Growing in the fruit of the Spirit - Self Control - Minding the Kings
Bible/ Devotion

Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit – Self Control

A guest post on Self Control by, Lisa Quintana

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Self-Control

I’ve greatly misunderstood the Fruit of the Spirit of Self-Control. For years, I’ve prayed to God to give me more self-control because I’ve struggled with my weight and thought if I only had more will power, more self-discipline… as if that is what self-control consisted of: the self. Now I know better.

Jesus told us how to bear “fruit” – outward expressions of a maturing inward character – by remaining connected to Him.

In the Book of John, chapter 15, Jesus said: “I am the Vine and my Father is the gardener” (some versions say: “vineyard keeper”). As Christians, we are the “branches” grafted into God’s family though faith in Jesus, the Son of God. What branch can bear any fruit if it is cut off? None. What branch actually produces more fruit if it is properly pruned? All. Apart from the Vine (Jesus), the branch (believers) will wither and die. It will not produce anything. And this is the metaphor Jesus used to teach His disciples about relationship.

Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit - Self Control - John 15:4 - Minding the Kings

Without putting Jesus first in our lives by fellowshipping with Him through prayer, scripture reading and worship, we will not be able to produce these good things of the spirit – we will fail.

I’ve failed many times in trying to muster up my own self-control, as if it was some kind of will-power—if I just try harder next time!

But now I am wiser for the wear, and know that if I try this in my own power, I will never succeed. I need Christ to succeed with self-control. It’s all about partnering with Him as I journey through the life of the Spirit. Without Him, I am a withering branch. With Him, I am a fruitful branch. It really is that simple.

Implications of Self-Control

Through the grace of God, He has shown me a much deeper, richer understanding of what it means to have the fruit of self-control, and it certainly is not about willpower!

The implications of the fruit of the Spirit of self-control are many. Self-control implies that we have desires we should control instead of satisfy; that there are some impulses which should either be engaged in moderately or not at all. In the Biblical context, 2 Peter 1:6 references self-control within God’s blessing, suggesting that we need to actively add things to our lives in order to grow spiritually: to faith, add knowledge; to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, patience… ending with love being added to all.

Peter mentions that if these things are in us and growing, they will be useful and productive in our knowledge. But if these things are not added to our lives, then Peter says we won’t see clearly—that we are blind and have forgotten that we’re made clean from our past sins.

Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit - Self Control - 2 Peter 1:5-6 - Minding the Kings

In Galatians 5:1, Paul speaks of the freedom found in Christ: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Further on, Paul says: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love,” (v13). Then Paul encourages us to “walk by the Spirit,” not by the Law because the Law symbolizes things we do to look good, or to ‘be right’, on the outside. God is more interested in what is going on inside of us, because from within, all things flow outwardly.

Walking by the Spirit

Right before the list of the spiritual fruits, Paul tells us how to know if we’re “walking by the Spirit”—by what we don’t do: the acts of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21). Then Paul speaks of things we should do, showing we have ‘Spirit-led’ lives: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

The last in this list is self-control.

It is of no coincidence that self-control is the last in the list. Nothing about the Bible is ever random. Everything has a purpose to it, and through prayer and contemplation, the Spirit can reveal the deeper meaning and purpose to everything in the Word.

So, why is the fruit of self-control listed last?

In Proverbs 25:28, it says: “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.”

Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit - Self Control - Proverbs 25:28 - Minding the Kings

Back in Biblical times, cities were fortified by walls around them to protect against invaders and enemies. Without walls, a city would be vulnerable to attack and possibly destroyed. If the city walls were broken through, the invading armies would defeat that city, taking it under their control, or completely ruining the city after the invaders had pillaged it, and then sometimes lighting the city on fire.

Self-control is like a city wall. Without self-control, we too can be vulnerable to attack and end up ruined; a broken spirit. Just like ancient cities couldn’t be safe without intact walls, humans can’t function well without an intact spirit.

Loosing Self-Control

What happens when we lose self-control? We don’t have to look far in the Bible to see who ended up in ruins for lack of self-control. In Genesis 25, the story of twin brothers emerges. Esau was the first born, and thus, due to inherit the traditional birthright. Yet Jacob was born with his hand holding Esau’s heel (foreshadowing). Later as grown men, after a long day out in the field, Esau came in exhausted and very hungry. Jacob had been cooking stew, and Esau, loosing self-control, sells his birthright to Jacob over bread and lentil stew… simply because he was hungry. Esau let his appetite control him.

“Esau’s character is portrayed as that of a careless, shallow man, living from hand to mouth, and paying no regard to things of higher or spiritual significance. It is this trait which is referred to in Hebrews 12:16, “or profane person as Esau, who for one mess of meat sold his own birthright.” The privilege of the birthright was counted as sacred in the social life of the early Israelites. The birthright was Esau’s by God’s gift, not by his own merit. Hence it symbolized eternal blessing. Esau’s repudiation of the unseen and intangible, for the sake of immediate self-gratification, is the symbol of a large proportion of human sin and thoughtlessness.”[1] 

Operating Self-Control

We need look no further than to Christ who exhibits self-control best. Consider the most challenging aspect of His earthly existence: the arrest, trial and crucifixion. During that ordeal, Jesus was the perfect example of one who showed self-control. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, he laid down His life for us, not answering the mockers, not responding to the charges made against Him. He knew what must be done, and He did it with self-control. He could have called down enormous powers at any time against His enemies, but instead, Jesus exercised self-control throughout His earthly ministry.

People Today

In the End Times, Paul warns us in 2 Timothy 3:3 that people will be “without self-control.” That’s happening now. Many seek immediate gratification with little consideration to the “unseen and intangible” things of God. They’ve lost their anchor to the truth, and without it, are being tossed about like ships on a raging sea.

As Christians, it is important to remember that without self-control, your spirit can be vulnerable to ruin. But when we call on the name of the Lord, He will save us, as He is the “Master Builder.” He can help us repair and fortify our “city walls;” to build something spiritually that will withstand attacks.

Jesus expects us to remain in Him and bear much fruit (John 15:4, 8). Through the Holy Spirit, as we are yielded to Him, He can certainly help us develop the fruit of self-control. We need His help to build and sustains us, just as He does with all of creation. Since God’s supreme power established the foundations of the earth (Prov. 3:19; 8:30), He can certainly help ‘build the walls’ of self-control.

What is self-control?

Self-control protects us. It’s the fence that ultimately protects ALL the fruits of the Spirit that God is growing in your life, which is why it’s the last in the list. Defense is necessary to protect us from imbalance. It’s not about willpower. It’s God’s power within us, as we remain in Him.


[1] Cambridge Bible School & College commentary.

Lisa Quintana is a Christian Apologist & blogs at www.ThinkDivinely.com. She’s a former broadcast radio reporter, and left her career to stay home & raise her two children. She homeschooled her son during his middle school years, while earning a Master’s degree in Apologetics at Biola University (Dec. 2017). Now Lisa teaches classes at her church in Madison, and has been happily married for 27-years to the same terrific guy! You can follow on Twitter @LisaQThinks, or Facebook: www.facebook.com/ThinkDivinelywithLisaQ/

Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit - Self Control - mindingthekings.com

8 thoughts on “Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit – Self Control

  1. A wonderful message. I need self control over my eating habits. I love blueberries and you have shown blueberries in your photos. What a great reminder to take care of the body God has provided. 🙂

  2. I love this picture of self-contral as a protective wall. I do battle with sugar control. God is trying to protect me from my urges. Love it! Thanks and God bless!

  3. Excellent post, Lisa! I appreciate how you walked us through the details of self-control and clarified that it’s not about willpower, because our strength is never strong enough. Instead it is the result of abiding in Jesus through daily, through repeated connections in prayer and His Word. Lastly, the analogy of the city wall as a form of protection is a powerful one. I love your conclusion! “Self-control protects us. It’s the fence that ultimately protects ALL the fruits of the Spirit that God is growing in your life, which is why it’s the last in the list. Defense is necessary to protect us from imbalance. It’s not about willpower. It’s God’s power within us, as we remain in Him.” May our surrender to the Holy Spirit bring about the protection of all the other growing fruits of His Spirit! God bless you!

  4. Lisa, this is such fresh insight on self-control. So good and so spot on in our misunderstanding of it as will-power and mustering it up in our own power to be good and to do good. Galatians is one of my favorite New Testament books. Paul talks about freedom and walking in the spirit and if we started out in the spirit, why are we resorting back to the flesh. “Are you foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3, ESV)

    How you brought so many Scriptures into this article and even a biblical story, shows the depth and breadth of your writing. Powerful!

  5. Loved this! Especially the last paragraph where you’ve described what self control is. I had never thought about self control being the protection around all of the other fruits. That’s a thought provoking concept for me. I’ll be taking some time to mull that idea around in my head for awhile I believe!

  6. Lisa, this is the best exposition I’ve ever seen on self control. You have captured it well by bringing all of these significant texts that illustrate it and define it. By combining Paul’s words, Peter’s instructions on spiritual maturity, and Moses’ account, coupled with cultural explanations and definitions, you’ve painted for us a true example of our need for Christ to live a life of self control. You’ve also testified to the character we lack when we do not, when we place transient things ahead of obedience to Christ and controlling ourselves, just as Esau did. This was so convicting and affirming, informative and strengthening. Well done, sister!

  7. This is a much better way to approach self control than willing it into existence, Lisa. Thank you for your study and insight. I love how you brought in so many relevant Scripture passages for a much broader look into this fruit. I definitely struggle sometimes where self control should have won. But the fruit comes from the Vine Keeper, doesn’t it. Thank you, Jennifer, for hosting Lisa and for this series.

  8. What an excellent article, Lisa Q. Thank you. It’s truly amazing that we make it so hard. As if you’d see an apple tree gritting its teeth and grunting, trying to bear fruit! lol But that’s what we tend toward, instead of digging down our roots in His soil, and letting His sun shine on us, His rain fall on us. Should be an easy burden! You’ve provided a lot to chew on here–thanks again!

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