Fruits of the Spirit: Self-Control
For the ninth and final fruit of the spirit, let’s start with some myth-busting to clarify all the things that self-control isn’t.
It’s not a form of restriction, demanding all the fun is sucked from life. Nor is it a form of indoctrination, turning all Christian girls into prim and proper, ‘seen and not heard’, shadows from the 1900s. I’ve found this fruit the most frustrating to deal with, as if all the others open up the wonders of life, but this aims to shut them down.
If this rings true with you, then there is a fault in our understanding of self-control. But it is in fact a promise of freedom, not restriction.
We are all trapped by addictions, be they physical or mental; addictions to social media, gossiping, smoking, eating or sinful thought processes. Addictions are accompanied by temptations, which fill our minds for much of our waking moments. Add to this, feelings of guilt, when we aren’t doing the things we feel like we should be doing. All these enchain us, and Paul perfectly captures the mess that we leave ourselves in:
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7.15)
All these things have control over our lives, creeping in quietly before we notice the firm grip they have around our liberty. But the fruit of self-control promises freedom. To take control of these limitations releases us to become all that God intended us to be.
To be aware of our short comings, resist control of outside influences and all that the evil one intends to bring us down with, to nurture a habit of self-control, this is what breaks the chains of addiction, temptation and guilt. See how the beauty of being in control of your influences then gives opportunity for seeking influence from something else.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 1.5)
“You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (Romans 6.18)
But what does this mean for our daily walk? Like all the other fruit in Galatians 5, self-control is a consequence of the spirit’s work in our lives. This doesn’t mean we lose responsibility to discipline its growth, but we can only see its development by the spirit’s power. When we seek God’s heart we will discover freedom that is in His very nature. And as we learn to be ‘self-controlled’, we can chose to seek God’s guidance and leading with undistracted hearts.
1. Know your limitations.
Identify the chains in your life, and the times when you feel most gripped by them.
2. Know your boundaries.
Recognise the ‘pre-sin’ moments and seek to about-turn before you get to them. As it says in 1 Peter 5. 8 “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Don’t become complacent, for we are in the midst of spiritual warfare.
3. (Most importantly): Know your God.
Both of the previous tips seem fairly depressing, but stand back and compare how massive and powerful our God is, and how small our problems are in comparison. Nothing is impossible to Him, and He gives the same power to work in us that raised Jesus from the dead. How awesome!
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Emma is in her fourth year studying medicine in Sheffield, where she loves the steep hills and Yorkshire people. More often than not she can be found eating doughnuts, attempting DIY or embracing her obsession with all things Narnia.