Summary: Controlling oneself means placing ourselves under God's control, the best place to be.
Has this ever happened to you? You find a bowl full of delicious looking cherries sitting on the table. They’re clearly meant for eating so you grab a couple. They’re sweet and delicious so you have a few more. You sit down, get out your phone to check messages while you absent-mindedly continue to consume those cherries. Before you know it, you’ve eaten most of them, and now your poor stomach is protesting, “Too many cherries!” If only you could have exerted self-control and stopped after a handful.
Can you guess what our last sermon in the Fruit of the Spirit series is about? That’s right. Self-control. How well do you exercise self-control? Why is self-control even necessary? Let’s find out as we turn to our sermon text from 1 Peter 5.
One pastor (Eldon Reich) reported that when he announced to his congregation that he was going to be preaching on self-control, a member remarked: “I don’t have any problem with self, it’s the control that’s tricky.” Wouldn’t you agree? I don’t have any problem with myself and its desires, the problem arises when others don’t give me what I want! That’s why I become impatient, unkind, and grumpy. But we’ve already heard the Apostle Paul point out that these are acts of the sinful nature, not the Fruit of the Spirit. The Fruit of the Spirit is peace, patience, joy, and kindness to mention a few.
Do you see how self-control is related to those other characteristics? It takes self-control to patiently bear with others instead of condemning them. It takes self-control to be gentle instead of giving vent to your anger and flying off the handle about something. It takes self-control to maintain peace and being willing to be wronged instead of loudly insisting on your rights.
Why should we practice self-control if it takes so much restraint? The Apostle Peter tells us why in our text. He said: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Satan is waiting for you to lose control the way a sniper will patiently wait for his target to carelessly expose himself to a clear shot. And like a careful sniper who doesn’t make his presence known, Satan often operates in the background, wanting us to believe that losing self-control isn’t really all that dangerous. We may have come to believe that because nothing permanently bad happened to us the last time we lost our self-control with alcohol or when we were on our last date.
But here’s the thing, Satan is just biding his time. He’s luring you more and more out into the open—away from your Savior so that when he finally does pounce, you’ll be an easy score. Isn’t that what happened to Judas? He failed to curb his greed so that although he may have only taken small sums from the disciples’ treasury at first, he became more and more care-less until he didn’t think much of selling his savior to make a few bucks!
Friends, what part of your life needs more self-control? What sins do you repeatedly give in to so that you’ve even stopped feeling guilty for them? Have you rationalized a break in a relationship by blaming the other person for all the wrong-doing? Do you excuse the Friday night binges because you earned it by staying sober the rest of the week? Do you look at pornography because, well, no one is getting hurt by what you do?
When attitudes like that crop up, think back to this text. Satan is a real enemy who seeks to do you real harm. Don’t take this threat lightly. Consider how shortly after creation Satan managed to convince a third of the angels to rebel. Angels! Spirits who were without sin and created to love and serve God. If Satan managed to get them to rebel against their God, we sinners should be easy targets for him.
Thankfully we have an ally in this fight: God himself. Peter wrote: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6, 7). We resist the devil by submitting to God. Submitting to God like ducking inside a building when there is a hail storm raging outside. But do you find that you more often rely on your own smarts and power to get you through difficulties? How’s that working for you? Do you find easy solutions to your problems, or do you end up frustrated? There is no need to get frustrated, not when God has invited you to take all those frustrations and all of those concerns and cast them upon him. The word “cast” is the same word used for what the disciples did with their garments on Palm Sunday. They “cast” them on the donkey so Jesus could sit on them. Jesus invites us to do the same things with our cares and concerns—to cast them upon him so that he can carry them for us.