Joe works hard at work and by the time he gets home he is exhausted. Too often he is impatient with his children and snaps at his wife. When he loses his temper and yells at her it is not because he wants to be a jerk or to act in such an unloving manner. The fact is his willpower is nearly sapped. Unfortunately, because of this, he is also insensitive to the fact that his wife, Alice, is also exhausted from watching high-energy children and operating at the tail end of being sick. Her willpower and ability to understand his feelings is also at a low end.
In their book Willpower, Roy Baumeister and John Tierney note that the majority of personal and social problems are attributed to failure of self-control. The need to improve willpower is a key component to better living. As people resist temptations and deal with stress during the day, slowly their willpower erodes. “People were using up all their willpower on the job. They gave at the office—and their home suffered the consequences.”Conflict, physical exertion, emotional distress, resisting temptation, and excessive social interaction all wear on a person’s willpower.
Matthew 26:41—“Stay awake and pray, so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Jesus did not berate or get angry at His men when they failed Him by sleeping instead of praying. He too was exhausted but He operated from a mindset different from theirs. Early in His ministry the Son of God proclaimed, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work” (John 4:34). He consistently exercised His will to do exactly what His holy Father intended and thus was able to live a sinless life as the Son of Man.
There is nothing edifying about a husband yelling at his wife or vice versa. Nor is it right to speak unkind words to another person; to belittle those with whom we are angry or upset. Our energy-depleted condition does not excuse wrongdoing. But it does help explain it and we need to understand what sets us up for failure.
Is it possible to live in moral obedience to God every day? Peter, who knew a lot about failing Jesus, believed so. He exhorted his readers, “But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written Be holy because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15,16). To walk righteously requires willpower. The question we ought to be asking ourselves is, “What do I need to do to improve my self-control and treat people as Jesus would?”
I conceiv’d the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. I wish’d to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into . . . While my care was employ’d in guarding against one fault, I was often surprised by another. Habit took the advantage of inattention; inclination was sometimes too strong for reason.—Benjamin Franklin
©2017 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)
Roy F. Baumeister & John Tierney in Willpower. (Penguin Books: New York, 2011).