After the previous topics addressed in this discussion, it should be understood that when we come to our faith, we should seek to move in the direction of goodness. To do that we need to seek knowledge of God so that we truly understand what goodness means. Peter said the next step after obtaining knowledge is to add self-control. It should be easy to understand why self-control comes next. It is true for anything that knowing and doing are not the same. A person’s knowledge of good doesn’t guarantee that a person will always do the right thing nor does that knowledge guarantee that a person will always avoid evil. A person needs self-control to accomplish those goals. Most people who choose to follow Jesus will try to do good things when the opportunities arise. However, even many who are on fire for God find it difficult to avoid sin completely. Getting to that point is a process, and self-control is what makes the process work.
Another word for self-control is discipline. We often associate discipline with soldiers, martial artists, and athletes, all of whom have adhered to strict regimens and have to abstain from things that could inhibit them from performing their job or craft. The Bible uses the same imagery when discussing the trials associated with building discipline and the benefits of it.
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. – 1 Corinthians 9:25
Just like an athlete, we may have to deny ourselves many of the things that we’ve come to love because those things only hinder us from achieving our goals. Unhealthy foods, alcohol, nights of partying are all things athletes may have to give up when training because they aren’t good for the body and will work against the mission to reach optimal physical performance. Similarly, acts of sin are bad for our souls. They prevent us from reaching the pinnacle of our spiritual performance. Not to mention, sin leads to death. In the previous step of our journey, we talked about building our knowledge. With that knowledge, we essentially have the foundation for a goodness training regimen. With that regimen, we know exactly what acts to avoid and what acts to make a conscious effort to perform repeatedly. It will take self-control to commit to that regimen, but as we do, we will become more disciplined. Just like an athlete, we are working towards a goal. Our goal is to be like Jesus.
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. – Romans 8:29
When training, even the best athletes can come up against a wall. Many need to turn to someone to help keep them in check. That person could be a trainer or a coach or maybe just a loved one who has that person’s best interest in mind. As mentioned in the discussion about goodness, God has provided someone to fill that role for us internally – the Holy Spirit.
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. – 2 Timothy 1:7
The fact is that we as carnal beings cannot truly rise above sin. We are not capable of the level of self-control needed to accomplish that feat on our own. Thankfully, we don’t have to do it alone. We can lean on the Holy Spirit whenever we face temptation and He will give us the discipline necessary to make the right choice. If we make a point of doing that constantly and consistently, at some point we won’t even be able to tell where the Spirit’s influence ends and our own discipline begins.
This world is full of temptation. It lurks around every corner, and sometimes it seems like certain things exist solely to make us slip and fall. God knows this and He’s there for us. If we are sincere in our efforts on this journey to live according to His will; then He will make sure that nothing stands in our way.
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13
Yes, we call it self-control, but we are not on our own when it comes to developing it. God gives us the help we need to develop our resistance to sin. The road toward righteousness may be a long one with plenty of hurdles in the way. If we condition ourselves accordingly and maintain a disciplined focus on reaching the end, no matter how big those hurdles are, we’ll be able to sail past them like the greatest of Olympians.