The older I get the more I realize that self-control is so important in life. It is essential to being good at anything we do. Just think about how great athletes have to perfect self-control in their handling of the ball or the bat or whatever their sport is. Self-control is about mastering concentration and staying focused. However, the greatest self-control is needed when it comes to interpersonal relationships. If you want to be a good husband or wife or great parent, you have to exercise self-control. This is, of course, the area that is most difficult to master. It is ourselves—our anger, our feelings of rejection and a host of negative emotions. The superstar athlete may be fantastic on the field but a disaster at home. There is no challenge in human existence any more difficult than the exercising of control over our emotions which translates into words and actions when we are confronted with opposing emotions.
This is the area where Jesus showed so much control. He lived with self-restraint. Let me show you a passage that highlights this characteristic about Jesus. It is one of the most remarkable statements about Jesus in the whole of the Bible. The statement I am sharing with you about Jesus comes with a setting of rejection. Matthew includes this quote from Isaiah to highlight Jesus’ self-control when he was being rejected. Rejection is one of the most difficult human emotions to deal with, but Jesus overcame any tendency to give in to it. Matthew states: “But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus. Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick, warning them not to tell who he was” (Matt 12:14-17).
This statement is about the incredible self-control and restraint that Jesus used. He could simply have told his followers what the Pharisees were planning, but he didn’t. He could have been so discouraged that he stopped ministering to people, but he didn’t. He could have let everyone know who he was and demand his way, but he didn’t. He lived under the control of self-restraint. Here are Isaiah’s words about Jesus written 700 years before Jesus fulfilled them:
18 "Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
19 He will not quarrel or cry out;
no one will hear his voice in the streets.
20 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he leads justice to victory.
21 In his name the nations will put their hope."
Marriages would improve immediately, parenting would be transformed, teamwork on the job would advance, and community would grow in our congregations when we learn to exercise more self-control. It means we listen more and talk less, and when we do talk, we have something to say. When we apologize, we actually explain what we did and how we plan to change our attitude and behavior. Self-control gives us insight into our own lives and those around us like nothing else can do. This is how Jesus lived, and we his followers are to live like him.