I recently gave a testimony to our youth group about one of my biggest struggles growing up. To the surprise of many, I used to have a pretty intense anger problem. I was kind of like the Incredible Hulk, except instead of getting big and green I would get a red face and a fat lip.
Self-control is really one of the first gifts that the Holy Spirit gave me. Sure, it wasn’t easy. I spent lots of time in prayer and practicing ways to keep my cool. But with the conviction and power of the Holy Spirit, I eventually became as mellow and “slow to anger” as anyone I know.
Self-control is a pretty obvious term. It means being able to control yourself. Keeping yourself from getting angry. Stopping yourself before giving in to temptation. Being in a state of mind that allows you to do all things in moderation. Self-control is the ability to prevent yourself from doing something you probably shouldn’t do.
While that is pretty much the extent of what we think of as self-control, I have a hard time seeing how that is fruitful. Sure, it prevents you from producing bad fruit or planting bad seeds. It can keep you away from sin. It can even help you set a good example that may bring other people closer to God. Yet, for it to be on this short list of Holy fruit, there has to be more.
Yes, there is more to self-control than just avoiding temptation or over-indulgence. Self-control, when it comes to producing quality fruit, is about being intentional. Self-control is about doing all things on purpose. Even the small things.
How often do you interact with someone or complete a menial task without even thinking? Do you ever make seemingly insignificant decisions without knowing all of the facts?
If you are truly controlling yourself, every action you take will happen because you think it is the right thing to do. Not because you are distracted or not paying attention. Not because the result of your action seems insignificant. And certainly not because it is what you feel like doing.
If we are not in complete control of what we say and do, we are prone to making mistakes because we are lazy, careless, and inconsiderate. Self-control produces fruit because that is what it takes to make righteous decisions. Doing everything intentionally paves the way for justice and purity in every aspect of our lives. In everything you do, do it on purpose with righteous intentions, and you will produce Holy fruit.
Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:25-27 ESV)