“If you could bottle self-control, it would be one of the most valuable substances on earth.”
Drew Dyck (Your Future Self Will Thank You, 23)
Any Christian who has given much thought to how he can better steward his time and energies for the glory of God has probably realized that at the root of most failures in this area is a scarcity of self-control. And in the regret-filled aftermath of another failed skirmish with temptation, who hasn't found themselves wishing they had had just one more drop of self-control? So, when Dyck attacks the topic of self-control directly in this book, he is getting to the heart of a critical issue.
This was a delightful read. You might think a book on self-discipline would be a chore to plow through, but reading Your Future Self requires little of the virtue it seeks to cultivate. Drew’s humorous anecdotes and light-hearted self-deprecation keep a smile on your face, even as his insights keep you turning the page. Like a Sherpa of the soul, Dyck joyfully guides his readers up the mountain of temperance.
Drew Dyck draws from the Bible and the latest common grace discoveries in the discipline of brain science to reveal how self-discipline actually works, and how it can be cultivated that we might more faithfully follow our Master. He does this by identifying a universal problem, crafting a Christian definition, and outlining a biblical solution.
A Universal Problem
Everyone struggles at times to do what they ought, especially when what they want is at odds with what they ought. We are excellent at crafting plans, but terrible at following through.
Dyck writes, “Anyone can sign up to run a marathon. Propelling your body over 26.2 miles of concrete is where things get rough” (10). We have all felt what the apostle Paul describes in Romans 7:19, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” The struggle for self-control is a universal problem.
And though the problem of self-control is universal, it is particularly crucial for Christians. After being justified by faith, we understand that the remainder of our time on this earth is filled with the struggle of sanctification. We ought to gradually become more and more like Christ. Such transformation is the work of the Spirit in our lives, but the Word would have us grab hold of the means – like prayer, study of the Bible, fellowship, and service - which the Spirit uses to affect that growth. Anyone who has ever smashed the snooze button and rolled over instead of prioritizing daily devotions will tell you that the means of grace are grasped by self-control.
It’s not just about being a more productive person. Self-control, Dyck explains, is necessary for our Christian growth (it’s part of the fruit of the Spirit, after all). This is a serious matter. Readers of Your Future Self will feel the pangs of shame if they genuinely contemplate the question Dyck’s brother asked him, “Are you more spiritual today than you were twenty years ago?” (13). Who among us can honestly say that he has grown as much as he ought to have spiritually? Yet, if we asked ourselves why we have not grown, it would not take much digging in the soil before our hands grasped the root of the problem—self-control.
And as Dyck demonstrates, the result of a life without self-control is eventually disaster. Each decision we make to choose pleasure over duty gradually adds up. Or as Dyck puts it, “the fabric of life is stitched slowly, through a thousand tiny choices that end up defining your life.” (29). It is plain that we desperately need self-control. But what exactly is it? Dyck is helpful at the point of definition, as well.
A Christian Definition
Self-control is an especially important virtue for pastors. Those charged with the weekly exposition of God’s Word and the care of His flock must be men of discipline if they would have any hope of discharging that duty in an honorable manner. Dr. John MacArthur has frequently answered the question of how he prepares his in-depth expository sermons week after week with the simple answer, “you keep your backside in the chair until it’s done.”
That is self-control. But self-control can mean different things to different people. How should we define it?
Dyck makes clear that the Christian definition of self-control is more than simply not doing things you shouldn’t do. Doing the things you ought to do also requires self-control.
The boiled-down definition Dyck offers shapes the remainder of his discussion, “Self-control is the ability to do the right thing, even when you don’t feel like it” (33).
Easier said than done. But Your Future Self does not simply define the problem, it proceeds to offer biblical solutions as well.
A Biblical Solution
Much of the help in this book comes from gaining a more precise understanding of how self-control actually functions. Dyck draws on the latest scientific studies to confirm that, indeed, I am not the only one who struggles not to grab another cookie. But his most helpful solutions are drawn from the Word of God.
Dyck examines a variety of texts. I especially enjoyed his analysis of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. Though the temptation of Christ was of a higher magnitude than what we encounter, the principles of the Devil’s strategy have not changed. Satan offers shortcuts—to pleasure, power, and prestige. These shortcuts, which circumvent the commands of God, are lies, and we must counter such temptations with the truth (70).
The author covers the subject of habits, the intersection of grace and self-control, and the unique
challenges of trying to be a disciplined Christian in an age of digital distraction.
I did not agree with everything in this book. I had some quibbles with some of Dyck’s conclusions here and there. I found myself wishing there was a higher Bible-to-brain science ratio. But the book sets out to look at self-control from both angles, so can I fault it for accomplishing what it intended?
Overall, Christian readers seeking to grow in self-control have much to gain from this work. As someone who has read every book out there on Christian productivity, it is no small matter for me to tell you that Drew Dyck’s Your Future Self Will Thank You has found itself among the top books on my recommended reading list for this genre.
As such, I heartily recommend it to you.