Have you ever yelled at your kids? How about eaten a whole bag of potato chips in one sitting? Spent more than you planned to at Costco?
I’ve done all of those things. Multiple times. And some of them more recently than I care to admit.
As we wrap up the Fruit of the Spirit series, we come to the last fruit – self-control. I think maybe God put this one last because this fruit is particularly difficult for most of us.
Let’s take a look at what self-control is, and then we can figure out why it’s so difficult for us to master.
The King James version uses the word “temperance,” which comes from the Greek word enkrateia. According to Vine’s Expository dictionary, the word self-control is now preferred, as it’s all encompassing, whereas today temperance only refers to self-control in one area.
Vines goes on to say,
The various powers bestowed by God upon man are capable of abuse; the right use demands the controlling power of the will under the operation of the Spirit of God. p. 1126
When you think about it, God does give us a lot of power, or choice. We choose how to respond to people. We choose what to eat. How to spend our money. What to wear. Whether to go to church or stay home to watch football.
In each of those situations, we must make a choice between pleasing ourselves or pleasing God. We are all bent toward pleasing ourselves, but as we abide more and more in Jesus, our desire to please him supersedes our desire to please ourselves. Why? We realize his plan for us is better than our own plans for ourselves.
1 Peter 1:3-8 says,
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. NIV
I love how Peter takes us through the progression of how we should grow as Christians! It begins with faith, then goodness, then knowledge. And after knowledge comes self-control, that pesky thing with which we all struggle.
Going back to the definition of enkrateia in Vine’s Expository Dictionary, we read,
In 2 Peter 1:6, it follows “knowledge,” suggesting that what is learnt requires to be put into practice. p. 1126
So what is the secret to developing self-control? Knowledge of God!
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How do we gain such knowledge? Read the Bible. Listen to sound Bible teaching. Join a Bible study.
I can tell you from experience that immersing yourself in the Word has a transforming effect on your life. Last month, when I wrote the 31 Days to Knowing Your Identity in Christ series, I spent a lot of time in the Word, looking up definitions of Greek words and cross-referencing passages. All of that time in the Bible showed up in the way I responded to my husband and my children. In how I managed my finances. In what I ate.
You see, the more time you spend with God, the more you think like God. The more you want his will of your life, because you realize his will for your life is good.
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The more you know God, the more you want to show him to others, meaning that you need to be a good representative of him on this earth. You realize that others are watching your actions – your children, your neighbors, your blog readers. And you ask God to help you represent him well. He answers that prayer.
Like all of the fruit of the Spirit, self-control is manifested in our lives when we abide in Christ. When we stop fighting him for control of our lives and give it all up to Him.
If you struggle with self-control (and we all do), stop fighting for control. Get to know the One who loves you more than any other. Trust that he will take good care of you. Self-control will follow.
That wraps up our look at the fruit of the Spirit. I you haven’t read the entire series, start at the beginning.