by Tim McCoy
Executive Minister, CBOQ
Self-control is easier said than done, right? A fruit of the Spirit? Really? I have to somehow work self-control into the mix of love, joy and peace? I admire people who have exemplary self-control. (You know who you are.) You go for the vegetable plate instead of the cookie jar at potlucks. Or, you’re the ones that go to the gym rather than the breakfast buffet. You’re the folk that study, rather than drift over the Netflix app on your device to watch one more episode of “How I Met Your Mother.” I know who you are and I really do admire you.
We’ve been told that we are responsible for our own actions… always, but knowing and doing don’t always coincide. Often, we know the right things to do, the right words to say, but we’re not always successful in carrying out what is right. We find the root of these meanderings beyond goodness and Godliness to be a lack of self-control. Actually, I’d rather talk about a lack of self-control than about self-control. But I digress.
Self-control is the hardest fruit to achieve, in my estimation. Self-control has been defined as “restraint or discipline exercised over one’s behaviour.” It is true. We consider self-control to be a discipline through which, in an instant and when faced with a decision that might be linked to a temptation, we are able to make the right choice. The struggle is real!
I was challenged once by my friend, David Buck, to redefine “self-control” as being “Christ-controlled.” It is being fully aware of what God might expect or desire for me in the moment of decision in all things. David Mathis writes that “self-control serves as a major summary term for Christian conduct in full flower (2 Timothy 1:7; Titus 2:6, 12; 1 Peter 4:7; 2 Peter 1:6). It is the climactic “fruit of the Spirit” in the apostle’s famous list (Galatians 5:22–23) and one of the first things that must be characteristic of leaders in the Church (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8).”
I’m getting better at self-control. Recalling lessons from my past and programmed into my attempt at a disciplined life, I conjure up the following reminders in the form of these disciplined statements and questions:
- Think before you speak.
- What is the potential long-term impact of what you are about to do/say?
- Consider the outcome of your behaviour before you act.
- How will what you’re about to do/say honour God?
Most of all, I consider Christ’s perspective on the life I live in real time. Knowing that I am redeemed and will be forgiven is deeply comforting. Knowing that I have the ability to exhibit control of my life and actions that will honour God is the challenge. Keeping my mind on Christ allows me to establish self-control. Remembering that he is coming again, maybe today, keeps me on my toes.
I Thessalonians 5:4-8 reminds us to “Be ready for him. Keep your head up. Keep remembering he is about to come. Keep self-controlled—don’t lapse into behaviours which wouldn’t please him. Wear faith and love at all times. Protect your head with hope. Don’t let despair or discouragement or cynicism or boredom rob you of your expectancy and of your joy of living.” AMEN.