Governing oneself is definitely not an easy task. Even a reverent person like David couldn’t govern himself and committed the sins of adultery and murder. He governed over numerous people but he couldn’t govern the sinful desires of his heart. He won over numerous battles but he was defeated over the battle with himself. He was a great leader who guided the Israelites but he could not lead himself well. Of course, we shouldn’t judge David over a single mistake of his life. However, we must learn lessons from David’s mistakes.
Just as we experience it, it is not easy to overcome hardship that comes to our lives like an unwanted guest. However, there is an even more difficult matter. It is to overcome our own desires. It is not wrong to have a desire. To pray to get rid of desire is an immature prayer. We absolutely need desire for food, sexuality, and achievement. These are the gifts of God and the power that moves us. The problem comes when we cross the line. Greed, overeating, and overworking signifies that you have crossed the line. Sexual desire that crosses the line called marriage is covetousness. Desiring food in an uncontrollable fashion is called gluttony. In addition, excessive overachievement makes you judge everything in a performance-based manner and leads you to make the mistake of working without rest. We have to be cautious of idleness, because idleness can lead us to self-indulgence. However, being excessively overworked is not good either.
Working without rest is not the life God wants us to live. That is a life of slavery. A slave has no rest. The unworking slave is punished with a whip. When the Israelites were being enslaved in Egypt, they could not rest. They worked because they were afraid of the Pharaoh’s whip. One of the things God was repeatedly teaching the Israelites in the desert was resting by keeping the Sabbath. For slaves there is no rest, but for children there is rest. If we are working without resting, then we have chosen to live the life of a slave not a child. Sabbath is a principle of God. As we have experienced, we are easily irritated when we don’t rest. We are easily angered and exhausted. Excessive desire for achievement leads us to self-exploitation and self-abuse. That in itself becomes violence. If you are working without resting, then you are being violent to yourself.
In order to govern ourselves well, we need proper rest. I see people who are addicted to their work plunging into sin by trying to relieve their stress too easily. Work is important, but we must be careful of becoming workaholics. We must know ourselves well in order to govern ourselves well. We must understand the human nature well. To govern oneself is to govern one’s desires. To govern oneself is to govern one’s thoughts. Our desires work together with our thoughts. For that reason, we must be well disciplined with our thoughts.
To govern oneself is to govern one’s emotions. We must be able to govern emotions like anger, disappointment, despair, helplessness, fear, confusion, and anxiety. Emotions are very important to people. Emotion is like a shock that shakes our whole world. We tend to act according to our emotions rather than our thoughts. When we purchase something or make an important decision, we tend to depend on our emotions. However, we should not trust our emotions too much, because emotions change often according its time and place. We need a good balance. If you feel a certain emotion, take some time to evaluate the cause of the emotion. Quietly gaze into your emotion and grasp the cause of the emotion and understand the flow of the emotion. After evaluating your emotion thoroughly, govern the emotion with the Word of God.
To govern oneself is to pursue the will of God by governing the will of oneself. It is to pursue God’s desire by laying down my desire. Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, “Not as I want, but as you want! Not as I will, but as you will!” Jesus was the true conqueror who governed oneself through prayer. Prayer and fasting grants great power to govern oneself. Whenever there was an important matter, Jesus examined himself first through prayer and fasting. In addition, he examined God’s will, and then he pursued after God’s will. Lent is a season to meditate on the cross of Jesus. May you govern yourself well by the prayer and fasting offered unto God in this season of Lent. Above all, I pray that you will achieve God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will.
Reverend Joshua Choon-Min Kang is the senior pastor of New Life Vision Church, located in Los Angeles. This is one of the weekly letters he writes to his congregation. For the original, visit www.nlvc.org.