But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. There is no law against things like this.
In the life of a Christian, the spiritual fruit of self-control can best be thought of as the inward strength to bring all physical appetites under the control of the Holy Spirit. In placing self-control as the last on his list of the fruit of the Spirit in verse twenty-three, St. Paul takes us back to where he began in verses sixteen and seventeen, where he writes:
Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.
When we become a believer, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit begins the work of transformation by making us aware of those places in our lives where we are not yet loving, patient, kind, generous, faithful, nor gentle. In making us aware of what God desires for our lives the Spirit is opposing the desires of the flesh. In each instance we are faced with a choice, to gratify the desires of the flesh or to surrender in obedience to the inner prompting of the Holy Spirit. This is the work of discipleship.
The inner strength of self-control grows through the daily exercise of responding in obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit. At the same time, when we exercise self-control in a particular area of weakness in our lives, we allow the Holy Spirit to continue growing the fruit that will replace it. If for example, we struggle with anger. We know the more we give into anger the more it will grow in our lives. As we begin to confront anger through the prompting and power of the Holy Spirit, we find that anger’s power in our lives is diminished and that over time we gain the inner strength to resist it, until the day it is finally overcome. In its place we discover that the Spirit has been working to replace anger with love, gentleness, and kindness.
We have all experienced that this is much easier said than done. We know that the struggle is real, and each one of us has places in our lives where it may feel like the struggle cannot be won. It’s here that we are called to trust in the promise and provision and power of God. If God has given us the Holy Spirit, we can trust that God has given us everything that we need to overcome. In those places in our lives where we always seem to lose control of ourselves and fail, God has provided the grace for us to get up and to try again. Our work as disciples is to remain faithful even when we fail. To continue to run the race, in the power, and love, and grace of our God.
God Bless You!