Summary: Self-control is difficult for us because we are afraid of responsibility. But to have no form of control is to choose chaos. The answer is to build a relationship with Christ so close that His will becomes ours.
Scene One: You are standing in front of your freezer. You opened the door just to explore, nothing particular in mind, just to see what’s there. In front of you is a container label1ed, "Gourmet Ice Cream: Cherry Almond Fudge". Lifting the lid, again just to explore, just to see what’s there, you discover that there is about enough left for two servings. The time is five in the afternoon and dinner is in about an hour or so. Your mother always taught you that you will spoil your appetite if you eat sweets before dinner. And somebody at the church has been making sly comments about your waistline every time he sees you. So what will you do? What will you do?
Let’s take a show of hands: how many of you will leave the ice cream alone and shut the freezer door and go forget about it?
And how many of you will indulge just a little; you’ll eat just one spoonful, or one small serving, and leave the rest?
And how many of you will go for it?! You can’t believe you ate the whole thing!
The issue is self-control. Who decides for me what I shall do? Do I just do whatever I feel like doing at the moment? Can I get a grip on myself and do what I ought instead of what I want?
Scene Two: It is a lovely, glorious day. Finally, after what seems like an eternity, there is a summer morning, with no rain and comfortable temperatures, with low humidity and a gentle breeze. There are some things you were expecting to do that day before you woke up and saw how gorgeous it is. The office is closed for repairs, and the boss told you that you could work at home today. So you have a few files you were going to work through, and your kitchen floor looks like a muddy army drilled on it. Your bank statement arrived, showing that you have about seven dollars in your balance; you really should have kept up with checkbook balancing. And yesterday’s mail brought the third postcard in as many weeks from your cousin in California, pleading with you to write her a letter. There is plenty to do, more than plenty. But just look at this day! The sunshine says come out outside; the lawn chairs have never looked so inviting; and your garden is practically screaming at you, "Come on, visit me, smell me, sit in me."
Again, a show of hands: How many of you ignore the weather, buckle down with all those jobs, and spend this gorgeous day inside, tack1inq task after task until it is all done?
And how many of you carry those files and those bank statements and that note paper out under the trees and pretend … pretend to work?
And how many of you give up and go schmooze to your heart’s content?
The issue again is self-control. Who decides for me what I shall do? Do I just do whatever I feel like doing at the moment? Can I get a grip on myself and do what I ought instead of what I want?
Now let’s get serious. Very serious.
Scene Three: Suppose there is a young woman, half my age, who I think has been making goo-goo eyes at me. Despite my advanced years, I have not forgotten what that look means. Un1ikely as it may seem, there is a romantic tension emerging between us. And one evening, she calls and asks me to come over to her apartment, just to talk. But I know and she knows and you know that something else is under way. There is something else going on.
I don’t think you want me to take a show of hands on this one!
But the issue once again, and the stakes are much higher, is se1f-control. Who decides for me what I shall do? Do I just do whatever I feel like doing at the moment? Or can I get a grip on myself and do what I ought instead of what I want?
Paul tells us that one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control. Over against the long and tawdry list of what he calls the works of the flesh, he poses the gift of se1f-control. No other issue is more relevant for contemporary life. If we could find an answer to the question of self-control, we could save a great deal of pain for ourselves.
First, will you agree with me that the heart of the problem of self-control is that we are afraid of responsibility? We don’t like carrying our own weight. We’d rather look for an excuse, we prefer to find someone we can blame. We are afraid of responsibility.