Fruit of the Spirit—Self-Control
(Part nine of a series on Galatians 5:22-23)
“But the fruit of the Spirit is…Self-Control. Against such there is no law.”
Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV)
This ‘fruit’ of self-control completes the list of nine qualities of the Holy Spirit as drawn up by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Galatia. Self-control is, perhaps, one of the most difficult of the qualities of God for us to grow in. Without God’s Spirit uniting with our human spirit, we are prone to thinking and doing things that please the flesh and not the Spirit. Even with the Spirit living in us, the ‘old man of sin’ is not totally dead also.
Paul fully realised this tension in his own life, and he didn’t sit comfortably with it. In his letter to the church at Rome he wrote, “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.…As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.” (Romans 7:14-15, 17, NIV). Yes, Paul found this thing called self-control tough going, and I’m sure that most of us would concur with him. He quickly realised that he was totally incapable of achieving righteousness by his own efforts. Only God had the answer to his dilemma: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” (verses 24-25).
Some people, however, exhibit great self-control (or self-discipline) when it comes to striving for some material goal. Business and sports people are renowned for this. They will put all their focus and energy into achieving their chosen goal, and they will deny themselves much pleasure in the process. Paul touched on this in 1 Corinthians 9 when he compared our spiritual journey to a race to be won. “You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else about it and then missing out myself.” (verses 24-27, The Message Bible).
A self-controlled life involves total submission to the coach and his training plan. The role of a coach is to make men and women do things they don’t want to do in order to achieve the results they want to achieve. In our case the coach is the Holy Spirit. He will nudge us in the right direction when we sometimes go off course—but we need to be willing to ‘hear his voice’. If we find ourselves lacking in this beautiful quality of God—self-control, be sure we ask him often to help us build it into our lives.
In conclusion, can we remember all nine qualities of the ‘fruit’ that Paul listed in Galatians chapter five? They are: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control. This ‘Spiritual Fruit Cocktail’ amounts to a treasure that James describes as “…the ‘fruit of righteousness’” (James 3:18). Let’s make it our life’s goal to grow in this beautiful Fruit of the Spirit.
Thank you, heavenly Father, for revealing to us your righteous mind and character. Please help us to become more like your Son Jesus, who lived this ‘fruit of the Spirit’ to perfection, as an example for us.
Study by John Magowan
Grace Communion Lisburn
Ballymacbrennan School Hall
129A Saintfield Road