Self-control, generally speaking, is the ability to regulate emotions in a difficult situation. Psychologists would say it’s the ability to manage impulses. There are web sites devoted to self-control. They offer tips or strategies on how to develop this skill. Self control in the Bible is a gift from God for believers.
An old man was talking to his young friend, trying to share some of life’s challenges. He told him events in his life and selected a few of them to pass on. Then he was hoping the young one will heed the warning and avoid the calamity that surely will follow.
He talked of those events, including the details of his thoughts and emotions. At one point he paused and said, “You know, I’ve always been my worst enemy because I just couldn’t control myself.” That statement is usually followed by, “If I only knew then what I know now.”
The Bible references self-control as something which the Holy Spirit helps us with:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23
We are not wired for self-control
Humans are not necessarily wired for self-control, so how would self-control be considered a fruit of the Spirit? That’s simple. Also, self control in the Bible show us that because we are not able to fully control ourselves, we are in need of help—God help, not self-help.
In the first chapter of his second letter, Peter explained the power of self-control that God, through His Holy Spirit, shares with us in saying:
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. If you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Self-control in the Bible is part of God’s divine nature
Peter talked of participating in the divine nature. We receive this opportunity. The divine nature is shared. It does not belong to us. The Messiah Jesus came to earth as a man and gave up His divine power. His works were based on the power of the Holy Spirit, not His own power.
Also, Peter was a first-hand observer and understood this power source that is available to all believers through the Holy Spirit. Also, Peter himself experienced Holy Spirit power in his own ministry. He was the one disciple who was always ready for a fight and displayed intemperate behavior at times. Then, over time, he learned self-control by the gentle guidance of Christ. We are no different.
Self control in the Bible shows us how to gain control
Paul writes in Titus 2:2:
“It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,”
Everyone values self-control
Secular writings teach us the value of self-control. In the famous poem “If” Rudyard Kipling wrote:
“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you….and if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too;
“Also, If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, or being hated, don’t give way to hating,…
“Finally, if you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,..Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”
Kipling’s description of earthy wisdom pales in comparison to the self-control and wisdom that God offers, but his famous poem helps us understand. So much more self-control in the Bible through the workings of the Holy Spirit, to help us become more like Christ.