Letter from Mike Clark

Dear Friends,

“…And self-control” (Galatians 5:22)

Last on Paul’s list of fruit of the Spirit, self-control doesn’t tend to get a lot of good press these days.

  • It doesn’t fit particularly well with our present cultural moment which exalts “speaking out” and proclaiming the truth (at least ‘my truth’, ‘your truth’);
  • Most of us don’t like talking about it all that much, since admitting (to one’s self or others) that you struggle to control yourself at times can feel humiliating, shameful and weak;
  • And it’s even been labelled as dangerous and harmful by those who advocate the “virtue” of rage of venting from a place of anger as a tool to discover or reclaim a person’s true voice.

And yet the Proverbs have much to say on this important subject, extolling its goodness and value by highlighting the benefits of self-control both for the individual and for all those they come into contact with. For:

While “a fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating” (18:6)… “whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble” (21:23).

“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; but he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin (13:3).”

“Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a person of understanding (17:27).”

“Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but the one with a hasty temper exalts folly (14:29).”

And though Jesus underlines the importance of speaking truthfully and openly to one another when we have a problem (Matt 18:15) rather than letting things bottle up inside, how we do this matters as much as what we might say. Indeed, such are the blessings which self-control brings, that Solomon makes the astonishing claim that:

“Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and the one who rules his spirit than he who takes a city (16:32).”

So the next time you’re tempted to explode, remember that it would be much better for all of us if you didn’t!! And instead ask the Lord to help you restrain yourself, to bite your tongue, maybe even to walk away when you’re feeling angry or frustrated or upset. For:

“The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out (17:14)”; and

“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it’s a person’s glory to overlook an offense” (19:11).

Self-control is not easy. But it is now possible by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. It’s part of what it means to be like God (check out Numbers 14:17-19 sometime).1 It’s what we see perfected in the Lord Jesus (Isa 53:7). And just think what a difference it could make to your marriage, your family, your work-place and your church!

 

In His grace,
Mike Clark


1 In context, Moses’ prayer that God’s “power” might be “as great as promised” (Ex 34:6-7) is a reference to His power to forgive and to hold back His anger in the face of the most appalling wickedness from his people!