But the fruit of the Spirit is... self-control - Galatians 5:23
How many times have you said to yourself, "if only I had more self control?" I figure I would be one of the richest women alive if I had a gold coin for every time someone thought that. Self control, or self discipline can be a tough thing to embrace and develop, particularly when the opposite, giving in, is so easy.
So what is self control? Although there are multiple theories about it, the scientific research suggests that it is like a muscle - capable of being depleted with repeated use, but also capable of being strengthened with repeated exercise.
Think about it. During the day you are going to use self control hundreds of times. From getting out of bed, to getting dressed, actually working from home rather than napping, to reading the bible, praying to God and doing a workout at night. And since it is like a muscle, towards the end of the day, it can get tired. For example, research has consistently shown it is much easier to do a workout in the morning than in the evening because you have more self control. But we also know that while in the short term using the muscle fatigues it, in the long term the more you use it the stronger it becomes. That's why it is so hard to break a bad habit at first, but gets easier with time.
How do we build self control? Well, since it is like a muscle, practice strengthens it. So yes, not eating that last Tim Tam is hard the first time. But it gets easier the second and third and fourth. Or maybe the 32nd, or 33rd, or 34th! Furthermore, Since, like a muscle, it can also get depleted, we need to be intentional in taking away opportunities to deplete it unhelpfully - i.e. that don't put you in a position of temptation in the first place (the bible advises us to "flee" temptations - 2 Tim 2:22). But how do we do this through the power of Holy Spirit?
Well, have you thought of the bible and prayer, church and regular meaningful connection with other believers, as strength training? Holy Spirit self-control strength training? Well, that's exactly what it is. You want to get strong, God kind of strong. Turn up. Train. Regularly. Build those muscles. In the power of the Holy Spirit. Even when we are not in the mood, turning up and putting in, relying upon the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us, is strength training that will build long term Holy Spirit powered self-control in us.
When I think of examples of self-control and temptation, I often compare how Adam and Eve responded to Satan's temptation to how Jesus responded. Adam and Eve were tempted by the Fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 3), and eventually ate the fruit, bringing sin into the world. On the other hand, Jesus (having just fasted for 40 days in the desert) was tempted three times by Satan, and using the word of God was able to resist temptation (E.g. Luke 4).
So as we finish this series, think about what aspect of the fruit of the Holy Spirit you need to work on. Do you need to be more loving, joyful or peaceful? Should you be acting with patience, kindness or goodness? Do you need to demonstrate more faithfulness or gentleness? Or do you just need self control? May God grant you the grace and power you need in the Holy Spirit as you turn up and regularly strength train in the places and with the people He calls you to.
-Written by Ashleigh Crosilla.