“Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come,”
Acts 24:25 (NIV)
Whether you refer to it as restraint, self-control, or temperance, it is something difficult to learn and even harder to master. The prophet Isaiah lamented “there is no restraint any more” (Isaiah 23:10 RSV). That description is quite fitting for our generation. We love the ostentatious lifestyle. Many max out credit cards to indulge in excess. Sports players and movie stars are paid millions of dollars a year because we love to be entertained. We crave easy, luxury and amusement. We want excess, but not self-control.
Sadly, however, sin always abounds when there is intemperance. After Jeremiah warned the people of impending disaster, they responded, “Don’t waste your breath. We have no intention whatsoever of doing what God says. We will continue to live as we want to, free from any restraint, full of stubbornness and wickedness!” (Jeremiah 18:12, TLB). God humbled the kingdom of Judah because King Ahaz “brought about a lack of restraint in Judah and was very unfaithful to the Lord” II Chronicles 28:19 (NASU).
One man made an interesting observation. “When man loses out spiritually, he creates with his own hands what he lost in his soul. He creates luxury.” In other words, the emptier we become on the inside, the more stuff we are driven to stockpile on the outside. And please don’t be mistaken and get carried away with the prosperity gospel. You know the one that says God will give us all our materialistic desires because he wants us to be rich because that is what his people deserve. Don’t miss understand me, God does bless His people. However, at times God will give us our carnal desires, but at a hefty price as noted by the Psalmist: “And He gave them their request, but sent leanness unto their soul,” (Psalm 106:15, NKJV).
Our nation has been deeply blessed with a stable government, wealth, and a strong defense. We have pioneered, discovered and made advancements in more fields than any other nation. Our presidents end their speeches with the statement, “God bless America.” I believe God has done just that. He has heard our prayers and has given us our requests, but at what price? What is the condition of our soul as a nation? Do we crave or demand the luxuries and material blessings of this life because we are spiritually
starving? Along the path to prosperity, have we lost our spiritual way?
It seems to me that we have become morally and financially bankrupt as a country. The beacon of freedom has become a “parasite in the world” in the opinion of Vladimir Putin. But why? Does it go back to the fundamental idea of self-control? I think it does. Self-control doesn’t bring about excessive debt or moral failure. When we lose our self-control, we will commit almost every sin imaginable and some that aren’t. After all, intemperance is the incubator that helps hatch most sins. So the next time you are rejoicing because you are prospering and are in good health, you may want to check the condition of your soul. Is it prospering too? (See III John 3.)
Written by James C. Marse. Copyright © 2011.