Self-control. It is the last of the nine characteristics of spiritual fruit listed in Galations 5:22 and 23, but it certainly is not the least. Just like love is listed first and is paramount for a fruitful life, self-control is a necessary component in order to yield to the Holy Spirit’s will as He molds and sanctifies our hearts to look like Jesus.
And while it is the Holy Spirit who develops this character in us, it is in studying self-control that we see a glimpse of how discipleship is also part of God’s plan for spiritual growth.
Self-Control: What it is.
By the Bible definition, self-control is a Greek adjective, the word sophron: the idea of restraint, putting on the brakes, soundness of mind
Other English words used to translate the word sophron throughout scripture are temperate, discreet, and sober.
Proverbs 25:28 says that a man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.
An Old Testament city needed walls to keep the enemy from marching in and taking over. Self-control is like that wall in our lives. Without it, we are vulnerable to our enemy, Satan’s attacks, and we are not equipped to make good decisions throughout life.
How We Acquire Self-Control:
It’s pretty obvious as we look at small children that we’re not born with it. We develop will power as we grow up, and we can recognize areas of strength and weakness. Will power is not the same as self control. We’re talking about the difference between doing life by our power versus doing life by God’s power. Self-control is a Gift of God.
“But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control; against such things there is no law.” Galations 5:22-23
For the grace of has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled upright, and godly lives in the present age.” Titus 2:11-12
We are being trained by the Holy Spirit through the process of sanctification (setting us apart), as the grace of God allows us to make intentional choices to govern our emotions, desires and habits.
Reflect on your life:
Do you have any recurring sinful habits or areas of bondage in your life?
Are you enslaved or addicted to anything that’s not holy, healthy or wholesome?
Do you exercise self-control:
- with your tongue and words
- in your attitude, moods and emotions
- with your body: food and drink, exercise and sleep?
- with your time: entertainment, hobbies, habits, and time management
- in your spending
- sexually (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
- with computer, internet and social media
Self-control requires exercising faith. It is believing God’s promises.
In Ephesians 1:16-19, Paul prayed that we would understand the immeasurable greatness of God’s power toward us who believe.
2 Peter 1:1-2 tells us that God’s divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.
These verses tell us that:
*God’s power cannot be measured, and it is alive in us who believe and have received the Holy Spirit.
*We have been equipped with everything we need to avert sin and live Godly lives.
- We don’t have to sin.
- We don’t have to beg God for more will power.
- We need to believe God–He has already made us victors.
Satan doesn’t want you and me to believe this. He wants us to live as defeated, rather than the over-comers Christ has made us. Our enemy will do everything he can to cause us to believe our worst fears about ourselves are true.
When my oldest girls were young, we took a lot of swimming lessons at the Y. The “middles” practiced and practiced, but they never felt confident that they could swim on their own. For years they spent summers at camp in the shallow end of the lake, missing out on the fun and games that the older kids had swimming together.
Finally, I enrolled one of them in lessons again. When the instructors learned how old she was, they put her in the highest level class. She was scared, but 2 weeks of lessons and she passed all their requirements with flying colors. How? Because they forced her to exercise the muscles she already had. She had been equipped to swim. She just lacked faith.
We can live defeated in the shallow end and miss out on the plans God has for us, or we can move out in faith, believing that He has already made us over-comers.
Self Control requires the renewal of our minds through scripture and prayer.
“Be sober-minded (sober, calm and collected in spirit); be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8
Jesus said that the devil is the father of lies. He is an expert at taking a little bit of truth, then twisting it into a counterfeit idea and then planting it for us to think on.
In “Battlefield of the Mind,” Joyce Meyers said that “Christians need to start thinking about what they are thinking about.”
“For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he…” Proverbs 23:7
Sin starts as a thought that becomes a belief, and then a belief is made manifest in our words and actions. From head to heart to hands, so to speak.
In order to make sound choices and have sound behavior, we need to have sound thinking.
“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is a sin.” James 4:17
Right thinking needs to lead to right living: being able to say yes to the things we should do and no to the things we should not do are equally important.
Some sin is blatant and easy to recognize. Some sin is less obvious. We grow up with ideas and habits that are culturally acceptable, even in the church, and if the church thinks it’s okay, then we think it’s okay, often never giving it a second thought. I’ve been humbled when God has revealed certain things as being less than what He wants for the church—things I had never given a second thought to because it was “normal”.
Lets look at our thoughts and our beliefs under the light of scripture to discern what is truth and what is not. Paul tells us how…
“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” 2 Corinthians 10:5
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
What our Prayers have to do with Self-Control…
“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.”
Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, Interior Design:
“It’s obvious that sound, clear thinking can help us combat false beliefs and make wise decisions. But it does more than that. Peter’s primary expectation is that sound thinking will result in more praying, and more sound praying. Thinking right helps me pray right. Right thinking helps me see things from God’s perspective. Praying helps me call upon and submit to God in light of that perspective, and to obtain the guidance and power I need to exercise self control in the situation. Right thinking and prayer are key to winning the battle over destructive habits.”
Storm heaven with prayers that conform to God’s will, and witness His victorious power at work in your life. More prayer begets more fruit, and so on.
Replace Wrong Patterns with Righteous or Virtuous Patterns.
The way of Christ: Ephesians 4:22-24
“Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
When you clean up an area of your life, don’t leave it void. That leaves room for another bad habit to take root. Be deliberate in replacing that behavior with a virtuous one.
Don’t be conformed. Be transformed.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9
The first time I spoke on the topic of self-control, God really used the experience to show me that the areas in my life that gave me the least satisfaction, things that I dreaded doing and tended to procrastinate, were (obviously) the areas in which I lacked the most self-control. I went through a process of repentance, as God revealed these areas to me, and began applying myself to “just do it”. Not only that, but I gave thanks in the process.
Can’t stand doing the mounds of laundry that are inevitable with a large family? Give thanks for the laundry–it is a reflection of the gift of children that God has bestowed, and someday they will grow up.
Put off other household chores? Give thanks for the gift of a home, and ask God for more grace to be a good steward.
Struggle to get the family to church on on Sunday morning? Thank God for the privilege of living in a country where you have the freedom to worship openly, and have the support of the church community in training your family in Godliness!
Get the idea? We all struggle with different things, but God is pleased to give us the self-control to overcome our weaknesses, and giving thanks–dwelling on the good, lovely, and excellent– is an amazing gift that renews our thinking.
Learning Through Instruction
Titus 2:1,3-5 tells us:
“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine… Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”
Why does Titus teach us that the older women are to teach the younger women self-control?
- Self-control requires participation and cooperation with God, and living it out can involve the practical side of learning from experience. I believe we can learn from one another’s victories and mistakes.
- Instruction can make us more aware of our own need and areas of weakness. There are areas of weakness we’ve never thought about, but once it’s on our radar…
- The church should provide a place of safe accountability and encouragement.
We cannot produce self-control or any other fruit in our lives. The fruit we’ve been studying only comes about as a result of living in a relationship with Christ. Charles Stanley talks about how the fruit in our lives will take us by surprise when we do life with God. He never intended us to do it alone.
A heart of self-control will bring joy and peace in your life. It will also help you to make the gospel believable to a watching world. ♥
Read other posts about the Fruit of the Spirit.