Restraint: How to stay out of trouble


Restraint. Now there's an unpopular concept.

One of the great myths of life is that we should have freedom to do anything we want, as long as it doesn't hurt anybody else.

But what if it hurts you?

Pastor and author Charles Stanley said it's a Life Principle that we reap what we sow, more than we sow, later than we sow. It's one of God's infallible laws.

It's up to each one of us whether we sow good seed or bad seed, wise actions or foolish actions. If you're a Christian, the Holy Spirit will guide you in the way you should go. He even furnishes a set of written instructions for you to follow.

Bad press for restraint

We are a culture obsessed with rights and freedom. Restraint, the simple act of saying "no," has become a rare practice. In our culture, denying yourself something is regarded as:

  • Cowardly
  • Puritanical
  • Dull
  • Unrealistic
  • Cheap

Saying no means treating your mind and body like the most precious things you own—because they are. You wreck those, and you're in for a very miserable life. Look, it's not a matter of weighing the odds. It's a matter of gambling with something you can't replace.

Every person in prison failed to exercise restraint. Every drug addict failed to say no. And every person drowning in credit card debt can only blame the person staring back in the mirror. When it comes to risky behavior, we just can't afford to act impulsively.

"Yeah, but never taking a chance would be pretty boring."

When things go wrong, and they will go wrong, consider the time and expense of cleaning up the mess. That is, if it even can be cleaned up.

If this sounds like a lecture from your father or grandfather, you're right. Honestly, I'm not trying to take the spontaneity out of your life. I'm trying to take the stupidity out of it.

Investing in your future

America is a country of instant gratification. We want what we want and we want it right now. But that's not how Christianity is. Christianity is about saying "no" to temptation.

Many things don't look like temptation but are. Spiritual maturity is characterized by looking ahead and projecting the consequences of our choices. We all know people who repeat the same mistake over and over. They don't look ahead and obviously don't learn anything from their experience.


It's really a matter of spiritual investment. For example, when you save money, you have to deny yourself things in the present to grow those funds for the future. In the same way, to build a calm, drama-free life in the years to come, you have to exercise caution now in your choices. Look at it as investing in your future.

Recklessness now = Trouble in the future

Carefulness now = Peace in the future

Of course, trouble can hit any of us at any time. The world is unpredictable and we can't control everything. But we can control our own self-destructive behavior.

We don't have to engage in self-sabotage. We can avoid being our own worst enemy. Restraint is the tool we use to protect ourselves from ourselves.

Do you understand that obeying the Ten Commandments can keep you out of trouble? It's true. God's laws for wise living are so profound they can prevent all kinds of problems. But that's just a side benefit. The real reason we obey God is to show our love for him.

When you surrender your life to Jesus, restraint goes from being a burden to a privilege. No, the Christian life isn't problem-free, but it is, without question, the wisest way to live.

Making thoughtful decisions today can result in a happier tomorrow.

Food for Thought is a series of short, tightly focused messages to get you thinking about your life.

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