In the middle of this quarantine, something that has been made popular by Netflix has gone to a whole other level. That is: BINGE WATCHING. Everyone has their own taste in what they watch, but nonetheless, you can watch it all at once. You think you’re about to sit down and watch one episode of that one documentary that a friend told you, “You can’t miss this,” and then, 5 hours later, it’s 2 o’clock in the morning and you have a Zoom call at 7:30am. What’s missing from this picture? Self-control.
Isn’t this a tough thing to practice? In a time when so many things are easily accessible to many of us here in the U.S., it’s tough to say no. Practicing self-control in the middle of a buffet of items is difficult.
Coming home after a long and brutal day in the 4th grade, I was starving. (I think all 4th graders are starving about 99.7% of the day.) So, I popped open the fridge and saw the snack of all snacks, Bacon Bits. It has protein, salt, and many other essential nutrients for a human being. This was a great choice. I began to eat. I kept eating. By the time I was done watching Boy Meets World, the entire bottle of Bacon Bits was empty. I didn’t lack self-control. I just got distracted, right? A terrible stomach ache and me swearing off Bacon Bits later, I learned something:
Sometimes you just have to say “No.”
There is such power in the word “No.” Being able to say no, when everything in you is asking for a yes is the sign of power.
Elie Wiesel said it best:
“Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself.”
What would our world look like if we had billions of people that practice the simple, yet difficult to apply, characteristic of self-control? Don’t just take my word for this.
We read in 2 Peter 1:5-7
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.”
Let’s put this in a little more context. This is the same Peter that during the arrest of Jesus, decided some Roman servant didn’t need his ear any longer. Granted, they were arresting his friend, but maybe a little self-control would have come in handy. I think Peter figured that out. I think he began to understand this to such a level that he decided it was essential to add to one’s character to live a life of following Jesus.
Peter understood that practicing self-control was beneficial to two different audiences.
Now, in a world of, “I need the next ___,” and “I want the new ___,” a life of moderation can be difficult to grasp, let alone actually desire. Because when it comes down to it, we’re honestly trying to fill a desire of pleasure.
Pleasure is a very strong motivator. It’s not necessarily that we actually want more of something. We just want that something. There are many of those somethings in our lives and there always will be. The question is, “What will I do when the desire for that something creeps into our heart? King David was all over the place on this one. Now, David had been assigned by God to be the next King of Israel. The problem was Saul was already the king and he wasn’t on his deathbed. So, he probably wouldn’t be very excited about being dethroned by some young kid.
So, Saul wanted David out of the picture and because of this, David was on the run. David was hiding out in a cave and an opportunity presented itself.
The men said, “This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. – 1 Samuel 24:4
This was David’s chance. He could finally get rid of the guy trying to kill him, and take the throne in which God had promised. However, David showed strong self-control. I can’t imagine how difficult that was for David. He was risking his life by not taking Saul’s. Now that’s a man of self-control. Or was he?
Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house. And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, “I am with child.” – 2 Samuel 11:2-5
Wow. Hey David, where did that famous self-control of yours go?
Is this a pretty extreme example? Yes. However, this is what desire can do to a person. David was riding high and held as a man of integrity. I mean, his name did mean “A man after God’s own heart.” How do you fall from grace so quickly? Simple:
It’s easier to say “yes” to a desire than to practice self-control and say “no.”
It really is, the majority of the time, that simple. Saying no to things we desire is a struggle, but it’s one worth fighting for. It will literally help make YOU into a better YOU.
The YOU that you want to be, can lay on the shoulders of the self-control you apply to your life.
But, YOU are not the only one impacted by your practice of self-control.
So many people have been negatively impacted by the choice to pursue desire over practicing self-control You may be one of those people. You may have said yes to a desire that has hurt another person. Regardless, when we stare into the face of desire, if we can think of those being hurt on the other end of that desire, it can lead to a practice of self-control.
Sometimes it’s a major thing and sometimes it’s a simple implementation during a conversation. Check out this scenario:
You’re in the middle of a conversation. The other person is sharing a thought and then something happens. You know the answer. You know “exactly” what they need to hear to help with their problem. Now, that’s all you’re thinking about. You’ve actually missed the last few thoughts because you’re just waiting to share your thoughts. In missing this, you don’t even hear the most important thing. Now, you’re lost. Now, they feel unheard and unimportant.
This is an all-too-common scenario that exposes our lack of self-control. Sure, it may have been a trivial conversation, but there is never anything trivial about someone feeling unheard. Our desire to be “right” or to “fix the problem” leads to shutting out others and their needs.
Many times we elevate our WANTS over other’s NEEDS.
Is this on purpose? Many times, no. Do we have ill intent? Probably not. However, desires lead to pain in others more often than we think. If we can just focus on this, the fact that many other people are hurt by our lack of self-control, we may begin to live with an “others first” mindset, rather than a “desire first” mindset.
How do we do this?
Just pause. A simple pause and reflection can lead to the practice of self-control. Let’s not make this too difficult. If we could just slow down, our rush to get the next thing or have the next solution could possibly be tamed by our desire to practice self-control.
You’re not alone. We all struggle with this. Some more than others, but our desires are powerful and can lead to pain within our own lives and the lives of others.
Our practice of self-control can be life giving to others.
And not just others. It WILL be life giving to you as well.
Lead Pastor, Southside Church Peachtree City