Failing to control your emotions puts you in danger.
Proverbs 25:28 gives us a stern warning about this:
“Whoever has no rule over his own spirit Is like a city broken down, without walls.”
In ancient times, enemy hordes invaded cities to take over frequently. They carried off anything they found valuable within that city, not only possessions but people!
So a wall was essential to a city’s security then. Consider this: Is a lack of emotional control allowing the enemy free access to your life?
- What is he stealing from you right now?
- What blessing is he blocking?
In the Bible, a surprising emotion even blocked people from receiving healing from Jesus!
Let us discover that emotion and other keys to emotional self-control.
A Blessing Blocked
Although Jesus was present and willing to heal the people in His own country at one point, they could not receive the gift He offered (see Mark 6:1-6).
Mark 6:3 records how most of these people responded to Jesus’ good works:
Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.”
An offense means “The act of causing anger, resentment, displeasure, or insult.”
Imagine that! Jesus did nothing to offend them; rather His focus was on doing what God the Father told Him to do.
In contrast, the people in Jesus’ hometown chose to focus on minimizing Jesus rather than magnifying God, likely due to insecurity, pride, or envy.
Their words express the attitude, “Who does He think He is? He came from the same place that we did. He is no better than us!”
We learn the truth about the difficulty in dealing with offended people in Proverbs 18:19:
A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, And contentions are like the bars of a castle.”
In this case, the bars of offenses kept Jesus’ ability to heal His relatives and hometown people out, while keeping their infirmities, sickness, and diseases in!
These people blocked their healing blessing because they did not rule over their own spirit.
They valued holding on to their offenses above getting well.
The Blessings of Emotional Control
The Book of Proverbs gives us wisdom about the blessings of controlling your emotions:
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).”
Isn’t that statement amazing? It is also a clue to how challenging this task is!
During a conflict, a difficult scripture for me to practice is James 1:18-20:
So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
Unfortunately in the past, I have done the opposite: Slow to hear and quick to speak!
But now, when everything in me wants to speak and defend myself, I will pray to the Lord silently, “Father, help me to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath.”
As the scripture says, extreme anger and speaking hurtful words does not produce the righteousness of God.
Here is how I strive to conduct myself in disagreements:
- If I am wrong, then I apologize and make things right.
- If I am right, then I trust the Lord to be my Defense and give me the wisdom to say the right words at the right time.
We want to represent the Lord well, even during conflict.
Because our identity is as the righteousness of God in Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:21), we have His power to do what we cannot in our flesh.
However, with great power comes great responsibility (to quote ‘Spiderman‘) and sacrifice!
Our flesh is naturally more concerned with “winning” in disagreements and preserving our pride rather than working out solutions that glorify God.
But our flesh does not define us any more; we are now new creations in Christ!
His Spirit enlightens our spirit through the power of His word.
Remember Whom you Serve
Exercising emotional control begins with reminding yourself whom you have chosen to serve.
To quote the Bob Dylan song, “Gotta Serve Somebody:”
You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Since you have chosen to serve the Lord, that means submission to the Lord.
Submission is a dirty word to some people, but consider how I heard it defined once:
Submission = Under the mission.
That means that you present your body as a living sacrifice, placing yourself under the Lord’s authority and His mission.
Too often, out of control emotions lead us right into the enemy’s strategy to destroy us and put us into bondage to sin.
But the Lord’s plan is for us reign over sin and reign in life! He gives us His Spirit of Grace (the Holy Spirit) to help us do it:
James 4:1-6 says:
“But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:
“God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble.”
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
Many times, we focus on resisting the enemy; however, let us not forget the step that comes before that; submit to God!
As we saw in the earlier story, doing so is a roadblock to blessing because God resists the proud.
Humility is recognizing that, as Kindom citizens, we serve One who is greater than ourselves.
Jesus uses us, His people, to share the good news of the gospel with others.
Part of emotional control is to forgive offenses quickly and yield to the Holy Spirit within us with the goal of winning people to a relationship with Jesus – just as we have.
People pay far more attention to what we do than what we say.
The emotions we want to nurture through our thoughts are those born of God’s Spirit. These tear down barriers between people:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).”
We glorify God through bearing much fruit. In that way, others can taste and see that the Lord is good!