When I’ve asked people what is the number one fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) they struggle with, I usually am told self-control. Everyone wishes they could take back that destructive thing they said or some action that caused another pain.
“I just couldn’t help myself” is a phrase that needs to be retired by Christians. Self-control is not an elusive and imaginary fruit only achieved by the best of the best Christians. It is to be present in the life of every believer. It really isn’t self-control we are lacking. It is Spirit-control. We must allow the Holy Spirit to have His way in our lives in our thoughts, actions, and words.
Proverbs 25:28 says, “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” Possessing self-control is having a fortified wall around your life that keeps you from sinning. Without this fortification you’ll be destroyed. The real key to obtaining more of any of the fruits of the Spirit is to spend time learning from and submitting to the Spirit. After all, it is a fruit of the Spirit. You will be tempted to do the wrong thing but you don’t have to give into that temptation and sin. You’ll never grow in a fruit of the Spirit if you never spend time in the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “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 of escape so that you can endure it.” I was in our church bus recently and noticed an emergency escape hatch in the roof, one on each side window, and one on the back door. If something bad ever happened, I’ll know how to get out because I’ve prepared. I’ve done that with our home, camper, and hotel rooms. Why not do it with temptation? Think about that situation you always wish you had more self-control in. What is the escape plan? You must think about an escape plan before you get into it again. The same holds true for anger, lying, gossiping, or any other sin.
You must practice what you wish to become. If you desire to be a person that is less angry you must put steps into place and scriptures in your hearts and mouths that will help you overcome anger. If you don’t do anything different to change you can expect to be out of control the next time becoming angry presents itself. Your motivation to achieve self-control must come from a motivation to please God and become more like Christ or you’ll fail. No fleshly, human effort will please God or result in becoming more like Him. It’s a work He does in you as you allow Him open access to all of your life and you submit to His teachings, promptings, and correction. In 1 Corinthians 9:25 Paul says, “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” You must practice what you wish to become — practice the presence of the Lord by spending time with Him submitting to allowing Him to teach, rebuke, correct, and train you in His Word and ways.
Stephen Harrison is the senior pastor of Family Church at White Hall.
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