More than Self-Control
We have noticed that every person has cravings. Some of these desires are purely physical in nature and some of these craving come from deep inside of us. These are the desires of our hearts. As we seek to satisfy these desires we will choose one of three responses. The first response is that we will indulge the craving. Our hope is that as we give in to the craving that eventually we will be filled up and the craving will disappear. The problem is that it usually doesn't happen. What usually happens is that the more we give in the more control the desire has on us.
That leads to the second response which is self-control. I think most people fall some where within this stage. They have realized that total indulgence doesn't work and they hope if they could somehow manage to monitor their cravings then those craving won't grow out of control and they will have some satisfaction to them.
Jesus exhibited self-control when He was tempted by Satan. Remember after his baptism Jesus was led into the desert by the Holy Spirit. There he fasted for 40 days as he was tempted and harassed by Satan. At the end of those 40 days Satan came with three temptations to get Jesus to ignore God’s provision for His life. The first temptation was to turn stones into bread: something a hungry man would be tempted to do.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil.
For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry.
During that time the devil came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread."
But Jesus told him, "No! The Scriptures say,
'People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" (Matthew 4:1-4; NLT)
Once people realize that indulging their every craving is futile they will begin to try to reign in those cravings through some form of self-control. In order to do this they will turn to rules and regulations that will provide guides and limits to their lives.
This is certainly a step in the right direction. After all self-control is on of the qualities God desires people to have. For that reason it is not surprising to discover that people who seek to live by self-control will construct rules and guidelines that are rooted in Scripture, even if they do not realize it. We discover the results of self-control when we see wealthy people who begin to care for others, donate money, and set up charities to make this world a better place. A mother who sets aside her desires to serve her children and family is another example of living with self-control. They may not be intentionally following God’s law, but they are. And what they discover is that some of these longings, these soul cravings, that they have will begin to diminish. The more intentionally we give our lives away to living out God’s law the more enjoyment we begin to have in this life.
There is a problem though. Yes, this is a step in the right direction, but it falls short. Listen to what the apostle Paul writes:
You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, "Don't handle! Don't taste! Don't touch!"? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person's evil desires. (Colossians 2:20-23; NLT)
It isn't that self-control is evil or of no use, it never was to intended to bring satisfaction to our hearts. Self-control can manage evil desires, but it cannot destroy our evil desires. Self-control can reign in the cravings of our hearts, but it cannot bring lasting satisfaction to our lives.
If we are going to experience lasting satisfaction for the desires of our hearts then we need more than just self-control. Yes, we need self-control, but we need something more. We need Christ.