Nudges Toward Self-Control

by J. Randal Matheny, editor
manpraying4.jpgYou may have experienced it as I just did.
It starts small and builds to a crescendo.
For me, it began Saturday afternoon, the 21st, with Don Ruhl’s email devotional which we call “Twice Blessed” on the Forthright site. This particular devotional was based on James 3:2, about the tongue, and titled “The Beginning of Self-Control.”
I wrote Don an email, confessed my need to work more on self-control and asked for suggestions on controlling the tongue (and the rest of the body).
Well, for the last two days, seemingly out of nowhere, I’ve been inundated with mentions, from right and left, of self-control.
A couple of online articles and posts on the Twitter.com service hit on the need for mastery over the self.
Today, when I opened a recent issue of Bulletin Digest, Terry Ellison’s article, “Hold Yourself In,” overviewed several New Testament passages about self-control and concluded, “If we are to be acceptable to God, we must hold ourselves in, to exercise self-control.”
Some people interpret such concentrations of a subject matter much like a person who buys a car and suddenly notices the streets full of the same model and make.
Others would attribute it to the providence of God who, when we open ourselves to his guidance in a particular area, provides nudges from above to help along the way. (Some make it miraculous; we’ll stick with the non-miraculous.)
However one interprets it, I got the message. I need more self-control.
Mastery over self comes after great struggle, at a great price, but with a huge reward.
“Each competitor must exercise self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one” (1 Corinthians 9:25 NET).
The rigors of self-discipline are not borne alone, for God’s people count on the power of his Spirit to overcome the passions and desires of the flesh.
Paul told the Thessalonians that the gospel did not come to them in mere words, “but in power and in the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction (surely you recall the character we displayed when we came among you to help you)” (1 Thessalonians 1:5).
Paul’s manner of life, and that of his companions, among them was yet another proof of the power of God working in the lives of his servants to change and direct.
If “angels and authorities and powers [are] subject to him” (1 Peter 3:22), putting a mere mortal body under his reign should be child’s play. When we want to do it.
Perhaps there’s the catch. When we want.
And the message I need — and the message I got an earful of over the last couple of days — is that tomorrow’s reward for self-control is far and beyond today’s satisfaction of the flesh.
Who knows? This may be the first of several nudges for you.

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