Self Control is a Fruit of the Spirit
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Maybe it doesn't sound super spiritually dynamic or exciting, but it needs to be said. Self Control is a fruit of the Spirit! In fact, as we are reading the Gospel of Matthew in our Life Journals this week, it is important to note that in Matthew 5 Jesus gives us detailed instruction on how we not only should control our bodies physically, but also we should control ourselves emotionally. Go read it. Not only should we control ourselves not to murder, we should also control the emotion of anger within us that leads to murder. Not only should we not commit adultery, we should also control feelings of lust and emotions of passion that lead to adultery. Allowing Holy Spirit to bridle and teach us control of our emotions is as, or more, important than learning to develop any gift He may have given to you. Truthfully, without emotional self-control, our gifting’s are typically in danger of being held hostage by how we feel. This is called emotional un-intelligence. Emotional intelligence is understanding that emotions are an important part of who you are created to be, then allowing Holy Spirit to teach you how to relate to your emotions in a healthy way. This is a pivotal part of growing in maturity in your faith. We can neither stuff, or allow our emotions to run wild if we want to walk in the spiritual discipline of self-control.
God has, and reveals emotions all throughout Scripture. Sometimes His emotions cause Him to respond or act toward humanity in a way He had not previously. It’s important to understand that although God may have an emotional response to something in Scripture, His emotions never define who He is or cause Him to violate what He calls truth. His emotions as detailed in Scripture are primarily a way for us to understand how to relate to Him and what He is doing. A form of communication with a humanity that has trouble paying attention to what He is saying.
Why is this important to understand? Well, mostly because we are made in His image. So the first step of emotional self control is understanding that we are created with emotions, because God has emotion.
Unlike God, our emotions have been influenced and oftentimes perverted by the fall of Adam. Still, we can’t bring awareness and self control to something that we pretend does not exist, just like we can’t bring self control to something we allow to control us.
Think of it like this, God created us with arms. Therefore our arms have a divine purpose under the restraint and leadership of the Holy Spirit. If I take my arms and stuff them inside my shirt and pretend they don’t exist, I'm not actually practicing self control. I am just hiding something within myself that I don't understand how to use. In this case as with emotions, stuffing them inside is actually dangerous for my own well being and for the people around me. So I have to first come to grips with the reality that I have emotions. God gave them to me for a divine purpose, I don’t have to hide them. I do need to allow Holy Spirit to teach me how to take control of them. The second step after admitting they’re there and have a purpose is to understand what the purpose is. God has given us emotions for the same purpose He Himself has emotions. Communicating and relating to ourselves, people around us, and of course God.
Yes, that's right. Emotions give us the ability to relate and communicate what unseen issues there are within our souls. Remember our souls are composed of our mind, will, and emotions. When we emote anger, we are usually dealing with an issue that is disrupting our soul. The emotion of anger first lets us and the people around us know there’s an external problem causing an internal disruption. What our minds tell our will to do with that emotion, lies solely within our willingness to allow Holy Spirit to bring us into self control. We can allow that emotion of anger to lead us into an action that does not represent who we are and are created to be. Or, we can allow that anger to lead us into the care of God, who can then lead us into a divine solution that will provide healing for our souls. As with everything, the choice is ours to make, but the consequences are eternal. In a nutshell, emotions are a spotlight into the conditions of our souls. We can allow Holy Spirit to use them to bring them into the healing practice of self control, or they can control us and lead our souls further away from our creator.
So how do we begin the process of inviting the fruit of self control into our emotions. Again, it starts with being honest about what you feel and consciously inviting the work of Holy Spirit into that. You can't invite Holy Spirit into your emotions until you decide your emotions are no longer going to control you. Moreover, you can’t invite Holy Spirit into your emotions if you are stuffing and hiding from them. They are a part of you, and God gave them to you for a divine purpose. Start there. Next, ask Holy Spirit if there are any unhealthy patterns you exhibit because of unhealthy emotional control. If there are, invite Him into that. Allow him to heal and prune anything in your heart that needs his work. Give Holy Spirit time to heal and refine you as He teaches you the powerful discipline of self-control.