#722. RESOLUTION 4. ADD SELF-CONTROL AND PERSEVERANCE (4/1/23)
As we enter 2023, many of us may be thinking about our own resolutions for the new year. In this 5-day Bible study, we will focus on God's resolutions - His will - for us in the coming year. Our devotions will be based primarily on Peter's words from 2 Peter 1:3-9, where he encourages believers to make every effort to add goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love to their faith. By seeking to align our lives with God's will and cultivating these virtues, we can more fully live out our faith and experience the blessings of following God's plan for our lives.
‘For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.’ (2 Peter 1:5-9)
Summary: If we will add self-control and perseverance to our character, we will focus on doing the right things more often and so grow in godliness.
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Another resolution that God wants us to have is that we ‘make every effort to add to [our] faith…self-control and perseverance.’
It is no secret that our culture often promotes the idea that self-control is unnecessary or even undesirable. We are told that we should not try to regulate our sexual desires or other urges for happiness, that discipline and planning are unnecessary or even harmful in our education, and that uncontrolled displays of emotion are more authentic or spiritual in worship. However, without self-control and perseverance, we risk being controlled by our own fleshly desires, the values of the culture around us, and our focus on things that are not truly good or fulfilling. As Paul writes in 2 Peter 1:5-9, we are called to make every effort to add self-control and perseverance to our faith, along with other virtues such as knowledge, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. By cultivating self-control and perseverance, we can resist the negative influences of our culture and use our time and energy wisely to pursue what is truly good and pleasing to God.
WHAT IS SELF-CONTROL?
‘Enkrateia’ is a Greek word that is often translated as "self-control" or "temperance." It refers to the ability to control one's desires and actions, especially in regards to pleasures or appetites, in order to achieve a higher goal or purpose.
As we seek to grow in goodness and knowledge in our faith (as mentioned in our previous study), self-control is essential. Without the ability to control our impulses and actions, we will be unable to put into practice the wisdom we gain from God's word. In fact, it can be dangerous to have knowledge of what is good without also having the self-control to live according to it. By cultivating self-control, we can more effectively live out our faith and fulfil God's will for our lives. David writes about God’s will that we have self-control:
‘I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.’ (Psalm 32)
In His love, God promises to instruct and give knowledge to us, but are we failing to take hold of the ‘bit and bridle’ so as to control ourselves? This is to be applied to every appetite: sex, food, drink, exercise, entertainment, work, laziness, spending, gaming, hoarding, Instagram… Self-control must be applied to all things. Our lives are to express godly balance. In Ecclesiastes we read:
‘Do not be over-righteous, neither be over-wise— why destroy yourself? Do not be over-wicked, and do not be a fool— why die before your time? It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.’ (Ecclesiastes 16-18)
WHAT IS PERSEVERANCE?
We are also told to add ‘perseverance’ to our faith. Perseverance (hupomoné) is patient endurance. It’s about continuing to do and complete what one starts. It’s seen in the person who will not be swayed from His love for Christ, and any deliberate direction that He or she has decided upon. Perseverance is an essential aspect of achieving success or reaching a desired outcome.
THE DYNAMIC DUO
Self-control and perseverance are a powerful combination that can lead to growth and effectiveness in our faith. God desires to give us knowledge of what is good and then empower us to be self-controlled in order to prioritise what is most important, and to persevere in continuing to do what is most important. God wants us to choose the right path and to continue down that path through self-control and perseverance.
WHERE DO WE NEED TO APPLY SELF-CONTROL AND PERSEVERANCE?
In his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey discusses the concept of 'Four dimensions of renewal,' which emphasises the importance of balance across four areas of life: physical, spiritual, mental, and relational (or social/emotional). Covey notes that if we lack self-control, it is easy to become imbalanced in these areas. For example, we may excel in the mental domain, such as work or studies, but neglect our physical or spiritual well-being. This kind of imbalance is all too common, but by cultivating self-control and perseverance, we can more effectively maintain balance and lead fulfilling and God honouring lives.
PHYSICAL - Physical health is often overlooked or taken for granted until something goes wrong, but it is an essential aspect of overall well-being. Without investing in our physical health, we may struggle to cope with the demands of daily life and experience a lower quality of life. To maintain physical balance, it is important to prioritise proper nutrition, rest, sleep, relaxation, and exercise. By investing in our physical health, we can better cope with the demands of daily life and enjoy a greater sense of vitality and well-being.
SPIRITUAL - Spiritual balance involves having a living relationship with God through Christ, and engaging in practices that nourish and sustain that relationship. This can include spiritual disciplines such as reading and studying the Bible, praying, serving others, and participating in worship. These practices can help us stay connected with God and grow in our faith, leading to a sense of spiritual health and well-being.
MENTAL - Mental development is often achieved through formal education, but there are many other ways to continue learning and growing. Reading good books and watching helpful content can be valuable sources of knowledge and inspiration. Writing notes and keeping a journal can also help us process and retain what we learn. However, it is easy to neglect ongoing development because we prioritise our present responsibilities and challenges over the person we want to become in the future. By prioritising mental development and setting aside time for learning and growth, we can continue to improve and expand our knowledge and skills."
RELATIONAL (SOCIAL/EMOTIONAL) - It is important to consider whether we are investing in important relationships and developing supportive friendships. Do our non-believing friends figure in our use of time? Is our church family a priority to us? Are we being a good influence on the lives of others? Are we investing so as to receive the support of others when we need it?
I’m sure that you can see that without self-control and perseverance, one or more of these dimensions can be neglected.
I'm sure that all four dimensions of balance - physical, spiritual, mental, and relational (or social/emotional) - are important to you. These areas can be greatly enhanced through reflection and prayerful planning. If you completed yesterday's study, you may have already written down a plan for developing in your spiritual life through Bible intake. Today, why not take the time to write down a simple plan for how you can develop in the other three areas of balance - physical, mental, and relational? Be specific about the habits you will adopt in order to invest in these essential aspects of your well-being. For example, you might set a goal to exercise for 10 minutes a day, spend an hour each week reading a book, or schedule a weekly phone call with a close friend… simple things repeated lead to great outcomes.