“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love… For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.””
2 Peter 1:5-7,11
Why shouldn’t I?
If I desire something, shouldn’t I satisfy that desire? These are the questions that inevitably come to the forefront of our minds when we’re faced with making a decision. They rest in our subconscious and assert themselves as we choose to do certain things throughout our day. We often view self-control as prudish and having to say no to good or fun things. But what if I told you that having self-control isn’t God keeping you from something good, but protecting you from the very things that will destroy you?
When saying NO brings freedom
God wants to set us free from the bondage we put ourselves in. Not only that, but He wants to keep us from continuing to put ourselves in bondage over and over again. I believe there’s a reason for why Paul lists self-control last amongst the fruits of the Spirit. Mainly, that once God grows in us the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness, He gives us self-control to continue to walk in these by resisting the temptation to lose all inhibitions and go back to our former ways. Self-control isn’t flashy, nor is it often “fun”, but it brings freedom by saying NO to the very things that put us in bondage and YES to God and the fruits He grows in us.
It’s important to know that in Galatians 5:19 Paul lists the works of the flesh and he says in 5:17 that “the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit”. There is a big difference between works of the flesh and fruits of the Spirit. Works can be accomplished instantly to satisfy an urge or desire, but fruits have to be grown and nourished in order to survive. In other words, doing the works of the flesh is EASY, whereas having the fruits of the Spirit grown in you is a painful and sometimes arduous process. Self-control helps you to say NO to the things that might be easy but ultimately steal your joy, peace and love, and say YES to the things that might be hard to see but bring eternal life.
Receiving & Practicing Self-Control
Self-control is itself a fruit of the Spirit, so it’s not going to come just like that. It takes two things: 1) Abiding in the presence of God to nourish the fruit and 2) Actively choosing to have self-control in situations where it’s easy to give in to the desires of your flesh. You have to ask God to grow this fruit in you and then allow the Holy Spirit to help you in making the small decisions. Many times the insurmountable circumstances in our lives tell us that we can’t win this war we’re in, but God gives us self-control through His Spirit that allows us to win the battles in the trenches and ultimately the war.
And here’s some truth: God’s already won the war. Our lives are all about His victory unfolding on Earth and us becoming aware of it. When you look at the scripture from 2 Peter 1, you see that self-control is part of a progression towards more of God’s love in our lives and Him ushering us into His Kingdom. So why does self-control matter? Because you have the chance to honor God with your small decisions. Because it’s by God’s strength that you get to say no to the things that satisfy instantly, and yes to the things that satisfy eternally. Because He’s already won the war and now you can go win your battle.
God, Grow in us the fruit of self-control and by your grace help us to practice it. Help us to choose you over and over and over again, because you’re the only One who is eternally satisfying. We love you God, come and help us.