There was a story that I learned long ago that went something like this:
There was a little boy with a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, to hammer a nail in the back fence.
The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Then it gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.
Finally, the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.
The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like these holes in the fence.
We look at our world and it seems that, in many circles, temperance is in short supply. Our Old Adam seems to find, more and more, that it can come out from hiding and fit in. Instead of conversation, we have angry words that are one sided and not well thought out. Instead of looking for compromise we call other people names if they don’t agree with us.
Godliness cannot happen unless temperance is present because, to take on the attributes of God we must have patience and grace. From Titus 2:11-14, “For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
The definition of temperance is to have moderation or self-restraint in actions, statements, thoughts, etc. In other words, it means to be in self-control. We find a Biblical definition in 1 Corinthians 9:25-27, “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So, I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one ‘beating the air.’ But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
The world expects discipline and temperance from Christians because it is what we preach. Every time we break this expectation, it affects the whole church. And people should expect temperance from us because we are to take on the attributes of Him who we worship and adore.
Every time we lash out in anger, practice impatience, lose our temper or play the victim, we paint a picture that God never commissioned. Every time we forget who we are and whose we are, we tarnish what God has created.
This kind of distemper is nothing new. Paul dealt with it several times in his letters. In Romans 12:1-2 we see an example: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
We, as Christians, are called to have temperance in all things. When we have been wronged, we are to practice grace. When we see injustice, we are to try and make a change through love. When we see people doing things which God has not ordained, we are to lead by our example and work to fix the brokenness. That is what we have been called to do, things that are good and acceptable and perfect.”
So, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14). Be “hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined” (Titus 1:8). “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). It won’t be easy but remember, “(We) can do all things through Him who strengthens (us)” (Philippians 4:13). Please pray with me:
Heavenly Father, forgive us for those times we have not acted in godliness. Help us to show our faith in you by what we do and who we are. Teach us temperance that can show others a better way to live in this broken world. Amen.