So here we are. The final fruit in our study of The Fruits of the Spirit. You can find Rachel’s thoughts on faithfulness from last week in this post.
And now, we turn to self-control.
Personally, I think my generation is quite tuned into self-control. In an effort to look good and be healthy, we count the calories, the steps, the miles. We control and curate what appears in our social media. We exercise a huge amount of self-control in thinking about the faces we put on for the world – whether that’s personally, or professionally or in a religious sense.
But that’s the public faces that we show to the world. God isn’t that interested in your public face. He sees you in private. He knows your thoughts as well as your actions. And that’s where self-control is hard. In those moments when you’re exhausted and desperate for sugar, so you eat a whole packet of biscuits. In the moments when your patience has been tried and tested just one time too many, so you shout at your children and forget about showing grace. When that driver dangerously overtakes you on a narrow road and you lose your temper.
I think it’s no coincidence that self-control is the final fruit of the spirit. For me, self-control is about showing the previous fruits (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and faithfulness) in those challenging situations.
This first verse isn’t an obvious one when it comes to self-control, but I think it is a helpful one. In fact, I learned it at a Christian camp when I was around 10, and I’ve never forgotten it. It helped that we had to sing it to a random tune which made it stick in my head, but that’s not the point. Anyway, here it is:
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13
We could launch straight into a discussion about temptation and testing, but I think it’s important to note a few details as part of this series:
Firstly, God is faithful.
We know this. We’ve been studying it for the past month. God’s faithfulness is beyond any kind of faithfulness we could imagine.
Secondly, God is in control.
Each time we’ve started a new focus throughout this series, God has spoken to me a lot about how He is the source of these fruits of the Spirit. They are the fruit we bear as we are becoming more like Him. We can love because He first loved us. We can have Peace because He is the source of peace. And so on. So here it is with self-control: we can have self-control because God is in control.
So that’s where we start. Yes, we have free will, but ultimately, if we submit to Him (and this verse is directed at believers), He has control.
Now, let’s look at temptation.
We can look to the first parts of 1 Corinthians 10 to learn about temptation. Paul is writing to the Corinthians, and he uses the example of the Jews fleeing from Egypt to illustrate temptation. I have to admit, when I read Exodus, I was so frustrated with the Jews. God was walking in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night. They had witnessed the parting of the Red Sea and seen the water pour out from rock. God was providing food each morning. They had so much physical proof that God was with them, and still they doubted and questioned Moses. As a result, only 2 of them (Joshua and Caleb) entered the Promised Land.
So Paul is warning us of the terrible consequences of sin. He also writes that these are examples and warnings to us. We will all doubt. We will all be tempted. So developing self-control is a way of dealing with this temptation.
What do we do about temptation?
Our verse this week is in three sentences: No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
The first sentence tells us that we will be tempted, and no temptation is unique. So whatever you are facing, someone else has faced it before.
The second sentence tells us that God will not let us be tempted beyond what you can bear. God knows our breaking points. Yes, he will stretch and challenge us, but He won’t break us.
The third sentence tells us that God will provide a way out. It’s our responsibility to take that way out. That’s where the self-control comes in.
So self-control: recognising that God is in control and taking responsibility to remove ourselves from sin.
I think there’s also a challenge in the first sentence: no temptation is unique. I think we need to start talking about the things that tempt us – if we don’t already – and prayerfully support each other to deal with it.
Next week, Rachel is going to be looking at the following verse: Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control. Proverbs 25:28. Don’t forget, you can always sign up to our Mummy Meditations by popping your details into Rachel’s blog.