Live Life At Its Best—Part X (09/05/04)
by: Robert H. Schuller
life at its best ... that's
the title we have given to a series of ten messages and concluding
this morning. This series is based on Galatians 5:22 where St.
Paul writes," "The fruit of the
Spirit ..." What does he mean, "fruit"?
Fruit is the result of someone who lives in the Spirit of God.
What kind of "fruit" does a personality produce if the
Spirit of Jesus Christ controls the personality? "The
fruit" (powerful word) of the
Spirit of Jesus Christ is love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness,
patience, gentleness, and finally, the last word is self-control.
Who needs control?
look at that word control. If we
want to live a satisfying and successful life, we have to deal
with that word called "control." There is an intuitive
inclination in human beings to try to control their world and
that is important. When we have the power to control, we can become
quite convinced we are in complete control. Especially if you
are the CEO, the top corporate chief, the head of the corporation
or you are the chairman of the committee, then you have a very
powerful job and you feel you are in control. Obviously that is
necessary in order to be creative and constructive. We need enough
control so others cannot obstruct our creativity and frustrate
us with obstructionist devices or decisions. Yes, in that we need
control. That is true.
most important control
challenge you this morning that the most
important place to have control is over yourself! There
are people who do a lot of maneuvering in their life trying to
control others, their spouse, their children, their neighbors,
their fellow employees ... but they don’t spend much thought
controlling themselves. And so we have a world where in this country,
alcoholism is still very rampant. Drug addiction is a major problem.
Obesity is an epidemic. It is tough and challenging to try to
are many people who are morally neutral.
They don't want discipline and self-control in the moral realm.
They want to be free. "Don’t tell me what to do."
"Don’t interfere with my pleasure." "Let
me do my thing!" That challenge first enters into the human
being during adolescence, and becomes a very strong compulsion
in the teenage years. "No one tells me what to do? "
What is self-control? It is not being arrogant, haughty or egotistical.
Instead it is focusing on who you
are and what God's plan for your life is and should be, and what
kind of life does God want you to live? First of all you need
self-control to determine your own value system.
can impose self-control. Your father can't ... your mother can't
... your spouse can't ... your boss can't. That is the one area
where it all stops with you alone. If you don’t have self-control,
it is nobody’s fault but yours.
The Mark of Leadership
read all kinds of books on leadership and listen to lectures on
leadership. I've shared and written my thoughts about leadership,
but the last word on leadership ultimately comes down to self-control.
That is where you make the decisions.
Then your destiny is chosen and captured by your self-control.
If you have self-control, you are on the path to progress, purpose
and success. Jesus said, "... the narrow way is hard and
tough, (that’s self-control) but the broad way leads to
destruction." (Matthew 7:14)
lived and showed self-control like Jesus Christ. There is a Bible
verse that I preached on perhaps 50 years ago which really inspired
me. It says, "Jesus steadfastly set
His face to go to Jerusalem." (Luke 8:51) He knew
what would happen. He knew the crowds would throw palm branches
and applaud Him on that day, which has become Palm Sunday. They
would want Him to be king ... to be the "top man." If
Jesus had ever been an ego driven person ... and He never was
... He would have fallen for it. He could not have resisted it.
But he did not take the "fan power" that was thrown
to Him. "Jesus steadfastly set His
face to go to Jerusalem," because He had a job to
do. He had a calling to fulfill. He had a divine commission that
had to be lived out on a cross.
Jesus? Nobody did. He gave His life. Not suicide, but sacrifice.
You say, but God took His life from Him. God did not take the
life of His Son, Jesus. On the cross. Jesus said, "Father
into Your hands I give My soul." (Luke 23:46). Jesus
Christ had the ultimate self-control. Nobody took it from
Him. That is ultimate self-control.
came to Jerusalem, He rode on a donkey. What humility. When He
stood before Pilate, His silence and His posture showed complete
self-control. When He was brought before Herrod, again, no panic,
no anger, no argument ... He was quiet. That’s self-control.
You can’t measure the self-control of a person more effectively
than to see Jesus respond when He is verbally attacked face to
face ... Jesus remained quiet. Then when His disciples slept in
the Garden and He knew the soldiers were coming and they would
take Him, bringing Him to trial and then to the crucifixion, He
admonished them, but He did not get angry with them. He said,
"Could you not wait and watch with
Me for one hour?" (Matthew 26:40) Jesus could have
lashed out with anger, but He did not. He could have been bitter,
but He was gentle. And His first words were, "Father
forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke
23:34). That is ultimate self-control! Experience that in Jesus
Christ. He was divine, He was not just human.
We need it to accept our God-given calling. We need self-control
to protect ourselves from manipulation and intimidation of the
that are around us all the time more for you than for me. You
live a tougher life than I do because people know who I am and
they know what my profession is, so they don’t invite me
to improper or evil activities that are going on. I am not submitted
to the pressures you are. You need self-control because God is
counting on you, every one of you, to be a bright light in a dark
world. He is counting on you to be people of faith, to encourage
those who live with you and work with you. God needs you and you
cannot ... must not ... be manipulated. You must not be intimidated.
You must not yield to pressures. You must have high and honorable
values. You have to set your goals.
Then you must manage your goals.
That starts with self-control.
Over Life's Hurts
need self-control to accept and overcome
life’s hurts. This is a very unusual week for me
filled with intimate moments with two wonderful members of this
church. I have two happy events, for two people who have meant
a lot to me in my life. They are members of this church and good
friends. One event will be a funeral where I’ll say goodbye
to one who has been like a brother, but yes, even a funeral can
be happy when you know you belong to Jesus Christ. The other event
will be a wedding where I’ll perform the marriage of a wonderful
young woman to her chosen man for life. Both of these people are
exceptional examples of self-control.
will be for Vern Dragt. You've heard about him. I've written about
him in my books. For 48 years Vern has supported and encouraged
me. Listen to his story. He was a young man, could have become
a professional athlete. When he got married, he needed to earn
some money in a hurry so he got a job as a plasterer. Then suddenly
he was struck down with polio and all his plans had to be put
aside. Instead, he spent several months in an iron lung. Some
of you have been in a prison, probably not imprisoned in solitary
confinement, but there is nothing that imprisons you like an iron
through that. Because of his self-control he did not become bitter
nor lash out. He did not become depressed or have suicidal behavior.
He survived it, by his possibility thinking, faith in God, faith
in Jesus Christ. When Vern got out of the iron lung, he had to
recuperate and be rehabilitated to get a new job, even though
he was very, very handicapped. He was forced to get a new career
and he became an accountant. Meanwhile, his wife became a sales
person and became one of the greatest, most successful saleswomen
in the world. The first sales check she got was $80 ... and she
took $8 of that $80 and gave it in the offering plate of their
church. There are people who say they can’t afford a tithe,
but I reply that you can’t afford not
to tithe. Every time the Dragts would earn some money,
ten percent went to the Lord. He and his wife, Lavon, gave most
of the money for the very first ten acres where the Tower of Hope
stands. Later in his life Vern would give a million dollars for
the Dragt Gymnasium for our young people. They also supported
me when I needed the money to launch the television program. The
ten percent gift to the church grew to where their gifts would
add up to millions of dollars. At nearly 80 years old, in spite
of his polio and handicap, Vern continued to say, "The Lord
comes first and God is good. He promises to bless and God has
really blessed me."
called self-control! Not being controlled or manipulated or intimidated
by your fears and negative thinking because your self-control
is controlled by the positive faith of Jesus. That changes everything.
in Houston when I got the call that Vern was dying and he lived
only one more hour. His family surrounded him. He was ready to
go. When I talked to Lavon, his widow, I was crying. "I said,
"Lavon, I just lost the best friend I’ve ever had outside
of my family. I mean no one has done more to keep my faith alive
and make my dreams come true and keep my hopes up more than Vern
and you, Lavon." She said, "I just lost my best friend
too. When you talked about gentleness in your sermon last Sunday
on television, challenging us to be ‘gentle giants,’
I must tell you, Vern was my gentle giant."
Narrow Path of Self-control
is the narrow path that Jesus talked about that leads to life,
abundant and eternal. Lack of self-control is the broad way that
ultimately leads to destruction and many go there. I am asking
you this morning not to walk out of this church without realizing
that you must deal with the issue of your own self-control. You
need to deal with it.
else has the power to give it to you. No one else can make those
decisions for you. You and you alone will make the ultimate decision
that will define your life and your destiny.
Leads to a Gold Medal
happy event this week is a wedding for someone special whom I
have known for many years. She was a young girl in this church
when she decided she was going to be a gold medal swimmer in the
Olympics. She practiced possibility thinking to dream her dreams
and make it happen. And no one surpassed her. She made the Olympics,
not once, but five times she won a gold medal in the swimming
not soon forget the night I watched the opening of the 1996 Olympics
in Atlanta on television as the Olympic contenders from all over
the world paraded into the Atlanta arena carrying their flags.
There they stood and waited in the middle of the arena as more
and more athletes paraded in until finally they were all there
... fifteen thousand. One Olympian would be chosen to enter the
arena carry the burning torch, run down the track and give it
to Muhammad Ali, the greatest Olympian of all, who would then
light the large Olympic flame. Everybody was trying to guess which
of all these Olympic stars would be chosen for that high honor.
I wasn’t prepared when out came our own Janet Evans! I was
crying with joy and pride as Muhammad Ali took the torch from
her and reached up to ignite the Olympic flame. A few weeks later
Janet Evans, back home, came here to her church running down the
center aisle with her Olympic torch. It was her way of saying
thank you to all of you for all your prayers; they really helped
as she worked hours and hours and hours and hours.
The Path to Prosperity
Evans has now completed her university studies, and in her last
year, she met a wonderful student there. He was also graduating
and this coming Saturday night I’m going to hear them repeat
their wedding vows!
does the path of self-control lead? It leads to prosperity, it
leads to peace, and yes, it leads to the pain of self denial.
Some of you are in despair, depression, and are despondent. Some
of you are in pain through chemotherapy, through amputations.
I know many of you are, and I’ve been praying with some
of you. What you need is self-control to
hold the faith, to keep seeing possibilities in
the worst of times. That’s what Jesus Christ gives.
a man who went through a horrible experience. It was terrible.
He was not a believer when he said to me, "I have three choices
now on how I can deal with it. (1) I can use alcohol. That will
take me through. I don’t know what it will do to me, but
I think it will help. (2) I can commit suicide. I am thinking
about that, or (3) Schuller, I can become a believer, take God
into my life and this Jesus Christ to be my Savior. That’s
the third option. That is the one I’m going for!" And
he took Christ in his life and Christ walked with him through
his pain, through his grief, his tragedy.
You make the final decisions on what is going to happen with the
one life you have to live. Self-control. Where do you get it?
Well, nobody has got it all the time. We are still humans. But
I don’t know where you can get it except the church. This
institution is established by Jesus Christ to tell us about faith
and about God. You become like the people you hang around with.
I’ve spent my life hanging around a person called Jesus.
He has given me enough self-control so that I’m not ashamed
of who I am. He will do the same for you. Become a believer! He
will give you self-control.
a decision. There is a hand in your heart. I’m asking you
to raise it and say, "I’m accepting You, Jesus Christ,
I need more power than I’ve got. I’ve blown it too
often, and I don’t want to do that anymore. I want You to
control me and then I will be on the path
to living life at its best ... abundant and eternal!