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TEXT: Proverbs 16:32
SUBJECT: Proverbs #17: Self-control
"Self-control" and its equivilents come from two Hebrew words. The first is largely negative in nature, the second, quite positive. Together, they demonstrate its true nature. Observe, therefore:
It is sometimes translated from ASAR, which means, "to restrain or prevent". Hence, Sarah complains "Behold, the LORD has restrained me from bearing" children. Jeremiah, likewise, describes his imprisonment at being "Shut up in the court". Thus it includes the power to suppress, limit, or confine.
So it is used in 29:11, "A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back".
It also derives from MASHAL, which means "to rule or exercise authority". Hence, Adam would "rule" over his wife, David would "reign" over many nations, and God would exercise universal "dominion". Thus, it also includes the power to lead, command, and enforce.
This is illustrated by stark contrast. 20:13 puts it well, "Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes and you will be satisfied with bread". Observe:
These men are identical in knowledge: They both know that they must eat, and the only way to do so is to work.
They are identical in temptation. Both are asleep in a warm bed, and therefore, the thought of a hard day out in the cold must be miserable.
They differ in only one respect: The former indulges himself, while the latter commands himself to open his eyes, throw back the covers, put on his clothes, and go to work.
Combine the two, and we discover its essence. Self-control is "the power to restrain and direct yourself".
If we left the matter here, we would admit that many unbelievers practice extraordinary self-control, whether it be:
The Buddhist starving himself in a Tibetan monastery, or
The Moslem whipping himself in his month of Ramadam, or
The Friar swearing himself to celibacy and poverty, or
The athlete training himself from morning to night, or
The student, juggling school and work and family, or
A thousand others, resolving to break bad habits, to lose weight, to quit smoking, to give up drink, and the like.
However, there is something unique to Christian self-control, which makes it completely, absolutely, and qualitatively different than any other kind. It may be defined thusly, "The power to restrain and direct yourself.......according to the will of God and for His Glory!
Thus every Self-willed discipline lies under the Divine Censure, Colossians 2:23. The question from Isaiah will search the myriads of the Day of Judgment, "Who has required this of you?"
Again, Self-promoting discipline is equally displeasing to God, as in 21:4. This was, of course, the Jews ultimate sin. Illustrate from Matthew 6.
Thus, in a way, "self-control" is a misnomer. For in the Biblical sense, it means "The power to submit yourself wholly to God". And so it is commanded, illustrated, and exemplified throughout the Word of God.
It is commanded, Luke 9:23, I TImothy 4:7
It is illustrated, Romans 12:1-2
It is exemplified:
Well, by Paul, Galatians 2:20
Perfectly, by our Lord Jesus Christ, about Whom it was prophesied, Psalm 40:7-8. In fulfilling this prophecy, our Lord would cry with strong tears and bloody sweat, "Nevertheless, not my will, but Yours, be done."
THE DUTY OF SELF-CONTROL.
It is a duty.
It is an extensive duty. It encompasses, in short, everything you think, feel, say, or do.
Your thoughts, 4:23, Cf. Philippians 4:8.
A temper-tantrum is rarely--if ever--produced by intelligence or after careful thought. Did you, for example, ever say, "I really want to be impressive. So here's what I'll do: I will throw a fit, stamp my feet, slam my fist into the wall,foam at the mouth, and curse at the top of my lunges!"
Obviously, such tantrums are caused by thoughtless reactions, for which you certainly now feel ashamed.
But the Proverbs everywhere command us to control our tempers, 14:17,29.
Therefore, emotions, too must be controlled.
Your words. We are sometimes commanded to speak, and at other times, to forbear, 15:1-2, 28.
Your behavior, whether:
In worship, Ecclesiastes 5:1ff
At work, 6:6
At home, in the neighborhood, or anywhere else.
Even at the dinner table, 23:20-21
Even your time, "Redeem". etc.
It is an intensive duty, I Corinthians 6:20.
THE MEANS TO SELF-CONTROL.
Carefully consider its importance, Luke 9:23.
Carefully consider its alternative. "slave to sin".
Carefully consider the worthiness of Christ.
Work at it.
But above everything else, cultivate an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit, for it is only way, e.g., to overcome "being filled with wine, wherein is excess, is to be
filled with the Spirit".
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