“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city,” Proverbs 16:32.
It might not be the exact wording that first comes to mind, but the thought behind the words of Solomon in this verse is exhibiting self-control. Have you considered that controlling yourself is equal to ruling your spirit? Sometimes when we look at things using different words, it can help us to grasp what is meant and help us to better put into practice what is pleasing to God. Self-control is mentioned by Paul in Galatians 5:23 as part of the fruit of the Spirit. Peter makes it clear that as Christians, we are to grow in self-control (2 Peter 1:6). Yet, how many times do we hear those who willfully engage in sinful behavior justify it with words like, “I just couldn’t help myself,” or “Someone made me do it.” We must not make excuses, but remember that God demands that each of us is ultimately responsible for our own behavior and in the end, all will give an account to God for our actions (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Examine the easy-to-understand illustration of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:25-27. “And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”
If an athlete wants to compete at the highest levels, it takes incredible self-control in diet and training. Self-control involves self-denial, curbing appetites, and striving to put in the work to excel. Christians are commanded to lay aside the weight and the sin which can easily ensnare and run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1). Running the race of life to ultimately be with God requires a great deal of self-control!
A second way of illustrating self-control is seen in Galatians 5:24 – a picture of crucifixion. “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Add to this thought the words of Colossians 3:5, “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”
Putting carnal desires to death is a way that we exhibit self-control. As Christians, may we decide once and for all that our lives are not going to be controlled by sin, but by Christ!
Let us decide once and for all that we will deny self and take up our cross and follow Him daily (Luke 9:23). Yes, as the wise man said, “He who rules his spirit is better than he who takes a city.” Are you ruling your spirit? Are you exhibiting self-control in your life? May we make sure that we are denying self and seeking to follow Jesus!