Our Biggest Problems are Internal, not External
Have you ever found yourself doing something that you didn’t want to do? Feeling feelings, thinking thoughts, doing deeds that you say, “Don’t do that! Stop that! Why are you doing that?” You don’t want to, but you find yourself drinking too much, eating too much, saying too much, worrying too much, it’s too much! Or losing control, losing your head, losing your cool. Or you can’t shake the anxiety, the avarice, the anger. And you think, “I’m able to manage a lot of things, but with this thing, I am out of control! I need to control this!”
I mean, we like to complain about how hard life is, but if we’re honest, our biggest problems are much closer than that. When you’re honest with yourself, sometimes you feel like you’re an uncaptained ship, rough tossed, not only by the winds of circumstance, but by mutiny in your own vessel, with insubordinate thoughts, feelings and habits that vie for captaincy of the ship. Have you ever cursed yourself for lacking fortitude of spirit, a stronger better will, greater self-control?
[tweetshare tweet=”Sometimes you feel like you’re an uncaptained ship, rough tossed, not only by the winds of circumstance, but by mutiny in your own vessel.” username=”JRothwilson”]
Being Out of Control is the Human Condition
As sure as you’re breathing you have, because the problem is the human condition since Genesis 4 when God told Cain, “Sin is crouching at your door and you must master it.” But he didn’t, and he couldn’t, and we can’t. Sure, I can quit biting my nails, but I can’t make my heart quit devouring others. I can drive the speed limit, but I can’t stop speeding to judgment. I can stop drinking out of the milk jug, but I can’t stop resenting people for making me change. Because real righteousness isn’t just about external behavior, but the disposition of the heart.
[tweetshare tweet=”I can stop drinking out of the milk jug, but I can’t stop resenting people for making me change. Real righteousness isn’t just about external behavior, but the disposition of the heart.” username=”JRothwilson”]
We Can’t Escape What’s Inside
Self-control isn’t only about what we do or say, but Galatians 5:18-21 says it’s internal also: anger, jealousy, hatred, envy. Predispositions of heart we can’t seem to work our way out of. Like Houdini, the magician and escape artist who could get out of any jail, handcuffs or straitjacket that he ever tried, except one: a little jail in the British Isles. He did what he always did, what always worked: tinkering, fidgeting and laboring on the cell door lock for two hours with the incredible speed that he was famous for. That sprang him from every other predicament in less than three seconds, but he finally encountered something he couldn’t unlock. We can do what always works…but we soon find out that it doesn’t always work.
The Bible says that if we’re under the control of our sinful inclinations we’ll always be frustrated, aggravated, irritated, kicking ourselves, for not being able to do the good that we want to do (maybe you can identify, I know I can). But worse, he says that people who are categorically controlled by their appetites and impulses won’t inherit the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is both a present and future reality. It’s something we can be a part of, as Kip from Napoleon Dynamite beautifully sang, “Always and forever.”
The Stakes are High
That’s why when Paul was imprisoned in Rome in Acts 24:25 and he was talking to Felix (the governor, not the cat) about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix grew afraid and said, “That’s enough! Talk later, love you bye!” Why was Felix afraid? Because there is a connection between righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come! If we’re not self-controlled, we’re not righteous and we’ll be on the business end of the judgment to come. This is the fate of our immortal souls we’re talking about here, Felix is right, this is terrifying!
So we can all identify with Felix, “Can we just talk about sports or something?” because the idea of mastering myself mind, body and heart IS FUTILITY that attracts only the religious and never the realist. I don’t want any part of a Christianity that espouses controlling ourselves by force of will alone either, because unrealistic religion is the worst kind of slavery making us a hamster on a wire wheel, ever spinning, never winning. But take hope! There is something we can do that will bear the fruit of self-control in our lives. That’s what the next two parts are about!
[tweetshare tweet=”The idea of mastering myself mind, body and heart is futility that attracts only the religious and never the realist. I don’t want any part of a Christianity that espouses controlling ourselves by force of will. ” username=”JRothwilson”]
So take the first step toward self-control today. If you don’ think you need Jesus to bring some area of your life into control, be bold enough to ask God if he agrees. Let him point out ways that you could be greater tomorrow than you are today. If you know what’s out of control, admit it to God and someone you trust. Just say the words. Say them! It’s time to get unstuck!