What is self-control exactly? It’s defined as, “the ability to control oneself, in particular one's emotions and desires or the expression of them in one's behavior, especially in difficult situations.” Words like self-discipline, restraint and willpower also are used to describe self-control.
But what does God say about self-control? Would He describe it the same way? God says self-control is…
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”—Galatians 5:22-23
Self-control is truly a work of the Spirit.
It is His gift that He bestows upon us and grows as our intimacy with our Savior, Jesus, deepens. Self-control could be described as Spirit-controlled. When we follow the Spirit’s lead in regard to how we handle ourselves, we naturally become more controlled. We become more sober-minded, seeking God’s will before we make decisions.
God made each of us with emotions. However, He gave us a beautifully safe way to navigate through them, as well. He wants to guide us in the middle of the emotion, giving us His power and strength to overcome any temptation we may have to give in to the desires of the flesh; from anger and depression, to unhealthy habits.
“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.”—2 Peter 1:5-9
Here, Peter reminds us when we have knowledge of God, we also have self-control. He also points out that we are to do things with diligence. We cannot expect to suddenly have self-control when we do not seek it from God, persevering with earnestness. God’s promise is beautiful as He reminds us that we are cleansed from old sins, and we are free from the bondage of fleshly desires. He desires to bless us with increased faith as we grow in Jesus Christ.
Self-control is not… selfish-ambition.
Unfortunately, the enemy can get us tangled up in a web of lies when it comes to self-control. We can quickly become proud, or focus on self-ambition if we do not look to the Spirit for guidance. Paul encourages us in 1 Corinthians to exercise control over our fleshly desires with an eternal prize in mind. When we desire to mature in our faith and practice self-control out of love and trust in God’s power and grace, He will receive the glory! As a result, you will be blessed, and your spiritual life will be built-up and bring glory to God’s Kingdom!
Let God’s truth of freedom in Christ, encourage you today to display His character of self-control!