412 self-controlJust say no? I have a friend. His name is Jimmy. Everybody likes him. He is very diligent, generous and has a good sense of humor. But Jimmy also has a problem. Recently he was traveling on a highway when a vehicle swept in front of him. Jimmy kicked the accelerator and chased the overbearing driver. When the culprit stopped at a red light, Jimmy had to fully brake. He got out of the car and stormed to the vehicle in front of him, slammed the side window, stuck his bleeding arm through the broken window, and punched the shocked driver with his fist. But the revenge was short-lived. Suddenly Jimmy grabbed his chest and fell to the ground. Within an hour he had to undergo a five-fold bypass surgery on the heart. Jimmy lacks self-control. Most of us are concerned as well. It does not have to be hot temper, but it is often just as destructive - fear, bitterness, gluttony, jealousy, arrogance, craving, drug abuse, self-pity, and greed.

In Proverbs 25,28, self-restraint is compared to the walls of a city, and the verse warns us of the danger of being ruled by desires and desires: "A man who can not restrain his wrath is like an open city without walls." In ancient times, cities were surrounded by walls to protect citizens from enemy invasions, dangerous animals and other unwanted intruders. When these mighty fortifications were overcome, people were defenseless - as we are when we are not in control of our emotions and desires. If we allow our selfish impulses to dominate, we open the door to lies, insults, hatred, illness, shame, and can cause serious harm to other people's lives (Spr 21,23). What is the answer to survive in the fight against our destructive desires?

Self-discipline? Willpower? Make more effort? Just say "no"?

The New Testament gives us an important clue as to how we can win the struggle for self-control. Self-restraint is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5,22-23). It is not our hard work, our self-discipline or our determination, for self-restraint is brought forth by the Holy Spirit in us. He is the source. The word 'self-restraint' means 'having control' or 'grabbing something'. The Holy Spirit gives us the inner ability to handle ourselves and live in ways that are not governed by our selfish emotions and desires (2, Tim 1,7). We can not even say "no" on our own. Titus wrote that the grace of God shows us to reject worldly desires and to live in this world in a judicious and just manner (Tit 2,11-12). But the Holy Spirit not only helps us to resist a bad habit. The Holy Spirit works in us to change and replaces selfish impulses with the inspiring, powerful life of Jesus Christ. We practice self-control as we choose, step by step (the Holy Spirit does not take away our free will) to accept him as the source of our life and not to live by our preferences. When we do this, our behavior will become Christlike. An electric light bulb indicates that electricity is present - we indicate that Jesus Christ determines our lives.

How can we lead a self-controlled life? Jesus shows us that there was always a plan of how man should be. He was not guided by his needs because he completely relied on his father. Through the heaviest spiritual battle Satan attempted in the desert, we gain insight into how self-regulation works. After Jesus fasted 40 for days, he was tired, alone and hungry. Satan sensed what Jesus' greatest need was and seized this opportunity to try what he most needed - food. But Jesus said, "It is written, Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Mt. 4,4). In Jesus' words, we find a key to training our minds thanks to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

The internal supply

In Psalm 119,11, he ponders Psalmist: "I keep your word in my heart so that I will not sin against you." God's Word must be anchored in our hearts. It is not enough to save it in a notebook or in a computer program. It has to be in us. The word "keep" was used when treasures or supplies were hidden or stored separately to be prepared for future emergencies. We save God's written word by doing something that may sound peculiar to modern ears - biblical meditation. Meditation is contemplation, reflection, listening, internalizing and repeating Bible passages like a dog gnawing at a bone. Meditation empowers us to keep God's Word where it has the greatest impact on our lives - in our hearts (Spr 4,23). Those who ignore the Bible allow old patterns of wrong thinking and destructive uncontrolled habits to regain authority over them. As we fill and nurture our thinking of Scripture and let it take root in our hearts, God's Word becomes a part of us, and that manifests itself naturally in our manifestations and actions.

In Ephesians 6,17, Paul compares God's Word with a sword: "Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God". Paul probably thought of the soldier's short sword, which they always wore - ready to use anytime. The Holy Spirit helps us to vividly remember scriptures (John 14,26) by reaching into the store of verses we keep in our hearts through meditation, and he helps us in emergencies by the flash of a word in our thoughts or supernaturally remind us of a verse or promise.

God has created us with a variety of temperaments, emotions and desires. These must all be brought under control or they will eventually dominate us. Self-restraint is compared to a conductor of a symphony orchestra. Under the baton of a conductor, a large number of talented musicians can play the right notes at the right time with the right volume on their instruments so that everything sounds just right. Likewise, our desires and our desires are justified. Self-control is the staff of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, under whose capable direction everything stays in the right place and is invoked at the right time. To be self-controlled is to be guided by the Holy Spirit.

Prayer: Dear Father, I sincerely wish to live a self-controlled life, but without you I can not do it. Thank you for giving me everything I need to live a well-meaning life (2, Petr 1,3). Please fill me with inner strength through your mind (Eph 3,16), so that I can deal responsibly with the ability you have given me! Keep my mouth and strengthen me, so that I do not fall into the desires of the body (Rom 13,14). Enable me to act prudently and to be who I really am - your child (1, Joh 3,1). I am in your hands. Live in and through me now. In Jesus name Amen.

by Gordon Green


Self-discipline and self-control

These two terms should not be confused with each other. Self-restraint arises from the presence of the Holy Spirit in us, whereas self-discipline is usually imposed by external factors - a diet or exercise. Normally, we subject ourselves to a rule or rule whose temporary compliance we deem necessary.