“This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
2 Timothy 1:6-7 (NLT)
Self-control is an attribute of our Creator that Jesus exemplified in His life and that Paul strongly exhorts us to exercise in ours…and I stink at it. Just ask any carton of Breyers Rocky Road ice cream. I got this bowl that’s so deep I literally can put half the carton in it. Sometimes, when I’m really lacking any sense of self-control, I gotta add a smattering of Hershey’s Chocolate syrup and finish it off by slapping a sloppy dollop of Cool Whip on the whole gooey mess. So, when I told my cardiologist about this (and my deep affection for bacon) he read me the riot act and now I afford myself the luxury of half of the ice cream half the time when I can’t control my appetite for Breyers Rocky Road ice cream.
When you’re cruising through Galatians sometime, make a stop at verses 5:22-23 and you will notice that self-control is last on the list of fruits of the Spirit, BUT it doesn’t make it the last fruit we attain. In the Greek it’s the word ENKRATEIA which means “possessing power, strong, having mastery or possession of, continent, self-controlled.” Folks who can do this self-control thing seem to carry the notion of having good common sense, sober wisdom and soundness of mind. Self-control is a practical application to their everyday life and when used in the Bible, though not extensively, self-control is an implication of obedient, submissive, sinless living. Guess the Greeks didn’t have to contend with a big bowl of Breyers Rocky Road ice cream, did they? Anyway…
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” — 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
When I look at this passage of Scripture, I see two things coming together in perfect unity. Self-discipline and self-control become one in the same because basically they are. You can almost visualize the object lessons coming into full picture. You can get a sense of the extreme tension, strenuous effort and the spending of energy that is the athlete straining for the finish line in the hope of receiving that prize. This is a cool illustration to express what the Christian life is about. It as if Paul is saying, “This is the way to run if we wanna attain our potential.” This intense focus and steady concentration takes an awful lot of self-control to master.
Isn’t it hard to imagine a Christian preparing for the Kingdom of God, who doesn’t strive for a resolute and continual amount of self-control and self-discipline? Isn’t it the world that allows themselves to dive right into their own passions, tastes and desires unbridled freedom to be their expresses of having a fulfilled life? Paul makes this reminder in Galatians, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” (Galatians 5:17) For anyone who wanted contrast, there ya go.
We need to have a certain amount of self-control in our everyday lives because blind passion ain’t meant to be our guide, Jesus is. Adam and Eve may have established a pattern for mankind to live by, but we’re all following it just the same. It isn’t until our conscience gives us a tap and says, “Waddup wit dat action, Jackson?” that we realize we’re falling short and need Jesus to take things over, at least if we claim to be His. We gotta trust Jesus to give us that dose of Holy Spirit so that “thorn in the flesh” doesn’t remain a stumbling block in the path of the race.
I don’t know how you slice your fruit of self-control, but as for me, thinking it okay to bury it under a mound of Breyers Rocky Road ice cream so it’ll taste better just don’t cut it. Besides, you win no crown for the Kingdom in doing so. Amen?
Written by Chris Hughes: Chris is a husband, a father, has an education in Biblical doctrine and is a graduate of the Colony of Mercy. He has been a Freedom Fighter contributor since 2008. You can e-mail him at email@example.com.
Think About This: “The Christian gospel is a message of freedom through grace and we must stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. But what shall we do with our freedom? The Apostle Paul grieved that some of the believers of his day took advantage of their freedom and indulged the flesh in the name of Christian liberty. They threw off discipline, scorned obedience and gods of their own bellies.” – A.W. Tozer