The past two weeks have been a sports paradise for the basketball junkie. The annual NCAA men’s college basketball tournament, known as March Madness, has provided upsets, incredible comebacks, and thrilling, last second shots.
In listening to various color analysts, I noticed that one word is used quite a bit to describe both teams and individual players: Control.
Successful teams are able to control the tempo. Some like to play fast. Others slow it down. But to win they have to dictate the pace of the game.
Often you heard the announcers speak of a certain player and say, “He’s playing out of control.” In other words, he’s not playing his game. Or playing within himself. Taking wild shots, excessive dribbling, erratic play or failing to keep your emotions in check are examples of being “out of control.”
Being in control is important to the success of the athlete. The student. The business person. The Christian. Both the concept and the word control is found in the Bible. Consider these passages.
But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Cor. 9:27, ESV)
A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. (Prov. 28:11, NIV)
Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit. (Prov. 25:28; NASU)
While there are different Greek and Hebrew words translated control, they all speak to a similar behavior. Control has to do with self-discipline. Mastery of one’s emotions, attitudes and actions. It means to reign in one’s desires.
Self control is “the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sexual appetites.” William Barclay writes that self-control “is the ability to take a grip of one’s self.”
Self control gets us out of bed in the morning. Prods punctuality. Practices self-denial. Welcomes responsibility. Accepts criticism. Breaks bad habits. Shapes character. And is applied in the daily discipline of our lives.
Consider four ways in which we need to develop control in our Christian conduct.
(1) Control your mind.
The wise wrote, “As a man thinks in his heart so is he.” Thoughts that begin in the mind can soon dominate the soul. They must be brought under the control of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). We can master our minds, by thinking on things that are pure, praise-worthy and honorable (Phil 4:8).
(2) Control your eyes
“The lust of the eyes” has always been problem for human kind. It began in the garden with Eve and continues today in more sensual forms. Jesus warned in the Mountain Message about the sin of sexual lust. Sexually charged movies and television shows are a challenge to our spirituality, as well as the nemesis of internet pornography. Self-control must be exercised to avoid them at all costs.
(3) Control your tongue
The Bible admonishes us, “let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” (Jas 1:19). How often have we wallowed in regret because of a lack of self-control in uttering angry, hurtful, unkind or even profane words?
The wise man was right, “Whoever guards his mouth and tongue, keeps his soul from troubles” (Prov 21;23).
(4) Control your sexual desires.
We live in a world where sexual control is mocked and marginalized. Yet, the Bible commands, “Abstain from fleshly lusts which war against your soul” (1 Pet. 2:11). Paul told Timothy to “flee youthful lusts.”
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.” (1 Thess 4:3-5, ESV)
What we do or fail to do morally is often the result of things we’ve been thinking, seeing, and saying.
God has placed each of us in control of our own lives. Your ability to control your mind, emotions and actions will determine your spiritual success on earth, and your eternal destiny.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman