If you have ever been to a circus, I am sure you were amazed at the lion tamers. A man or a woman stands in a cage surrounded by several lions. The lions respond to the trainers commands and perform tricks for the audience. The lions have incredible strength and could tear the trainer to pieces. However, the trainer has brought the power of the lion under control and directs his actions as he desires.
Christians must perform similar feats in living a godly life. We have desires that we must master. We have the ability to destroy others, but must restrain ourselves. We might be lazy or procrastinate regarding something we should be doing and must motivate ourselves to be diligent servants. We must train and control these desires, like the lion tamer controls the wild animals, and bring them under the control of a spirit dedicated to Jesus.
Christians must control their tongues. The tongue is truly like a wild beast that can destroy others and our own soul. In James 3:1-12, James warns that although it is small, the tongue can curse men and God and we cannot tame it. We must try to control it to the best of our ability. We must not curse others or speak evil of them. Our tongue must be used for edification and blessing. We train our tongue by resisting the temptation to gossip, curse, lie, and insult others. We try to find good things to say about others. We seek words that will encourage our brethren as they journey towards heaven. When we must offer a rebuke, we do so with humility, meekness, and love, considering their soul’s welfare.
We must also control our desires. The Devil will use our desires to draw us away from God, James 1:14. It is not wrong to have desires, but it is wrong to have them directed at things God has forbidden. For example, physical desire for my spouse is permitted; coveting my neighbor’s wife is not. Our desires can seem as strong, but we can be stronger. God will give us the strength to endure temptation. We may have to get ourselves out of the situation or call someone to help us through the tough time. However, we can endure and we must overcome evil desire.
A Christian must also control his temper. James wrote, “the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” In some situations, such as in business, it is acceptable, perhaps even expected, that a person will lose his temper. However, even if the world accepts such behavior, the Christian, who is not of the world, should keep his temper under control. He may get angry, but he must express his anger in an approved and dignified manner that does not demean or injure others. It is not the anger that is wrong; it is the improper expression of anger. Though it might lash out like a wild beast, the Christian must bring his temper under the control of his spirit.
Finally, we must consider positive self-control; we might call this self-direction. Self-control is not concerned only with restraint but with action. God commands us to do many things that may seem difficult or potentially embarrassing. However, we must overcome our fears and anxieties and do what God has commanded us to do. We might be scared to call a sick brother or sister, fearful that we might say the wrong thing or not know what to say. We must overcome that fear and choose to do what we know God wants us to do. Self-control will allow us to limit activities that take us away from Bible study, prayer, edifying our family and loved ones, and direct our efforts towards these godly pursuits. Self-control will encourage us to study or pray when we really do not feel like it. Like a dreaded workout, we often find after starting what we tried to avoid, we are happy and thankful that we did it.
Add self-control to your faith, and see your faith grow.