Strengthening the Church's Spiritual Backbone

MAN'S backbone is symbolic of self-control, strength of will, and resolute decision—all vital for life's great achievements. . .

MAN'S backbone is symbolic of self-control, strength of will, and resolute decision—all vital for life's great achievements.

Grit, courage, drive, stamina, push, and action are not the characteristics of a spine less individual. Instead, lethargy, indifference, apathy, and denial rise to reveal the true nature of a coward.

Christian life is more than they [people professing present truth] take it to be. It does not consist in mere gentleness, patience, meekness, and kindliness. These graces are essential; but there is need of courage, force, energy, and perseverance.—Colporteur Evangelism, p. 54.

Dear brother, you need more faith, more boldness and decision in your labors. You need more push. . . . Our warfare is aggressive.—Evangelism, p. 297.

To meet the spirit of compromise and formalism that is weakening the church's spiritual stamina, we need to diagnose, prescribe, and carry forward a program toward revival and reformation that will enliven the church. One basic ingredient of this plan must be self-control, the strength of will toward resolute decision.

Writing to a needy brother with heaven's counsel, Ellen G. White said:

You now have to learn the great lessons of self-control which ought to have been mastered in earlier days. God brought you where your surroundings would be changed and where you could be disciplined by His Holy Spirit, that you might acquire moral power and self-control to make you a conqueror. It will require the strongest effort, the most persevering and unfaltering determination, and the strongest energy to control self.—Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 92.

The following counsel is much needed today:

It is the grace of God that you need in order that your thoughts may be disciplined to flow in the right channel, that the words you utter may be right words, and that your passions and appetites may be subject to the control of reason, and the tongue be bridled against levity and unhallowed censure and faultfinding. . . . The greatest triumph given us by the religion of Christ is control over ourselves. Our natural propensities must be controlled, or we can never overcome as Christ overcame.—Ibid., p. 235.

Victory Assured

Good news for man everywhere is that self-control can be restored. What man cannot do for himself the Lord has done for him and can now do in and through him. Scripture is filled with this assuring message. It is the very central theme— man's restoration is possible through Christ.

This call for self-control is a call for temperate living. Temperance is the Bible word for "self-control"—now printed in all modern translations by the best scholars.


Temperance, or self-control, is the only answer to intemperance in all its forms. It is a spiritual principle that is demonstrated through every aspect of life, and when this power is regained, spiritual life will be strengthened and the backbone stabilized against all the forces of intemperance. "One of the most deplorable effects of the original apostasy was the loss of man's power of self-control. Only as this power is regained, can there be real progress."— Temperance, p. 102.

Note well the fact that temperance, or self-control, is the foundation experience of practical godliness and spiritual life. "Temperance alone is the foundation of all the graces that come from God, the foundation of all victories to be gained." —Ibid., p. 201. Galatians 5:23 significantly shows temperance (self-control) as the fruit age of the Holy Spirit.

It is no wonder then that Ellen G. White in emphasizing the spiritual nature of temperance and its over-all influence on the Christian life asks, "Shall there not be among us as a people a revival of the temperance work?"—Ibid., p. 234.

From this foundational experience of practical godliness will flow blessing and victory to every experience of life and offer rewards in every decision of life—physical, mental, social, and spiritual.

Why is it that this spiritual doctrine of self-control in all things, victorious living that brings sanctification of life, is so neglected?

"Satan knows that he cannot overcome man unless he can control his will."—Ibid., p. 16. "Our only hope of regaining Eden is through firm self-control."—Ibid., p. 20.

Evangelistic Involvement

The dedicated preacher and Christian will not only strive for self-control through obedience to the principles of healthful living but will teach these principles of temperance that others, too, may be overcomers.

In all our large gatherings we must bring the temperance question before our hearers in the strongest appeals and by the most convincing arguments. The Lord has given us the work of teaching Christian temperance from a Bible standpoint.—Ibid., p. 239.

Our message is a message of reform. This includes the call for self-discipline and strict adherence to the laws of our being.

The great subject of reform is to be agitated, and the public mind is to be stirred. Temperance [self-control] in all things is to be connected with the message.—Ibid., p. 238.

When through the grace of God the church's spiritual backbone of self-control is strengthened, renewal and revival of spiritual power will follow. The church will then offer mankind everywhere a positive alternative to intemperance and evil, the warning against the forces of intemperance will be given, and many will follow on to know the Lord more fully.


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May 1971

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