A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.Proverbs 25:28
Whether it’s pop, chocolate milk, lemonade, or even coffee, my daughter Kayla can’t take just one sip. If we sit down at a restaurant, Kayla’s drink is usually long gone before the food arrives. Earlier today, my wife Marie made some iced coffee. Next thing I heard from the other room was Marie saying to Kayla, “Can’t you control yourself!?” She had asked for a sip of Marie’s coffee and drank it all.
Self-control seems to be fighting a losing battle these days in our culture of self-indulgence. The lack of self-control though is just as much a root of evil right as the love of money. I’ve seen it lead to anger, health problems, job loss, criminal activity, and divorce.
The name of the ministry I work with is ATLAS, which is an acronym that stands for Attaining Truth, Love, And Self-control. Our hope and focus at ATLAS is to Use Christ-centered mentoring relationships to help people grow in understanding:
- The truth of God revealed to us in his Word,
- The love of God revealed to us through Jesus Christ, and
Why include self-control alongside God’s Word and God’s love?
Throughout the New Testament, we see self-control intimately connected to our growth as Christ-followers.
- Galatians 5:22 – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
- 2 Timothy 1:7 – “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
- Titus 2:6 – “Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.”
- 1 Peter 4:7 – “Therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.”
- 2 Peter 1:6 – “Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control …”
But an excellent word picture of the lack of self-control comes from the Old Testament. Proverbs 25:28 says, “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” In other words, he stands exposed to any and all evil. He has no defenses to fight temptation.
How do we get and grow in self-control?
On one hand, it is something God gives to empower his people to live lives pleasing to him. As 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” Self-control is evidence of the Spirit working in our lives, empowering us to say no to sin, which wants to kill us, and yes to Jesus, who wants to give us life.
But on the other hand 2 Peter 1:6 also commands us to “make every effort” to grow in self-control. A couple years ago my wife bought me a weight bench. She gave it to me, but if I never used it after she gave it to me I’d never get stronger. Self-control is like that. We need to use it. God gives us the power of self-control through his Spirit, but if we never use that power we’ll never benefit from it. Not benefiting from it means we won’t grow more like Jesus.
Self-control is the ability to say no to ourselves and the temptations this world tosses at us. Jesus said that anyone who would follow after him must “deny himself.” (Matthew 16:24) Today, practice saying no to yourself so you can say yes more often to God’s Word and God’s love in your life.