Read His Words Before Ours!
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self control. The law is not against such things.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
These are two amazingly profound verses, subtle in their power and fierce in content. The first eight fruits all make logical sense. Who wouldn’t want more of those qualities?
Then there’s self-control.
It’s like a beautiful, soothing piece of music playing in the background for the first eight fruits, which suddenly comes to a screeching halt when self-control is presented and viewed through worldly understanding.
However, over the years, I have come to appreciate the inclusion of self-control as a fruit of the Spirit, and how it bookends the list with love. I am also grateful self-control is a result of the Holy Spirit working within me.
Self-control is defined as “the ability to control behaviors in order to avoid temptations and to achieve goals. The ability to delay gratification and resist unwanted behaviors or urges. A limited resource that can be depleted.”
Can you imagine a world without any self-control?
I realize a few of the posts I’ve seen on my social media feed over the past year may not have been created if a greater measure of self-control had been employed. So maybe a lack of self-control isn’t too hard to imagine.
Thankfully, the Lord knew the vital need for self-control and gave us the Holy Spirit to help grow and implement self-control within us.
Additionally, He is a faithful Father who demonstrates self-control perfectly. He also gave us His Word, in which we see examples of other imperfect humans learning and expressing self-control.
One of the first examples that came to my mind of the Lord’s self-control being modeled in Scripture is the flood. (Genesis 6:5-22) Yes, I do mean the story of the Lord sending the flood to wipe mankind from the face of the earth with the exception of Noah and his family.
This story might seem like a strange choice, but I see two distinct ways in which He showed self-control.
1) Sparing Noah’s family
2) His promise to never flood the earth again
The Lord did not completely destroy all of mankind. He displayed self-control by sparing the race and graciously selected Noah and his family for the journey.
He also promised to never flood the earth again, giving us the rainbow as a symbol and reminder of His covenant vow. (Genesis 9:11-17) Scripture doesn’t provide great detail regarding the people’s wickedness in Noah’s day, but I have observed a few things in my lifetime making me wonder how closely our behavior mirrors theirs.
Still, the Lord displays self-control every single time it rains, by not flooding the world.
The Lord perfectly demonstrates self-control and Scripture is full of people who loved the Lord and, as a result, their lives reflected His self-control in their own stories. I am a visual learner and observing how others have practiced self-control helps me immensely.
Daniel and his diet, for example. (Daniel 1:8-16)
I admit I am nibbling on a cookie — timing is everything — as I imagine what it must have been like for the selected Jewish exiles to eat from the royal table. The decadence offered, and daily encouraged, must have rivaled any all-you-can-eat buffet.
However, Daniel and three others training with him chose to eat only what would honor the Lord, as the “rich food” had been offered to idols.
Their choice required self-control in surrender to the Lord. Not only were they bypassing the choicest food, they were risking displeasing the king, and likely suffered ridicule from their peers at the table. Multiple forms of self-control were required to honor the Lord through their food commitment.
Like Daniel, we are called to reflect God’s character of self-control in our own lives through surrendering to the Holy Spirit’s work in us. At times, I have successfully displayed Spirit-driven self-control. I’ve also failed more times than I care to consider.
For several years, I worked at a college with fraternities and sororities. Within that role, I was called into all sorts of scenarios at all hours. So often, especially during the middle-of-the-night, high-stress situations, I sensed the Holy Spirit fueling self-control within me. Many students I worked with didn’t know the Lord, but most knew I did. How I responded in those situations reflected on the work the Lord had been doing in my own heart. I will never know the full impact of how His self-control changed situations, but I pray those students were positively influenced.
Self-control is challenging to implement in real life if we are relying solely on ourselves. I love how the definition describes self-control as a resource that can be depleted. We cannot walk this life alone, relying on our own self-control reservoir. It will run out.
Therefore, we desperately need to allow the Holy Spirit to bear fruit in our lives. He can pour out self-control, not only refueling our dwindling resources, but supply self-control that can only come from God.
Self-control is a sweet gift from the Lord.
Holy Spirit, please pour out more. Make my heart a tender place of surrender as You work out this fruit in me! For Your glory, our benefit, and the benefit of those around us!
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!