Discipline And Self-Control

And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered up
burnt-offerings, and brought peace-offerings;and the
people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to sport.
(Exodus 32:6)

Moses was up on the mountain, talking with the Lord, and the people were so disobedient that they insisted Aaron make them a golden calf - an idol - to worship. They had no self control. They exercised no discipline in any area: they were gluttonous, over-indulgent in drink, and their lack of discipline in one area also led to a lack of discipline in other areas. The word used for "sport" here can mean to laugh and mock, or make fun of, or it can mean to engage in revelry and wantonness.

Forms of religion which gratify the pride, selfishness, and carnal inclinations of men attract great numbers of followers, but instead of making them better, only make them worse. Lack of discipline and self control subject us to divine judgment.

And when Moses saw that the people were naked; for Aaron had
made them naked unto their shame among their enemies. (Exodus 32:25)

They were out of control, and were a laughingstock to their enemies. Anytime we are out of control, we are opening ourselves up to ridicule, harassment, and shame. We have to take control of all things: our emotions, thoughts, feelings, words, beliefs, whims, moods, expectations of others. When we are able to rule our own spirit, we have the victory. Having discipline and self-control gives us power, more power than a mighty conqueror.

He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he
that rules his spirit than he that takes a city. (Pr 16:32)

It is a great feeling when we have the discipline and self-control to do what we know we should. That’s when we experience true victory. When we do NOT exercise self-discipline, our lives very quickly become out of control. (Eating, shopping, sex, television watching, gossiping and backbiting, just to name a few). We then suffer from a load of guilt, shame, stress, aggravation and unhappiness, because we allowed ourselves to become out of control. We cause a lot of our own problems, simply by being undisciplined.

We cannot go through life just doing whatever we “feel” like doing; we have to take control of our feelings, and do what we know is right, even when we don’t “feel” like it. Doing the right thing always pays off in the long run, and often reaps benefits in the short run, as well! Don’t be a “drive-through Christian”, wanting instant and effortless results! God has all eternity; He isn’t interested in “instant” results so much as lasting results. Instant results usually only last an instant.

God’s promises require our obedience. Throughout the Bible, God says “IF you will…..THEN I will…. BUT if you don’t….” If, then but: We cannot just receive the gifts of God without obedience. This requires discipline and self-control on our part.

Discipline really means making wiser choices. We can often make the right choice, if the choice is between good or bad; but it’s harder to make the right choice between good, better, or best. God is not going to do everything for us. The Holy Spirit leads, guides, reminds, and directs, but He will never force, control, or manipulate us into doing what is right. We have to make our own choice. We choose blessing or cursing in our lives, by our own discipline and self controlled obedience to God's Word.

I call heaven and earth to record this day against you,
that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing:
therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.
(Deuteronomy 30:19)

There are some very important things we need to understand about discipline and self control.

1. Lack of discipline is sin. James 4:17 tells us "Therefore to him that knows to do good, and doesn't do it, to him it is sin." We sin against God when we do not do what we know is right. Anytime we follow our “feelings” or allow our “flesh” to rule us, anytime we give in to what we know we shouldn’t, we have committed sin.

2. Discipline is not always pleasant. Heb 12:11 says "Now no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them who are trained by it." This is why we won’t discipline ourselves: no discipline feels good to us, but we need to mature enough to realize that discipline bears good fruits! We cannot just do whatever we “feel” like doing, because it bears bad fruit. The fruits of doing whatever we feel like are all negative. So we need to ask ourselves, what kind of fruit do we want in our lives? Discipline yields the “peaceable fruit of righteousness”; in other words, it makes us happy and fulfilled. When we exercise discipline and self-control, we are making an investment for our future gain.

3. We have to keep on being disciplined, even when we don’t see results right away. We all know the promise of Gal. 6:9: "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." As we’ve already said, God has all eternity, He doesn’t have time limits, like we do. His promise is that we WILL reap the benefits is we keep on practicing discipline and self control.

4. We ARE each capable of discipline and self-control. We need to stop our whining and telling ourselves (and others!) "I just can't seem to help it! I have no self-control", or words to that effect. We DO have the capability to exercise discipline and self control in our lives, because:

             a) Temperance (self-control) is the fruit of the Spirit Gal. 5:23 - if you have the Spirit, you have the ability to be disciplined and self-controlled. You're right, you cannot do it on your own power. If you are operating outside the power of the Holy Spirit, then you are probably undisciplined and out of control in some area or areas of your life. But we each have the choice to surrender to the power of the Spirit, or walk in the flesh. God knew we would try to use our lack of self control as an excuse: that's why Gal. 5:16 offers us this simple solution: "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh."

             b) God gives us a sound mind; i.e. – the ability to make the right choice. 2 Tim. 1:7 reminds us: "For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." God gave us many verses to remind us that while it is true that we cannot do it on our own power, we can make right choices under the power of the Spirit.And He reminds us that the consequences of making wrong choices leads to death: Sin leads to death: "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom. 6:23) And choosing to indulge ourselves in fleshly things leads to death. Rom. 8:5-6 says it like this: "For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace."

5. Failing to discipline ourselves in one area often causes failure in another area. For instance, staying up half the night watching videos makes us tired and cranky the next day, so we snap at our husband and end up having a big fight. Giving in to anger, bitterness, or self-pity may feel good at the moment, but it will cause us to sin. We can’t help the way we “feel”, but we can help the way we act. Do what is right, because it is right, and you will reap the reward in due time.

6. Your temptations are no worse than anyone else’s. We often get into the habit of thinking our circumstances are unusual, or that our troubles are worse than everyone else’s, so we are the exception. God sets us straight: He always makes a way out. It’s up to us whether to take it; will we do what is right, or give in to our flesh? "There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it." (I Cor. 10:13)

We need to get the right attitude about discipline. Whenever God asks us to discipline ourselves, no matter how hard it seems, He’s trying to ADD to our lives, not take away from us. He wants us to have more, and better, always. However, He isn’t going to give us MORE, if we are neglecting what we already have!

Lack of self-discipline depletes us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It is no coincidence that the devil tempted Jesus after He had been forty days fasting in the wilderness, when He was alone, tired, and hungry. We are far more susceptible to temptation when we are tired, hungry, stressed, etc. Failing to discipline ourselves will make it easier for the enemy to defeat us. Discipline costs more than we would like, and takes longer than we would like, but the benefits are guaranteed! It is hard on our flesh to discipline ourselves, but we need to realize that what is hard on our flesh sets our spirit free!

(From Joyce Meyer's teachings on "Discipline and Self Control")

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