What we want for our people: For our people to establish character and healthy habits encouraged in Proverbs.
For the Lord sees clearly what a man does, examining every path he takes. An evil man is held captive by his own sins; they are ropes that catch and hold him.
He will die for lack of self-control; he will be lost because of his great foolishness. Proverbs 5:21-23 (NLT)
Proverbs highlights how our lives and the decisions we make lead us to walk down wise or foolish paths. The path of the wise, is a path that contains boundaries and restraints. Restraint is a mark of character and self-leadership which leads to life. Sadly, the lack of restraint exemplifies foolishness and may lead to death. Solomon has strong words to his son about the consequences of the lack of self-control in one’s life.
Much of the Book of Proverbs highlights the importance of wise character and behaviour. Today we are going to look at two-character traits or habits that exemplify and amplify wisdom in a person’s life. It is important to recognise that we can intentionally develop both our character and our habits.
Good Character is not given to us. We have to build it piece by piece – by thought, choice, courage and determination. This will only be accomplished by a disciplined lifestyle.John Maxwell – Christian author and speaker
People’s lives are constructed out of their habits. Habits are potent forces in our lives because they are at work constantly and subconsciously. Every day they define who we are and how effective we are.Stephen Covey – author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Proverbs 25:28 describes a person without self-control being like a city that has had its walls broken. Let’s flip this view; a person who has self-control is like a fortified city. In Bible times many cities were built with strong rock fortress walls that surrounded the city. These walls protected the city from invaders and enemies. If the walls or gates were breached the city would fall and its occupants could be killed or captured.
What a great picture of self-control and its benefits in our life. Some of us may have a wrong perspective of self-control; that it is inhibitive and restrictive. Rather, self-control and the boundaries that it provides bring protection and freedom. A person with self-control not only can defend a city, but more than this, he can take a city (Proverbs 16:32).
In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won over was themselves… self-disciple with all of them came first.33rd US President Harry Truman
Self-control is doing things you don’t want to do and not doing things you want to do.Ps Phil Pringle
In short, self-control is exercising restraint! It’s resisting temptation. It’s having power over our drives, desires, appetites, emotions, thoughts and actions. It is a matter of decision and will. Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and a quality that the apostle Paul encourages us to grow in (2 Peter 1:5).
The Book of Proverbs gives examples of different areas where we need to apply self-control and exercise restraint. These include:
- Our emotions – in particular anger (Proverbs 14:29 & 29:11)
- Our Words (Proverbs 12:18 & 13:3)
- Our Sexual Integrity When Proverbs was written it was largely to young men. Proverbs chapters 2, 5, 6 – 10 are about resisting temptation in areas of sexual morality (see in particular Proverbs 6:27-29, 32-35).
- Over-focus on Work or Attaining Wealth (Proverbs 23:4). Guard Your Heart. Solomon gives a further example of self-control and that is in the area of guarding your heart. We are called to watch over or guard our heart diligently and vigilantly (see Proverbs 4:23 in a few different versions). Our heart is the ‘seat’ from which much of our life and who we are flows out of. These ‘springs’ include our emotions, thoughts, will, attitudes, appetites, desires, motives, conscience and passions.
- We need to endeavour to keep our hearts whole and holy (Proverbs 22:11, 28:13-14).
- We need to guard what goes into our heart (eg what we watch and listen to, who we associate with).
- We need to guard what comes out of your heart, or how our heart responds.
Connect Group Discussion Questions:
GATHER: (ensure that these questions centre around community)
- Have there been things you consumed (watch/read/listen to) that were bad for you? How did you change?
- Why is self-control important in the church? Paul talks about it a great deal in 1 Corinthians.
GROW: (ensure that these questions prompt discussion on personal growth and maturity)
- Is there an area where you need to practice more self-control? How does the image of being like a walled city help you?
- What are some of the ways you can guard your heart? Is there one thing you would like to work on? For example, what you listen to, who influences you or getting offended.
GO: (ensure that these questions prompt discussion on going and spreading the good news)
- Is there someone in your world who needs help with self-control around bad habits? Pray for them and for an opportunity to tell them how the Holy Spirit can help (it’s a fruit of the spirit).
- Are there people in your world who have not guarded their heart and grown bitter? What can you say to them to be a source of hope and life instead?