba
Solomon- how many wives? How much reckless spending? In fact his autobiography, Ecclesiastes, is the saga of a man running as far away from self-control as possible at times.
And the more you read your Old Testament the more names you’ll add to this list of shame.
Models are important. Study those lives in detail. See the blessings that come to those who practice self-control. See the barrenness that comes to those who don’t.
Question #4 – What does the Bible have to say about self-control?
like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.
Lack of self-control resembles a city with no walls. What happens to a city with no walls? It is vulnerable. Any robber or invader can swoop in and do as he pleases. The normal routine of life is not possible. A city without walls is helpless, useless and hopeless, open to danger, incapable of any productive activity.
Similarly a person with no self-control when insulted retaliates violently, is seduced by advertising to impulsively buy what he can’t afford and maybe doesn’t even need, caves in to sexual predators, is not capable of saying “no” to food and looks like it, can be counted on to spread the latest gossip, and probably has an incredible number of speeding tickets.
Look at a person with no self-control and get exhausted at all the trouble he causes. Disaster followed by disaster followed by disaster – while he considers himself a helpless victim.
And what happens to a society with no self-control?
2 Tim 3:1-3
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,
Not really a surprise. It’s talking about end times. And that sounds like a really accurate description of our world today.
And so we turn to
1 Timothy 3:2
Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
Not a surprise. This passage gives the requirements for church leadership, and I think by now you’ve got it that self-control is so important that of course you’d want church leadership to model it. But this list should also be seen as the standard of conduct to which every person in the church should be aspiring.
And what about daily Christian living?
1 Peter 5:8
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
Heads up, all Christians! Enemy alert! Enemy alert!
When you put your faith and trust in Christ you put yourself on the devil’s enemy list. .And that enemy is going to get you if self-control is not part of your life.
1 Corinthians 9:25
Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
Self-control is essential to winning a race as an athlete. Undisciplined runners ensure their own poor performance. Without consistent, intense self-discipline no athlete achieves the body tone, coordination and fitness required for victory.
Self-control is essential to winning as a Christian and to leading others to Christ. “The athletes’ finely tuned self-control is a rebuke to half-hearted, out of shape Christians who do almost nothing to prepare themselves to witness to the lost and consequently seldom do.”
Interesting how easily the family calendar can revolve around sports – as we yell and scream for our favorite teams – but that doesn’t always inspire us to try to make ourselves into spiritual winners through the daily discipline of self-control.
Question #5 – Why does it take effort to be self-controlled?
Because apart from Christ my self is out of control. Way out of control.
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Do you see that as a self-portrait before you came to Christ? I do. Verse 13 is me apart from Christ. Before I came to Christ I said horrible things about people and to people.
When I came to Christ I had to go back to approximately 10 people to apologize for what I’d said. But sadly that was years after the poison came out of my mouth. and the damage was done.
None of us would ever say that these are their favorite verses because this is us at our worst. These verses remind me of the sign that says, “You touch me, I’ll kill you”. In other words, the message from the non-Christian mind is don’t expect grace, forget about forgiveness – and don’t be surprised if revenge comes your way. And the cycle of violence never ends.
Apart from Christ we are out of control. Look at these verses and two words come to mind: “No limits”. There are no limits to the destruction and damage you and I can cause as unsaved people or as careless Christians.
Self-control is totally contrary to our conduct when we don’t walk with Christ.
No doubt about it – men and women need fences (guardrails, standards, boundaries, hedges) to keep our lives on track, to keep our conduct from being offensive, to reign in our passions and appetites, to keep control of self, to avoid regret.
When you look back at the events of your life you would like to do over I would expect that most of them were caused by lack of self-control. My #1 regret of the year is one e-mail I wish I had not sent to a good friend. No swear words in it, just unnecessarily strong. And it took much prayer and time and energy to repair the damage.
The next time you watch the news ask yourself how much of it is related to lack of self-control.
Question #6 – How will people around you respond to self-control in your life?
Don’t get your hopes up. You live a life of self-control, you work hard to develop discipline over every area of your life, and it might surprise you that one of the results is you’ve just put a bull’s-eye on your back.
To your face you are called goodie goodie, prude, no fun, boring, and possibly the most crushing – you aren’t cool.
The sexually immoral will attack you because you decide to stay pure.
The financially irresponsible will come after you for money – that they should have saved themselves.
The gossips will be annoyed that you leave the room when their tongues run wild.
The lazy will look down on your hard work – and very likely expect you to do theirs.
Are these attacks motivated by jealousy? By anger that your values are so different? By annoyance that your life convicts them of sin?
As a result of running away from sinning with Potifar’s wife, Joseph winds up in jail.
As a result of Daniel’s self-control he winds up in the lion’s den.
One newer believer shared that when he stopped fornicating his dad asked if he were gay.
In the 21st century self-control often is not cool, is not common and will be a magnet for attacks.
Question #7 – What blessings come from self-control?
The first blessings that come to mind might be the honor, the respect, the achievements, the awards, the clear conscience, the victories, the satisfaction from having done things right. And those are great blessings. But nothing compares with the even greater blessing.
Can you imagine the joy, the unbelievable, priceless joy that will be yours if – when you stand before Jesus, He says to you, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant”?. Matthew 25:21 If you hadn’t realized it before, at that second you will get it that all the prayer, discipline, effort, and sweat you poured into living a self-controlled life was worth it. All the abuse you endured, the ridicule you faced, the strife that hurt was not in vain. And throughout eternity God’s praise of your life will be ringing in your ears.
Without a shadow of a doubt you will know for certain that the saying is true: “A life blessed by God is to be sought more than anything else”.
If you want to be a high performance believer, self-control is mandatory. Self-control will make that happen.
And so we come to the last and absolutely essential question:
Question #8 – How do you get self-control?
I hope you see the value of self-control so much that this question is worth thinking about deeply.
How do you get self-control?
- Get saved. Trust Jesus to be your Savior to forgive all your sins including all the sin that lack of self-control triggered. When you put your faith and trust in Christ the Holy Spirit is now in your life to give you energy and strength to build in self-control, among other things.
- Crave self-control with all your heart. Pray for it. Make it top priority. You know that it is God’s will for your life that you grow in self-control so pray with confidence knowing you are praying according to His will. That is a prayer you know He wants to answer. Self-control is so important to me I try to pray daily that I’ll grow in it.
- Prepare for a battle. Over the years I have seen Christians confronted about their explosive tempers or some other sinful habits respond by saying, “Well that’s just the way I am”. They have no intention to change. And everyone around them is expected to cater to their refusal to grow in self-control. You can bet that when their life is evaluated at the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10) they will not be smiling.
Self-control is possible in the lives of all believers but “as the Hebrews were promised the land, but had to take it by force, one town at a time, so we are promised the gift of self-control, yet we also must take it one battle at a time.”
The very concept of “self-control” implies a battle between a divided self. It implies that our “self” produces desires we should not satisfy but instead “control.” We are talking about a daily battle with huge consequences.
If your self has been out of control for years, do not expect to bring it to submission in one day. It is a monster that has gotten its way too long, and it will take time to bring it into submission.
- Fast. “Fasting is a means of spiritual discipline. Fasting helps us control our physical appetites. We are so prone to satisfy our physical desires that we forget their satisfaction may be an occasion for sin. The denial of these gives us control of our physical appetites so that our bodies become more our servants and less our masters. This mastery of our bodies strengthens our spiritual lives. Fasting nourishes dependence on God, among many other things.”
As a baby Christian fasting helped me to build some fences into my life. I try to fast once a week year round. But I need to pray for self-control every single day.
- Realize self-control is a gift from God. It is part of the fruit that the Holy Spirit produces in our lives. That means we must fiercely claim self-control by faith, relying on His power to attain it, remembering that the fight for self-control is a fight of faith. And the fight may be long and painful.
And how does the Spirit produce this fruit of self-control in us? By teaching us grace.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,
Denying ungodliness includes rejecting lack of self-control. Self control is a work of the Spirit of God. Trust Him to strengthen us for this battle.
- Find a role model for self-control. Role models are powerful, even inspirational. Several times Paul tells to use his life as a pattern for our own. Other New Testament authors also stress the need to “follow the leader”.
What you have learned[a] and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you Philippians 4:9
For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, 2 Thessalonians 3:7
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith Hebrews 13:7
Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good 3 John 11
Before we came to Christ likely our role models were worldly, popular cultural heroes whose lives were far from God. Change your heroes and watch your conduct change. They are that important to our daily walk!
- Find a godly friend to hold you accountable, pray for you, encourage you.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Don’t know about you but I have never had victory over most sins unless I first asked someone to pray for my struggle.
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,
but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
Our friends have a massive impact on our lives. Ask God for a Christian buddy to grow with.
How to get self-control?
- Get saved.
- Crave self-control passionately.
- Prepare for battle
- Realize self-control is a gift
- Find a role model
- Walk with a godly friend
Self-control – how many blessings will you rob yourself of by ignoring it?
How much joy will be yours because you sought it fiercely?