Summary: Everybody struggles with self-control. We all wish we had more of it.
Love is the first flavor of the fruit of the Spirit and today we come to the last, self-control. I think these two virtues are placed first and last because love is the primary fruit and drives the rest, and self-control is the virtue that holds them all together.
Our scripture says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
The fruit of the Spirit is so important that when we were building this Worship Center about twelve years ago, I suggested to the Building Committee that we name each of the doors entering the worship area after a fruit of the Spirit. So, if you’ve ever taken the time to glance up at the lentil of the door you just walked in, one of the fruit of Spirit was listed there.
So I hope every time you walk in one of these doors you’ll think about how Jesus wants to display that fruit in you. Maybe you should choose which door you walk in based upon where you need the most help. And as you walk out, glance behind to remind yourself that Jesus can empower you to live with that virtue in your life. And if you have trouble with the traffic in our parking lots, why don’t you make sure you walk in the door labeled patience, and then walk out the door labeled self-control?
Some people have a reputation of being control-freaks. They want to control everything in life except themselves. But there are many things in life you can’t control. For instance, you can’t control the weather. When someone says, “Pastor we’re having an outside event will you ask the Lord for good weather that day?” I always say, “Sorry, but I’m in sales, not management!”
And even though you may try, you can’t control other people. A bride-to-be was so nervous; she didn’t think she could make it down the aisle. Her maid of honor said, “Just look down at the aisle and walk. Then look up at the altar where the preacher is standing, and then look at your groom.” So she decided to remember those three things. As she walked down the aisle she was even saying those words in a quiet voice. Those close enough could hear her saying, “Aisle, altar, him. Aisle, altar, him.” As much as we try to alter and control our spouses and our children, we can’t. But with the power of the Holy Spirit you can exercise control over the person who gives you the most trouble: You. I saw a sign recently with quote from Teddy Roosevelt that made me laugh. It said: “If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”
So before we go any further, please raise your right hand and repeat after me. “With God’s help …I will stop trying…to control other people…and control things…over which I have no control.” Good. Now you’re ready to learn about the most important kind of control: Self-control. Let’s start by answering an important question:
I. IS ANY AREA OF MY LIFE OUT OF CONTROL?
Everybody struggles with self-control. We all wish we had more of it. Dawn Bridges told me a true story about a 1st grader at Grace who was taken out in the hall by his teacher because he had been disrupting the class. Since they are a Christian school, the teacher spoke to him about the importance of the fruit of the Spirit. She began to name them all, and when she got to self-control the little boy held up his little hand and said, “Hold it right there. That’s the one I have trouble with.” Well, join the rest of us because all of us struggle with self-control. We all wish we had more of it.
To see if there are areas where you might need more self-control let me ask you three questions about things that can get out of control.
A. Do you have any uncontrolled appetites?
God has given us appetites for food, drink, pleasure, love, acceptance…and many other things that we crave. But God has also given us normal, healthy ways to satisfy these appetites. The world, our flesh, and the devil want you to overindulge your appetites.
The Bible says, “When you sit down to eat with a ruler, consider carefully what is before you; And put a knife to your throat if you are a man given to great appetite.” (Proverbs 23:1-2 NASB)
A lack of control means that you want something and you’ve got to have it NOW! How much self-control do you have? Can you practice delayed gratification, or do you have to have it all right now? In 1972 social experiments on self-control were conducted at Stanford University. Researchers selected 600 4-year-olds. They put each child in a room with a single marshmallow in front of them. The children were told that if they could wait for 15 minutes and not eat the marshmallow, then they would be rewarded with another marshmallow. So, the dilemma each child faced is the same thing we face every day. “Do I eat the one marshmallow NOW, or do I wait and get twice as many?” Of the 600 children, only 30% of them were able to wait. But that wasn’t the point of the experiment. Then, the researchers followed the developmental progress of the children into adolescence and young adulthood. The 30% who practiced self-control were better adjusted socially, more dependable, and in high school, scored significantly higher on their SAT tests. What’s the point of the marshmallow test? Self-control impacts every area of your life.