Summary: Let us make every effort to add self-control to knowledge.

Ever heard of the marshmallow test? Let’s watch this video.[1] [SHOW VIDEO] When Stanford University conducted this famous test in the 1960s on a group of four-year-old children, it revolutionized the emotional intelligence concept. “The researchers then followed the progress of each child into adolescence and demonstrated that those with the ability to wait were better adjusted and more dependable… and scored significantly higher on the Scholastic Aptitude Test years later.”[2] Simply put, people who have strong self-control tend to be more successful in life than those who have poor self-control.

But, almost two thousand years before the test was ever conducted, the Bible already pointed out that self-control is one of the keys to a fruitful, effective life. We read this in 2 Peter 1: “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control… For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”[3] We are going through “Our Pursuit for Our Growth” series and this morning we will look into making every effort to add self-control. Let us pray…

Usually, when we hear “self-control” we think of either sticking to one’s diet or staying away from sexual temptations. During Peter’s time, immorality was the context of his command to make every effort to add self-control. “[Self-control] means to have one’s passions under control. It contrasts sharply with the anarchy and lack of control on the part of the false teachers whom Peter exposed. In an increasingly anarchistic society Christians do well to let the music of self-control be played in their lives.”[4]

However, note that Peter warned “that in the last days some people won’t think about anything except their own selfish desires.”[5] The apostle Paul also pointed out that this is one of the signs of the last days. “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be… without self-control”.[6] Though they were talking about sexual desires, self-control is not limited to immorality. When we merely think of ourselves, when we think only of satisfying our selfish desires, we lack self-control.

The lack of self-control is one of what we can call “respectable sins.” In his book, “Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate,” Jerry Bridges wrote that we “may have become so preoccupied with some of the major sins of society around us that we have lost sight of the need to deal with our own more ‘refined’ or subtle sins… We have boundaries from our Christian culture that tends to restrain us from obvious sins, but within those boundaries we pretty much live as we please.”[7] Some of the “respectable sins” are pride, worry, anger, impatience, gossip, envy and lack of self-control.

So, what is self-control? In the Greek, the word “self-control” means the “restraint of one’s emotions, impulses, or desires.”[8] Someone wrote that, self-control is “the ability to ‘hold yourself in.’”

To put it simply, self-control is saying “NO” when we should say “NO” and saying “YES” when we should say “YES.” It is not saying “no” when we should have said “yes” and it is not saying “yes” when we should have said “no.” Knowing when to say “yes” and when to say “no” is one of the marks of maturity. Proverbs 16:32 tell us that, “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” The Good News Bible goes like this: “It is better to be patient than powerful. It is better to win control over yourself than over whole cities.” He who controls himself is greater than he who controls others. It appears that it is even easier to conquer a city than conquer ourselves.

If we are honest to ourselves, it is actually easier to say “YES” than “NO.” But saying “NO” is as important as saying “YES.” I am not just talking about avoiding sinful desires but also moderating normal, legitimate desires as well. In fact, normal desires become sinful desires when we fail to exercise self-control. For example, to need rest is just normal but to be lazy is sinful. To be hungry is normal but to crave so much for food is sinful. The point is that we control those desires and not have those desires control us. To know when to say “yes” or “no” to those desires is what we call self-control.

There are times we must say “no” even if it is perfectly normal to say “yes.” Real maturity is not insisting on one’s rights but it’s giving it up for the sake of others. For example, to desire to have someone to love is just normal. It appears acceptable to say “yes.” But, because you have other equally important priorities such as studies, it is also okay and even better to say “no” for the mean time. We tend to rush to relationships. But we need to realize that it pays to wait for the right time because the best is yet to come. There was a Christian who thought he would die if he would lose his girlfriend. But he chose not to continue with that relationship. Years later, he saw the woman and he thought it is better to die than to have her as his wife.

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