Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but happy is he who keeps the law. (Proverbs 29:18)In one sense, rules tend to bring out disobedience in the heart. That is, if there is no rule, no one would know that people are doing the wrong thing. However, as soon as a rule or law is in place, they seem to draw a line in the sand, a mark that says, “You can go this far but no farther.”
I’m not a hockey expert, but did notice in the game last night that the referees twice called penalties on boarding, an infraction that is often overlooked. The first call came early in the game, and as a result, there was only one more boarding even though this usually happens far more often.
While the rules in hockey or the rules in society are not the same as “revelation” they illustrate the principle. When people do not know the truth (or consequences) about any matters, we will do whatever comes to mind. As sinners, what comes to mind is usually marked by casting off restraint.
Another thing we noticed at the hockey game was an abundance of large people. Most of them were happily eating junk food and drinking beer. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed my own tendency to “cast off restraint” at the dinner table. I began wondering what God says about keeping myself from getting overweight. Besides the idea that my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, the first revelation started with a devotional given at a writer’s conference about sloth or laziness as one of the seven deadly sins. I looked them up; another is gluttony. I’ve never heard a sermon about gluttony. The Bible has lots to say about this particular over-indulgence.
God also revealed to me several other things. One is that I can eat what I want as long as it is received with thanksgiving. I had to ask myself if I could thank God for that extra helping when I’m already full or that snack before bed that takes my carb quota over the limit? His revelations began pinching my lack of restraint.
He also showed me another passage that seems more about self-control, an ability that is from the Holy Spirit, but these verses revealed more . . .
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 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. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)Paul was writing about his calling from God to reach others for Christ. He knew that if he did not discipline himself, he would be disqualified from that mission, much like an athlete who fails to do his basic training can be disqualified from the race. Discipline is necessary to winning.
Not only that, discipline has a crossover effect. If I refuse to indulge in one area, it will be easier to say no in other areas. If I’ve exercised self-control with my words or at the dinner table, then self-control in ministry and other more eternal matters will be far easier.
I don’t want a lack of personal discipline to make anything God asks me to do fall by the wayside. Being ‘slim and trim’ can be vanity and certainly is temporal, but God has revealed to me that self-indulgence with food can ruin my ability to serve Him. This revelation is helping me with restraint. It isn’t a law (for I live by grace), but knowing and doing what He says certainly makes me happy, particularly when compared to not knowing and stuffing myself.