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The book of Titus reveals that self-control is an essential component to living a faithful Christian life. Motivated by the cross, the return of Christ and equipped by the Holy Spirit, self-control will both rescue us from ship-wrecking our lives and help us live more effectively for Christ's glory. From how we use our time, through to the use of our tongue, in drink, sex, money and exercise, Willing But Weak shows that putting self-control at the heart of discipleship is hugely beneficial for us.
What others are saying about Willing but Weak:
'Piercing and practical ... I can't think of a timelier book in the last 30 years.'
— Rico Tice, Senior Minister, All Souls Langham Place
'Full of practical advice ... convicting, counter-cultural and immensely helpful.'
— Rhodri Brady, Pastor, Alfred Place Baptist Church
'Warm and wise. Like listening to a father share biblical advice with his family.'
— Matt Fuller, Senior Minister, Christ Church Mayfair
The central argument of this compelling and readable book is that self–discipline is core to fostering a healthy spiritual life. Otherwise, the author says, we will be like ‘a city whose walls are broken through’ (Proverbs 25:28). My initial fears that this would be just another ‘self–help book’ were quickly allayed when Paul Williams firmly based his position on Titus 2 and 3 which demonstrate both the motivation and the help to become self–controlled. He then applies other relevant passages of Scripture. The author consistently encourages us to consider Christ’s sacrifice, our redemption and the return of our Saviour. Much of the book is taken up with addressing the need for self–control with regard to specific issues. In doing this, he underlines the destructive consequences of a lack of self–discipline whilst noting the manifest benefits of a consistent Christian walk. The issues explored are contemporary and relevant such as use of money, sexual relationships and screen time. However, in dealing with money, I feel the author could have discussed self–discipline in giving more fully. Nevertheless, he deals with these matters compassionately, drawing on lengthy pastoral experience and offering dependable advice to encourage the reader to become more like their Saviour.
When tempted, I either trust in my ability to resist, or give in to my addictive tendencies. I find it hard to maintain self–control, especially in those areas where I’ve failed to resist before. Here’s why: I am a sinner. Completely forgiven by God. But not yet perfect– far from it. I am being renewed every day to be more like Jesus. As I grow in Christ, I’m commanded and empowered to exercise self–control. After all, it’s a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). Why self–control? In his book, Willing but Weak, Paul Williams, explores the importance of self–control to godly living. He reminds us that without it, we’re exposed to attack. Williams writes: “We simply can’t be godly without being self–controlled… Yet it seems so ordinary and so unspectacular – until it’s absent. Self–control is invisible until it’s not present, then we see it very clearly.” We see it clearly – to quote Proverbs – in the walls of our lives, as they’re broken down by the presence of sin without a leash (Proverbs 25:28). Self–control, in the Spirit’s power, is our leash. Where from? Self–control isn’t just about rules and boundaries. We’re saved by God’s grace, and Williams notes two ways this grace helps us be self–controlled. Grace helps us look back to the cross where our sins were put away; and grace helps us look forward to our Master’s return. Both facts – that our sin is gone, and that it’ll be gone forever – motivate us to turn our backs on the lives we were saved from (Titus 2:11–14). If you’re struggling to exercise self–control over your time, tongue, drink, lust, money, or just about anything, Willing But Weak is a good place to start. Williams concludes: “Pray about one or two areas where you need to be self–controlled. Think about the grace of God to motivate you. Seek to live in the power of the Holy Spirit. Then see the difference.”
I guess most of us, if we are really honest, would omit that we struggle with self–control. Here is a book that tackles the issue in a clear and forthright way. It is a small volume, which might superficially suggest that it is not sufficient. Yet here is the practical wisdom of the author: if it were any bigger, if you would have the self–control to knuckle down and read it! This book is most readable, with short, punchy chapters and apt anecdotes. It gets straight to the point and is scattered with little gems. After a brief introduction Williams launches his work from the instructions to various groups in Titus 2. He quotes from Proverbs 25:28, ‘Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self–control’ (NIV). This becomes a guiding picture for the book: that self–control is a fortress that protects us from other evils. The authors and analyses the way in which we can get control in our lives, recognising that it is ultimately a spiritual matter. He discusses the role of the holy spirit and the need for motivation. Other supports include how we use our time, the use of practical wisdom, and reading good books. Several chapters are devoted to specific battlegrounds of self–control such as the tongue, sex, anger and money. The concluding chapters consider what we do when the walls come tumbling down, and how to make a start, however small, in getting control in our lives. And it closes with a short chapter on the only one who had perfect self–control, Jesus. Highly recommended, very accessible to all, and filling a gap in the market.
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