Self-control is one of the primary characteristics of the Christian life. The Apostle Paul talks about it as an element of the fruit of the Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
While a lot of people think that each of these elements are individual fruit, they are all part of the SAME fruit! A fruit tree only produces one kind of fruit. The Christian tree produces ONE fruit and it’s made up of these things. That means you can’t say you’ve got some fruit and not others. If you do well with love, joy, and peace but fail at self-control, your fruit ain’t ripe!
But self-control is one aspect of our character development that we let fall to the wayside. In my words, it’s because pizza tastes better than self-control. In generic terms, our individual indulgences are more important to us than exercising discipline. The Bible compares self-control to a city’s walls:
Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control. (Proverbs 25)
In the ancient world, the walls would prevent the enemy from coming and conquering the city. A break in the wall could mean devastation for the city. Similarly, when our self-control is not in place, we are wide open to attack from any indulgence or desire. Maybe food isn’t your weakness. Maybe it’s alcohol. Or your sexuality. Or your anger. Pick something – because I have confidence that most of humanity wrestles with self-control issues in SOME area of life.
But you can tackle your issues. John Maxwell talks about some ways to kick-start your journey towards self control.
Start small: You don’t wake up one morning and go run a marathon. You train for it. Likewise, it’s okay to have small, measurable goals to begin your self-control journey.
Be consistent: It’s amazing how small consistencies can produce big results. This month (February) I started a nationwide running challenge to run over 100 miles in the month. A group of us are doing it together. Running 100 miles on a Saturday isn’t very feasible for most of us. But running/walking 3.58 miles a day will get you to 100.24 miles in the month.
You CAN do it. Don’t be discouraged because of past failures. Get back on track. Hit the gym. Put the food down. Cut back on those indulgences. Discover joy in moderation.
Let your fruit ripen into something delicious.
How about you? What is it that causes your self-control to fly out the window?
Once upon a time the church talked about it. It was even considered one of the seven deadly sins.
Yes, I’m talking about gluttony.
The dictionary defines it as greedy excess or indulgence, especially when it comes to food and drink. No, this blog post isn’t about healthy living and nutrition. I’m actually very fond of junk food. I’ve hardly come across any ice cream flavors that I wouldn’t eat. My favorite candy is Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, followed closely by Twix. I’m also a big fan of meat lovers pizza and bacon cheeseburgers.
No, I’m not going to talk about proper nutrition. Ultimately, I guess, I’m talking about self-control (or the lack thereof). Because in my own life gluttony and self-control are inextricably linked.
This topic has been on my mind recently – I’ve been hit from multiple sides. My wife shared an article with me about 9 sins the church is okay with now (when it didn’t use to be). On the MSN homepage I saw an article about foods you should never eat – ever! On top of that, add in the very public mess with the hack and release of users of the Ashley Madison website designed to help people looking to commit adultery (why can’t people be satisfied with their spouses?).
So I don’t really want to write about food, but self-control. It seems to me that the lack of self-control is actually at the heart of many of the sins humanity wrestles with. But we don’t like self-control. Shoot – we don’t like ANY control. We prefer to live like my 8 year old, who bristles any time she is told that she can’t have her way right now. That part of our humanity seems to stick with us even as adults.
The problem is that self-control seems to be a REALLY big deal to God. The Bible has multiple passages relating to self-control:
– A fool always loses his temper, But a wise man holds it back. (Proverbs 29:11)
– But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
– Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. (2 Peter 1:5-9)
There are more, but you get the idea. Self-control seems to be one of the characteristics of God that we are supposed to embody ourselves. Can you even imagine a world where we demonstrated self-control consistently?
I will confess that I struggle with self-control. For me one area where my lack of self-control manifests is in my eating.
“Oh, here we go, Chris. We KNEW you were going to bring it around to health and fitness.”
No, I’m not really going to spend a ton of time there. But I do confess that it’s a personal struggle. I’ve had to find tools the help me combat my own weakness – and even with good tools I have a hard time. A book I read once (for the life of me I can’t remember the name) in seminary asked how pastors can possible hope to preach about self-control as a godly virtue when so many pastors are obese. It was personally convicting.
Perhaps food isn’t an area where you struggle, but the lack of self-control can hit us in so many different areas of life. If you stopped to think about your life, you might be able to pinpoint how your spiritual life (and perhaps even your physical or mental life) could benefit from greater self-control.
If we understand what the Bible says about self-control and believe that the Bible ought to be the standard for Christian life and thought, then perhaps we ought to examine how we can implement self-control more. For me it’s how I eat. And my anger triggers and responses to my wife and kids. And…
It’s fun watching babies discover how to make sounds with their mouths and tongues. While it’s all gibberish, they realize that they are able to produce a wide variety of noises. Like babies, adults have the ability to make a wide variety of noises – and it’s not all good!
How we use our tongues is a big part of practical Christianity (not just what we believe but how we actually live out our faith in real life). This is what James is talking about in 3:1-12 ~
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.
One little body part can bring on so many BIG problems. The tongue is a spark that starts forest fires! Our words can do incredible damage if we’re not careful.
I’m always reminded of a joke my mom taught me when I was a kid about a big-mouthed little frog. I’ve heard several variations, but the gist of it goes like this:
A big-mouthed little frog was hopping down the road when he saw a cat. In a very loud voice the frog yelled, “MR. CAT! TELL ME, WHAT DO YOU EAT?” The cat yawned and said, “I drink milk,” and went back to sleep. The frog said, “OH, THAT’S NICE!” and hopped down the road.
Then the big-mouthed little frog met a dog. “MR. DOG!” shouted the frog, “WHAT DO YOU EAT?” “I eat meat,” said the dog. The frog shouted, “OH, THAT’S NICE!” and hopped down the road.
Then the big-mouthed little frog met a cow munching on some grass. The big-mouth frog shouted, “MR. COW, WHAT DO YOU EAT?” “Can’t you see?” said the cow. “I eat grass!” Again, the frog shouted in its big voice, “OH! THAT’S NICE!” and hopped away.
Then the frog saw a big alligator on the side of the road and shouted, “MR. ALLIGATOR! WHAT DO YOU EAT?” The alligator smiled a big, toothy smile, looked at the frog, and said, “I eat big-mouthed little frogs.” The frog hopped back, then whispered in a very small voice, “Oh… that’s nice.”
We can choose what we do with our mouths! We can build people up or tear them down. Proverbs 10:19 says it like this:
When there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is wise.
So what’s the answer to the problem? Jesus tells us:
How can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. A good man produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil man produces evil things from his storeroom of evil. (MATTHEW 12:34-35)
To change your mouth you have to change your heart – when we actually develop a loving and caring heart then our words will follow. Our goal should be to speak life: affirming words, compliments, loving words,
Imagine a world where people use their tongues to help people rather than hurt people. One kind word can make a HUGE difference in someone’s life – be the person to speak it! You have the power to create or destroy – which will you choose?
– How have I been hurt by someone’s words? – Have I used my words to hurt others? – How can I be more intentional to build others up through my words?
Bubba is what we call our three year old. He’s an awesome kid. He can light up a room with his infectious grin. He’s a very happy kid who naturally attracts affection from everyone who sees him. I don’t think this is parental bias – I actually believe this about my son. But he has a problem. He has a compulsion. He’s addicted to apps.
Yes, you heard that right. He’s addicted to apps. On my wife’s phone. On her Kindle. Wherever he can find them. He’s got a compulsion – he MUST buy new apps.
The other night my wife and I were downstairs talking when our inbox received notification after notification about new apps that “we” had purchased and downloaded. I looked at the time stamp on the emails and exclaimed to my wife, “THIS IS HAPPENING NOW!” Mind you – it was 10 p.m. I bolted off the couch and went bounding up the stairs and burst into the kids’ room to discover that Bub had crept out of bed when the lights were off and parents were downstairs. He snuck into our bedroom and slipped Momma’s Kindle off of the charger and ran back to bed to download apps to his heart’s content. He’s done the same thing with my wife’s phone. In the past two weeks “we” have bought $20 in apps from the Kindle store. It’s kind of like the time our daughter purchased $200 in game tokens for a Facebook game, but that’s a story for a different post.
Anyway, back to Bubba. It’s almost like he can’t help himself. He has a problem. A gaming problem. Any time I hear people talk about having a problem my mind (being the movie fanatic that I am) always goes to the movie Airplane where the main character has a drinking problem.
While I find the word play amusing I understand that lack of self-control is not funny. It’s not just lack of self-control when it comes to alcohol, for there are quite a few areas where not having control leads to serious problems. As humans we often see lack of self-control in spending, alcohol, eating, sexuality, gossip, time management, and every other area of life.
Sometimes we try to play it off as though it’s no big deal. It’s only money. It’s only food. It’s my life – so what if I want to get hammered. The defensive talk goes on and on. The issue isn’t about what you have a right to do vs. what you are restricted from doing. The real issue is about the nature of God’s character and His intended goal for our character.
The Bible is not silent when it comes to self-control:
A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. (Proverbs 25:28)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. (I Timothy 3:2)
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness…. (2 Peter 1:5-6)
These are not even all of the passages relating to self-control. Clearly, then, there is something to this self-control thing that God desires us to wrap our minds around and to put into practice. Yet we fail time and again to do it. Why can’t we beat it? It seems to come down to gratification. We throw self-control out the window because we like the feeling of indulgence.
Please understand that this is not to negate the harmful power of physiological addiction on the body. But even then, one of the difficulties in breaking addiction is the strong pull back to gratification. To be honest, one of my greatest struggles with self-control is in the area of my eating. I love food. I love the feeling of consuming great tasting food. I like being full. I dislike being hungry. At least I’m not alone – there are a lot of overweight pastors. In fact, it seems to be the issue of choice for many pastors when it comes to lacking self-control. How many overweight pastors have you seen? There are a lot of us. Yet it’s impossible to deny that God calls us to self-control.
So we wrestle. We wrestle with the knowledge of what we know is God’s “best” for our lives – his desire for our character – and the sinful desire that attempts to satisfy human pleasure and refuse self-control.
Whatever you struggle with in your fight for self-control you should know that you are not alone. It’s part of the human condition. There’s something in all of us that wants to just let go in some area. Sometimes it is harmful, sometimes it is personal. It’s not about whether or not our self-control affects anyone else or not (I’ve heard many alcoholics say, “It’s my life – leave me alone”). What it is really about is that God is characterized by self-control and wants the same for us.
So you can start your journey today. Recognize what it is in your life that you lose self-control to. Make a plan to beat it. Tell someone and allow him to hold you accountable. Find a sponsor. Get into a program. Join a Bible study group. Do something, but don’t just sit back and allow your life to be dominated by your lack. It’s not God’s best for your life. You could be so much more.
And maybe one day we can break Bubba from his app addiction.
How about you? Where do you need self-control? Where do you struggle?
Poor Dan Cathy. It doesn’t appear that he has learned from his last go-round with the public last year. Once again he opened his mouth regarding the issue of gay marriage. In fewer than 140 characters he tweeted his disappointment with the Supreme Court’s ruling regarding DOMA.
I’m not exactly sure why this is news. It’s not like the world is surprised to know his position on how to define family. He was pretty clear last year that he believed in a biblical model of marriage. But it seems that some are quite put out that he would voice disappointment (and thus his opposition) with the Supreme Court overturning DOMA.
People are calling him names; accusing him of hate and bigotry. This bothers me on two levels:
~ First, the laws that provide pro-gay activists the right to express their opinions are the same laws that provide a voice to those who favor a biblical definition of marriage. I find it frustrating that some people demand the right to be heard but then try to silence any who oppose them. Free speech ought to be just that. It doesn’t matter what your personal belief is, when we start restricting people from expressing their opinions then we have lost one of our nation’s highest ideals. So it doesn’t matter if your are for or against marriage equality, Protestant, Catholic, Wiccan, or Atheist, you should be able to voice your opinion. Our country seems to be moving in a direction that the Christian voice is being shushed any time it speaks out regarding ethics or morality.
~ Second, giving one’s opponents derogatory labels is a cheap way of silencing opposition. It is not hateful or bigoted to express disagreement. It is a religious perspective. If Dan Cathy had kept his values to himself and never treated homosexuals in a poor manner then no one would have known his perspective. He would not have been labeled as hater or bigot. Simply because he expressed his opinion does not make him a bigot. He has not altered hiring practices or service standards at any of his restaurants. We should be able to disagree with each other civilly without resorting to name-calling. In the end, it is Cathy’s detractors who have become hateful and rude towards him and his expressed opinion.
Should Cathy have said what he did? That’s a different kind of question. I don’t think he was wrong to express his opinion. I don’t even think he opinions were wrong – I happen to agree that the biblical perspective of marriage is God’s ideal for healthy families and societies. But I don’t know if Cathy should have expressed his view publically. Perhaps he was caught up in the frenzy like so many others and tweeted before really reflecting on it.
C’mon, who hasn’t said something you wish you could retract later on?
The Bible tells us to be careful with our tongues. Just as a small rudder can steer a large ship, the small tongue can do a lot of damage. We often will speak without thinking about what we’re saying or who will be affected by our words. Dan Cathy is learning the hard way that words have consequences (even though I agree with the content of his words).
So learn a lesson from Dan Cathy. Even though we might not have the national platform he does – although I wouldn’t mind having 40,000+ followers on Twitter 😉 – our words have weight and impact. So watch what you say and how you say it. Consider not just your words but how your words will come across to others. Controlling your mouth will save you from hurting others or causing yourself grief.
Not every thought that pops into your head ought to come out of your mouth. I wish that statement was part of a social media class that people were required to take before being given a Twitter account, Facebook page, or any other medium available these days. It’s called discretion. Need to look it up? Discretion is the ability to be discreet or circumspect; the ability to decide responsibly. Doesn’t really sound like the internet, does it?
Social Media – giving every idiot a voice to his opinion since 2003. And they have LOUDvoices. Almost everywhere you turn you run into people who say stupid things. They say hurtful things. They say hateful things. And because they have a computer or a phone they have a platform from which to launch their idiocy.
The Bible talks about the power of the tongue, about the damage we can inflict with mere words:
If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. (James 3:3-10)
My mouth – not the biggest part of my body but still capable of so much damage. And from behind the safety of a computer monitor or smart phone we feel free to lash out at others. We feel free to disrespect, to slander, to be rude, to intentionally hurt, and to revel in our immorality.
So before you post stop and think.
– Does this really need to be shared? ‘Cause it might not need to be shared. Just because you had a funny thought doesn’t mean it is appropriate for the world. Keep it to yourself.
– Is the world made better because of sharing this? If you’re adding to the noise with verbal junk (hate, hurt, immorality…you know – idiocy) it’s not making things better. Keep it to yourself.
– Is my intention to build others up or brighten someone’s day?I’ve seen too many people post with the intention of making others feel bad. Really?!? Do you have such a desperate need to feel good about yourself that you need to post things that make others feel worse? If you’re not building others up you’ve got no place posting. Keep it to yourself.
– Is God honored in sharing this? I understand that you might not share my spiritual perspective. But this is my blog – which means my perspective wins here. What we say and do can reflect well or can reflect poorly on God. As a person of faith, do my words reflect well on my God? Is he honored in what I post? I admit that some posts are faith-neutral. I don’t think God receives much attention in my post about how much I love rhubarb pie and icecream. Still, you know what I mean. If your thoughts don’t honor God – Keep it to yourself.
I desire for people to rise above their basest nature and act with wisdom, decency, and discretion. I know that people will continue to spew their idiocy. It’s the nature of humanity to do so. But still…I hope…