Thanks for reading the previous posts on the Fruit of the Spirit (Fruit of the Spirit #1: An Introduction, Fruit of the Spirit #2: It all begins with Love, Part 1, Fruit of the Spirit #3: It all begins with Love, Part 2, Fruit of the Spirit #4: Joy, Fruit of the Spirit #5: Peace, Fruit of the Spirit #6: Patience, Fruit of the Spirit #7: Kindness, Fruit of the Spirit #8: Goodness, Fruit of the Spirit #9: Faithfulness and Fruit of the Spirit #10: Gentleness).
In this final post on the Fruit of the Spirit, I’d like to take a brief look at follows Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness and Gentleness, which is Self-Control.
There were many times in my life where I’ve thought of myself as being weak and not possessing self-control because I didn’t exercise nor demonstrate the strength, ability, fortitude or willpower to eliminate a targeted behavior, fulfill a commitment or keep a resolve that I’ve made to myself, to God or to others.
During those moments I felt like a failure because I didn’t extinguish nor eliminate the behaviors that I intended or purposed to terminate. Usually, darker feelings of toxic shame and self-recrimination followed, often accompanied by my re-engagement in the very behaviors that I was trying to exercise control over! In those moments the Apostle Paul’s words spoken in Romans 7 rung loud and true for me:
v. 15: “I do not understand what I do; for I don’t do what I would like to do, but instead I do what I hate.”
v. 18-19: “…For even though the desire to do good is in me, I am not able to do it. I don’t do the good I want to do; instead, I do the evil that I do not want to do.”
v. 24-25: “What an unhappy man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is taking me to death? Thanks be to God, who does this through our Lord Jesus Christ!”
What a downer! No matter how much I used my energy to self-control or eliminate addictive behaviors in my life, like unwanted weeds, most of the unwanted behaviors kept popping up in the garden of my mind and heart.
Today, I see, exercise, practice and I’m more successful in my endeavors with the Fruit of the Spirit called Self-Control. This is largely because of my established connection with Jesus and because of looking at how this fruit or Self-Control becomes alive in the context and with the practice of the other Fruit, just as it has always been intended to be seen and practiced. I wish it hadn’t taken me so many years to figure this out, but here’s what I learned and what I’d like to offer to you for your consideration about this fruit.
Practice makes “perfect”
When you think of this Fruit, Self-Control (Kratos), try to picture yourself as someone who possesses the mental and physical strength and ability where you’re capable of producing positive results for any situation that you’re involved in. What comes to mind is the picture of an athlete, who has engaged in specific, deliberate and intentional training processes, planning and execution, over and over in order to overcome his or her challenge.
To be more specific, think of the Pole Vaulter when you think of the practical application of Self-Control. In order to clear the height where the bar is placed (which represents the successful demonstration of Self-Control), the athlete literally and through his or her training implements step-by-step strategies when approaching the bar. These step-by-step strategies represent the continuous “practice” of the of the previous eight Fruit of the Spirit, over and over again, as the Holy Spirit “coaches” us regarding when, how and where to demonstrate Love, or Peace, or Patience, or Gentleness at the right time to effect the right outcome with the right person. Practicing this behavior over and over again helps us to clear the bar, which is analogous to achieving Self-Control.
I’ve never looked at the application of Self-Control this way, but it seems so simple and it makes a lot of sense when the practice of Self-Control is viewed as the product at the end of a growth process (which is what fruit is anyway). But there are two very important points that need to be considered as we think about the successful application of the fruit of Self-Control.
First, we only pull this off due to our connection with Jesus and our connection with the Holy Spirit. In my past, I often read “Self” into “Self-Control,” which led me to think I had to conjure up the power and strategies in order to be successful with the elimination of unwanted or addictive behaviors in my life. I suspect I’m probably not the only person who’s harbored this philosophy and practice when thinking about and trying to be successful with the practice of Self-Control.
Today, I realize that I’m only successful if I rely upon the power that comes from being connected to Jesus, who gives this to me without limitation (John 15:4-5). This is the only way I’ll produce fruit! My efforts alone are destined to produce something that may resemble fruit but is not the sweet, beautiful, authentic and edifying fruit that Jesus intended to be produced in and through me (Ephesians 2:10).
Remember, as with all eight of the Fruit of the Spirit, and especially with the Fruit of Gentleness, we’ll need to be tapped into His power to feel it in our veins, soul and spirit, which enables us to hear His instructions regarding what steps to implement so that one of the resulting outcomes is the successful production and demonstration of Self-Control. Being endowed with His insight and His ability to produce specific and fruitful behaviors that are right for any occasion makes us “game changers” for the situations that we’ll encounter.
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13)
Second, we need to remember that the best defense is a good, if not great offense. Since I was focused on using my power and my effort to reduce or eliminate changes, versus using my power (God’s power) to produce fruit, which produces edifying and wanted changes, I was destined to fail even on the best of my days!
I was literally using my power the wrong way. God’s power is simply to be used to produce the previous eight fruit. With His help, when produced over and over again, we gain a proficiency and competence every time we plant then deliver these characteristics from the soil of our brain and our heart. This is the natural progression of any seed (or value) that’s planted: growth, maturity and fruitfulness.
When this is done, we’ll naturally (or supernaturally since Jesus is in involved) experience the ninth fruit, Self-Control. Think about it. If practiced on a continuum where God is the Leader, Author and Director of my steps and the Provider of the power to produce the fruitful behaviors where the previous eight Fruit of the Spirit are thoughtfully integrated into any of my encounters as John 15 indicates, then the outcomes, more than not are going to be good.
Could you imagine how the practice of Love and Patience could lead you to eliminating hatred and impatience with others? If practiced in this manner, then Self-Control is an outcome because with God’s help and direction, we’re using our mind and our strength to produce positive outcomes with others. How about practicing Kindness and Gentleness when someone is rude and boorish toward you? Again, your response, prompted by Jesus’ desire to produce His character in and through you, leads to the end product of Self-Control.
I hope this makes sense to you because the focus on the production of the fruit of Self-Control doesn’t have to be more complicated than this. I’d like to pass along two final comments as we close this post and series on the Fruit of the Spirit:
First, the question that I’ll always be faced with every day and throughout the day is “how will I use my energy” and “how will I live?” I realize that God grants me the energy and strength along with the knowledge and insight to skillfully apply my knowledge in life situations to positively help human beings as I encounter them. As mentioned earlier, the application of knowledge, or doing the right thing, at the right time to effect the right outcome, as led by God, equates to the production of fruitfulness in my being and fruitfulness in my behavior wherein Self-Control is possible because of God fulfilling His work in and through me.
Finally, another simple yet profound outcome that occurs when I live to produce the Fruit of the Spirit is that the “works of the flesh” takes a serious hit because everyday and throughout the day I’m open to learning how to live as guided by God.
This means that the very behaviors I was trying to eliminate by the operation of my own strength are naturally (and supernaturally – Holy Spirit) reduced because of my connection to the Vine (John 15) and because of the purpose, function and outcome implicit with the production and demonstration of the Fruit of the Spirit. I think this is part of the joy that the Apostle Paul was referring to in Romans 7:25 when he proclaimed “who will rescue me from this body that is taking me to death? Thanks be to God, who does this through our Lord Jesus Christ!”
So there it is and thanks for giving the Fruit of Self-Control a closer look. I understand the function of Self-Control to be the fruitful and end result of the process of being connected to God, where my active participation is to be open to the pollination, implantation and production of His process to produce fruit inside of me for my own edification and empowerment as well as to be offered for the edification and empowerment of others.
As I write this, and when I consider my life and how I purpose to use the energy that God has gifted to me, I hear Jesus’ words spoken in Matthew 25:40 – “…that whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
My encouragement to you is to focus on using your energy to positively impact humanity by practicing Love and the remaining Fruit of the Spirit. I dare say that this is the best use of our collective energy for mankind. May God richly bless your efforts to “clear the hurdle” and experience Self-Control as you are being fruitful in all you do with whomever you encounter!
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