He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.
Your success depends on ruling your spirit. Great men rule their spirits. They resist temptations to react or overreact. They restrain their emotions and manage them for good.
How safe are you from trouble? If you do not rule your spirit, you are vulnerable to say or do things that could cost you dearly. You may already be damaged by such actions.
Your spirit is your inner self, which controls your actions. When you do not rule your spirit, you are exposed and vulnerable to all sorts of folly and trouble. Like a defenseless city without walls in former times of marauding armies, so is the man who does not rule his own spirit and diligently keep it in the way of virtue, truth, and wisdom.
Your spirit includes your affections, appetites, and passions. A wise and noble man rules his spirit by his conscience and mind. He locks it down with chains of self-denial to keep ambition, anger, lust, pride, or revenge from breaking forth. He guides it by a mental commitment to hold fast honor, humility, righteousness, and virtue. He rules his thoughts, his desires, his inclinations, his resentments, and keeps them all in disciplined order.
A fool lets his spirit control his actions. He does not resist impulses from his spirit; he lets his spirit direct him; he forfeits the fight for character and godliness. He cannot do what he should; he cannot stop doing what he should not. Such men are often angry, generally foolish, often depressed, or always procrastinating, among other faults and sins. They never grow up, for they are controlled by childish passions of a depraved heart.
In Solomon’s time, a city depended on strong fortifications and gates, with great walls surrounding it, to repel incursions by ravaging bands of guerillas or foreign armies. If the bulwarks, gates, or towers were broken down and the walls taken away, a city was totally exposed to the incursions of any enemy that wished to plunder, pillage, or conquer it. If a city did not invest sufficiently in these means of protection, it could easily be captured.
A man without rule of his spirit is exposed and vulnerable like a defenseless city. His spirit is ready to sin with very little provocation, and he cannot marshal its power for any real good. He is helplessly, hopelessly, perpetually at the mercy of his enemies – foolishness, lust, and sin – which show no quarter, but regularly ravage his life. But the man who rules his spirit is greater than a man taking a city single-handedly (Pr 16:32).
Dear reader, what tempts your spirit? Are you quick to anger, a sure mark of a fool? Must you talk incessantly, another mark of a fool? Regarding money, are you an impulsive spender? Or a hoarding miser? Do you justify imprudent haste as optimism? Or do you call melancholy funks self-reflection? Which spirit do you have? Do you rule it? To the bulwarks! Raise the towers! Close the gates! Build the walls! Rule your spirit!
Do you talk too much? Or are you depressed and silent? Do you make financial choices impulsively? Do you criticize everyone? Do you jest and joke often? Does complaining come easily? Do you eat more than you should? Do you fail to read and pray daily? Do you let being discouraged destroy you? Does fear keep you from your duties?
Do you disrespect authority, especially civil rulers? Are you known for withdrawing and avoiding your family or friends? Do you forgive easily, or is it hard? Can you stop being an overbearing mother by making suggestions for everything your married child does? Do you mock rich men, because you think you know more than them (Eccl 10:20)?
Your life will be plundered and wasted, unless you take control and raise a defense. You will never amount to much. You will be a castaway, for an unruly spirit does not produce good things for God or man. You will plunge into sins of commission and omission. To the bulwarks! Raise the towers! Close the gates! Build the walls! Rule your spirit!
The greatest battle you will ever fight is the one against your own spirit. Your worst enemy is the depraved and selfish man inside you. It causes the most damage and keeps you from success in life. The most shameful loss is to live and die the victim of your own unruly spirit. And the most noble and rewarding victory is the one over your own spirit.
King Saul did not rule his jealous spirit, which even tried to kill his own son (I Sam 20:27-34). David did not bridle his lustful spirit, which boldly led him to adultery and murder (II Sam 11:1-27). And Samson, the strongest man ever, was helpless before his unruled passion for beautiful Delilah (Judges 16:4-21). Dear reader, do not let these heinous crimes make you confident in your life, for many lesser sins can also ruin a life.
Identify your spirit weaknesses – every man has them. What sins tempt you most? What causes you to fall quickest into folly? Confess your faults to the Lord. Confess to your family or friends. Ask them to tell you when they see a breach in a wall. Take charge of your spirit, and crush whatever folly it seeks, and do whatever wisdom it avoids. Now!
At the first sign of a bulwark or tower crumbling, pray for the mighty strength of your Prince Jesus. Do not trust your own strength; you need His. You cannot relax, for it will take control unless you rule it. By the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ you can rule it. Why wait one minute longer? Go to Him now! Raise the walls of a well-ruled and holy city!
Teach your children self-discipline, called temperance in the Bible. This will do them more good before God and men than academic training. This will make them as great as a man singlehandedly taking a city (Pr 16:32). You can start when they are very young by slowly denying them small things they want. The present world sees no need for it, since they believe in instant gratification with food, purchases, sex, speech, anger, sleep, etc.
Jesus Christ ruled His spirit and submitted to God’s will, in spite of being very amazed and intimidated by His coming crucifixion (Mark 14:33). Though tempted by the devil at various times, He never considered the devil’s suggestions (Matt 4:1-11). But not only that, He will provide grace and strength for those who ask (II Cor 12:9-10; Phil 4:13).