Wow…that may have been the longest span yet that I have gone without posting. I am deeply sorry. I FINALLY have internet set up at my new place, but these past few weeks have been a whirl-wind. Now that I am settled in, you can expect more posts to start flooding in. I want to get back on a daily schedule of writing, and I have no excuse not to. I have missed you all! So let’s pick up where we left off. If you are just joining, it might help to read part 1, 2, 3, and 4 of this series before reading this portion. A continuation of 1 Timothy 3:1-7…detailing what it looks like to be a Godly man.)
“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to but one wife, temperate…
Self-control. In the past, every time I read through this verse, I subconsciously lumped together the neighboring terms, “temperate” and “self-controlled”. Afterall, from the surface definitions I knew of them, they were virtually the same term, and applied to the same principles. However, as I’ve grown in my walk, I’ve learned more about the magnitude of the written Word. The Bible does not repeat itself unnecessarily. Its pages aren’t filled with synonyms in order to add density and depth. Each word has been recorded with purpose and magnitude. My greatest growth in the Word has occurred when I have taken the time to break down verses piece-by-piece, and truly learn the complexity of the image that the words are painting. Each and every word can take on countless forms–that is the beauty in the living, breathing Word of God.
So, then, what does self-control mean with respect to how a Godly man is called to properly lead? I think the first words that typically flood our minds when we hear that term are: restraint, discipline, and words synonymous with reigning ourselves in and holding back. While there is some truth in those definitions, self-control is a much broader topic of character. When I think of self-control, the first word that comes to my mind is maturity. Think about it–from the moment we are born we are constantly, consciously and subconsciously, learning traits of self-control. For example, we start in diapers, progress to pull-ups, and eventually underwear–that is learned self-control of our bodily functions. We begin life unable to hold our own heads up, eventually learn hand-eye coordination, and work to the point of exercise, training, and complete cognitive awareness of our bodies at all times–that is learned bodily control. We begin life with emotional outbursts, progress to becoming aware of our feelings and triggers, and eventually grow to the point of being able to monitor, communicate, and alter our emotions–that is learned emotional control. We begin making incoherent sounds, progress to learning written and spoken words and structures, and eventually progress to being capable of writing novels, speaking to groups, and communicating effectively–that is learned language control.
If you look at these four examples, there are similarities amongst all of them. Primarily, there is a clear coddling period at the beginning of each cycle. There is a time where we are fully reliant on the care of others. We are unable to care for ourselves and constantly require the nurturing of another. Secondarily, there is a phase where we are learning large sums of information and making significant strides in development. This phase, too, is impacted by others. We are taught by example, experience, and interaction. The information is engrained in us by those who are further in their journey and more self-controlled. And in the final phase of each cycle, there is refinement and progress still being made, but we are largely self-controlled, aware, and matured. There is that word again–mature. As we mature, in life, we gain discernment, judgement, discipline, and wisdom. So often the term “self-control” carries a negatively slanted connotation. As if self-control specifically and independently applies to the ability to reign oneself back or inhibit oneself from doing something. But in actuality, that term applies to a well-rounded definition of maturity, development, and awareness. So how does this relate to being a Godly man? Here goes…
As believers, we begin our journey in raw form. I don’t care if you have been attending church your whole life, or if you had never heard the Word of God and experienced a miraculous “coming to Jesus” moment that changed your life radically. The moment that it “clicks”…the moment we are saved…the moment we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts…the moment we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are in raw form. You see, there is nothing more powerful than the Holy Spirit, and there is nothing more powerful and capable than our King, but we, as humans, are weak. It goes back to the “Position .V. Condition in Christ” study that we did. We are filled, but we still wear a heavy, fleshy coat that weighs us down with things of this world. And when we are saved, we are born again; with rebirth–we are raw. In that time, we are completely and whole-heartedly, dependent on the grace of God alone. We are incapable of understanding even a hint of the magnitude of His power, and we are raw forms in His hands. But He is the most fantastic nurturer. He gives, abundantly–forgives, unceasingly–and loves, unconditionally.
As we grow in our walks, we begin to understand the tiniest hints of His grace with both our heads and our hearts. We begin to study the Bible, learn of His Word, and change the way we live our lives. In this time, we begin to make fantastic strides and progressions in our journey as believers. We begin to speak with clarity and knowledge and we learn how to communicate the hope that we have with others. We experience fellowship with other believers, we experience and witness the power of prayer, and we become increasingly aware of His presence around us and in this world. We gain a sense of humility, discernment, conviction, and thankfulness. This is such a fantastic period in our walks, because our eyes are truly opened, our hearts are powerfully changed, and we begin to learn that light we feel inside is starting to be noticed by others.
Then, as we progress and grow and strive for sanctification, we develop true spiritual maturity. Now, don’t be mistaken, our walks with Christ are ever-growing, ever-humbling, and ever-changing. It is not as if we reach a point where we finally “get it” all and have no progress left to make. HA! That would be an impossibility. However, as we strive towards sanctification as Godly men and Godly women, we begin to notice true maturity in our walks. This is often defined by unshakable conviction, startling humility, and pure, organic hope and joy in the Holy Spirit. Through adversity, through successes, through everything–there is an unshakable comfort. Spiritual maturity is often marked by an abundant and faithful prayer life. An absolute faith. An overwhelming desire to continue to learn and grow. We evolve into disciples. Disciples who strive to live by the Word of God in its most literal form. Disciples who love, unconditionally, and teach, effortlessly, through their actions, their faith, and their purity.
Is there a time frame to this progression? Is there a specific age where we hit these points? Are there clear, discerning characteristics? Absolutely not. No, no, and no. Many would argue, in fact, that as we learn more and age, we lose a sense of childlike faith. Faith untouched by the ways of this world. Faith unbridled by social norms. But there is a great difference between literal knowledge and understanding, and true peace in our hearts and the understanding that we will never understand it all, but we strive to know and love Him more. In fact, 1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity.” Spiritual maturity is not defined by age, it is defined by faith.
Self-control, in the sense of being a Godly man and a Godly leader, is defined by spiritual maturity. Not simply by the ability to restrain oneself, but by the ability to control what you can control, and rest faith in all that you cannot. The ability to lead others towards an unfaltering faith. The ability to teach others and disciple in a way that is effective and hospitable. The ability to show others the light of Christ through your actions, your words, your temperament, your decisions, and your values. The ability to exercise humility, silence self-pride, and live simply. The ability to exercise integrity and to step outside of you and live for God–whether you are comfortable in doing so or not. The ability to live for Him, and be prepared to be steered the direction He leads you. The ability to lead others with you, if need be. Self-control truly means the exact opposite of what it says–because, in a Biblical sense, self-control is death to self and unshakable life in Him.
(to be continued…)