In his letter to the Galatians, the apostle Paul writes, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self-control.” (5:22)
The last of these qualities is SELF-CONTROL.
Just like with each of the other fruit of the spirit, self-control is a sign of growing faith. But what is “self-control?” It’s the capacity to direct our lives towards a proper end rather than be distracted or controlled by other forces than come along. As we make hundreds of decisions each week and feel emotions throughout each day, who or what will determine just how we are going to act, what we are going to say, what decisions we will make?
Lots of people have self-control in one area of their lives but are falling apart in another. There are some who can command armies but cannot command themselves. There are some who by their rhetoric cay sway multitudes but cannot hold their tongue if they feel slighted or wronged. Self-control is being able to navigate through life with a sense of internal control and guidance that sees you through whatever comes along.
I like to collect toy tops. I have a collection at home. When you get a toy top spinning, it can stay upright even against the force of gravity, at least for a time.
There is something going on within a top that keeps it from falling down.
Missiles and spaceship and ocean going vessels have within them a gyroscope that spins and provides a steady center for navigation. In the same way, “self-control” provides a steady center to life that keeps a follower of Jesus from being knocked off kilter.
Charles Wesley wrote a hymn along this line called “I Want a Principle Within” UMH #410. He describes that there can be something planted within the believer that keeps him or her aware of sin and able to offer resistance to it. To be aware of pride or wrong desire so that their effects may be resisted. That’s what Paul talks about as “Self-control.”
So, once more for review, these are the ways that God’s spirit helps us move through life and be in community with one another as followers of Jesus Christ. These “fruit of the spirit” are evidence that we are growing in our love and obedience to Christ.
Grace and peace,