Many ministers have learned to rule, by the help of the Holy Spirit, themselves in three vital areas.
Their spirit, soul, and body.
Notice the order.
We will find this order in 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (NKJV Strong’s)
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.”
Paul’s prayer is “may our whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless…”
That there would be no blame found in our spirit, soul, and body.
Paul talked about self discipline in Scripture on several occasions.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NKJV Strong’s)
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.
Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”
Notice that Paul said that those that compete for a prize is “temperate” in all things.
Temperate means controlled or “to exercise self restraint….in diet and chastity.”
I like this additional extended definition. “In a figure drawn from athletes, who in preparing themselves for the games abstained from unwholesome food, wine, and sexual indulgence.”
THE DISCIPLINE OF THE SPIRIT
Proverbs 4:23 tells us “Keep your heart with all diligence. For out of it flows the springs of life.”
Just like athletes, the keep themselves from eating foods that put on weight. Obviously depending upon the sport. But notice that Paul spoke of an athlete that runs in a race. Most runners are very disciplined when it comes to their weight because the heavier they are, the more difficult it will be to compete against other runners.
So it is spiritually. When we put on weight, we can’t compete with other athletes that have less weight, within their height proportion.
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV Strong’s)
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Whatever the weight is in our lives that hold us back from running effectively our race, we need the help of the Holy Spirit to lay it aside.
James 1:21 (NKJV Strong’s)
“Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”
For the runner, the race is won or lost in this area of self discipline. The way they train is to impose a hardship in order to compete to win the prize. If we’re not will to train, we will not be able to compete to win the prize. It must be strict with accountability. The trainer must be merciless, unrelenting, tough, and resolved to make their protege the best of the best.
Years ago, when I went into the Navy, I thought that boot camp would be difficult. And it was, but in a different area. Each branch of service designed their boot camp according to the needs of the service. Out of all the branches of service, the Navy is the least difficult on PT or Physical Fitness, but the mental fitness is where the Navy shines the best in the world.
When it comes to fighting other naval adversaries, the US Navy can’t be compared.
Therefore, you may think it’s easy in boot camp, but when you get to advanced training in your rate, the captain is depending upon you to use your skills acquired in advanced schools to effectively fight the ship. You have to think on your feet in difficult situations.
So the Navy may be soft in the belly, but extremely smart in the brain. It takes more than brute strength to defeat your enemy. It takes brains.
Your adversary, the devil, is thinking all the time to get you to sin. How he could trip you up and destroy your life. But if you “keep your heart with all diligence,” you’ll be able to overcome him with the help of the Holy Spirit every time.
1 Corinthians 10:12-13 (NKJV Strong’s)
“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
Luke 1:80 (KJV)
“And the child (John the Baptist) grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.”
As you’re progressing in the ministry, you must wax strong in spirit to handle the rigors of ministry. Too often, ministers quit because they’ve never waxed strong in spirit. Depression, anxiety, frustration, disillusionment, and other cares of ministry entered in and overwhelmed them.
They leave before their time and the Body is robbed of another vital minister.
Let this not be said of you.
THE DISCIPLINE OF THE SOUL
The mind comprises of the emotions, you will (preferences and or choices), your personality (that part that makes you…you), intellect (brain power), and presence (stature).
The mind works in conjunction with your spirit man and is under the control of the spirit man by the Holy Spirit. Some have said that the soul is the door to your spirit man. In a way it is. Because if we train our spirit and our soul to discern both good and evil, the spirit man, by the Holy Spirit, is in constant control.
The moment your mind is distracted, that’s when the devil may have an advantage over you.
Hebrews 5:14 (NKJV Strong’s)
“But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
The word “senses” means “…faculty of the mind for perceiving, understanding, judging.”
The spirit of man and the soul of man is eternal. Both will live forever as designed by the Lord, however, the body has an expiration date. And depending upon whether a person is born again or not, will determine its eternal destination.
What I mean is that if you’re in Christ, your body will be resurrected with the righteous. If you’re not in Christ, there is the resurrection of the unrighteous (see John 5:24). Both body and soul will be cast into hell.
Look at Matthew 10:28 (NKJV Strong’s) “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
The thoughts of evil come from within. When your mind isn’t disciplined, it opens itself up to receive evil. However, a person has to choose to fulfill evil or to abstain from evil. Just because you’re tempted, it doesn’t mean you’ve sinned.
You have to commit the act in order for it to be sin.
The one of the few areas is with sexual sins and thoughts of evil, or thoughts to commit evil.
Matthew 5:27-30 (NKJV Strong’s)
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”
Even thoughts of hatred of another person is evil.
1 John 4:20-21 (NKJV Strong’s)
“If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.”
You may not have harmed this person you hate, physically, but just the act of the heart and mind is considered to be just as if you did something to them. Cain hated Abel because Abel brought to the Lord what He required. This murder took place in the heart and then manifested in the natural.
1 John 3:10-15 (NKJV Strong’s)
“In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.
Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”
Matthew 5:21-24 (NKJV Strong’s)
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
We can’t worship in spirit and in truth with murder in our hearts. It’s best to release it. Reconcile with people, and let it go.
In Systematic Theology, man sins in thought, word, or deeds.
If we could control our thoughts with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can control the body.
THE DISCIPLINE OF THE BODY
“But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection,”
The body will rebel and fight to get what it wants. But notice what Paul said.
I discipline my body.
Many meanings could be given to the word discipline but the definition from the Greek obviously stands out.
“…to hit under the eye (buffet or disable an antagonist as a pugilist).’ to beat black and blue, to smite so as to cause bruises and livid spots like a boxer one buffets his body, handle it roughly, discipline by hardships.”
In other words, beat the body in such a way that it leaves visible bruises. I like the word “disable.” What you’re doing is that you’re removing its power to do what it wants.
1 Corinthians 6:12 (NKJV Strong’s)
“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”
When you purpose in your heart to refuse to be under its power, you will fight to the point of disabling it. Sometimes, when it comes to sin, all it takes is a change of thought, a change of location, a change of position, a refocusing on the Word, or other events that the Spirit of God will use to help you overcome when you’re tempted.
But there are times where you have to initiate the change. One method is to fall on your knees in prayer to God. A change of position. Or a channel change on the TV or other devices.
Your spirit man, by the Holy Spirit, is in charge, your mind helps or assists you, and your body gets you around on this planet. You body is just a vehicle to navigate in the world.
If you discipline your body, you can lengthen its days. The body is the physical expression. If your heart is evil, your mind will rule you, and your body becomes a prison.
Ephesians 2:1-3 (NKJV Strong’s)
“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”
Notice what Paul said, “fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind…”
Romans 13:12-14 (NKJV Strong’s)
“The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”
One of the areas where many ministers have a consistent problem is weight.
We’re not big boned. We put on pounds and we lack exercise. Let’s not deceive ourselves.
Each of us can do a little better in this area. So don’t get down about it.
When we die, we will get new bodies, but while we’re here on the earth, we can avoid some medical episodes of our own doing. Granted, not everyone has all their faculties. Each one of us a physically different. However, for those that can, we must do better.
To be an example to the people, we don’t need to be out of control in this area.
Simple and basic.
We should change our diets and commit to regular exercise. That is, reduce our caloric intake and increase our exercise to maintain or reduce our weight to normal. It’s tough, but it can be done.
Another area is when we’re watching certain shows with sex scenes. Or commercials with sexual provocations. On the Internet where sexual explicit material in the form of a provocative position flashes before our eyes. If we don’t see it, we can prevent entrance.
Matthew 6:22-23 (NKJV Strong’s)
“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
With male ministers, the eyes is the entrance. When what new see is captured, within us, there’s an arousal mechanism.
Proverbs 27:20 (NKJV Strong’s)
“Hell and Destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.”
When we fail to disable our bodies, we enter into temptation to fulfill its lusts. Once we set our mind on it, we will engage every thing to achieve satisfaction. But when it comes to sexual immorality, “the eyes of a man are never satisfied.”
It’s only when we ask the Lord for wisdom to escape, and or we make a decision to change our thoughts, location, and escape. Like Joseph. I don’t think it was all Joseph’s fault for being caught in a place where he was alone with Potiphar’s wife, but she lusted after Joseph. She kept at it for days on end. She just wouldn’t quit. She was manipulative, and persuasive.
Thank the Lord Joseph had enough sense to run.
She grabbed his coat and she, in her frustration, since she couldn’t have Joseph sexually, used his coat a false evidence that Joseph did something, and Potiphar put him in prison.
The prison protected Joseph from any further advances from Potiphar’s wife.
My brothers, when you see trouble, go the other way. Keep moving. Avoid them when they attempt to corner you. Nothing but trouble happens when we fail to be disciplined in this area.
Scandals can be avoided.
You see. Greater things are at stake when we fail to keep ourselves.
Just imagine the repercussions had Joseph took advantage and sinned against God.
Israel may not have been saved.
In conclusion. Let’s tighten our lives in all three areas so that the Lord could get the glory, and get the maximum use of us while we’re here on the earth.