In this article, we will continue our study of Galatians 5:22 and look at the fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control. So, grab your Bible, and let’s dig in…
Have you ever tried to stick to a new routine? You may have started running and feel discouraged when comparing your ability to the top racers. Doing new things can be challenging at first. It takes dedication and commitment.
Sleeping in rather than getting up to train could mean the difference between finishing the race or dropping out and recording a new personal best time or just finishing before the cut-off time.
While it may not immediately seem evident, the difference lies in your self-control. We think about self-control in terms of limiting ourselves, not having a second piece of cake, or not drinking in excess.
While this is true, self-control is much more than limiting ourselves. When looking at self-control from a worldly perspective, one could be called a goody-two-shoes, but nothing could be farther from the truth.
Especially when we are considering the self-control is a attribute of the fruit of the Spirit.
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The Greek Meaning Of The Fruit Of The Spirit: Self-Control
Let’s look at how the Bible views self-control. In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul writes about the fruit of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23 KJV
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
The last fruit or Godly attribute he speaks about is temperance in the King James translation. The Greek word Paul uses is egkrateia, which translates to self-control or mastery over desires and passions.
ἐγκράτειαenkráteia, eng-krat’-i-ah; from G1468; self-control (especially continence):—temperance.
Egkrateia derives from the Greek word egkratēs, a combination of en and kratos. These words translate to mastering, controlling, or restraining.
Kratos speaks about being strong and robust and having power over something. Saying no to the world takes strength and a robust and powerful conviction.
We all have a level of natural self-control; some function in it in higher degrees than others. But it is limited, and when our self-control juice is tapped out, we basically crumble and eat the cookie. I remember reading about this in Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals by Heidi Grant Halvorson. Super interesting, and it made me think how different the fruit of the Spirit’s self-control is different.
When we abide in Christ, and we bear good spiritual fruit, this self-control takes on a whole other meaning compared to our natural ability.
Examples Of Self-Control In The Bible
There are many stories throughout scripture where self-control is in action. Here are a few:
- David and Saul (1 Samuel 24)
David showed self-control by not taking revenge on Saul, who was chasing him and trying to kill him. David had the opportunity to kill Saul, but instead, he spared his life, trusting in God’s plan.
- Joseph and Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39)
Joseph showed self-control by resisting the advances of Potiphar’s wife, who tried to seduce him. Joseph knew that it would be wrong to betray his master’s trust and commit adultery, so he fled from her instead.
- Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4)
Jesus showed self-control by resisting the devil’s temptations. The devil tried to get Jesus to sin by tempting him with food, power, and fame, but Jesus stayed true to God’s will and resisted each temptation. But Jesus rejected each temptation with Scripture, demonstrating the power of self-control in resisting evil.
- Daniel and his friends (Daniel 1)
Daniel and his friends showed self-control by refusing to eat the king’s food and wine, which would have violated their Jewish dietary laws. Instead, they asked to be given vegetables and water, and they thrived on this simple diet.
- Paul and his thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12)
Paul showed self-control by accepting the thorn in his flesh, which was a weakness or affliction that he had to endure. Instead of complaining or giving up, Paul trusted in God’s grace and used his weakness to show God’s strength.
- Job, in dealing with suffering (Job 1)
Job experienced tremendous suffering, losing his possessions, his children, and even his health. But he did not curse God, showing self-control in remaining faithful even in the face of trials. This story demonstrates the importance of self-control in persevering through difficulties and holding onto faith even in trying times.
Running Life’s Race Takes Self-Control
When we start running, it takes time and discipline to resist the urge to give up. It takes dedication to a routine and sacrifice of pleasures that can trip us up.
Skipping an exercise when it is wet or cold out is tempting. Having a heavy dinner with friends and family can make it harder to get up to train the next morning.
Our walk with God is the same. We need to remain strong and dedicated to staying on course.
Paul speaks about our Christian walk as a race with an eternal reward.
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.
26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
A race winner has applied dedication, is strong and robust, and has mastered a skill. A race winner shows restraint at the right time and strength and power at other times.
This definition helps us gain a better understanding of the fruit of self-control in our lives. Temperance is not a limp-wristed attribute but a display of overcoming weakness. It is STRENGTH.
Producing the fruit of self-control in our lives requires that we do the opposite of what our sinful nature would have us do. The prophet Daniel could have eaten and drunk the king’s food, which may have tasted better than his chosen diet of pulse, fruit, and veggies.
But perhaps the excess of food and wine would have clouded his judgment or affected him in a negative way. Would Daniel still have been able to maintain his walk with God if he had eaten from the king’s table? We don’t know but we do know that Daniel practiced self-control for a reason.
Just as Daniel viewed the wrong food and drink as a defilement, our diet today is also the cause of many of our health problems. To be God’s hands and feet on the earth and do work for the Kingdom, we need to be strong and healthy. But having self-control isn’t always about food and dieting.
Showing Self-Control In Everyday Life
Like a city that is broken down and without walls [leaving it unprotected]
Is a man who has no self-control over his spirit [and sets himself up for trouble]. – Proverbs 25:28 AMP
Self-control is also far more than just saying no thank you to a slice of cake or a glass of wine. We need self-control in every aspect of our life. I think the proverb above paints the best picture of the importance of self-control being practiced in our life.
1 Corinthians 13:4 tells us that love presents as being kind and patient, among other things. Showing the world God’s love requires us to be patient and kind.
It is not always easy in everyday life, though. We get frustrated and angry and respond in haste or in defense. God knows it is not easy to reign in our tongue and the words we speak in haste.
The Bible warns about the tongue and speaking in haste or anger. We are warned about gossiping, spreading lies, and causing fights with the words we use and leading people into offense. The Bible even tells us that we cannot control our tongue by our own power. (James 3)
Showing self-control is the difference between a hasty answer and an answer guided by the Holy Spirit. Self-control means responding to a situation under God’s wisdom and insight rather than reacting in an earthly way. Applying this type of self-control in our lives requires practice and perseverance.
Paul went through many tests and trials in his life, and ministry. He had many opportunities to stir up anger against those who imprisoned and persecuted him. Instead, Paul used even these difficult situations to show God’s love and minister to his captors. He would praise and gives thanks in hard circumstances rather than stir anger. Paul had grown and nurtured the fruit of self-control in his life.
We can practice self-control in many ways. Here are a few that come to mind and we will go over more of these in a bit.
- Our Tongue
- Our Anger
- Our Body
- Our Diet and/or Health
- Our Time-Management
- Our Daily Habits
Saying No To Over Indulgence
The Bible warns us not to overindulge in food and alcohol. In Proverbs 23, God describes a person’s actions with a clouded judgment due to excessive use of wine. Fermented wine was part of everyday life in the Bible, but excessive use causes one to lose inhibitions and good judgment. This leads to actions that bring us shame, sin, and bondage.
Historically, overindulgence and debauchery accompanied idol worship. Today we do not see it as idol worship even though in some ways it still is (heart idols) when attending parties or concerts. Drugs and alcohol have become as socially acceptable in these settings as in idol worship ceremonies, though.
Just as you cannot serve God and mammon, you cannot have a sound relationship with God while engaging in this type of worldly behavior.
We read many accounts of drunkenness leading to the downfall of people and rulers. Excess of alcohol often leads to anger and violence. People speak and act without thinking when intoxicated, often causing hurt to those close to them in the process.
Also, when we heavily indulge in substances like alcohol and drugs can open us to demonic attack and influence.
When we do not have self-control in using things like alcohol or resort to earthly pleasures rather than following God’s advice, it harms our ability to commune with God. Our desire to seek Him is reduced, and our shame is a wedge between God and us.
How Self-Control Works In Our Lives
God is pure and just and desires us to strive to be pure. He desires a relationship with us and, as such, has provided advice and help for us to overcome sin. He knew we could not achieve this by ourselves, so He sent His Son as an example. God provided a way for His Holy Spirit to be accessible to everyone who desires a closer walk with Him.
What we cannot do in our own might, the Holy Spirit inside us will help us achieve. We need self-control over our words, behavior, and habits to grow many of the other fruit of the Spirit. While self-control is mentioned as the last of the fruit, it may just be the most important fruit to grow and nurture.
Without self-control, we may lose patience and try and move God’s plan along in our limited understanding, as Abram and Sarai did. We may lose our joy in traffic and speak in anger. In so doing, we may not show patience, gentleness, or goodness.
Just as the joy of the Lord is our strength, self-control requires strength in order to develop all the other fruit of the Spirit.
Our work for God on earth is likened to a race. A race implies competition and resistance. To compete in a race, one needs to train diligently. Becoming race-ready requires the sacrifice of some comforts and learning new habits.
We must conform to God’s Kingdom rather than the world. To do this, we need to renew our minds. We need to think in line with God’s word to act in a manner that shows His handy work in our lives. God’s Spirit can achieve what we cannot do if we allow Him to lead and guide us. That is why it is called the fruit of the Spirit. We can only produce these fruits with the help of the Holy Spirit!
More On The Fruit Of The Spirit
If you have enjoyed this look at the fruit of the Spirit: self-control, then I would encourage you also to check out my other posts on the topic!
Melissa is a passionate minister, speaker and an ongoing learner of the Bible. She has been involved in church and vocational ministry for over 18 years. And is the founder of Think About Such Things. She has the heart to equip the saints by helping them get into the Word of God and fall more in love with Jesus. She also enjoys family, cooking, and reading.
She has spoken in churches in California, Oregon, Texas, and Mexico and has been featured in Guidepost Magazine and All Recipes Magazine. Read More…