A severe storm recently swept through our part of town bringing with it strong winds that pummeled the area with a remarkable torrent of rain. While the meteorological onslaught didn’t last long, it made up for its brevity with an impressive atmospheric light and sound show. When the skies finally cleared, a quick inspection of our property revealed a large pine tree resting across our backyard fence. Clif and I worked together to remove the tree trunk and do our best to repair the fence, if nothing to ensure that our pets would continue to be kept inside the confines of our yard, safe from any number of dangers (cars, snakes, coyotes, etc) often lurking just outside our chain link perimeter.
City walls in the time of the Old Testament and fences today aren’t wholly alike, but one similarity is that they both function as a type of security. But back a couple thousand years ago, a gap in the wall of a city was much more alarming because it opened everyone up to attack and destruction from invading armies or bands of thieves. Thus, it was paramount for a city to carefully monitor the state of it’s walls, knowing them to be the primary means for keeping themselves secure.
Like a city whose walls are broken down is a person who lacks self-control. – Proverbs 25:28
The writer of Proverbs reminds us that self-control is akin to the walls of a city. Someone who lacks this fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22) is often defenseless before their enemies in this world. Scripture says… resist the devil, (James 4:7), flee temptation (2 Tim. 2:22), stand firm against the evil one (1 Cor. 16:13; Eph. 6:1-13), throw off the sin that so easily entangles (Heb. 12:1), but if we have no mastery over our desires, we can’t effectively do any of those things. When we head off after whatever we want, respond in whatever way we feel, entertain whatever thought comes in our head, our “city” can be quickly overrun in a moment.
So think about it… Has a storm swept through and exposed some gaps in your “wall” caused a lack of self-control? Maybe your walls aren’t completely down yet, but is there visible damage? Here are four positive actions to help you begin repairs.
- BEWARE OF EROSION… -So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall – 1 Corinthians 10:12
Sometimes damage happens swiftly and is easily identified, but much less notable are fissures caused by consistent neglect. Erosion is a slow process, but often the most destructive. Always keep in mind that just because you are strong now doesn’t mean you will always be. That’s why you need to take regular and honest inventory of your life. Be alert and inspect diligently to reveal areas that were once fortified, but may now need mending. Open yourself up to God and ask him to show you danger spots.
- BE AWARE OF WEAKNESSES– Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. ~ Matthew 26:41
Once you develop a weakness, you need to constantly police that area. During an attack the location of a breach will almost always be flimsy. You can fill and patch it up, but it simply isn’t ever as strong as the original structure That’s why it’s so crucial to be extra vigilant in those areas. It’s wise to stake an extra guard or two there just to be safe.
- BE CAREFUL OF EXPOSURE. – Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind ~ Romans 12:2
Self-control is not about will-power – it is about Truth. When we allow our minds to dwell on things that aren’t consistent with God’s Word, it’s like pouring a corrosive on the wall or setting it on fire. Remember, It’s not always the attacks from the outside that are doing damage, but rather an assault from within. Monitor what you think about. What are you dwelling on when you’re driving down the highway, cooking dinner or allowing yourself to be idle. What thoughts do you feed via your phone, computer or television screen. Imaginary arguments, desires, and fantasies are internally destructive and will lead you away from the will of God.
- CALL IN AN EXPERT – For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. ~ 1 Timothy 1:7
Successful self-control is not really self-control at all. If you try to do it alone, you will fail. You don’t have enough power, inner strength or know-how to exercise self-control all the times you need it. Oh, you might be able to muster it up for a while or enough to get by in one particular area, but not for long. If you want to permanently fix the holes, then you have to call in an expert! Fortunately, every believer has THE expert on-site, in-house, and ready to do the necessary repairs. The Holy Spirit is present every day to do for you what you can’t do yourself.
Godliness takes discipline, hard work, self-denial, and a lot of spiritual exercise – but ultimately, fencing in our raging desires and developing the virtue of self-control can only be accomplished by submission of our lives to Jesus Christ and willingness to allow the Holy Spirit to do His transforming work.