One of the greatest paradoxes of the Christian life revolves around the issue of self-control.
It’s something that you are taught about early on in life, because it’s a fruit of the Spirit and teachers love to tell little kids in Sunday School about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. The fruit of the Spirit is easy to conceptualize and a thing like self-control is important to teach to kids who are often very much out-of-control.
But the truth of the matter is, self-control is impossible in and of ourselves. If we want to be more disciplined in our eating habits, or our entertainment choices, or our spending impulses, or in how we handle the our anger, we won’t be able to fully be self-controlled until we are Spirit-controlled.
And here is where we recognize the inherent paradoxical nature of this character quality. Self-control doesn’t come from inside me, it is a fruit of the Spirit! We can try our hardest to fix behaviors, but we won’t find real sustained success until we submit to the Spirit’s control. The Thrid Person of the Trinity must do the work inside us and empower us to change our habits from excessive and sinful, to controlled and godly.
Prayer and an attitude of dependance of God are key. The Spirit will convict us of the areas we need self-control and He’ll also provide the grace and strength we need to stick to our commitments to holy living.
Self-control can’t happen without the Spirit’s control. What a beautiful paradox!