My last post dealt with the “forgotten” fruit of the Spirit, self-control; how it is often neglected, confused with legalism, or thought to be simply a matter of personal will-power. Yet self-control is actually a natural result of walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)–being led and controlled by the indwelling Christ rather than by our own fleshly efforts.
Self-control is a virtue stressed throughout the New Testament, and we neglect it to our own peril. Consider a few of the consequences of disregarding it. Without self-control:
1) We are unable to pray effectively (1 Peter 4:7). Peter exhorts us to be alert, clear-minded and self-controlled “so that we can pray.” Why would a lack of self-control hinder our prayers? Think about it. When I am focused on indulging my flesh, whether by stuffing my face with more than my body needs, or any number of other ways, the last thing I am interested in doing is praying. After drugging myself with food, or whatever, I am sluggish and despondent. I have no energy for focused and effective Spirit-led prayer. By the way, fasting has the opposite effect, as it facilitates and empowers prayer. But that is a topic for another post!
2) We become easy prey for the enemy (1Peter 5:8-9). In this passage, Peter draws a clear association between our self-control and our vulnerability to the evil one. Again, when I am intent on indulging my flesh, my defenses are down. I become oblivious to the enemy’s efforts to deceive, entrap, and devour me. How can I remain vigilant, strong in the armor of God, and able to stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:11-18) if I am busy gratifying my flesh? I believe the enemy is well aware of this, which is why he is constantly trying to distract us and lure us into a self-indulgent flesh-life.
3) We seriously compromise our usefulness and example in this world. Paul clearly lays out the qualities that should characterize God’s people as we seek to lead and teach others (Titus 1:7-8, 2:2,4,6), and self-control is not optional. It is a necessary quality for elders, for men and women young and old who seek to minister to others. Self-control simply cannot be ignored if we are serious about walking in a way that pleases God and edifies those around us.
Without the Spirit’s fruit of self-control we forfeit so much—effective prayer, victory over the enemy, our positive impact and example for others, our overall usefulness in God’s hands. We effectively strip ourselves of the power that is ours in Christ. Isn’t it time we give our full attention to this “forgotten” fruit and allow the Holy Spirit to produce self-control in our lives?