Willpower is a forgotten word amidst most Christian circles today. Many of us are soft, flabby, and fat either outwardly or inwardly . . . or both.
The overindulgence and underachievement of our age have created a monster whose brain is lazy, vision is blurred, hands are greedy, skin is thin, middle is round, and seat is wide. Color him baby blue!
What has spawned this strange, pillowy product? The Greeks would say: "A serious lack of enkrateia." That isn't a vitamin, it's a virtue---self-control.
The word actually means "inner power or strength." Expanded, it includes such things as having mastery or possession of something, the controlling power of the will (under the operation of the Spirit of God), the inner strength to resist and refrain, the strength not to indulge, not to act on impulse.
Paul uses this term in 1 Corinthians 7:9 regarding the control of sexual desire. He refers to it again in 9:25 as he speaks of the athlete's control over his body and its wants during the period of time he is training for a contest.
Rigid, severe discipline went into such training, mixed with separation and loneliness. Stern soul-discipline was a constant companion of the Greek athlete of the first century. Enkrateia became his middle name for ten long months.
In Galatians 5:23, this virtue occurs in the list of the fruit of the Spirit. But lest you think it is something God suddenly drops on you without any involvement on your part, allow me to quote 2 Peter 1:5-6 so as to keep everything in balance:
Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness.
Observe two things, please. First, this is a series of commands to the Christian---this is our responsibility. Second, the fulfilling of the commands necessitates our "applying all diligence"---this will take sacrificial effort . . . emotional blood, sweat, and tears!
For the remainder of this reading I'd like to apply self-control to our lives just from the neck up. Naturally, we are the product of what we think about. Our actions and our reactions originate in our minds. What do you think about? Upon what do you spend most of your mental energy? How much independent, hard-core, no-nonsense, controlled mental input goes into your day on the average?
Those sorts of questions haunt me when I consider how a phenomenon like TV watching has so thoroughly saturated our society. Consider the following facts, gathered at the time of this writing:
Ninety-five percent of American households---over 60 million homes---have televisions. An additional 100,000 sets are being added with every passing month. More than 106 million adults find themselves in front of the tube on an average week in America.
And how often do those TVs get turned on? The American average is 48 hours per week. The average male watches 26 hours per week, while the female watches 30 hours. A national survey reports that the average American high school student spends more time in front of a television in his lifetime than the sum total spent before a teacher from kindergarten through high school.
I don't have to remind you that I am not anti-TV. I own one and I thoroughly enjoy viewing selected programs regularly as time permits. However, it is exceedingly serious when a nation like ours has become so lacking in self-control that we cannot turn a one-inch knob to "off" and provide our minds and eyes a needed rest from the blast of consistent cosmos propaganda.
It is a pity that many Christians have the TV schedule better memorized than a single chapter from God's precious Word. Due to our lack of mental self-control, our driving desire is to be entertained and amused, rather than challenged through reading or family discussions or silent meditation or personal planning and goal-setting.
I suggest that you attack this problem with a loaded rifle, not a sling shot. Take one needy area at a time and shoot it into submission with relentless prayer and determination as the Spirit provides the gunpowder. Let's meet at the rifle range. I think I hear a few shots already.
Don't fail to draw on the Lord's power as you work on self-control, knowing His strength is yours. Understand and believe Romans 8:9-14.
There are plenty of times when I don't "set my thoughts on things above." I can get caught up in thinking about the here and now. That is a foolish thing to do especially when I cannot change that which I am thinking about. It does take a lot of my mental energy when I should be using that energy to memorize scripture or to change things I can. I'm going to try to be more self-controlled this week and continue in working on being content...