One of the most difficult of all lessons the Christian has to learn is that of self-control. Saying no to self involves clarity of perspective and an exercise of the will, for self-control involves a discipline from which the natural man shrinks.

Who of us is not sadly aware of recurring failures, all because we failed to exercise self-control. Not that self-discipline is accomplished solely by human determination. We Christians know that the control of our lives is possible only as we make use of God-given defenses and directives. We take comfort in the promise, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13, RSV).

One of our mistakes is unconsciously classifying necessary decisions into “small” and “great,” into those we like to think of as “minor” as compared with those we call “major”; major battles against the claims of the flesh are thereby lost in minor concessions we like to think are unimportant.

The Christian’s influence is at stake, his health may be involved, and his own serenity of soul may be lost because of a lack of self-control. The primary link of a compromise with self-discipline can in time be forged into a chain that burdens and binds its victim, all because the spirit did not prevail over the body.

Paul was acutely aware of the necessity of leading a disciplined life: “I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27). In these days of affluence and soft living, few of us have learned this lesson. Because we lack mastery of self, we pay the price of frustration ...

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