Virtually every day we see examples of men and women who are out of control in modern society. And they are making life miserable for many.
For example, 51 people were shot in Chicago this last weekend—eight of them fatally. This is so common we almost grow callous to the news.
People lack self-control. The Bible talks about the traits of a godly person who draws close to Christ and develops over time what are called “the fruit of the Spirit.” There is a list of these in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians. They are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control
We need all these today. But I want to home in on the last one.
There is a widespread lack of self-control. Consider the ways.
We see young people consumed with their screen devices. I have actually seen a family of four eating out a restaurant, and no one was talking with each other. Instead, each one was immersed in his or her mobile device. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them were texting each other. “Say, do you want dessert?” “Yeah, maybe the tiramisu.”
Look at the example of the lack of self-control when it comes to the tongue. That includes what is “spoken” through emails and tweets and texts.
In this politically correct age, anybody who’s a public figure could be one stupid remark away from destroying virtually everything.
Solomon the Wise wrote in the book of Proverbs, “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” How many times have we said something that we wish we could take back? In our age of Twitter and Facebook, once you post something, it’s there forever, for all practical purposes.
Abraham Lincoln reportedly said, “It is better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” But the Bible beat President Lincoln to it by about 2800 years. In Proverbs, we read, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”
Ambrose Bierce once observed, “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.”
Self-control is often lacking in the realm of finances and spending today as well. Author Robert Morrissette said, “A credit card allows you to transcend time. For it allows you to put off until tomorrow what you bought today, while you are still paying what you bought yesterday.”
In short, many people are living beyond their means.
But then there’s a lack of self-control when it comes to gluttony and eating. In short, many people are living beyond their seams.
Think of the lack of self-control when it comes to alcohol or drugs today. There are recovery groups all over the place—thank God for that. Yet it is tragic that so many get addicted in the first place.
Then there’s a lack of self-control when it comes to holding one’s temper. If you look at the news, we are living in angry times. Strangers beating up strangers—not controlling themselves. We see examples of road rage—where cutting someone off could actually lead to a fatal confrontation.
I remember one time in a W. C. Fields movie from around 1940, where this girl got so mad at these two little boys that she picked up a rock to throw it at them. And he said, “Ah, ah, ah. Count to ten.” She counts, “1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10.” He says, “Now throw it. You’ve got a better aim that way.”
Even many forms of therapy encourage people to vent their anger, to the point where “let it out” has become a mental-health strategy. But the Bible says if you control your temper, you are greater than one who controls a city.
I could go on with example after example of the crying need for more self-control in our time.
The founders envisioned America as a land where the people would have liberty, but that liberty was not the same thing as licentiousness—where people act in lawless ways as if there were no consequences to their misdeeds.
Our second president John Adams once wrote, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
When people get truly converted in their heart, so often they experience a new level of self-control. This is what we need more of in our society, not less.
If you would experience self-mastery, then yield yourself to the Master.