Controlling the Inner Man

“He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls” (Prov. 25:28).

The Hebrew word translated “rule” (Prov. 25:28) means “restraint, control” (Brown, Driver and Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, p. 784).  This passage indicates the danger of a lack of control over oneself.  Such can produce major destruction.  Another passage along these same lines declares, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city” (Prov. 16:32).  Ruling one’s spirit is better than major military victories.  While people may not see the importance of such from a cursory observation, such is true from a variety of practical vantage points (cf. peace, unity, building lasting relationships, etc.).  Just because one has won a war does not guarantee a lasting peace.  Consider three areas of life that are important to control when it comes to the inner man.

  1. Appetites of the Flesh. Various fleshly desires (hunger, thirst, sexuality, etc.) are to be governed by the word of God and controlled by the inner man in keeping with the word of God.  Man is not to live by the “law of the jungle.”  The Bible is explicit about the danger of the “lusts of the flesh” (1 John 2:16; Gal. 5:16, 24; Rom. 6:12) as the guiding force of a mortal life.  Temperance is the approach toward filling the belly (cf. 1 Cor. 9:25; Gal. 5:22-23).  Marriage is the honorable relationship for intimate relationships (cf. Heb. 13:4; 1 Cor. 7:2-6).  The faith in Christ included such things (cf. Acts 24:24-25).  Bringing one’s body into subjection is necessary for the approved life (cf. 1 Cor. 9:27).
  2. Attitudes When Frustrated. Trouble is to be experienced by all (cf. Job 14:1).  How one handles the day-to-day situations of conflict says much about a person’s character and maturity.  Self-control is stressed over and over in the Bible.  Self-control starts in the mind.  James wrote, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).  Again, “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain” (James 1:26).  Solomon wrote, “Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of him” (Prov. 29:20).  Again, “He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly” (Prov. 14:29).  And again, “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools” (Eccl. 7:9).
  3. Aspirations When Fail. When things do not go as expected, the inner man can become so troubled that discouragement leads to despair.  How does one remain “upbeat” when the situation looks grim?  Losing or failing in a specific endeavor is not, as is commonly expressed, “the end of the world.”  Paul wrote of great discouragement with optimism.  “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body” (2 Cor. 4:8-10).  Let none be weary in well doing (cf. Gal. 6:9).  Control oneself and let God see each through to victory.

Jimmy Clark