But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore of sound mind, and be sober unto prayer (1 Peter 4:7).
Even though they did not always live by it, the ancients considered “moderation in all things” as the ultimate ideal. When and if this ultimate equilibrium could be reached, life would be most pleasant.
Yet we, as humans, are not always well-balanced creatures. We often go to extremes. In some aspects of life, we may practice self-denial; in others, we throw ourselves into consumption. Our imbalances lead to feelings of craving or guilt.
We would do well, therefore, to maintain a “sound mind” and to be “sober,” or, as in other versions, to exhibit self-control and sober-mindedness. These attributes require discipline and balance, striving to be neither too stringent nor too lax (Colossians 2:20-23, Galatians 5:17-21).
Self-control means that we know when to say “yes” and when to say “no,” and to translate that knowledge into action. Self-control knows when to say, “enough,” either in denial or pleasure. Self-control must be accomplished in every aspect of life if it will be of real value. Even though self-control is listed at the end of the manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit, it is hard to see how anyone can manifest the other characteristics without it (Galatians 5:22-24)!
When we think of sobriety, we generally think of not being on drugs or alcohol. Yet sobriety is much more than that– it means that we are free from any and all intoxicants. To be sober-minded means to not allow any thing to intoxicate or control the mind, save the believer subjecting his mind to the will of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). That includes drugs and alcohol, but also includes greed, lust, and anything else that would intoxicate the mind and distract us from our main purpose!
Let none be deceived: self-control and sober-mindedness are not forced upon anyone on account of circumstances. They are qualities that must be consciously developed whether in good times or bad. Are we willing to put effort into disciplining ourselves (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)?
We would also do well to consider why Peter says we ought to be self-controlled and sober-minded: “the end of all things is at hand.” If we knew for a certainty that this would be the last day of our lives, and that Jesus is going to return tomorrow, how would our story end? Would we be found as the “good and faithful servant,” doing the will of the Master despite His absence, showing proper self-control and sober-mindedness (Matthew 24:45-47)? Or would we be as the “wicked servant,” who has not acted as circumspectly, and fallen under condemnation for his sin (Matthew 24:48-51)?
In this circumstance, would knowing that Jesus is returning tomorrow change the way you lived? Would it lead you to “straighten up” and apply yourself more diligently to self-control and sober-mindedness? Even though we may not know for certain whether Jesus will come today, tomorrow, or in a thousand years, the New Testament makes clear that we must live as if He will return momentarily (1 Thessalonians 5:1-10, Matthew 25:1-30). Let us develop self-control and sober-mindedness so that we may be found faithful in the Kingdom!
Ethan R. Longhenry