We’re all aware that self-control is one of the Biblical disciplines of a Christian life. Some forms of self-control are relatively easy for us, and others considerably more difficult.
For example, you may state confidently that you are not promiscuous, a drunkard, gambler or practice any of the other troublesome human behaviours which are prevalent in society. However, before we take any personal credit for being such a ‘good person’, perhaps we should dwell on why we do not indulge in these behaviours.
I’ve never smoked – not because I made a conscious decision not to, but mostly because it never appealed to me so there was no temptation to do it. I’m virtually teetotal, enjoying perhaps half a glass of wine two or three times a year at most. I have no longing for alcohol so wouldn’t miss it. I’ve never been promiscuous as I find the whole idea abhorrent. None of these disciplines though are anything to do with me because I was never tempted to do them so I can’t take any credit for avoiding them.
I’ve seen others, including Christians, who struggle with a particular behaviour or habit and that struggle has been lifelong. This may be partly due to the fact that they indulged in it prior to becoming a Christian, or just that there was an initial attraction which appealed to them and then led to them becoming addicted. It may also have been a weakness in them which prevented them from detaching themselves from the company of others who indulged freely. Whatever the reason, I have enormous sympathy for people in that situation. I can’t say to anyone that they should just walk away from destructive behaviour if I never personally wrestled with it myself. How can I explain what real love is to someone who has never been shown it and looks for it in all the wrong places? If I didn’t come from the same starting point as them then I can’t possibility know what I would have done in the same circumstances. Perhaps I would have gotten into an even worse predicament than them.
For that reason, I feel it’s a very worthwhile process to search our own lives and seek to identify the areas which are our Achilles heel. We all have them – some are just more obvious than others.
I love entering competitions and I find the thrill of winning the best part of it. Nothing wrong with that you might say, however, it would be very easy to move from that to a lottery, fruit machine, or casino. Whenever I see a fruit machine, I have an overwhelming urge to start inserting coins into it to see what I could win. The reality is that, in the end, I would have much to lose, financially and spiritually, so it is a place I can’t allow myself to go. If anything was going to lead to my downfall, I seriously suspect it would be gambling.
Those who’ve been through terrible trials linked to addiction, and come out the other side, have much to offer to those presently grappling with it. We always listen more to someone who has already experienced what we are in the midst of, as we know they understand and may be able to offer real practical help to lead us out of the problem too.
As well as making use of whatever practical help others can provide, God’s Word is full of wisdom and that’s where we should turn.
Keep company with the wise and you will become wise. If you make friends with stupid people, you will be ruined. (Proverbs 13:20)
Do not be misled – bad company corrupts good character. (1 Corinthians 15:33)
If sinners entice you, do not consent. (Proverbs 1:10)
Being able to be enticed towards inappropriate behaviour is all too easy as often there is an element of appeal. Eve was easily enticed by the serpent and her disobedience had dire consequences, for herself and all mankind thereafter.
The most sobering advice for a Christian is the following verse: What has a believer in common with an unbeliever? (2 Corinthians 6:15)
When we partner with, or surround ourselves with, non-believers we risk becoming like them and losing our self-control. It’s much easier to indulge a harmful habit in the company of others who are doing the same and who see nothing wrong with it. Equally, being in the company of other believers can, in itself, make it easier to stay away from foolish behaviour.
The following verse sums it all up nicely:
Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues. (Revelation 18:4)