I struggle with self control. I can fake the other aspects of the fruit of the Spirit until they actually become part of my DNA but I can’t fake self control. It’s hard to turn down dessert (or a second piece of dessert). It’s hard not to purchase more than what I have on my shopping list at Costco. It’s hard to stay sexually pure until marriage. It’s hard not to share information about someone when others around you are gossiping. It’s hard to be self controlled.
All summer long, I’ve been dreading writing about self control. I considered aborting the Fruit of the Spirit series because I didn’t have anything to write – at least not by experience. In hindsight, it seems crazy how I let my thoughts go wild and draw me downward. I have personal testimony of the other aspects of the fruit of the Spirit, I know I’ve developed and matured. In fact, this week a high school friend texted me, “you are probably one of the most changed person since high school and now probably one of the most fulfilled person.” I have testimonies in other areas but I fail miserably with self control.
I was down about it until the Lord, who is my biggest cheerleader, asked, “What about when you stopped smoking (10 years ago)? Isn’t that self control?” And I looked at the area he was talking about and I conceded he had a point. Then he said, “And what about changing your eating habits? Isn’t that self control too?” Suddenly I had two areas where I had self control. If I have testimony in one area, then I can use that testimony until I see it again in another area. A testimony offers hope it can be replicated again.
As my thinking became clear again, I realized there are other areas I have self control – saying no to watching popular movies or TV because it violates my values, or getting up early to spend time with the Lord. Especially that last one - I was never a morning person but my desire for the Lord was greater than my desire for sleep so I became self controlled and disciplined in getting up early. Now, like the other aspects of growing in the fruit, it’s become part of my DNA – sleeping until 7am is sleeping in. I start my day with the Lord, not some days, but every day.
The Lord also spoke to me about the truth of the fruit of self control. It’s not oppressive - only focussed on what I can’t do, or shouldn’t do. It’s the pursuit of something greater and no longer thinking there is no other option, that the temptation is too great, or that I am what I am and I won’t change. It is freedom to say no (or say yes) to things that give and sustain life. Self control is free from addictions, free from strongholds, free from being a slave to sin.
Self Control is not merely being strong-willed and self-disciplined. It is a fruit of the Spirit, therefore it’s heavenly in nature. We have grace for it, if we ask for it. Ask for it, and ask God to give you your own testimony. He is faithful and he will do it.