In Part 1 of this series, we saw what self-control is. Now, I would like to point out three areas in our lives where we must practice self-control.
We Must Practice Self-control in Our Thinking
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. - Philippians 4:8
The mind is our control panel. We have good thoughts and bad thoughts. Believers will even allow their minds to go to places that their actions would never go. They think that since no one can see them, that it is okay to think sinful thoughts. However, we must remember that God sees and knows every thought you have ever had. He knows our sinful thoughts and the battles that we face in our mind.
Romans 12:2 says, “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.” God tells us that we must continually be renewed in our minds. This renewing of our mind happens when we fix our minds on God and His Word. We must fear Him and keep our minds fixed on things that are good and pleasing to Him.
If you grew up in the church, you probably sang the lyrics, “be careful little eyes what you see. . . be careful little ears what you hear. . . there’s a Father up above and He’s looking down in love.” This song gives a practical way that you can practice self-control over your thoughts. We must guard our eyes in what we watch and our ears in what we listen to. The things that you meditate on will be things that you regularly think about.
We Must Practice Self-control in Our Emotions
Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. - Proverbs 16:32
In the culture of Israel, a soldier was highly respected, but God points out that one who controls his emotions deserves more respect and honor than a soldier who conquers a city. God wants us to keep self-control over our emotions. When tempers explode, and anger is out of control, God is not honored, and we fall into sin.
Emotions that are out of control don’t only affect us, but they affect others around us. Outbursts of anger wound others and the relationships we have with them. More importantly, it wounds our relationship with God. James 1:19 tells us that we are to be slow to anger. When we become angry and lash out at others, our tongue goes to work, slashes people down, and starts a great fire. We need to control our emotions with the strength of Christ. A person who controls his emotions is better than a mighty warrior who conquers a city. We must, through God’s power and help, control our emotions so that we might glorify Him.
We Must Practice Self-control Over Our Body
Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. - 2 Corinthians 9:25-27
Athletes in the Olympics must practice self-control over their bodies. If they lose control and stop working out, they won’t qualify for their event and will not get to compete. Paul talks about having self-control over his body so that he would not be disqualified as a preacher. He would do whatever it takes so that when he preached, he would not bring reproach on the gospel of Jesus. Of course, Paul had his liberties, but he kept those in check. As Christians, we have liberties, but it is not wise to give into things that would bring reproach on the gospel.
There are three main areas where we need to practice self-control in reference to our bodies. The first area is with food. We need to practice self-control over food and take care of our bodies. We need to make sure we don’t fall into the sin of gluttony. The second area is with laziness and a lack of desire to work. God created us to work. We need to make sure that we work hard and bring Him glory through our work. (1 Cor 10:31) The third area is sexual morality. Christians need to honor God and not bring reproach on the gospel through sexual sin.
Our thoughts, emotions, and body need to be under control. Athletes go through rigorous exercises and self-control over their bodies for a gold medal or a trophy—a perishable prize. But as Christians, we are promised an imperishable crown that will never fade away. (1 Cor 9:25) We need to discipline our bodies and have self-control as we strive for and await that imperishable crown. We must also practice self-control so that we might be ready to be used by God for His glory.