Updated: Nov 22, 2018
… he must be hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.
There are many different facets of self-control: speech, emotions, thought-life, behaviour, attitude, beliefs, actions, purity, holiness etc. and although much can be said on each of these components alone, this article will mainly be focusing on the emotions aspect – zeroing in on anger. One of the most difficult things for us to control is our emotions – particularly when we feel like we’ve been wronged or dealt with unjustly. And I’m sure you would agree that one of the hardest of these would have to be exercising self-control in a moment of aggravation, infuriation and frustration.
It’s easy to let ourselves go and react according to our fluctuating mood at any given time … but is this how the Lord wants us to conduct ourselves? Sure, it might be all well and good to act righteous when things are going our way, but what about when things start to go wrong, or when arguments ensue and emotions start flying into overdrive?
Self-control is a fundamental ingredient for the believer to have a good grasp on. Having the ability to satisfactorily hold this characteristic generates a solid Christian who, instead of being controlled by his emotions, is able to keep them in check and not make reckless decisions.
He who is slow to anger is better than a warrior, and he who controls his temper is greater than one who captures a city.
Being slow to anger is better than a warrior! Wow! Why does the Bible explain it like this? Because it’s expressing the importance of exhibiting self-control – explaining how rare and honourable it is for one to have a handle on their own emotions.
Although not limited to this particular feeling alone, anger is often a primary emotion that, when controlled, produces beautiful godly results. It’s through a controlled temper that God’s Spirit is seen – which leads to right actions and godly decisions.
On the flip side, one who is devoid of self-control is likely to be rash, thoughtless, insensitive and explosive. His emotions rule his temperament so he is reactive according to the circumstances surrounding him – good or bad.
Instead of controlling himself in the situation, the situation controls him.
A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.
For the believer, we see self-control is given as a fruit of the Holy Spirit – so we have the ability to take hold of this wonderful attribute, but it doesn’t come easy. Our flesh is constantly battling against the Spirit so it’s up to us to get our flesh under submission so that we can allow the Holy Spirit to work through us in order for self-control to be produced.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
When we yield ourselves to the Spirit’s leading, we will grow and mature in the faith, which then takes us on a beautiful journey of virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, affection and love.
2 Peter 1:5-7
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
Having self-control is also extremely beneficial in helping us to abstain from evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22)—keeping ourselves pure and unstained by sin. And sin is the very thing that, if we get ensnared, separates us from God and leads to destruction. Romans 12:9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
The more we let go of the things of this world and take hold of the unseen treasures of God’s eternal Kingdom, the greater our relationship will strengthen with Him and our powers of discernment will heighten so that we will effectively be able to know and do the will of God.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 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.
There’s a beautiful illustration given in Titus in which we see the instructions for how older men and women are to lead and guide their counterparts…and although their directives differ slightly due to their respective God-ordained roles, besides teaching sound doctrine and being reverent in behaviour, both men and women are instructed to be self-controlled. This is due to the nature of what a person of self-control contains: maturity, discipline and humility.
But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.
In order to effectively exhibit self-control, we must be willing to lay down our self-preserving defences: reputation, pride and our own sense of justice so that the Lord can work through us to be a humble people who don’t allow anger to control us by trying to get revenge or spout hurtful words in response to an attack. Instead, the Holy Spirit will help us to show compassion, love and grace by controlling our thoughts, speech and actions by turning the other cheek and sharing the truth in love. Rebuking may at times be necessary, but it will be done in a godly manner, through a heart of love and gentleness, not anger and hatred.
The wise man will be careful to hold back his anger – whereas a fool will frantically spill out his fury.
A fool vents all his anger, but a wise man holds it back.
Now that we have a greater understanding of self-control and its importance, let’s seek the Lord in prayer and ask Him to help us to grow deeper in His ways, willingly letting go of our own opinions and agendas, holding fast to the truth of God’s Word and surrendering our lives to Him so that we will be saints who are self-controlled, pleasing the Lord with our lives in: the words we speak, the things we do, our whole demeanour.
-- By Jenny Ayling
This article was written to form part of the series, 'Imitate'. Containing 45 sessions, this thorough series intends to reveal the characteristics found in a disciple of Jesus. The original article, 'Imitate', would be the best place to begin your journey in discovering the qualities of a follower of the Messiah of Israel.