- Renée Coventry
Self-Control: A Spirit-Filled Life, Day 10
Self-control. SIGH! We all struggle with this, whether it's the ability to manage anger, control our tongues, eat healthier, and the list continues ad infinitum. Because of our obvious need for it, I thought many Scriptures would address this issue. However, the Greek word for "self-control" is used only three times throughout the New Testament, and it means to master one's desires and passions, particularly one's sensual appetites. Its root word means power and dominion, but it is a word New Testament writers exclusively used when referring to the power of God at work in us. Based on this alone, it is apparent that one cannot be self-controlled unless that self is submitted to the Spirit of God.
This phrase is first used in Acts 24, regarding Felix, who had sent for Paul. It records that as Paul "reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid," and he sent Paul away, conversing with him over two years of imprisonment (Acts 24:24-27). No wonder Felix was afraid since Paul grouped self-control with righteousness and judgment. The ability to master one's appetites is vital for a holy child of God and enables us to walk worthy of the calling of Christ before others. I, for one, am thankful that I don't have to learn this in my strength but that the Holy Spirit is within me, convicting, transforming, and refining me. As He develops self-control in me, my role is to exercise it faithfully.
None of the fruit is produced overnight, definitely not self-control. We're all works in progress. Some fruits are more developed in our lives than others. Unfortunately, we have relegated these to Sunday School or Children's Church and don't give them much thought besides a vague recollection of having memorized this verse once. Children often exhibit these characteristics so much better than we do, and the subject is that of transforming an adult jaded by life.
But Paul is not the only apostle to write a list with self-control. Peter did, too. 2 Peter is the only other place the word self-control is used.
"Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 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. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins" (2 Pt. 1:1-9).
Differing only slightly from Paul's, Peter was writing to a different audience. Paul was teaching Gentile believers, while Peter was addressing the believing Jews. Paul writes that they are the fruit of the Spirit, while Peter tells us it is by His divine power. Either way, practicing these things makes it impossible to remain barren. The Spirit is life; if we walk in Him, we will bear fruit. When we fail to bear fruit, Peter indicates that it is a sign of our blindness because we have forgotten that we are to walk as the redeemed of God.
The Spirit-filled life is disciplined, but a discipline that is the natural outworking of delight. When we delight in our heavenly Father, these will naturally come because we are transformed by our time with Him and His children. Walter, my husband, didn't start learning to make my perfect cup of tea in the hopes that he would grow to love me. He mastered it because he already loved me and observed my delight when he took the time. Even so, we can't force the development of self-control into our lives. It will come along with the others as we delight in the Lord and desire to please Him in every aspect of our character.