Summary: Not only does self-control mean saying no to yourself, it also means doing what has to be done.
Tomorrow is Labour day. Interesting isn’t it that Labour Day is a celebration of work yet we get the day off. Wouldn’t it make more sense for us to go work for free to celebrate the fact that we get to work? Anyway I’m not going to talk about Labour Day today, we’ll touch on work more next week, but I am going to talk about our final Fruit of the Spirit which is crucial to how we work – Self-Control. Our final fruit is Grapes.
This word self-control or temperance again has an interesting meaning in the Greek. Remember we can’t always perfectly articulate in our English language what words from other languages mean, so we lose things in the translation. But here the root of this Greek word means “strong in a thing” or “masterful”. Self-mastery or like a strength over oneself. None of us would argue that self-control requires a great deal of strength at times. The hardest person to say no to is yourself.
Scott Peck writes in his book "The Road Less Traveled: "I spent much of my ninth summer on a bicycle. About a mile from our house the road went down a steep hill and turned sharply at the bottom. Coasting down the hill one morning, I felt my gathering speed to be ecstatic. To give up this ecstasy by applying brakes seemed an absurd self-punishment. So I resolved to simultaneously retain my speed and negotiate the corner. My ecstasy ended seconds later when I was propelled a dozen feet off the road into the woods. I was badly scratched and bleeding, and the front wheel of my new bike was twisted beyond use from its impact against a tree. I had been unwilling to suffer the pain of giving up my ecstatic speed in the interest of maintaining my balance around the corner. I learned, however, that the loss of balance is ultimately more painful than the giving up required to maintain balance.”
We don’t want to hinder our enjoyment of life. We don’t want to reduce the pleasure we have in life. Who does, Christians are allowed to have fun too right? So, rather than tell ourselves to slow down, we head into life’s curves traveling too fast only to find ourselves scratched, bruised, and bleeding. How often have you chosen short term enjoyment over waiting, only to regret it later on?
Not only does self-control mean saying no to yourself, it also means doing what has to be done. There’s lots of talk about procrastination, but procrastination is usually a problem of self-control. We are afraid of the work required, or the possible results. We put off saying what needs to be said because we fear the other person’s response.
We put off making decisions because we have too high expectations and fear making the wrong choice. So instead of exercising self-control, we give into the fear, because often self-control involves taking risks.
Tom Landry the famous coach of the Dallas Cowboys in their hayday said: “The role of the coach is to make people do things they don’t want to do to achieve the results they want to achieve.” As soon as I heard that I thought of God. Isn’t that pretty much how he coaches us? If we want results we often have to do what we would rather not do.
The Apostle Paul was a great example of self-control and he says in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27: “Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.”
Notice his motivation for self-control, to get the eternal prize, not the ones we can get here on earth, and to make sure he’s not a hypocrite.
Let’s look at the five qualities he mentions of a self-controlled life.
I. A Self-Controlled Life Has Positive Goals (v 24)
Everyone runs the race but only one wins the prize, why? Because they have the motivation and discipline that causes them to succeed. You can have great motivation, but without self-control, you lose because you make too many mistakes. You can have great self-control, but without motivation, you don’t have the energy to overcome obstacles. Discipline is pretty much the same as self-control and isn’t it interesting that the word comes from disciple?
When we have a goal that is extremely important to us, we do what it takes. We want to have lots of money, but we don’t stick to a spending and savings plan, we want to lose weight but we don’t stick to our diet or exercise plan, we want a good marriage but we don’t have a plan for that or the discipline to regularly practice what will make our marriage better. So we need to ask ourselves how important are these things to us, really?