In today’s world, the word “master” often comes with a negative connotation as it inevitably leads to the word “slave.” But “master” also refers to other things such as a higher level of education, expertise as work, or ownership of an animal. It can also simply refer to someone in a high rank of authority—such as the captain of a ship. Regardless of difficult situations, the captain is the master of the ship, and all aboard follow his lead.

            How often do we try and “master” our own ship of life? We have the One who will safely guide us through everything. But too often we want to take control, not allowing God to lead us through the most tumultuous times in our lives. The question must be asked, Who is your true Master and Commander?

The Greatest Natural Strength

            Think about how important “control” is. I don’t mean the negative dimension of being a controlling person. I mean self-control—the ability to resist impulses and temptations and accomplish only those things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney, in their book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, cite research indicating that “most major problems, personal and social, center on failure of self-control: compulsive spending and borrowing, impulsive violence, underachievement in school, procrastination at work, alcohol and drug abuse, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, chronic anxiety, explosive anger.”[1]

            So why don’t we just exercise more restraint and develop greater self-control? It’s obviously not that easy because there are many other powers at work in the world that seek to control, or at least strongly influence, our thinking and thus our behavior. The media, substances, devious people, political platforms, philosophical worldviews, and our own fallen human nature lead us toward a life of ungodliness. But any controlling powers that don’t influence us in the direction of Christ-likeness are from one and the same source: Satan. “The whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19b). Satan knows he can keep a person from ever displaying the image of God on earth.

            But here’s the problem from a biblical point of view: If the lack of self-control is due to fallen (sinful) human nature, won’t it take something stronger than fallen human nature to fix it?

The Greater Supernatural Strength

            The apostle James gives us the anatomy of sin—the life cycle of sin, if you will: “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (James 1:13-14).

            What we need is a greater power. And clearly, Christians have such a power:

            •Romans 6:14: “For sin shall not have dominion [power] over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”

            •1 Corinthians 6:12: “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.”

            If it is possible not to be controlled by anyone or anything in this world, what is the secret? How do we remain close to our Commander and His leading? The answer is clear: the power of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . self-control.” Note: Self-control is the fruit of the Holy Spirit; the power comes from Him, not us!

            So how do we stay empowered by the Spirit?

            •First, the Holy Spirit dwells in you (Acts 2:38).

            •Second, don’t grieve (Ephesians 4:30) or quench (1 Thessalonians 5:19) the Spirit by disobeying or resisting the will of God.

            •Third, confess your sins as soon as you are aware of them (1 John 1:9).

            •Finally, ask the Holy Spirit to fill you afresh with His presence (Ephesians 5:18).


            Just as a crew follow their captain’s lead—knowing he has the knowledge and wisdom to be in command—Christians are under the control of no one and nothing except the Lord Jesus Christ, our true Master and Commander.

[1] Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength (New York: The Penguin Press, 2011), 2.