1 Thessalonians 5:22 (KJV)
22Abstain from all appearance of evil.

In this verse and the prior verses the apostle encourages the church to do those things which are right in God�s eyes. Here we find the apostle saying to abstain not only from those things that are evil, but to also abstain from the things that might even appear evil. Corrupt affections indulged in the heart, and evil practices allowed in one�s life will tend to promote flawed thoughts in the mind. However a pure heart and integrity in life will move men towards the truth God has given them. Matthew Henry gave this observation, �He who is not shy of the appearances of sin, who shuns not the occasions of sin, and who avoids not the temptations and approaches to sin, will not long abstain from the actual commission of sin.�

In a September 20, 1998 segment of ABC's news magazine show "20/20," reporter John Stossel interviewed Dr. Roy Baumeister of Case Western Reserve University. Baumeister said, "If you look at the social and personal problems facing people in the United States�we're talking drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, unsafe sex, school failure, shopping problems, gambling�over and over, the majority of them have self-control failure as central to them. Studies show that self-control does predict success in life over a very long time."

The report included video of an experiment Stossel conducted at a nursery school. "By testing how well four-year-olds can resist temptation," Stossel explained, "researchers say they can predict what kind of adults they're likely to be. In the experiment, the kids are given a choice: They'll get five pieces of candy if they can wait ten minutes until the teacher comes back into the room�or just two pieces if they can't wait and give in to the temptation before the ten minutes are up.

"So the kids tried. It wasn't easy. Most fidgeted and looked as if they were being tortured. Some touched the candy. One boy counted the candy�maybe to remind himself that five is more than two. One girl looked heavenward as she waited, seeming to ask for God's help. Seven of the nine kids we tested lasted the full ten minutes. Most spent some time with their hand hovering over the bell." Ringing the bell meant the temptation to take the candy was too strong.

Stossel was recreating an experiment conducted thirty years earlier at Columbia University. Using a much larger group of children, the Columbia study found out which kids had the self-control to resist temptation and hold out for the full reward later�and which did not. The children were checked on over the next few decades to see which group tended to do better in life. The result of the study, Stossel said, was astonishingly clear-cut: "Kids who did well on this test years ago tended to do better in life. Better in lots of ways. Their SAT scores were higher. As teenagers, the boys had fewer run-ins with the law. The girls were less likely to get pregnant."

Self-control, then, is a key indicator of whether or not we will be successful. We can't control everything in life, but if there is one thing we can control and must control, it is the self. As Dr. Baumeister concluded on "20/20," "If we're concerned about raising children to be successful and healthy and happy, forget about self-esteem. Concentrate on self-control."