Self-control. Who needs it?


In our day, self-control is the one fruit of the Holy Spirit which seems to be in short supply. I mean, when is the last time you have heard a sermon or read a book in which the main theme was self-control. It really appears to be bottom of the list of being important.We can get very confused by the whole concept. When we are babies one of the first words we all learn is, NO. We learn that if you say it loudly it can be very effective. Say it in a supermarket or restaurant and it is even more effective. Most effective is if you say NO over and over again getting louder and louder. We learn we can exert our own control over a situation with the word, NO. This is not self-control, but it is control. If we are not careful we learn how to control people and situations for our own ends. And it becomes a way of life.

How many of us have worked for people or related to people who we would deem as controlling? They make us feel uncomfortable and we feel manipulated and used for their benefits. The boss who takes the credit for work you have achieved. The boss who puts psychological pressure and guilt on you to work late for no extra pay.

Parents can be controlling of their children, and children can control their parents. But what does the Bible tells us about discipline and self-control?

Discipline is certainly an important biblical concept. There are so many verses about the importance of parents disciplining their children. Some of these injunctions seem to us quite harsh, involving rods and harsh words. Is this not control? Not so, for the very reason that in these instances the control or discipline is for the benefit of the person who is being disciplined. Did Jesus control his disciples? Or did he allow them to make mistakes and then explain to them afterwards what they did wrong? Like when he sent them out two by two and rebuked them to teach them a lesson.

A disciple is someone who is being taught, among other things, to be self-disciplined, or self-controlled. Another name for self-control is maturity. The more we learn to say yes to the things of God and no to the things of the world the more Christ-like we become. Denying the flesh is totally unnatural to us, as we can see everywhere as we look around us. But when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, the battle is engaged and we learn once again the power of the word NO. Only now the order is completely reversed as we say NO to having our own way, and YES to having God’s way.

Finally let us be very careful not to fall into the trap of attributing our lack of self-control to our personality. (Some find it easier to be self-controlled than others.) This is a lie, for we have all sinned and come short of God’s expectations for us. But the fruit of the Spirit is growing in all of us.

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. (Proverbs 25:28)

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