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Self-Control

Read: Titus 2:1-8

The grace of God . . . teaches us . . . to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives. (vv. 11-12 NIV)

In 1972, Stanford University conducted a study of “delayed gratification.” The now-famous “marshmallow experiment” tested children’s ability to forego an immediate reward (one marshmallow) in favor of a later, greater reward (two marshmallows).

In his practical letter to young pastor Titus, Paul emphasizes the centrality of self-control to the Christian life. Paul provides virtue lists for Christians of all ages and genders. The one virtue on every list is self-control. Self-control is the ability to resist various kinds of temptations. It does not matter one’s age or stage of life, temptation is a constant.

However, it takes more than good intentions to overcome temptation. As we learn from the marshmallow experiment, the best motivation for self-control is the promise of a future reward that is better than the one in front of you. Jesus offers us the very best reward: his eternal life and love. But don’t we have to wait an entire lifetime to receive that reward? Absolutely not. In Ephesians, Paul says we have “a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” (Eph. 1:14 NIV). That deposit is the Holy Spirit—the very life and love of Jesus delivered to our hearts, right here, right now. With this guarantee of God’s greatest gift, we can control any urge and resist the lesser rewards this world has to offer. —Ben Van Arragon

As you pray, thank God for his promised reward and the deposit we have already received.

About the Author

Ben Van Arragon is a pastor, husband, and father of two teenage daughters. He has served the First Christian Reformed Church of Detroit since 2008. He writes and produces video teaching on the Bible and Reformed creeds and confessions. His writing for Words of Hope includes series on Jeremiah, Exodus, and Work and Rest.