By Pastor Royston Smith
The story is told about a not-so-thin man lamenting his weight gain. As a treat, he made a cheesecake for his family (or so they thought). As it turned out, a half was eaten during dinner. The following day He reports; half of it is eaten during dinnertime. He spent the following morning salivating on the rest. Finally, in a moment of weakness, he had a slither of a slice, then another, and another until the platter was empty. Completely soul-destroyed, the man anticipates his family’s disappointment at his lack of self-control. He makes a replacement cheesecake, eats a half and uses the remainder to replace the half he gorged earlier (they will never know).
Mahatma Gandhi says that a rash, unrestrained person lacks self-control and is like “one sailing a rudderless ship bound to break in pieces on coming in contact with the very first rock.” According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-control is a restraint exercised over one’s impulses, emotions, or desires. This definition echoes that which is found in the Bible; it comes from the Greek word ‘egkrateia’ which is a combination of two words: en meaning “in the sphere of” and krateia meaning “dominion, mastery” (including the understanding of desires and passions, especially the sensual appetites). Self- control then, means ‘to having command or mastery over possession of, one’s own behaviour from within. It is critical for self-management, guides our decisions, and it informs our response to life’s challenges. Those who practice self-control are more likely to enjoy success in every area of life.
As sinners we need divine help to achieve self-control. The Apostle Paul adds self-control to the qualities that comprise the fruit of the spirit. Explaining, David Mathis, of desiringGod.org writes, “True self-control is not about bringing our selves under our own control, but under the power of Christ.” Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…” Here are four tried and tested steps for achieving self-mastery.
Step 1. Pray. Jesus prayed daily to connect with God. This activity reminded him of his purpose on earth. Seek to model Christ’s example. The Gospel According to Mark chapter 35 says, “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.
Step 2. Have a positive mindset towards Bible reading. Daily renew your mind by reading God’s Word. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
Step 3. Rely on the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to us. He enables us to exercise self-discipline and helps us to make wise choices. John 14: 26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
Step 4. Identify and trust God to remove your weaknesses. “Come, let us talk this over, says the Lord; no matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can take it out and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you white as wool!” Isaiah 1:18 (TLB)
Self-control helps to improve relationships with others and to bring us peace. In the book of Proverbs 25:28, we are reminded that, “A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.”
Heavenly Father, thank you for your example of a life of restraint. Please help us to submit to your leading as we seek to represent you and as a result draw others to you. In the name of Jesus, Amen.