“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.” 2 Peter 1:5-7
Of all of the fruit of the Spirit, the last one Paul mentions in Galatians 5:23, one Peter speaks of in the fruitful growth in faith – that being self-control – can arguably be most challenging for many in thought, word, and deed. Some of us may appear calm, cool, and collected most of the time on the outside, but are live wires on the inside. Our minds and emotions often spin out of control. Some may feel they manage themselves well most of the time, but when their buttons get pushed, that’s another story. Others may struggle with being out of control inside and out. It’s equally as difficult. Reality is that we all struggle in bearing this fruit.
What is self-control? The Greek word for self-control, in verse 6, besides meaning “self-control”, also means “dominion or mastery.” It’s not a self-generated mental, emotional, or physical discipline. It’s not mind over body will-power or determination. The fruit of self-control is the God-given, Spirit-wrought control of our desires, emotions, and actions, especially in difficult situations.
What’s a big problem with a thriving lack of self-control? Proverbs 25:28 describes it well when it says that one without self-control is “like a city broken down, without walls.” Matthew Henry comments, “All that is good goes out, and forsakes him; all that is evil breaks in upon him. He lies exposed to all the temptations of Satan and becomes an easy prey to that enemy; he is also liable to many troubles and vexations; it is likewise as much a reproach to him as it is to a city to have its walls ruined.”
Whatever the struggle looks like in you, however challenging it may be, the Holy Spirit grows you in ways that when considering who you are in yourself and your inability to keep things together, only He can receive the glory when self-control is present and fruitful.
What does self-control look like? When self-control is present, we behave in a manner that is appropriate for the situation. Here are some ways and situations that describe what it looks like:
- It’s saying, “No” to base desires and lusts. It involves the use of moderation and constraint. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5)
- It’s resisting and fleeing from temptation. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
- It looks like our controlling our temper and not blowing up when things don’t go our way. (Ephesians 4:26)
- It’s managing our words, tones, and facial expressions in hard conversations. It’s being quick to disengage from arguments and unhealthy dialogue with your friends, spouse or children. It’s not doing things that provoke your children to wrath. (Ephesians 6:1)
- Self-control is being quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger (James 1:19). We speak up when we need to speak and are quiet when we don’t. Remember Proverbs 10:19 – “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”
- It looks like us ignoring minor mistakes of others instead of trying to prove that we are always right. (Matthew 7)
- Self-control has the mind of Christ and often involves putting the good and interests of others ahead of ourselves. (Philippians 2:3-4)
Notice where Peter puts self-control in the growing fruitfulness of faith, in verse 6. He adds it to knowledge, and builds perseverance on it. Virtue and knowledge, even wisdom are essential to our practice of self-control. Self-control is essential to perseverance as we seek to live consistent, godly lives.
Are there areas where the lack of this fruit in you is clear? Ask the Holy Spirit to bring more of it to bear. It will be a growing and stretching time as He does. As you desire to have more of the fruit of self-control evident in your life, consider what it is and what it looks like in practice. It’s an important part of daily obedient, Christian living before God. It can often be an important means of sharpening, example, and encouragement for your brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s also an important piece of your witness to the watching world.