AROUND 1970, psychologist Walter Mischel launched a classic experiment. He left a succession of 4-year-olds in a room with a bell and a marshmallow. If they rang the bell, he would come back and they could eat the marshmallow. If, however, they didn't ring the bell and waited for him to come back on his own, they could then have two marshmallows.
In videos of the experiment, you can see the children squirming, kicking, hiding their eyes -- desperately trying to exercise self-control so they can wait and get two marshmallows. Their performance varied widely. Some broke down and rang the bell within a minute. Others lasted 15 minutes.
The children who waited longer went on to get higher SAT scores. They got into better colleges and had, on average, better adult outcomes. The children who rang the bell quickest were more likely to become bullies. They received worse teacher and parental evaluations 10 years later and were more likely to have drug problems at age 32.
The Mischel experiments are worth noting because people in the policy world spend a lot of time thinking about how to improve education, how to reduce poverty, how to make the most of the nation's human capital. But when policymakers address these problems, they come up with structural remedies: reduce class sizes, create more charter schools, increase teacher pay, mandate universal day care and try vouchers.
The results of these structural reforms are almost always disappointingly modest. Yet policymakers rarely ever probe deeper into problems and ask the core questions, such as how do we get people to master the sort of self-control that leads to success? To ask that question is to leave the policymakers' comfort zone -- which is the world of inputs and outputs, appropriations and bureaucratic reform -- and to enter the murky world of psychology and human nature.
As we look at the Life of Jesus, we can see a lot of self-control, both as He showed it on the Cross and how He wanted His followers to demonstrate self-control in life. As a background for this, look with me at Mark 3: 16~17 “These are the twelve He appointed: Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter, James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder)”
Now, on to one of the biggest stories I found the New Testament that deals with self-control in Luke 9:51-55.
(NIV) Samaritan Opposition
I am having a great time visualizing this event! Picture if you will; Jesus is about to exit this world. Lots of ‘things’ on His mind. Concern for His followers, being separated for the first time in His eternal life from His Father…you know, things that fill a Savior’s mind. He comes to a village to get some stuff and the people of the village shun Him and His small gang. They cut them off. No help.
They did not help Him because “He was heading for Jerusalem.” He was a Jew. They did not like Jews. A racial problem here.
The response of two of the 12 was “Let’s burn them! Let’s just do them in! This will be a great lesson learned!”
See? No self-control.
But, see how the Savior deals with His men? He uses self-control. Why? Better results. It may not deal with the village who shut them off but it sure did effect His followers. Paul writes: Romans 12:14 (NIV)
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Bless and curse not. Why not? Better results.
One web site I went to suggest that the leadership be destroyed! I suggest that the leadership be broken in their hearts and come to know the One who can forgive them. For them to repent. While in one way, I wish them dead, I find that the Way of the Cross would encourage us to pray for their souls and NOT call fire to fall down on them. Much like the village the Son’s of Thunder wanted to destroy, our self-control is called for. It is a fruit of the Spirit.
So many times, when we are pushed, we push back. When someone forces his place in front of us, we want to push him away. When someone says something negative toward us, we return in kind. When the lady next to you is violating your rights, we want to drench them in hot water. To break from our self-control and get justice.
A real test of character is what we are like when no one is. When no one is watching.
We need to look at this fruit of the Spirit as something to have and know that it would be better—far better—to exercise self-control instead. Why? Better results. It is not just a dream fruit or gift of God. He wants us to have it and to enjoy it in light of His Word and promises.
You remember the song sung by Old Blue Eyes? “I did it my way!” Frank Sinatra’s song became the theme song of so many in the world. My way is the high way. My way is to be followed. My way! Me! Take care of self! I am to be cared for! Take my needs and fulfill them FOR ME. My desires! My hopes! It is all about me, if you please!
But the Lord shows us a better way. It is not the way of weak people. It is the way of Jesus, after all.
Here is a story of a man from Burma. This is found on the Pray for Burma web site.
Eliya is a 37-year-old Karen Christian, and is married to a beautiful and dynamic nurse. They have four children. Eliya is a gifted medic, trainer, champion kick boxer, artist, singer, cook, hunter and all-around athlete.
He served as a medic in the Karen Army (KNLA) and is admired for his bravery under fire, mature decision making, ability to handle complex situations, and for his lifesaving ability. He is almost always smiling and his distinctive, booming laugh can be heard wherever he is present. He is calm under pressure, never gives up, prays with faith, shares all he has and is supremely talented.
After he had found his family during the 1997 offensive, he was asked, “Why did you stay and help the refugees when your own family was at risk?” He answered, “In life we do not have control over everything. We have to do the duty God sets before us. I love my family and wanted to help them. But I did not even know where they were.”
“However, I did know where the thousands of families who needed help were. They were right in front of me. I had to trust God and my friends to take care of my family until I had done all I could for the people in front of me. God would take care of the things I could not. Then as soon as I was done I went to find my family and was so happy when I found them safe. I want to follow God and I thank Him for all His gifts. You know I am not a very good man, and sometimes I do bad things, but I will keep trying and I put my trust in God.”
I can see that this man was very much like King David. He was not always a good man. Sometimes he did bad things. He also loved his people. He also tried hard to live in light of his relationship with his Maker. He was open and honest. He sought forgiveness when he did do wrong. He kept trying AND he put his trust in God, too.
Can we do better than that? Don't think so. Eliya, David and ourselves are alike. We all need to trust our Maker for all things in our lives. In life, we do not have control over everything. God WILL take care of the things we could not. We, like Eliya and King David NEED to put our trust in God in ALL things.
And when we do: God will answer. You can count on Him!
Do you need help in developing self-control? Jesus responds to our cries for help.
But, then we're responsible to respond to God (by our praise, our worship, our growing devotion, and our total obedience) when He acts in our lives. We will need some self-control to give His Spirit freedom in our lives so that He gets the Glory that is His due.
Next week: Gentleness. Brother Caleb Eby will be haring from the Word.
Now for the passage: Galatians 5:22~26
Give yourself to His Fruit of the Spirit and keep in step with the Spirit. Stay connected. Don’t take it for granted. That is your role!