Galatians 5:22-23 is a familar passage: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” The fruit of the Spirit is the manifestation of the character of Jesus seen in and through us when we submit to His leadership. In this brief article, I want to focus on one aspect of these attributes of His nature, the fruit of self-control. Self-control can be described as self-discipline and restraint; willpower and levelheadedness. Vine’s Dictionary defines it as, “the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites.”
Jesus exemplified self-control many times, in His dealings with the religious leaders, in His power over temptation, in His willingness to submit to the tortures of, and leading up to His crucifixion, to name a few. He never retailiated when wronged nor tried to defend Himself against His persecutors. He was victorious over the enemy and His own flesh in His wilderness testing. He is our model for what self-control looks like.
As believers, we often work harder to try to control others than we do ourselves. Leaders frequently attempt to control their congregations because of the fears and shame they struggle with. Yet, as Graham Cooke says, “Self-control is the only legitimate form of control in the Church.” Stiving to control others is actually a form of witchcraft, and a sign that the controller is controlled by fear and shame.
Self-control is one facet of God’s Spirit that is sadly lacking in many churches and believers’ lives. A lack of self-control often manifests in angry outbursts and fits of rage, fleshly indulgences like overeating, overspending, pornography, sexual sin and various addictions. Rather than seeing it for what it is and seeking help, many come up with excuses as to why they are the way they are, and that they can’t help themselves, which is another example of a victim mentality. When we succumb to this toxic thinking, we are deceiving no one but ourselves.
Two of the enemy’s favorite forms of temptation are the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes. He used this tactic back in the Garden of Eden and still does to this day. If he can tempt us to indulge our fleshly desires and passions, he can damage and even destroy our witness for the Lord. We must learn to recognize his subtle strategy and resist him by submitting to God’s Spirit and the fruit of self-control. If Jesus lives in us, it is not impossible, for He is far greater than the enemy. We can do ALL things through His limitless strength within us!
We become what we behold, so the key to allowing the fruit of the Spirit to flow through us is to meditate upon these virtues as seen in our Lord and Savior. As we meditate upon His Word, we, like Jesus, become the word made flesh, taking on His likeness more every day. When we demonstrate the fruit of self-control, others will take notice and know there is something different about us. And more importantly, we will bring glory and honor to God.