FamilyLife Today® Podcast

The Importance of Self-control

with Rob Bugh | October 3, 2019
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Rob Bugh talks about the importance of self-control in blended families. Self-control is overcoming sinful passions, and is not optional for believers. Bugh tells about how a lack of self-control caused great regret in the early years of his new marriage.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Rob Bugh talks about the importance of self-control in blended families. He tells about how a lack of self-control caused great regret in the early years of his new marriage.

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The Importance of Self-control

With Rob Bugh
October 03, 2019
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Bob: Do you struggle with self-control? I think a lot of us do. Pastor Rob Bugh says that’s not unusual, but the solution for cultivating self-control may be a different solution than you would’ve imagined.

Rob: For ages, people have said self-control is a matter of will power; self-control is an issue of the mind and the will clamping down on the emotions. But Paul, here in

1 Corinthians, Chapter 9, says: “No; hold the phone. Time out; wait a minute! Self-control is much more than that. Self-control”—now hear me—“is not a matter of will power, it’s a matter of heart power. The source of self-control is what you desire.”

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, October 3rd. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. As a husband in a blended family, Pastor Rob Bugh has realized that he needs to learn how to cultivate self-control for his blended family to function the way it ought to function. He’s going to talk more about self-control and blended families today. Stay with us.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You guys were at an event, back in the spring, called the Blended & Blessed® one-day event for blended families. This was actually simulcast all across the country. You were a part of a line-up of speakers, who spoke at this event. This was your first time to be with an audience like this. What stood out to you as you were speaking with folks who are either blended couples themselves or who are advocates for blended couples?

Dave: We really enjoyed that day. It was a powerful day to stand with other speakers, as you are going to hear, and really talk about the complexities of the blended family, which is a whole different way to do life. I mean, it’s complex!


Bob: And not something you’ve spoken about regularly or often, although you’ve mentioned this in your pastoral ministry and had a great response when you bring up this subject in your congregation.

Dave: I think a lot of churches, like ours, are filled with blended families. I think, sometimes, they feel left out. It’s a whole different world, and so you need to speak to that.


Ann: Our thought was: “Every church should have this; every church should be listening; every couple that’s in a blended situation/a blended family should be listening to something like this,” because the speakers were great; they gave great advice; they gave great tips; they taught biblically. I was amazed at how many young people/young couples were in the audience.

Bob: Yes; this is one of two events that FamilyLife® does every year for blended families. This Blended & Blessed event is in the spring; and again, it’s a national simulcast. In the fall, we have a second event that is the Summit on Stepfamily Ministry. This is designed for church leaders, for youth pastors, for people who are involved in family ministry in a local church setting to help equip them do a better job in the local church of dealing with the issues blended and stepfamilies are facing.

In fact, the Summit on Stepfamily Ministry is happening this fall, October 24th and 25th, in Chesapeake, Virginia. There’s more information online. If you’d like to find out how you could attend, go to and look for the information about the Summit on Stepfamily Ministry.

We’re going to hear today from Pastor Rob Bugh, who spoke at the Blended & Blessed event, back in the spring. Rob is the Pastor at Wheaton Bible Church in Wheaton, Illinois. He and his wife are in a blended family, both of them widowers, who got married after their spouses died. They know, first-hand, the challenges blended families face and know, biblically, how to deal with those challenges.

The message we’ll hear today is where Rob is talking about one particular aspect of the fruit of the Spirit; and that is the issue of self-control and how that needs to get exercised in a blended family context.

[Recorded Message]

Rob: This morning, I want to talk out of weakness, not out of strength—as a man, who has been incredibly blessed, but has repeatedly blown it. Nowhere more-so than in our blended family and, particularly, in our marriage.

Rhonda and I—Rhonda is right over here—Ronda and I were married 11½ years ago, following the deaths of our first two spouses to cancer. I have four bio; Rhonda has three bio—they’re adults now. Six of the seven are married; we have seven grandkids and more coming.

There are a number of blended families that adjusted fairly easily and fairly quickly, but we did not. Much of the reason for that had nothing to do with a blended family but had everything to do with our two particular temperaments. We are both Type A drivers. Rhonda is a perfectionist—a 1 on the Enneagram scale. [Laughter]

I tend be a controller: a boss, a commander, a challenger—that would be an 8 on that scale. [Laughter] So when we fight, and we were warned about this ahead of time, we really fight. Much of our conflict in the early years revolved around my 13-year-old-son, who was the youngest of our 7 children by about 6 years.

Ryan, as we merged our two families—Rhonda and I got married; we sold our homes; bought a neutral home—Ryan was still grieving the death of his mother. He was 13; he was confused: “Who was this new woman in this home?” He quickly realized Rhonda was a great mom, but a very different mom, with a different temperament. When you are 13-years-old, different is bad.

We found ourselves in an increasingly tense situation. Honestly, I wanted, with everything within me, to support and identify with Rhonda; because marriage is primary; right? We all know that; it’s what the Bible teaches us. But I just couldn’t do that, because I couldn’t add to my 13-year-old’s pain. So, Rhonda and I fought. Why? Well, Rhonda didn’t feel supported by me; she felt that Ryan was primary, not herself. Ryan, as a 13-year-old, confused, grieving, didn’t much like different/didn’t much like Rhonda, early on. I was frozen in the middle, with my feet firmly planted in mid-air. If you like to be in control, like I do—man, that’s no place to have your feet. And I, honestly—I was angry.

I have a lot of regrets from that period—those early years—but my biggest regret was my lack of self-control. Instead of controlling my emotions, I capitulated to them. Instead of controlling my words, I just let them fly. Instead of controlling my anger, I capitulated to my anger.

Today, what I want to do is—I want to look at what self-control is; and then talk about the source of self-control; and then third, the source of the source of self-control. Bear with me and lets go back to the very beginning; because according to the Bible, our problem with self-control began in the Garden of Eden—right?—when Adam and Eve couldn’t control their desire for more. They’re wanting more. We see it in their son, Cain, when Cain couldn’t control his jealousy and murdered his brother Abel.

We see the same thing, years later with Moses, when Moses couldn’t box his anger and killed the Egyptian. We see it in the very first king of Israel, King Saul, who couldn’t surrender his insecurity and find contentment in God. Wasn’t this the difference between Joseph, who started so poorly and finished so well?—and David, who started so well and finished so poorly? That Joseph could control his sexual desires and David couldn’t? Self-control will make you or break you.

What I want to do this morning is—building on Galatians 5 and the appearance of self-control in this list of the fruit of the Spirit—is I want to look at the primary passage in the New Testament on self-control. It’s found at the end of 1 Corinthians, Chapter 9. I’m going to pick it up in verse 23. Paul is speaking under inspiration, and he says:

“I do this for the sake of the gospel, that I might share in its blessings.”—Now, we move into some metaphors—“Do you not know that in a race all these runners run but only one gets the prize? You, as believers in Jesus Christ, run in such a way as to get the prize. After all, everyone who competes in the games”—he’s talking about the ancient Olympic/Greek Olympics—"goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it”—as believers in Jesus Christ—"to get that crown that will last”—what?[mumbles from audience]—“forever. Therefore, I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and I make it my slave so that, after I have preached to others, I, myself will not be disqualified for the prize because of sin in my life.”

Now, in the verses we just read, Paul doesn’t use the word, self-control; but he describes it. For example, in verse 25, he uses the words: “strict training.” Strict training, literally, can be translated “self-control in everything.” Then we come to verse 27; and he illustrates this concept of self-control by talking about making his body his slave.

Paul is describing extreme athletes/Olympians. He’s saying: “Look to their self-control; look to their discipline.” By implication, I want you to understand Paul is saying that self-control in the life of the believer isn’t optional; it isn’t inconsequential or incidental—it’s central. You, as a follower of Jesus Christ, are to exercise self-control in the same way that Olympians do it—you do it spiritually; they do it physically.

Here, Paul is talking about your battle with sin. According to 1 Corinthians 9, self-control is overcoming your sinful passions. Self-control, according to these verses, is building some fences around your sinful heart. He’s talking about all the things in the world that pull at you. He’s asking you the question: “Are you willing to so follow Jesus, because you love Jesus, that you are a person that lives a life of self-control?” We’ve got to ask ourselves a question then.

Now, here, I’m going to move to the source of self-control. The question is: “Why in the world is this personal discipline/this extreme personal discipline, in light of these metaphors, is so important/so central?” Paul tells us near/at the end of verse 24—he tells us it is indispensable to getting the prize.

Now, don’t miss this—because, for ages, people have said self-control is a matter of will power; self-control is an issue of the mind and the will clamping down on the emotions. But Paul, here in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 9, says: “No, hold the phone. Time out; wait a minute! Self-control is much more than that.” He says: “Look at these athletes—they would love to spend an entire weekend eating ice cream and pizza, but they don’t because they want the prize more.” This is all about the prize.

Now, I say all that to say: “Self-control, according to the Apostle Paul, isn’t a matter of mere will-power nor is it the matter of the absence of strong emotions. It’s centering your emotions on what is primary. Self-control”—now hear me—“isn’t a matter of will power; it’s a matter of heart power. Self-control isn’t a matter of your will; it’s a matter of your heart. The source of self-control is what you desire/what you want.”

Let me illustrate this—in the Book of Genesis, one of the patriarchs is a man by the name of Jacob. Jacob has all sorts of stories/all sorts of fascinating things taking place in his life. One of the more interesting accounts is when Jacob goes to work for his horrible, dishonest, disingenuous, difficult uncle by the name of Laban. Jacob works—you know the story—for 14 years because he knows, at the end of 14 years, he’s going to get to marry Laban’s beautiful daughter, Rachel. Rachel was his prize. For 14 years, Jacob’s life was pretty much miserable; but at every turn and in every way, he exercised self-control—not because of will power—but because of the joy and the intimacy of knowing this beautiful woman was going to become his wife.

I want to ask you this morning: “What is your Rachel? What is your Rachel in life?”

Now, before I move on, let me take some time and unpack this and relate it to blended families. We know, in blended family life,—thank you, Ron [Deal]—that the role of the stepmom is the hardest of the roles in the family system. There are a number of reasons for that; but one of the reasons is that the mother is the emotional center of the home, and she should be. If you moms have set your hearts on your kids and your step-kids’ approval—and if that is your Rachel—you will work yourself to the bone to get their approval.

But if you have a 13-year-old in your home, like our son, Ryan, who happens to be your step-son and he rejects you, then you will either become embittered or you will become depressed. Because approval is your prize, you will lack self-control when push comes to shove.

Now, step-dads, if you are at all like me, we have a need to be right; we have a need to be respected; often, a need to have things our way. Then, if your family—your wife’s natural allegiance toward her bio-kids, her communication with her bio-kids; or say your step-children compare you unfavorably to their bio-dad, or they withdraw from you and they don’t really communicate with you, and you have this need to be in control and to be respected—it’s just a matter of time and you’re going to explode. You’re going to send everyone running for cover because your prize is respect. It will cause you to lack self-control.

Let’s say your bio-daughter doesn’t much like her step-mom, your wife. As a matter of fact, she does some things to try to drive a wedge between you/her bio-dad and your wife/her step-mom. Sometimes, it’s just nasty; but you never say anything to your daughter/your own bio-daughter about her behavior/about what’s she’s doing. The question we need to ask ourselves is: “Why? Why don’t we do that?” The answer is: “Because your prize is your daughter’s approval, her comfort, her love; and you will not do anything to damage it.” Never mind you are wounding the woman you asked to marry you, because your prize is convoluted.

The question I am asking you this morning: “In your blended family, what is your prize? What is it that you want?”


Bob: We’ve been listening to the first part of a message today from Pastor Rob Bugh, a message he shared at the Blended & Blessed event that FamilyLife hosted back in the spring—an event that the two of you [Dave and Ann] participated in.

That question that he asked, right there at the end: “What’s you prize?” If you can’t look at one another—in a marriage relationship/a blended family—and say, “You’re first place in this,” then you’re going to have problems in that blended family; aren’t you?

Dave: Yes; Rob kicked off the day with that talk. I remember sitting there; we were going to speak later—I remember thinking: “I was the son when my dad re-married, and I felt that. Dad’s prize was his new wife and sort of leaving me in the dust.” I mean, it’s very easy to do; and yet, he’s talking about the other side of that—you know, when you are the wife or you are the new husband: “What does it feel like when the prize is the bio-son or bio-daughter?”

Ann: I think it’s easy to talk about that, but when you experience it—we have some of our best friends: the husband passed away in front of his children; had a heart attack—died on the floor—with his 14- and 12-year-old right in the room with him, with the wife.

There’s this protectiveness in me for these children, because we love them; our kids are close friends. When she got re-married, there was a part of me that wanted her to protect her kids more than see her husband as the prize. I felt like, “Hey, your kids are the prize.” I didn’t say that, but that was within me; so I can’t imagine what it’s like for the parents to experience that—the protection for the kids—and not make the husband or wife the prize.

Bob: The priority of the husband or wife in this situation doesn’t mean that you now disregard the kids or leave them alone; it just means that they understand that: “As important, and valuable, and loved as you are”—and they should feel that

100 percent—“as significant as you are, there is one person, who’s just a little bit ahead of you on that scale, and that’s my new wife/your step-mom,” or “…your step-dad. That doesn’t devalue you; ultimately, that will bring security.”

In your situation, with your dad, he did kind of leave you in the dust.

Dave: Well, and we didn’t live together.

Bob: Right.

Dave: I was in a different state.

Bob: But if you had lived together, you ultimately would have gotten a sense of security if you saw he really does value and treasure her: “He loves me, but he treasures her,”—that brings contentment to a child.

Dave: Right; right.

Bob: We’re going to hear Part Two of Rob Bugh’s message on tomorrow’s program. If you’d like to listen to the message in its entirety, or if you’d like to view a video of this message/maybe share with others, it’s available on our website at Again, go to so you can see or hear Rob’s message on self-control in its entirety.

Three weeks from right now, thereis going to be a group of people meeting in Chesapeake, Virginia, at Community Church in the Norfolk area for the 2019 Summit on Stepfamily Ministry. This group includes pastors, family pastors, counselors, lay people—people who care about ministering to people in blended families. The theme this year is “Stepfamilies in Crisis.” They’ll be looking at major issues that cause couples and families to go into crisis mode and what the church can do to come alongside and minister to those folks.

Ron Deal will be leading that; Darryl and Gwen Smith will be there; Pastor Ben Young; Michelle Cushatt; and others. You can find out more; you can register if you’d like to be a part of this event—go to, and the information is available there. There is still time to register. So again, go to The event takes place October 24th and 25th in Chesapeake, Virginia. If you live in the Tidewater area or you live anywhere up and down the eastern seaboard, plan to join us on this two-day Summit on Stepfamily Ministry, coming up three weeks from this week.

Speaking of joining us, those of you who are regular FamilyLife Today listeners, we’d like to ask you to join us as a part of the team that makes this ministry possible for people in your community/people, actually, all around the world when you become a monthly Legacy Partner—somebody who supports this ministry of FamilyLife® with donations each month. Maybe it’s $25, or $50, whatever you are able to do as a Legacy Partner—when you do that, you’re making FamilyLife Today and all of the resources of FamilyLife available to people, not only in your community, but all around the world.

This week, if you join that team, we want to send you two gifts. First, we’ll send you a copy of the book, (A)Typical Woman, that we’ve talked about this week, with Abigail Dodds. That book is our gift to you, along with a gift card so that two of you, as a couple, or another couple you know, can be your guests at one of our upcoming Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. You get the Weekend to Remember gift card and the book, (A)Typical Woman, when you say: “I want to be on the team that makes FamilyLife Today possible in my city/my community. I want to be a Legacy Partner.”

I hope you will do that; I hope you resonate with what we’re about, here, at FamilyLife and would be willing to join the team. We look forward to hearing from you. We hope you can be back with us, again, tomorrow. We’re going to hear Part Two of Rob Bugh’s message on self-control and blended families. You may know somebody that you want to call and tell them to tune in and listen.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a Cru® Ministry. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.


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