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Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control. Proverbs 25:28

[Because Jesus Christ has] given us everything we need for life and godliness, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness,
love. For it you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:2-8

The bumper sticker says it all about how out of control we can be today: “Whoever dies with the most toys wins!” The truth is whoever dies to self and lives in Christ wins because such a person never dies, but has an eternal life where “toys” are replaced by a reality that is truer, better, and more beautiful than a “toy” can ever be.

For Christian leaders any tendency to be out of control is not just personally dangerous, but also hazardous to their followers: either because of the leader’s poor example or the lack of confidence and trust which eventually results from a leader’s indulgent lack of self-control. Evangelist John Haggai states: “Self-control is an essential attitude and characteristic for a leader. Without it, the leader diminishes his or her effectiveness and will lose the respect of his or her followers. With it, people view them as one who has the determination and strength to be in charge.”

The Bible portrays the problem of self-control as a confrontation between an always futile reliance on the works of law (due to the bondage of our flesh to sin) and the ultimately redemptive benefits of relying upon the graceful power of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul puts it this way:

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what it good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bring me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

Many Christian leaders believe that by exercising their will power, they can control their excesses. In their book, Boundaries, Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend disagree, stating: “If we depend on will power alone, we are guaranteed to fail. We are denying the power of the relationship promised in the cross. If all we need is our will to overcome evil, we certainly don’t need a Savior! In other words, these self-denying practices that appear so spiritual don’t stop out-of-control behavior. The boundaryless part of the soul simply becomes more resentful under the domination of the will—and it rebels.” A biblical example of the failure of will power alone is Peter’s denial of Jesus despite his contrary intentions. Matthew 26:30-35, 69-75; John 18:12-27.

The Bible clearly teaches that those whom the Holy Spirit controls soon evidence the many “fruits” of the Spirit, including self-control. Galatians 5:22

Take a moment to reflect on your life. Do you struggle with self-control in any area that hinders your examples as a leader? What are you doing about it?

Samuel B. Casey

– This article comes from AI’s “No Higher Calling,” a devotional for lawyers.