Day 12

Self-Control

from the The Fruit of the Spirit reading plan


Matthew 23:1-28, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, 2 Peter 1:3-11

BY Rebecca Faires

Before the kids woke up yesterday, I read 1 Corinthians 9 aloud to my husband over coffee. We don’t always read Scripture out loud to each other in the mornings. Often, mornings are all about the baby, and the puppy, and the breakfast preferences of the children. (Who hates blackberries? Have you eaten anything other than peanut butter this week?) But when I do read Scripture in the morning, I always end up reading it out loud—because it gets me so emphatically stirred up.

Within this passage, I took a startled pause at verse 27: “I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (1Corinthians 9:27). I shouted to my husband, “Now, that’s not the gospel I know!” He looked at me in alarm because the children were absolutely still sleeping, and said, “I think Paul is talking about his qualifications as an effective minister.” 

The gospel that I know is one of grace and faith, not a gospel of works. The “work” is already done by Christ’s sacrifice, death, and resurrection. There is nothing I can do to make God love me one iota more or one tick less. Hallelujah! Full stop. So how dare Paul talk about disqualification? And his reference to the physical training of the body, makes my sweet, soft, motherly self feel even more uncomfortable. I know that the gates of heaven don’t require me to qualify by running a mile in four minutes. But what does Paul mean? Because I’d like to skip over this bit and get back to the part where God is comforting me and telling me not to be afraid.

But Augustine of Hippo said, “If you believe what you like in the Gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself.” Okay, right. Noted. Those are dark, deep, waters in which I do not wish to swim.  

So what is the role and value of self-control in the life of the believer? It is not the grounds of salvation, but it is the outpouring of a sanctified heart. “Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we have an imperishable crown” (1Corinthians 9:25). The self-control of athletes is laudable. So the Holy Spirit equips us to exercise self-control in our minds and hearts minute to minute as we encounter our days. This self-control is the practical outworking of genuine faith. We run as if to win, because we value the great salvation we already have in Christ—He has already won it for us.

We all know exactly where we can show more self-control: show more restraint, be less controlled by emotions, etc. But it’s probably personal and different for each of us. But I do not have the strength and self-control to pull myself together. If my resolve were strong enough to give up sugar and be a perfect parent, I would have already done it. But our self-control, our qualifications, and our strength come from walking in step with the Spirit. As we walk, our hearts will be changed and the courage and strength to exercise control over our weak and fragile minds and bodies will grow. Walk with the Spirit. Run to Christ and He will make you whole.

Post Comments (47)

47 thoughts on "Self-Control"

  1. Taylor says:

    I knew this study would be full of conviction as I too, like many of you have mentioned, struggle with self-control. Angela Sutherland, I love what you said about surrendering. I need to surrender every aspect of my life to the Lord’s control especially the things I find myself to try to control the most (relationships, my work, money, etc.) Praise Jesus that when we run to Him, He makes us WHOLE! Lord may you grow more self-control in me so that I may walk closer in step with your Spirit and within the comforting embrace of your perfect will for my life <3 Have a blessed weekend sisters!

  2. Danni Blackburn says:

    This is one of those topics that came on exactly the right day at the right time. I’ve been battling sexual addictions for years and have been struggling a lot lately and backslid today. All day, I’ve been angry at God for not taking this thorn away from me and not healing me when I’ve begged but this reminded me that the times I have it under control are the times when I’m consistently seeking dependence on God for it. Walking closer with God provides the courage and strength for self control. I’m not entirely sure what that looks like for me, but I am going to make that my prayer tonight.

  3. Angela Sutherland says:

    I keep seeing the reminder to stop striving by my own strength and just walk in step with the Spirit. Abide. Remain. In being in step with Him, His ability is transferred to me. Self-control doesn’t stem from me “controlling” myself, but surrendering myself to the Spirit! There is absolutely work for me to do in living this out, but it starts with surrender, with being in step with the Spirit, being in the Word and knowing Jesus, not just knowing about Him.

  4. Churchmouse says:

    A month ago I felt myself losing control in such a way that I knew it was from an underlying depression. Winter started for me in March with having to be more isolated because I’m immunosuppressed and have underlying health issues that are concerning especially in the shadow of Covid. I prayed fervently and God nudged me to seek a mental health physician. She started me on medication that helped me see life in a more rational way. I encourage anyone with these types of feelings to consider mental health intervention. You don’t have to buck up, relying on your own will power. It is not a sign of weakness or a lack of faith. Sometimes Jesus healed by spoken words and sometimes He spit in the dirt. God heals spontaneously and He heals through physicians. There is relief and there is hope. I’m so grateful.

  5. Michelle M says:

    Love this!! God does have all we need! ❤️

  6. Patricia Broadway says:

    This one is difficult. I struggle with self control. But it is a good reminder God has all that I need. I just need to focus.

  7. Traci Gendron says:

    It spoke to me when Rebecca said, if you believe what you like in the Gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself. This self-control is the practical outworking of genuine faith. I long for genuine faith. I strive to be more like Christ. Please pray for me as I struggle with the progression of my son’s disease. I am heartbroken and need Christ more than ever.

  8. Dorothy says:

    Much of the time I lack self-control, so this devotion really spoke to me today. Rebecca, thanks, once again you have given me much to think about. I now understand the 1 Corinthians verse a little better.
    SRT sisters have a great day and a wonderful weekend.
    I have enjoyed this study greatly. Can’t wait to start the Christmas study.

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