Supply to Your Knowledge Self-Control
“Supply . . . to your knowledge self-control.”—2 PETER 1:5-8.
1. Many human problems are the result of what inability?
DURING a major campaign against drug abuse, young people in the United States were admonished: “Just say no.” How much better things would be if everyone would just say no not only to drug abuse but also to overdrinking, to unwise or immoral life-styles, to dishonest business practices, and to “the desires of the flesh”! (Romans 13:14) Yet, who will claim that saying no is always easy?
2. (a) What Bible examples show that difficulty in saying no is not new? (b) What should these examples encourage us to do?
2 Since all imperfect humans have difficulty exercising self-control, we should be interested in learning how to win any personal battle that we face. The Bible tells us about people in the past who strove to serve God but who sometimes had difficulty just saying no. Remember David and his sin of adultery with Bath-sheba. It led to the death of their child conceived in adultery and of Bath-sheba’s husband, both of whom were innocent. (2 Samuel 11:1-27; 12:15-18) Or think of the apostle Paul, who openly confessed: “For the good that I wish I do not do, but the bad that I do not wish is what I practice.” (Romans 7:19) Do you at times feel similar frustration? Paul continued: “I really delight in the law of God according to the man I am within, but I behold in my members another law warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive to sin’s law that is in my members. Miserable man that I am! Who will rescue me from the body undergoing this death?” (Romans 7:22-24) Biblical examples should strengthen our determination never to give up in our struggle to gain greater self-control.
Self-Control, a Lesson to Be Learned
3. Explain why we cannot expect it to be easy to manifest self-control.
3 Self-control, which includes the ability to say no, is mentioned at 2 Peter 1:5-7 along with faith, virtue, knowledge, endurance, godly devotion, brotherly affection, and love. None of these other desirable qualities are wholly inborn. They must be cultivated. To manifest them in significant measure requires determination and effort. So should we expect self-control to be any easier?
4. Why do many feel that they have no problem with self-control, but of what is this an indication?
4 True, millions of people may feel that they have no problem with self-control. They go about life doing as they please, knowingly or unknowingly conducting themselves in accord with the dictates of their imperfect flesh and giving little consideration to the consequences—to themselves or to others. (Jude 10) The lack of ability and willingness to say no is more evident now than ever before. It is an indication that we are indeed living in “the last days” of which Paul spoke when he foretold: “Critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, . . . without self-control.”—2 Timothy 3:1-3.
5. Why are Jehovah’s Witnesses interested in the subject of self-control, and what advice is still valid?
5 Jehovah’s Witnesses are well aware of the challenge posed by the need for self-control. Like Paul, they are conscious of the struggle between a desire to please God by living according to his standards and the course that their imperfect flesh may urge them to take. For this reason they have long been interested in how to win this tug-of-war. Back in 1916, an early issue of the magazine you are now reading spoke of “the proper course for us to take in getting control of ourselves, our thoughts, our words and our conduct.” It suggested keeping Philippians 4:8 in mind. The divine advice in that text is still valid, although originally offered some 2,000 years ago and probably more difficult to follow now than it was then or in 1916. Nevertheless, Christians strive hard to say no to worldly desires, aware that by so doing, they are saying yes to their Creator.
6. Why do we have no reason to despair while cultivating self-control?
6 Self-control is mentioned at Galatians 5:22, 23 as part of “the fruitage of the [holy] spirit.” If we manifest this quality along with “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, [and] mildness,” we will be benefited greatly. Doing so will prevent us, as Peter explained, from becoming “either inactive or unfruitful” in our service to God. (2 Peter 1:8) But we should not despair or condemn ourselves if we fail to display these qualities as rapidly and as fully as we would like. You have probably observed that in school one student learns more quickly than another. Or on the job one person learns a new task more quickly than fellow workers. Similarly, some learn to manifest Christian qualities more quickly than others. The important thing is to keep cultivating godly qualities in the best way we can. This we can do by taking full advantage of the help Jehovah provides through his Word and congregation. Speed in achieving our goal is less important than determined efforts to keep making progress.
7. What demonstrates that self-control is important?
7 Despite being listed last in the qualities produced by the spirit, self-control is in no way less important than the others. Quite on the contrary. We should keep in mind that all “the works of the flesh” could be avoided if we had perfect self-control. Yet, imperfect humans are prone to give in to some form of “the works of the flesh . . . , fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism, enmities, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects.” (Galatians 5:19, 20) We must therefore constantly put up a fight, being determined to root out negative tendencies from both heart and mind.
Some Have a Special Struggle
8. What factors make exercising self-control particularly difficult for some?
8 Some Christians have a more difficult time exercising self-control than do others. Why? Parental training or past experiences may contribute to the situation. If cultivating and displaying self-control has not seemed to be a problem for us, that is a reason for joy. But we certainly should be compassionate and understanding when dealing with those who have more difficulty in exercising it, even if their lack of self-control causes us some personal discomfort. In view of our own imperfection, who among us has any reason to show a self-righteous attitude?—Romans 3:23; Ephesians 4:2.
9. What weaknesses do some have, and when will these weaknesses be completely overcome?
9 To illustrate: We may know that some fellow Christians who have given up tobacco or the use of “recreational” drugs may at times still have a strong craving for them. Or some find it challenging to limit their consumption of food or alcoholic beverages. Others have trouble guarding their tongue, so they often stumble in word. To deal with such deficiencies requires diligent effort in cultivating self-control. Why? James 3:2 realistically admits: “We all stumble many times. If anyone does not stumble in word, this one is a perfect man, able to bridle also his whole body.” Still others feel a strong urge to gamble. Or they may find it difficult to control their temper. It may take time to learn to cope successfully with these or similar weaknesses. Although we can make significant progress now, wrong desires will be permanently eradicated only when we reach perfection. In the meantime, striving to exercise self-control will help us to avoid falling back into a sinful pattern of life. As the struggle continues, let us assist one another not to give up.—Acts 14:21, 22.
10. (a) Why is exercising self-control in sexual matters particularly challenging for some? (b) What major change did one brother make? (See box on page 16.)
10 Another area in which exercising self-control is difficult for some is in the matter of sexuality. Of itself, human sexuality is part of how Jehovah God made us. Yet, some have a particularly difficult time keeping sex in its proper place, in harmony with God’s standards. Their difficulty may be made worse because they have an unusually strong sexual drive. We live in a sex-crazed world that tends to fan the flames of passion in many ways. This can create quite a problem for Christians who want to remain single—at least for a time—so as to serve God free of the distractions of marriage. (1 Corinthians 7:32, 33, 37, 38) But in harmony with the Scriptural injunction that “it is better to marry than to be inflamed with passion,” they may decide to marry, which is certainly honorable. At the same time, they are determined to marry “only in the Lord,” as the Scriptures counsel. (1 Corinthians 7:9, 39) We can be sure that Jehovah rejoices over their interest in upholding his righteous principles. Their fellow Christians count it a joy to be associated with true worshipers of such high moral standards and integrity.
11. How can we be of help to a brother or a sister who is interested in getting married but who has not been able to do so?
11 What if no appropriate partner can be found? Imagine the potential frustration of a person who desires to marry but who has not been able to do so! He may see his friends marry and achieve a measure of happiness, while he is still seeking an appropriate partner. For some in that situation, the unclean habit of masturbation may become an ongoing problem. In any case, no Christian wants inadvertently to dishearten another who is struggling to remain chaste. We could unintentionally cause discouragement if we made such inconsiderate comments as, “When are you going to get married?” That might be said with no ill intent, but how much better for us to manifest self-control in the sense of guarding our tongue! (Psalm 39:1) Those among us who are remaining chaste while in a single state deserve our warmest commendation. Rather than say what might be discouraging, we could strive to be encouraging. For instance, we could make an effort to include single individuals when a small group of mature ones gather for a meal or wholesome Christian association.
Self-Control in Marriage
12. Why is a measure of self-control needed even by those who are married?
12 Being married does not in itself eliminate the need for self-control as it relates to sex. For example, the sexual needs of husband and wife may differ greatly. Or the physical condition of one mate may at times make normal sexual relations difficult or even impossible. Perhaps because of prior experiences, one mate may find it challenging to obey the injunction: “Let the husband render to his wife her due; but let the wife also do likewise to her husband.” In such a situation, the other mate may need to exercise added self-control. But both can bear in mind Paul’s loving advice to married Christians: “Do not be depriving each other of it, except by mutual consent for an appointed time, that you may devote time to prayer and may come together again, that Satan may not keep tempting you for your lack of self-regulation.”—1 Corinthians 7:3, 5.
13. What can we do in behalf of ones struggling to exercise self-control?
13 How grateful married couples can be if both have learned to exercise proper self-control in this most intimate relationship. At the same time, they do well to show understanding to fellow worshipers who are still struggling to manifest it in that area. We should never forget to pray that Jehovah give our spiritual brothers insight, courage, and determination to continue their fight to manifest self-control and to take steps to overcome improper desires.—Philippians 4:6, 7.
Continue Helping One Another
14. Why should we deal compassionately and understandingly with fellow Christians?
14 At times, we may find it difficult to be understanding toward fellow Christians who are struggling to show self-control in an area that gives us no trouble. But people differ by nature. Some are easily ruled by emotions; others are not. Some find it comparatively easy to control themselves, self-control posing no great problem. Others have more difficulty. Yet, remember, a struggling person is not a bad person. Fellow Christians need our understanding and compassion. Our own happiness is involved as we continue to show mercy toward those still struggling to increase their display of self-control. We can see that from Jesus’ words recorded at Matthew 5:7.
15. Why are the words at Psalm 130:3 comforting in the matter of self-control?
15 Never do we want to misjudge a fellow Christian who may on some occasion fail to manifest the Christian personality. How encouraging to know that in addition to seeing the one time that we may have failed, Jehovah sees the many times when we did not, even if all of these went unnoticed by fellow Christians. It is most comforting to keep in mind the words of Psalm 130:3: “If errors were what you watch, O Jah, O Jehovah, who could stand?”
16 To be pleasing to Jehovah, each of us must cultivate self-control, but we can be assured of the help of our Christian brothers. While each of us must bear his own burden of responsibility, we are nevertheless urged to help one another to cope with weaknesses. (Galatians 6:2, 5) We can treasure the parent, mate, or friend who prevents us from going places we should not go, from seeing things we should not see, or from doing things we should not do. He is helping us to display self-control, the ability to say no and to mean it!
17 Many Christians may be in accord with what we have considered up to this point about self-control, but they may feel that they personally have much room for improvement. They would like to display self-control more fully, to the extent that they believe can reasonably be expected of imperfect humans. Do you feel that way? What, then, can you do in the way of cultivating this aspect of the fruitage of God’s spirit? And how can your doing so help you to reach your long-term objectives as a Christian? Let us see in the next article.
Do You Recall?
Why Is Self-Control . . .
• important for Christians to cultivate?
• particularly challenging for some?
• necessary in marriage?
• a quality that we can help one another to cultivate?
[Box/Picture on page 16]
He Learned to Say No
One of Jehovah’s Witnesses living in Germany was employed as a technical communications clerk. His work included monitoring some 30 different television and radio programs. When interferences occurred, he had to give his attention to the program in order to pinpoint the problem. He says: “Interferences invariably seemed to occur just at the wrong time, just when scenes of violence or sex were being shown. The bad scenes seemed to stay in my head for days if not weeks, as though they had been branded into my brain.” He admits that this had a negative effect on his spirituality: “I tend to be rather hotheaded, so scenes of violence made it difficult for me to exercise self-control. The sex scenes caused tension between me and my wife. I had a daily battle. In order not to lose the battle, I decided to look for a new job, even if it meant less pay. Not long ago I succeeded in finding one. My wish has been fulfilled.”
[Pictures on page 15]
Knowledge gained from Bible study helps us to exercise self-control