The Power of Self-Control

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age.” (Titus 2:11-12)

Think about these statistics:

    • 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February.
    • 95% of dieters fail to lose weight or gain it back within five years.
    • 63% of gym memberships go completely unused.

The list goes on and on. We humans are a self-indulgent bunch. We know we should eat healthier, but we still have that chocolate doughnut. We know we should exercise, but we can’t resist a Netflix binge. We lose our tempers. We lose our patience. Our flesh cries out for things we know we don’t need. It pushes us to do what we know we shouldn’t do. And often we give into its demands.

It happens in our spiritual life as well. We know we need to spend time in prayer or reading our Bible. We know we should serve at church and share the message of Jesus with others. We know we should be kind, loving, gentle and faithful. But still, we often fail. In the words of Jesus, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

The problem is our sinful nature. Romans 7:18-19 says, “And I know nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.” Because of our sinful nature, we naturally want to do what is wrong and to not do what is right.

Clearly, we need some self-control—some powerful self-control. The kind of self-control that can’t be attained through our own effort. This kind of self-control only comes through the power of the Holy Spirit. We don’t need more willpower; we need more Holy Spirit power.

Here’s the glorious good news: “But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit…” (Romans 8:9). If we have accepted Jesus as our Savior,  the Holy Spirit lives in us. The Holy Spirit changes how we think. If we give the Holy Spirit freedom in our lives, he enables us to live in a way that pleases God. The Spirit transforms our mind and our thoughts. He leads us to spiritual life, peace, and self-control.

If we’re trying to develop self-control on our own, we’re fighting a losing battle. Self-control is a fruit produced in our lives by the Holy Spirit. As we lean into the leading of the Spirit, our self-control grows, and we see our lives become more and more pleasing to God.

Heavenly Father, apart from you there is no goodness in me. My sinful nature continuously draws me toward that which I know I should not do. On my own, I lack the self-control to live a life pleasing to you. Father, help me yield my thoughts and my actions to the Holy Spirit so I develop the kind of self-control you want me to have. I want to do what is right. Help me do what is right by filling me with self-control that comes from the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’s name, amen.