If your child said, “I couldn’t control myself...I just had to eat the entire chocolate cake (it was begging me to eat it!!)” ...or “I couldn’t help myself, I just had to punch Bubba Bates in the face, kick him in the shin, and then push his face in the mud.” What would you have said as the parent? The immense lack of self-control here is astounding. Although some adults may reason in their minds, “Bubba” probably deserved it. Stop and consider that line of thinking for a moment. Can you imagine what your child, with this lack of self-control, would become as a 30 year old husband, father, co-worker…or Christian? Similar illustrations could be drawn for a young girl demonstrating such a lack of self-control as well. Consider what your little girl with little self-control would be like as a 30 year old in the similar roles listed above? Do you think your child may have a co-worker, neighbor, or another adult believer dish out behavior “worthy” of such responses?
The truth is, we are all surrounded by unfair or unkind treatment by others…but God doesn’t call us to “teach them all a lesson!” Today, this lack of self-control is abundantly demonstrated by opposing opinions at political events or speeches on social issues at college campuses. This is already a real problem today! Considering this character trait from a purely secular view for just a moment, our young people are lacking strength of character. They cannot handle someone disagreeing with them or embracing an opposing viewpoint. The lack of character then illustrates itself profusely in manifestations of little to no self-control (i.e.- a small mob beating up one man - 7 or more people against 1 - for wearing a Trump hat or shirt…no discussion, just attacking him as he walks by). This is a huge problem! The church must be the model of character that makes the difference!
I hope this helps us all picture the need of self-control as a vital character trait. But it is much more than a simple character trait — it is part of our spiritual growth as children of God. Yet, whether we agree or not with the above illustrations, the Bible is clear when it comes to self control (temperance). II Peter 1:5-6, says,
5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
We are instructed to add to our faith. We are to add to our faith moral purity, spiritual discernment, and self-control (to name just the first three named in II Peter 1). Spiritual Growth will show changes in stronger self-control. This is the holding of passions and desires in line. The standard is indeed set HIGH! The Holy Spirit makes this possible.
How do you view your level of self-control? Is your self-perceived spiritual growth demonstrating stronger self-control?
1. What is your speech like?
Are you praising God on Sunday and taking His name in vain on Tuesday? Are you expressing thankfulness to a friend and then rehearsing complaints about your spouse, neighbor, or co-worker? James 3:8-10 reminds us that this double-minded speech ought not be how we speak!
2. How are your emotional responses?
...do you have a temper? ...are you quick to "shutdown" when your plans are derailed? ...do you become easily offended or assume the worst after a brief encounter with someone? ...can you handle criticism so you can learn and grow past your blind spots? …do you resort to blame shifting, intimidation, and/or manipulation when confronted with a personal short-coming?
3. Do you make impulse decisions
...do you interrupt a lot? ...do you follow the rules one day and ignore the rules the next day? ...do you struggle with "calming down" to do the work you need to do? …do you often make decisions with little consideration for others in your life or the possible negative outcomes?
This issue of self-control is lacking in college students (and younger), but it is also lacking in the adults the young people follow (some of which we have a hard time recognizing in our own mirrors). Before we excuse away this issue of the lack of self-control in society (and our churches)…as something that doesn’t apply to us…take a moment and study these Bible passages below.
May we ask God to examine our own heart and help us to see the truth about ourselves.
Proverbs 25:28, "He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls."
Titus 2:6; James 1:20, "Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded…For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God."
I Peter 5:8, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."
Galatians 5:22-23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith meekness, temperance…"