Friday, November 6, 2009

Cultivate the Fruitage of Self-Control (pt 2)

Part of the following information below is taken from an older issue - the (7/1/67 Watchtower) -but it's very pertinent material so I wanted to include it,...especially since the more hostile and aggressive that our surrounding environment becomes, (with so many people showing such an unrestrained lack of self-control) the more we'll need to fight to cultivate and maintain that quality in our thoughts, speech, and actions.

Developing and Displaying Self-Control
In the Christian Greek Scriptures the Greek word for self-control is egkráteia, which means ‘self-command, self-control; temperance, moderation in pleasure; the mastery over, and government of the passions.’ (A New Greek and English Lexicon, by James Donnegan, 1836, page 423) According to Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, self-control is “control of oneself: restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires.” Or, it may be said that self-control means maintaining poise and balance of mental and physical forces, keeping them restrained or restricted. It is possible for Christians to manifest this desired quality, self-control, for they have God’s holy spirit and “the fruitage of the spirit is . . . self-control [egkráteia].” (Galatians 5:22, 23)

Christ’s life has been termed the ‘mirror of temperance,’ or of self-control. That self-control plays no small part in the lives of his followers is evident from the fact that the apostle Paul, when haled before Governor Felix nineteen centuries ago, talked to him “about righteousness and self-control [egkráteia] and the judgment to come.” Yes, self-control was so important that Paul made a special point of discussing it when he was before the Roman governor Felix.—Acts 24:24-27.

Self-control was a significant Christian quality nineteen centuries ago and it is vital today. As the end of this system of things draws ever nearer, there will be times of stress, of crushing anxiety, even grief, for many. With God’s spirit as expressed in self-control, the Christian will be able to remain balanced, while others crumble under strain. With self-control Christians can and will endure the daily pressures of life and will weather the severe storms of persecution. They have already demonstrated that they can do so. Of course, to face great opposition and violent persecution, various Christian qualities must play their part. But, unquestionably, self-control is greatly needed. In ancient times Christians displayed it in many ways, even in the face of death—when others would readily have abandoned their principles. These facts of history require no proof here. (See Awake!, April 22, 1962, pages 20 and 21, and The Watchtower, February 1, 1958, pages 73 to 75.) Let it be noted, though, that self-controlled Christians have not wavered in their faith under extreme pressure in the present day.

In his book entitled “The Nazi State,” Professor Ebenstein of Princeton University wrote concerning Jehovah’s witnesses: “When the witnesses did not give up the struggle for their religious convictions, a campaign of terror was launched against them which surpassed anything perpetrated against other victims of Nazism in Germany. . . . The sufferings of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the camps were even worse than those meted out to Jews, pacifists or Communists. Small as the sect is, each member seems to be a fortress which can be destroyed but never taken.” Also regarding persecution of Jehovah’s witnesses, Richard Mathison states in his book God Is a Millionaire: “All this persecution has worn well. . . . And, perhaps, the sternly conventional have a lesson to learn from the unyielding courage of this persecuted minority. During the Korean War, the products of easy Protestantism, of our military schools and our better colleges cracked by the score under the stress and blandishments of Communist brainwashing. A Pentagon study of the problem brought forth a red-faced conclusion: Those few Jehovah’s Witnesses who ended up as prisoners of war . . . withstood to a man the scientific, psychological efforts to convert them to Communism—better than a number of patriotic West Pointers.” Obviously, self-control is one of the qualities needed by Christians to endure intense persecution. Of course, it is also required by servants of Jehovah in other ways, in the various aspects of life.

*FYI-since there's alot of scriptures quoted in the section below, I put them in italics so they'd be easier to read...

How To Gain This Fruit Of The Spirit
“If you, although being wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children,” Jesus Christ once reasoned, “how much more so will the Father in heaven give holy spirit to those asking him!” (Luke 11:13) What an assurance! Indeed, Christians who earnestly pray to Jehovah for his spirit as expressed in self-control will suffer no disappointment, for “no matter what it is that we ask according to his will, he hears us.” (1 John 5:14, 15) So, as a Christian who wishes to develop and display self-control, pray to Jehovah through Christ for God’s spirit so as to express this valued quality. (John 14:6, 14) And since continued effort will be required to maintain self-control, heed the admonition to “pray incessantly,” to “persevere in prayer” and to “be vigilant with a view to prayers.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Romans 12:12; 1 Peter 4:7)

Besides praying, however, the Christian who prizes self-control should work to gain and maintain balance by means of daily Bible reading and study. Joshua was admonished: “This book of the law should not depart from your mouth, and you must in an undertone read in it day and night, in order that you may take care to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way successful and then you will act wisely.” (Joshua 1:8) Self-control, balance, as well as wisdom will result from such frequent consideration of the law of God, provided that you apply Biblical instruction.

But, understanding of Scriptural doctrines, laws and principles does not automatically come to a person. God is not dealing with individuals apart from his earthly organization. (Matthew 24:45-47) After the outpouring of the holy spirit on the day of Pentecost in 33 C.E., followers of Christ met in homes, not only to eat together and to enjoy pleasant association, but to praise Jehovah. They held congregational meetings at which fellow believers could aid and encourage one another spiritually. (Hebrews 10:24, 25; Matthew 18:20; Acts 2:46, 47) The same is so today. Attending Christian meetings enables one to receive spiritual instruction that is vital in developing fruits of God’s spirit, including self-control. Also, at such gatherings one observes these qualities in action.

Regular activity in the Christian ministry is also vitally important. It contributes to balance. When you, as a minister, encounter and tactfully deal with queries and contentions, you develop maturity and greater self-control. Experience gained in the ministry will help you to maintain composure, self-command. With that experience and Jehovah’s aid, even under provocation you can “let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt, so as to know how you ought to give an answer to each one.”—Colossians 4:6.

But beware! Others can affect your balance. You may now have useful Christian habits, but watch your associations. “Bad associations spoil useful habits” (1 Corinthians 15:33)...By all means display self-command in choosing your friends. (1 John 2:15-17) Having chosen your associates, how will you treat them? If you are to develop greater self-control, then in dealing with them you must have empathy, putting yourself in their place at times. (Matthew 7:12) Give others the benefit of the doubt. How much better this is than to assume that someone’s oversight, his failure to speak to you on an occasion, for example, was a deliberate snub. Take a balanced view of matters. Display self-control and show insight. It will do you good. Remember this: “He that is showing insight in a matter will find good, and happy is he that is trusting in Jehovah.”—Proverbs 16:20.

To develop self-control further as a Christian, humbly accept discipline. It may come to you as you read the Bible and Christian publications, noting admonition that should be applied in your life. Or, it may come from some Christian overseer, who also receives discipline in keeping with his own needs. Why reject any Biblical or Christian discipline? After all, it all comes from God, “for whom Jehovah loves he disciplines.” (Hebrews 12:6)

Control Your Temper, Tongue And Thoughts
In ancient times, an unwalled city, or one whose walls had been breached by an enemy horde, was helpless indeed. Yet, a man lacking control of his temper is quite the same. Says Proverbs 25:28: “As a city broken through, without a wall, is the man that has no restraint for his spirit.” Such a man is without true balance. He lacks insight too, for Proverbs 19:11 states: “The insight of a man certainly slows down his anger.” Such a man should think of Christ. Jesus said of himself: “I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart.” He pronounced mild-tempered ones happy. (Matthew 11:29; 5:5) So if you feel the urge to explode in a fit of anger, meditate on his words and follow his example.—Hebrews 12:1-3.

Unrestrained temper damages relationships with others and it shows that one is not wise. “All his spirit is what a stupid one lets out,” says Proverbs 29:11, “but he that is wise keeps it calm to the last.” Aptly, the Congregator of old declared: “Better is one who is patient than one who is haughty in spirit. Do not hurry yourself in your spirit to become offended, for the taking of offense is what rests in the bosom of the stupid ones.” (Ecclesiastes 7:8, 9) Wisdom is not displayed by one who is egotistical. And “he that is quick to anger will commit foolishness.” (Proverbs 14:17) So, do not quickly take offense. Rise above petty annoyances. “Do not say: ‘I will pay back evil!’ Hope in Jehovah, and he will save you.” (Proverbs 20:22) Seek ways to turn aside the anger of others, remembering that “an answer, when mild, turns away rage, but a word causing pain makes anger to come up.” (Proverbs 15:1) Even if others cause offense, act quickly to rectify matters. Heed Paul’s words: “Be wrathful, and yet do not sin; let the sun not set with you in a provoked state.”—Ephesians 4:26; Matthew 5:23, 24.

Christians cannot afford to lose self-control and fly into a rage, showing hatred instead of love, nor should they harbor such enmity. (Proverbs 26:24-26) If they did so, they would be in darkness. The apostle John wrote: “He that loves his brother remains in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in his case. But he that hates his brother is in the darkness and is walking in the darkness, and he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (1 John 2:9-11)

Naturally, to control your temper you have to control your tongue. James wrote: “Out of the same mouth come forth blessing and cursing. It is not proper, my brothers, for these things to go on occurring this way. A fountain does not cause the sweet and the bitter to bubble out of the same opening, does it? My brothers, a fig tree cannot produce olives or a vine figs, can it? Neither can salt water produce sweet water.” (James 3:10-12) Yes, James was discussing the tongue, and the powerful point he made is plain. Christians must surely restrain the tongue.
Obscene speech, gossip and slander have no place in the Christian’s life. “Let a rotten saying not proceed out of your mouth,” Paul told the Ephesians, “but whatever saying is good for building as the need may be, that it may impart what is favorable to the hearers. . . . Let all malicious bitterness and anger and wrath and screaming and abusive speech be taken away from you along with all injuriousness.” (Ephesians 4:29-31)

But if you are to shun gossip, slander and obscene speech, you must control your thoughts. So, if what is improper or unclean comes into mind, exercise restraint. Bring to mind and meditate on things that are righteous, chaste, lovable, well spoken of, virtuous and praiseworthy. (Philippians 4:8, 9)

(here are some additional things which will help us cultivate & maintain self-control, from pg 14 of the 11/15/91 Watchtower)

Fearing God and Hating What Is Bad
One of the greatest aids in cultivating self-control is the fear of God, the wholesome dread of displeasing our loving heavenly Father... Closely related to the fear of Jehovah is the hating of bad. We read at Proverbs 8:13: “The fear of Jehovah means the hating of bad.” In turn, the hating of what is bad also helps us to exercise self-control. Time and again, the Scriptures tell us to hate—yes, abhor—what is bad. (Psalm 97:10; Amos 5:14, 15; Romans 12:9) That which is bad is often so pleasurable, so tempting, so enticing that we simply must hate it in order to fortify ourselves against it. All such hating of what is bad has the effect of strengthening our determination to exercise self-control and thus serves as a protection to us.

*side-note*...from personal experience I've found that it can take time before we learn to actually 'hate' what Jehovah hates, because it might not come natural to us...especially when it's something we have a particular attraction to, or is something which is promoted and considered 'acceptable' according to the world's standards. But if we continue to allow ourselves to be exposed to things that Jehovah condemns as wrong, our thinking will gradually become warped, and we'll no longer feel the need to resist it since it wont 'seem so bad' anymore once we've become desensitized to it. Whereas, if we take steps to remove ourselves from a temptation and walk away, we will have success -even if at first it's difficult to do. So just to recap...over-time, our mindset will naturally become more in tune with Jehovah's, if we:

(1) specifically pray for his help in this area
(2) do our best to avoid it
(3) study and reflect on the reason why God hates it

Another way I like to think of this is to imagine that one of your close family members or good friends has an extreme aversion to a particular hobby or activity you enjoy doing. And even though they love and care about you, it bothers them so much that whenever you're involved in this activity they can't even stand to be around you or see you participating in it because that's how offensive they found it.
Or lets say you had an extremely rude and obnoxious acquaintance who said vulgar things and repeatedly insulted your family and friends, but you continued to associate with them anyway. And everytime you showed up with this person to a family or social gathering, everyone wanted to leave the room because this person's crude speech and behavior was so intolerable that they just couldn't stand being around them.
Well in the same way, our relationship with God is effected by the people we like and the things we enjoy, as well. If we continue to enjoy the company of people who practice what God hates and have no respect for his laws, or we engage in activities that he's instructed us to have no part of, how can we expect him to want to draw close to us or be there when we need him? Wouldn't it show a gross disregard for his feelings if we continued to ignore and engage in the things which are displeasing to him, without even making an attempt to change? and this ties into the next point...Jehovah's laws and instructions are always for our own benefit and protection...

Self-Control, the Course of Wisdom
Another great aid in our practicing self-control is to appreciate the wisdom of displaying this quality. Jehovah asks us to exercise self-control for our own benefit. (Compare Isaiah 48:17, 18.) His Word contains much counsel showing how wise it is to curb our selfish inclinations by practicing self-control. We simply cannot escape God’s unchangeable laws.
His Word tells us: “Whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap; because he who is sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh, but he who is sowing with a view to the spirit will reap everlasting life from the spirit.” (Galatians 6:7, 8) An obvious example is that of eating and drinking. Many ills result because people eat or drink too much. All such yielding to selfishness robs a person of self-respect. More than that, an individual cannot yield to selfishness without also damaging his relationships with others. Most serious of all, lack of self-control damages our relationship with our heavenly Father.
Therefore, we must keep telling ourselves that selfishness is self-defeating. An outstanding theme of the book of Proverbs, which stresses self-discipline, is that selfishness simply does not pay and there is wisdom in exercising self-control. (Proverbs 14:29; 16:32) And let it be noted that self-discipline involves much more than simply avoiding what is bad. Self-discipline, or self-control, is also needed to do what is right, which may be difficult because this goes against our sinful inclinations.