Few things destroy a person’s life like a lack of self-control. You can be at the top of your profession one year and totally ruin your legacy with one bad decision the next. You can be known as a faithful pastor for years, and then backslide toward the end of your pastorate. Self-control is essential for success. In fact, I will argue that self-control is one of the biggest indicators of Christian character.
Self-Control is Important for Godly Living
Paul writes to Titus and gives exhortations for men and women. (Titus 2:2, Titus 2:3-5, Titus 2:6). Just in the matter of five verses, self-control is mentioned three times. If you know anything about biblical hermeneutics, then you know that one way the authors of Scripture try to get a point across is through repetition. When the Bible repeats itself, it doesn’t do so by accident. And here in Titus, we get Paul’s crystal clear message: an important aspect of godly, Christian living for both men and women is the discipline of self-control.
Frank Ocean has a line in a song that goes, “And you made me lose my self-control, my self-control.” But no one makes you lose your self-control. Trials, tribulations, pressure and frustrating people around you do not change you so much as they expose who you truly are.
I’m not a big fan of movies, but I love watching a good documentary. Recently, I’ve been watching prison documentaries. I find it fascinating to learn about some of the inmates and how and why they ended up in prison. What would cause this guy or gal to do such a horrific crime? Bad parenting? Are they a product of the environment in which they grew up? Yes to both of these, to varying degrees. But in almost every case of an inmate serving time in prison, the root cause of their issue is a lack of self-control.
In what areas of life are Christians tempted to lose self-control or show a lack of it?
A few come to mind.
Gluttony is a sin. We laugh about it. We joke about almost throwing up after a meal (I’m guilty) and about how much extra and unnecessary amounts of food we’ll eat on Thanksgiving (guilty again). But eating more than we need because our soul is unsatisfied is not healthy. Looking at food to solve problems doesn’t cure problems; it creates more problems. And many — many, many, many — people in the world right now are miserable simply because they cannot control their appetite.
It happens all the time. A man commits adultery and shatters his family forever. A promising athlete has the pros clearly in his future but then has it all taken away in a second because he couldn’t control his body. A man gets addicted to pornography at a young age, and it takes years to overcome this sexual sin. A pastor who lands book deals and speaking engagements eventually falls out of love with holiness and in love with a woman who isn’t his wife. In many ways and on many occasions, a lack of self-control with sexual desire has ruined the lives of many.
Jesus tells us that out of the overflow of our mouths, our hearts speak (Luke 6:45). He also tells us that we will give account for careless words (Matt. 12:36). We make fun of someone, and then say, “I was just joking.” But you weren’t. To some degree, you meant it. Why? Because Jesus tells us that even these seemingly small, careless words are indicative of our hearts.
Social media and technology habits
I love technology and the ways it makes my life more efficient. I have heard and read about the dangers of social media and how certain forms of technology can trap you into addiction. Again, the problem is not social media; the problem is our lack of self-control.
Some questions to consider:
1. Do you check your phone at a stoplight?
2. Do you spend over two hours a day on social media?
3. Do you check your phone as the very first thing you do when you rise?
4. Do you check your social media during all the free gaps of the day?
5. Are you able to resist checking all forms of social media for three consecutive days without effort?
Not the perfect questions. Just a few that come to mind. You may need to re-think how you spend your time on social media moving forward. You’ll be fine without it for a while. I’ve never met someone who wasn’t on Twitter or Facebook who felt like they were missing out.
Let me remind you that self-control is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). These are the attributes of the godly Christian. I have never met someone who lacks self-control whose life I admire. On the flip side, Christians who have self-control and are seeking to grow in self-control are a blessing to everyone around them. Seek to be one of them.