April 16 – Self Control


One of the first things we did as a family on Easter Sunday was to have coffee, hot cross buns and to send the girls on an Easter Egg hunt. Before long our girls came back with a fair amount of chocolate in a basket. You should have seen their faces! They just wanted to dive in there and devour as many eggs as their little bodies would allow. But we explained to them that they would only be allowed 1 Easter Egg now and that they could have some more after lunch. You should have seen their faces now! They were seriously wrestling with disobeying daddy or practicing something of critical importance: Self-control.

We are no different as adults. We all have our ‘chocolates’ – things that strongly appeal to our desires. Sometimes our chocolates are bad things, things that are plainly sinful. Sometimes they’re good things. But all things can be made idols – things we turn to apart from God for joy, satisfaction, a sense of worth, a sense of purpose – and we need to learn to say no at times in order to honour God and protect ourselves and those around us. Sometimes we’re strong and are resolute in standing against temptation but if you’re anything like me, there are certain things that are just very hard to say no to and there are certain times when it’s harder to say no than others.

So how do we get it right? Some of us try our best but keep failing in the same areas. Some of us are frustrated with ourselves. Some of us feel like there is no hope to overcome. Some of us have given up trying. But I want to tell you this morning that there is hope – why? Because the resurrection proves it! Jesus has overcome death and sin and Satan. If the Holy Spirit is in you, He has started a work in you which He will finish. He is making you more like Jesus each day. That’s called sanctification and it’s His work. But I also believe that until that day, we can grow in resisting temptation and growing in self-control.

For me, one of the most powerful examples of self-control in the Bible is when Jesus was tempted by Satan in the desert. Now you may say to me: Dave, that’s not a good example. Jesus was God. He never sinned. It was easy for Him to practise self-control. But let’s not be so quick to jump to conclusions. Jesus was also fully human and experienced the same temptations we did as powerfully if not more powerfully than we do. He can fully relate to our temptations and just how hard it can be to say no. But in the wilderness, when Jesus was hungry and tired, Satan came to tempt in 3 powerful ways. And yet each time He was able to say to no. I love what Jesus says in response to Satan’s first temptation in the desert:

Have a look with me at Luke 4. I’m reading from the second part of verse 2:

“He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

Luke 4: 2-4

How is it that Jesus was able to say no this powerful temptation?

The old Scottish Theologian Thomas Chalmers once said that the only way to displace an affection of the heart is to replace it with a new and more powerful one. For Jesus, the only way He could say no to the strong desire for bread was because His heart was satisfied by a far greater, more powerful affection – a desire for His Father.

The key to Jesus being able to say no was the all-satisfying intimate relationship He experienced with His Father. It is therefore no surprise that right before being sent into the wilderness to be tempted, in Luke 3 we hear God the Father affirming His Son with these words:

“You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke 3:22

This was the power to practice self-control – knowing that He is God’s Son, that He is loved by His Father, and that His Father is proud of Him.

Can I say to you this morning that you are God’s child. He loves you. He is proud of you. If you want to grow in practicing self-control, dive into that truth. Invest in your relationship with God until the intimacy is so sweet that the other chocolates in your life lose their sweetness in comparison.

He desires you. He is able to you. Taste and see that the Lord is good.

God bless you today.

Activity for kids

1.       Bake Nutella filled pastries:

Before you do this, read 2 Timothy 1:7 with your child: ‘For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control’. Explain how God gives us the Holy Spirit when we trust in Jesus. The Holy Spirit changes our hearts and helps us to be full of patience, love, gentleness (and all the other Fruit of the Spirit) and to have self-control. It’s almost like God takes all the bad stuff out and fills us with good things like love and self-control (unfortunately not Nutella!). Proceed to baking the filled pastries, celebrating how God fills us with his Spirit.