Self-Control: the ability to control one’s self. That’s easy enough. Specifically to me, I believe that self-control is the ability to control the “yes” or “no” in relation to one’s actions, thoughts, desires, disciplines, words, etc.
Self-Control is the last fruit of the spirit that Paul lists off in his letter to the Church at Galatia. While, it could easily be skipped over or forgotten because you are already freaking out on how to produce the other 8 fruits in your life, I believe that self-control is equally as important as the rest of the fruit; so buckle up!
saying yes and no
In Galatians 5, right before Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit, He describes the premise of self-control that I think is so important in understanding where the self-control makes a difference. It reads, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do." (ESV) So in terms that are easier to understand and hopefully very relatable, do you know that feeling deep down of that internal battle to sin vs. not sin, do what feels good vs what is right, obey vs rebel? We have our flesh, which describes our sinful nature as humans to follow the ways of the world apart from the ways of Jesus. We also have the Holy Spirit, who convicts us live by the commands and biblical foundations of living like Jesus did in a holy and God-honoring way. These things are in constant conflict with one another because we, as humans, naturally desire to live by the flesh despite our call to live by the Spirit. Hence why Paul said that living by the Spirit “keeps you from doing things that you want to do.” Self-control is the ability to look at the ways of the flesh and firmly say “no”, and responding with a firm yes to the things/words/actions that are honoring and glorifying to God. Looking sin in the face and saying no, while looking at God and choosing Him because He is worth it and you are worth it.
examples of self control
So what does self-control look like in your life? Here are some examples of implementing self-control when it comes to the battle of the flesh vs the Spirit: Saying no to talking about your roommate even when they are bugging you, saying no to binge watching Netflix (not that this is a bad thing or sinful) and yes to diving into the word with God, saying no to pornography despite the temptation and saying yes to honoring Jesus, saying yes to a healthy lifestyle because you want to honor your body as a temple of the Holy Spirit, saying yes to honoring God in your schoolwork despite your hatred for your classes, saying no to letting anxiety control you while saying yes to God with your thoughts, saying no to the peer pressure in the midst of pressure from the people around you.
produced by the holy spirit
Some of these examples may be easy for you and some you may find to be a great battle, but that is why self-control is such an important thing to have. I want to remind you, though, something very important: Self-Control is a fruit of the Spirit, which means it is something that is produced by the Holy Spirit inside of us. Timothy in his second letter writes, “For God did not give us a spirit of fear but a spirit of power, love, and self-control.” 2 Tim. 1:7 (ESV). To some degree we can say yes or no to things in our lives on our own. Yet, it is important to understand that by the power of the Holy Spirit in us, the fruit of self control is given to us. With this we can confidently say no in the midst of temptation or create healthy disciplines in our lives that honor God. It is a fruit that takes trust in the Lord and when it is produced in our life can propel us to a righteous life that we are called to live.
- Ladd Morgan