Key Scriptures: Judges 13-16, Proverbs 25:28, I Corinthians 10:13, Galatians 5:22-23, II Peter 1:5-7, I Corinthians 9:24-27, II Timothy 1:7, Proverbs 16:32, Titus 2:11-14, James 3:1-18, Romans 12:1-2, Galatians 5:16-17, I Peter 4:7, I Corinthians 6:19, Matthew 6:33, Philippians 4:13, Luke 4:1-13, I Corinthians 5:11,33, Ephesians 5:18, Proverbs 31:4-5, I Corinthians 6:18, Genesis 39:11, II Timothy 2:22
Guiding Questions: Why does God value self control and how can we develop it?
Introductory Activity: (This is the classic Stanford self control experiment. Students in AP Psychology may have studied it. If so ask them to keep quiet until after the experiment, then explain the results to the class. This works best when the treat is something your students love.) Place a treat in front of each student. Tell them that they can have the treat now, but if they can wait 15 minutes you will give them a second one. Instruct the students to stay off devices and not talk until you return. Leave the room. Stand where the students can’t see you, but you can hear them if possible. Wait 10 minutes and return. Have them share what they thought about and did when you were gone (You may find some were more tempted by their phones or talking than the treat. That’s okay because giving in to those temptations also shows a lack of self control.) After the students have explained what happened explain that this was a variation of a famous self control experiment conducted by Stanford in 1960.
Lesson: (Questions for students are in bold italics) Tell the stories of Samson’s life found in Judges 13-16 and review the stories of Peter’s life. Samson and Peter quite possibly the Bible’s best example of someone’s lack of self – control. What are the things that happened in their life’s that might demonstrate their poor self – control? The definition of self-control is the ability to manage (or control) your actions, impulses, desires and emotions.
Even the world realizes a lack of self – control can cause problems. What would you guess some of these problems are? The problems most listed are: aggression and fighting, risky behaviors, substance abuse, stealing, playing with fire (literally), lying, lack of patience, irritability and difficulty concentrating. What do you think is the biggest problem with lack of self – control for a Christian? Those who lack self-control will give into temptation and sin almost every time. If you think about it anyone who sins has had at least a momentary lapse in self-control. Which could be all of us. God, of course, knows that, so the Bible has quite a bit to say about self-control. Read Proverbs 25:28. Why does the writer compare someone without self-control to a city broken into and left without walls? In those days armies attacked cities rather frequently. A city that had been broken into and had its wall destroyed was extremely vulnerable. Their valuables and even family members could be stolen. Their city could be damaged or destroyed and they could be killed. If you were trying to communicate this proverb to one of your friends, what would you say?
Have you ever watched the Olympics? The Olympics were important in the ancient world, too. Read I Corinthians 9:24-27. What does Paul say athletes need to be successful? Why is self-control so crucial to an athlete’s success? Although he is talking about himself, who is Paul saying really needs a lot of self-control to “win the race”? What is the “prize” for Christians?
Proverbs 16:32 has some more encouragement for practicing self-control. What is it? Why do you think the writer compares those with self-control to mighty warriors? What are some of the temptations we battle for which we need self-control to resist?
Read Galatians 5:13-23. What are some of the sins listed in this passage? What does Paul say a Christian (with the Holy Spirit given at baptism) will be like instead of participating in all of those sins?
Read II Peter 1:5-7. Peter says to have self-control it needs to be built on a strong foundation. What is in that foundation? How does having faith, virtue and knowledge help you have self-control? Notice self-control is also part of the foundation for some other things Christians need to have. What are those things? Why is it important for a Christian to have steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love?
We know from scriptures now, that self-control is essential for Christians. Why is it so hard for us to have self-control then? Read I Peter 5:8, Romans 12:1-2 and Galatians 5:16-17. What are some of the reasons Peter and Paul give for why we struggle with self-control and temptation?
God knows it is very tough sometimes for us to have self-control, resist temptation and avoid sinning. He wants us to know it is possible though and gives some encouragement and tips.
- God will give you a way out of the temptation. Look for it and use it. I Corinthians 10:13.
- The Holy Spirit will help you have self-control. Galatians 5:22-23, II Timothy 1:7, Titus 2:11-14.
- Remember it’s only temporary and heaven is important, eternal goal. I Peter 4:7.
- Think of our bodies as living sacrifices\temples to God. It’s important to keep them holy and acceptable to God. Romans 12:1-2, I Corinthians 6:19.
- Put God first. Matthew 6:33.
- God will give you the strength you need to have self-control. Philippians 4:13.
- Follow the example Jesus set. Luke 4:1-3.
- Stay away from people who tempt you. I Corinthians 15:33, 5:11.
- Avoid alcohol and other mind-altering substances as it lessens your ability to avoid temptation and make wise choices. Ephesians 5:18, Galatians 5:21, Proverbs 20:1, I Peter 4:3, Romans 13:13, Proverbs 31:4-5.
- Run away from temptation – literally. I Corinthians 6:18, Genesis 39:11, II Timothy 2:22.
Olympic athletes have to work hard at being self-disciplined if they hope to win a gold medal. You will need to work just as hard at having self-control in your own life if you want the prize that Paul mentioned.
Skill Activity: Review the points from the lesson. (This activity is highly personal but vital for your students to complete. How much your group will be open with each other is dependent upon the level of trust they have with each other. If your group is very introverted or doesn’t feel safe sharing how they really feel, keep the examples hypothetical. Encourage students in all groups to add their personal, private observations to their plans. If possible have a group of adults whom our teens respect to help you review each student’s plan privately. This step is crucial. Each teen needs to have strategies that will help him or her personally develop self-control and resist temptation and sin.)
Give each student the “Self-Control Action Plan” worksheet. Work with them as a class on the worksheet then gives them additional time to add to their action plans anything they felt uncomfortable sharing. Have students meet individually with a mentoring Christian adult to review their plans privately, making corrections or additions as needed. If any time remains give students scenarios common to their environment where they may struggle with self-control. Allow them to act out or discuss possibly strategies for maintaining self-control in those situations. (Note: Many strategies were given in the lesson. Additional possible strategies include: visualizing the temptation as something disgusting instead of tempting (illegal drug becomes poisonous snake) remind yourself of all of the possible negative consequences of the sin, distract yourself with something else, make sure you get enough sleep (9-11 hours) and eat healthy food and viewing self-control as your Olympic event that you must practice for multiple hours each day.)
End the lesson with a discussion of what to do when you do lose self-control of what to do when you do lose self-control – repentance and resiliency. Having a plan of recovery for self-control failures will help them avoid the trap of “I might as will give up and sin all the time now.”
Application Challenge: Spend time this week paying close attention to the role self-control plays in your like. Look back at the “Self-Control Action Plan” you completed. What do you need to add to it? How can you start using that plan to improve your self-control every day?
Author: Thereasa Winnett