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Self Control: Cost and Reward

by Levi Sizemore

LeviSisemoreSpiritual Maturity — Second in Series

Self-control is nothing that you and I can gain overnight, nor is it freely gifted to us; self-control is earned through discipline. Some people seem to have self-control because they are not easily swayed by certain indulgences or dalliances, but when we remember that each person has his own points of temptation (that what tempts me, might not actually tempt you), we realize that what we often see is people saying “No” to things which don’t tempt them. That, of course, is not any great display of self-control. It’s easy to say “No” when we want to say no. Where discipline and self-control come into play is when we must actually deny ourselves.

Self-denial sounds so much harder than self-control, doesn’t it? Self-control can sound like a romanticized quest for the mastery of mind-over-mater, but self-denial only sounds painful. “Consider [Jesus] who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (He. 12:3f). Yes, it sounds painful to resist sin and self; it is painful in the moment.

Such self-denial was a central theme of Jesus’ preaching: “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?’” (Lk. 9:23) What good is all of the indulgence in the world if we thereby lose our souls in the process? In Mark 8:37 he continues the question, “For what can a man give in return for his soul?” No sane, self-controlled person one can look at the stakes of eternity and spend away his soul on momentary pleasures. Being a Christian, self-denying, and under God’s control is the reasonable choice.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control…”     I Corinthians 9:24-27


                                   Levi Sisemore is minister of the 37th Street Church of Christ, Snyder, Texas

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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10