By Dr. Harold Sala

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James 4:17 

How often have you heard the line, “He just couldn’t say no!” or the feminine version of that, which is, “She knew better than that. That’s not how she was raised!”  What’s the problem?  Was it what the individual did, or the lack of discipline that brought confrontation with a situation which the person knew to be wrong?

Often I will sit down with a couple whose marriage is failing, and a spouse will turn in anger on his or her mate and hurl the words, “Why did you do that?” And the feeble response is often, “I don’t know.  I just couldn’t help myself!”

Needed is discipline—or more specifically, self-discipline—the kind that has feet connected to a backbone which allows you to walk away from temptation, or the strength to hit the button on the TV controller, or click the mouse on your computer when you have strayed into areas which Paul called “secret and shameful” (2 Corinthians 4:2 NIV).

My experience working with people leads me to conclude that most people who find themselves in moral quicksand are not blind to what they are doing.  True, they aren’t thinking through the consequences, but they simply don’t have the self-discipline necessary to do an about-face and close the door on temptation.

What are the consequences of self-indulgence as opposed to self-discipline?  A broken home, shattered confidence—a mate who no longer trusts you, your loss of self-respect, and perhaps God’s hand of discipline.

Self-discipline not only closes the door on temptation, but also brings rich dividends spiritually.

Insight: You are free to make whatever decisions and choices you please, but you cannot control the consequences of those choices. For those who are God’s children, not only does life yield harsh discipline, but God does, as well.  “Hey,” you may say, “I thought God was a loving God.” He is. That’s exactly why He disciplines His children.

Says the New Testament book of Hebrews: “And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.’” (Hebrews 12:5,6).  “Better to be pruned to grow,” said John Trapp, “than cut up to burn.”  It’s still true.

Hitting the wall can be a good thing.  Sometimes a swift “kick in the pants” is what you need to realize you need to change.  God uses discipline to get your attention, to help you realize that continuing on the path you are on leads to disaster.  Charles Spurgeon wrote, “I bear my willing witness that I owe more to the fire, and the hammer, and the file, than to anything else in the Lord’s workshop” (Spurgeon as quoted by George Sweeting, Who Said That?, p. 163).

Changing your attitude is the first step.  It’s what the Bible calls repentance. It’s the deep-seated emotion that makes you realize you have been playing with fire, and it’s time to change, and fast.

The second step is changing your actions.  It’s important to realize that doing right brings with that decision God’s help which you have lacked.  No, God won’t do it for you, but knowing that He’s able to give you the resolve you lack, and His strength for your weakness, makes it much easier for you to do right–even when it is painful.  “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7).  Stop.  Question:  Who gives us power, love, and self-discipline?  God does.  Have you asked Him for this?  Self-discipline not only closes the door on temptation, but also brings rich dividends spiritually.  Remember, you can choose to do whatever you like, but with every choice come consequences–both negative and positive–which you neither choose nor can avoid.

Resource reading: Hebrews 12:1-12