In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul writes, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
I would venture to say that all of these fruits are very popular today, with one exception: the last one – “self-control.”
Jesus told his disciples that a tree is known by its fruit, i.e.: the way to identify what kind of “tree” (or person) someone is, is by looking at the outward evidences that their life produces. And self-control made the short-list of evidential fruits.
John Stott on Why Self-Control is Essential to Loving Others
“Why do I say that love is balanced by self-control? Because love is self-giving, and self-giving and self-control are complementary, the one to the other. How can we give ourselves in love until we’ve learned to control ourselves? Our self has to be mastered before it can be offered in the service of others.” – John Stott, “A Vision for Holiness”
Self-Control Requires Some Effort on Our Part
Colossians 1:29 describes human effort and divine power working together: “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he (Jesus) powerfully works within me”
In Philippians 2:12-13, Paul tells us that we are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, but then tells us that it is God who works in us to will and to act according to his good purpose.
Drew Dyke, in his book, Your Future Self Will Thank You, describes how God’s power and our effort work together to produce fruit in our lives:
Sanctification is like sailing. Sailors can’t move without the wind, but that doesn’t mean they kick up their feet on the deck and wait to start moving. They’re tying knots, adjusting sails, turning the rudder—all while making sure the boom doesn’t swing across the deck and smack them in the head. Sailing is hardly a passive enterprise—but it’s completely dependent upon the wind. In a similar way, we’re completely dependent on God’s Spirit to make progress. But we’re not passive. Our effort works with God’s power to move us forward.
How to Bring Glory to God
In John 15:8, in the same passage where Jesus tells his disciples that the way to bear fruit is by abiding in Him (and He in them) – Jesus then says this: “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit”
Why should we care about spiritual disciplines and spiritual development? Why should we care about being fruitful? Because it brings glory to God – and this is the very reason we exist! It’s what we were made for!
May the Spirit of God move in us that we would produce the fruit of self-control, and may we be those who work with all the energy that God supplies in order to bear much good fruit that brings God glory!
For more on this subject, see: The Role of Habits in Transformation