I love a wide variety of sports. I’d prefer playing to watching most sports, but I do have an appreciation watching athletes who are at the pinnacle of their sport. For years, I enjoyed watching the tennis star Roger Federer. Beyond being immensely talented, Federer was one of the coolest characters in the midst of battle who has ever competed in sports. He would regularly find a way to escape the clutches of defeat, even when down in a final set, and facing multiple match points. Even when things around him were going awry, he could stay calm. But if you do a little search, you will find that Federer was not always such a calm, composed dude. Early in his career he often lost his cool with officials and opponents, even tossing his racket in a tantrum. According to an article, Self Control and Managing Emotions in Sport, “You have to go back a long way though and it’s no coincidence that it was only when he began working on managing his emotions and maintaining his composure that he started winning major Grand Slam events”.
Any good coach will tell you self-control, self-discipline, composure, whatever you want to call it, is critical to becoming a winner. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you cannot harness your emotions, if you cannot make wise decisions, then you are not likely to succeed in sports, certainly not in the long run.
Today’s proverb paints such a vivid and painful picture. “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” (Proverbs 25:28). In ancient cities, the wall that surrounded the city was its defense against warring nations and even dangerous predators. If there was even one gaping hole in the wall, the enemy could sneak in one at a time and potentially harm the inhabitants. However, if all the walls were removed, the city would be defenseless and likely quickly annihilated.
When we lack self control, we leave ourselves, and sometimes those around us, open to destruction. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8). I believe we frequently underestimate the impact of our decisions. Clicking on a questionable pop up may seem rather insignificant at the time, but it may be the first stone removed from the wall of morality that God has set up for you.
I knew a Christian man who dabbled in what he called “soft pornography”. We spoke often and I let him know he was on a dangerous road for himself, his wife and young children. I asked whether he would allow his kids to play in his backyard if his fence had a hole and his neighbour owned a vicious dog? He didn’t see it that way. Not long after, he briefly abandoned self control and inappropriately touched another lady. He very nearly lost his job, his marriage, and his children.
Each of us have different areas of weakness, different areas where we are vulnerable to the prowling lion. For some it may be sexual impurity, or love of money, or desire for fame or perhaps a temper or moodiness. Whatever your particular weakness, you will need to develop strong walls around you. However, God does not call you to do this on your own strength. If you establish a close relationship with Jesus, you will be sanctified and will possess increasing Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), including self-control.