Galatians 5:19-23 | Proverbs 5:22-23 | Proverbs 16:32

Please don’t binge-read this. 

“Self-Control–it’s so much fun!” Have you heard anyone say that? (Don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen…)

Fun sounds more like this: “I couldn’t get enough!” “It’s addictive!” “That was insane!” This makes it easy to think that fun means abandoning your self-control and going wild, going nuts, getting crazy, letting it all hang out, etc. But we need to remember that human nature is sinful, and needs to be kept under control.

The apostle Paul tells us (in Galatians 5:19-21) that when we follow the desires of our sinful nature the results are immorality, hostility, envy, drunkenness, outbursts of anger, and more. Do those sound fun? 

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! 

(Galatians 5:22-23 NLT) 

Two thousand years have passed since Paul wrote this, and there are still no laws against these things–because they are unmistakably good. And while the first eight items have found a wider audience (with the possible exception of faithfulness), self-control is just not high on most people’s Must-Have List.

Think about it: If you tell a friend you spent the weekend binge-watching three seasons of The Radioactive Vigilante, what would they do? They would probably recommend another show for you to binge-watch! Because the idea of not giving yourself something you want seems constrictive to most people.

The truth is that self-control is not about constraint; it’s about freedom. (Did that just blow your mind?) Self-control gives you freedom!

An evil man is held captive by his own sins;

    they are ropes that catch and hold him.

He will die for lack of self-control;

    he will be lost because of his great foolishness.

(Proverbs 5:22-23 NLT)

Your sins are like ropes that hold you captive. But self-control can keep those ropes off of you. Therefore, wouldn’t you agree that gaining self-control is a worthwhile pursuit? Self-control is a valuable thing to have.

Better to be patient than powerful;

    better to have self-control than to conquer a city.

(Proverbs 16:32 NLT)

If it makes it more fun for you, think of self-control as a hidden treasure. Only it is not buried beneath layers of dirt somewhere requiring a map and a square-rigged sailing vessel to find. It is buried beneath layers of misconception and misguided wants somewhere requiring God’s Grace, the Holy Spirit, and a willingness to acquire it. 

Have fun finding that treasure!

Questions for Group Discussion

  • Why isn’t self-control cool? Is self-control a good conversation topic at parties? Does it seem a little outdated? Who appreciates self-control most? Who is repulsed by it?
  • Is self-control always about NOT doing something? If so, when is it not?
  • When has self-control worked in your favor? What were the long-term effects of that situation? What would have been the effects of that scenario otherwise?
  • How does self-control provide freedom in the example of Proverbs 5?
  • How is self-control a gift from the Holy Spirit? Doesn’t it seem more like a burden? Why can’t we just do what we want?

Adjusting the Controls: Application

What can we do to gain self-control? How can we grow spiritually?

There are plenty of articles online sporting handy lists of suggestions for developing self-control. (…Like making your bed every morning–your Mom and roommates will love you for it!) On the other hand, some sources believe that self-control is a finite resource that should be simultaneously cultivated and conserved. (‘Saying no to dessert could result in excessive Internet roaming.’) Who is right?

Consult the Bible: read 2 Peter 1:3-11 and answer the questions below for yourself.

  • If we know God, what do we lack that is required to live a Godly life? (verse 3)
  • To share God’s nature, what do we need to escape, and what is its cause? (verse 4)
  • What do you think verses 5-7 mean? (Pray about this one. Ask God for an understanding of the process, an image of what is being described, and enlightenment from the Holy Spirit.)
  • What do you think is the difference between “brotherly affection” and “love for everyone” (in verse 7, as quoted from the NLT)?
  • What kind of growth is being described in verse 8 and what is the outcome of such growth?
  • What is the ultimate reward for becoming Godly as described in this passage? (verse 11)