Exercising Righteous Self-Control

          Every day, each child of God has the choice to exercise righteous self-control. One example is when anger arises. Sometimes people will try to give excuses like, “I can’t control my anger! It just happens, so I express it the way I need to.” While a person may not be able to control the situations that give rise to anger, everyone can choose to abate it by turning to God and acting with righteous love.

            The first king of Israel is remembered for his unrighteousness, but if his story had ended sooner, it would have been the opposite. In 1 Samuel 11, the Ammonites were laying siege to a city in northern Israel called Jabesh-Gilead. The inhabitants of Jabesh-Gilead promised they would surrender to the Ammonites if no one came to their rescue after seven days. During those seven days King Saul notices that the people are lamenting and asks, “‘What is wrong with the people, that they are weeping?’ So they told him the news of the men of Jabesh. And the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul when he heard these words, and his anger was greatly kindled.” (1 Samuel 11:5-6) Saul chose to act righteously by using his anger to inspire the scared people of Israel to rescue their fellow countrymen and then giving the credit to God. After saving the city, the people of Israel wanted to put to death those who earlier doubted that Saul should be king. However, King Saul intervened with compassion, saying, “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the Lord has worked salvation in Israel.” Therefore, there were thankful peace offerings to the Lord and much rejoicing throughout Israel. (1 Sam. 11:12-15)

            However, the rejoicing was short lived. As Saul’s story continues in 1 Samuel, he changes as a child of God. He began disobeying the Lord’s commands and attempted to justify his choices with excuses. In 1 Samuel 15:11 the Lord even says through His prophet, “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” By 1 Samuel 18, David, has been chosen and anointed by the Lord to be Saul’s successor. He was also gaining in popularity with the people because of his victories fighting for King Saul. Therefore, 1 Samuel 18:8 says, “And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, ‘They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?’” Throughout the rest of the book, Saul chooses to act in an unrighteous manner instead of turning to God in repentance. He even let’s his anger and jealousy get to a point where he tries to hunt down and kill David on multiple occasions. Saul’s unrighteous choices lead to his and his sons’ death in 1 Samuel 31 while battling the Philistines.

               James 1:15 says, “Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” Saul’s story ends with sin and death due to his lack of righteous self-control, but your story doesn’t have to be that way. Each person has the choice to choose Christ and avoid death. Romans 6:23 states, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” All of God’s children who have been baptized in His name can choose to act with the love that Jeus Christ had for all. God will bestow the strength to act righteously and with self-control, but only if the choice to abide in Him is continually chosen.