The fruit of the Spirit in self-control is commonly seen as trying to stop a vice; whether it be eating too much, how we speak, or what we look at. But self-control is not about what is stopped, it’s what is gained. The motivation for self-control in the life of a Christ-follower is not to be good but to know the good.
The Apostle Paul understood the connections of an athlete to the life of a believer in self-control. In 1 Corinthians 9:25, “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable” (ESV).
Paul knew that the goal of a Christian was to seek the imperishable, eternal God. The biggest mistake believers make in fruits of the Spirit is to pursue the fruits instead of the Spirit. Self-Control is a wonderful gift, a good discipline, and helpful. But it’s not God Himself.
The secret to self-control is simply “Don’t pursue self.” We miss the point when our motivation for self-control is to inflate our self by not saying certain words, hiding a bitter hurt, or appearing ‘in control’ to others. The pursuit of the fruit of self-control is to having a greater will for a greater love. That greater will is not the Fruit of Me but the Fruit of the Spirit. In order to be a person of self-control you must give up your selfish control.
To learn to give your selfish control is to recognize your frailty. That you don’t have control. There are many things that give illusions of control examples of perfectionism or legalism. Neither of these are self-control but slavery to impossible standards. Instead, when we give control to God we learn our freedom to love, to feel, to embrace, and to live without fear of messing up. Self-Control is not about regulating our behaviour but embracing Jesus. To find the source of the fruit is to find God’s freedom in the Spirit.
When we start with the pursuit of God as our self control we can begin to recognize others as valuable helps. First, because of their insight and ability to walk with us; to make us aware when we don’t have control and to refine us in relationship. The second reason is because people can test our self-control. If you want to know how people test your self-control, ask a parent. The reality of being in relationship with anyone means your self-control will be tested as you will test their’s. The real test of self-control is not when you are being tempted but when you are living. People give you an opportunity to exercise self-control because you can’t predict them they won’t act according to your will.
So where do we go from here? You can reach out to community, reach out to your Life Group or start by joining one, and begin to find the areas where you know you aren’t in control or you have built an illusion of control. Self-Control looks different for every person but the solution is always the same: One Spirit, One God, and One Saviour named Jesus.