“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)
If there was a least favorite characteristic of the Spirit, my guess is that self-control would be one of the top contenders. I don’t know anyone who likes self-control, especially in a world where we’re taught that more is better, new is better, bigger is better, and we have to have all the better things right now. Especially as we are diving headfirst into the indulgent holiday season, self-control tends to go out the window.
My guess is that recently each of us has felt our self-control being put to the test. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been completely stressed out at one point or another over the course of this year. And, for me, when stress levels increase, usually my self-control goes downhill at the same rate of speed. I don’t control my tongue, my spending, or my eating habits. While there are many areas in our lives, those are three of the areas where I can clearly see when I have been relying on my own strength instead of his. What about you?
Thankfully, having the self-control mentioned in Galatians 5 isn’t out of our own sheer willpower. It’s out of a daily reliance upon the Holy Spirit and following his leading.
“Better a patient person than a warrior,
one with self-control than one who takes a city.” Proverbs 16:32 (NIV)
“Like a city whose walls are broken through
is a person who lacks self-control.” Proverbs 25:28 (NIV)
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” 2 Peter 1:5-7 (NIV)
Self-control isn’t fun but it is vital.
I think that developing the trait of self-control is a big part of making God #1 in our lives. Self-control (or lack thereof) reveals our priorities. Whenever I understand my priorities, the other things won’t be as tempting. For example: when I know I’m saving money for something big, I won’t eat out all the time. When I know I want to look good for an upcoming event, I have more willpower to put down the bread and eat a vegetable instead.
I think this applies to the things of God as well. When we understand that people are made in the image of God, we might be more inclined to not gossip about them. Or when we are focused on bringing the Kingdom of God to earth, it’s easier to refrain from worldly priorities. Or when we understand that God is righteous and holy, we might think twice before engaging in whatever sin seems so tempting at the time.
If we find ourselves struggling with self-control, I wonder what would happen if we asked God to give us his vision, his priorities, and his wisdom.
We don’t have to muscle out self-control, but we can, through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, submit to his will instead of our own. We can live more like Jesus. Self-control is uncomfortable, but it is entirely worth it. Let’s lift our eyes and look to Jesus, following his lead today!
How do you view self-control?
How have you seen self-control grow in your own life?
To go Deeper: Identifying Out of Whack Priorities,
Learning from Yet Another Gardening Metaphor