Picture a tug-of-war contest. Two sides struggle against each other, straining to gain control. Can both sides win? Of course not—that’s the nature of the game. In this devotional the battle between obeying God or indulging our flesh. It’s a high-stakes struggle with only one winner. But as children of God we’re not left on our own—with the Holy Spirit on our side, we’re each equipped with self-control.
Is there any area of your life that is out of control? Perhaps it’s finances, moral issues, relationships, attitudes, habits, gossip, or laziness.
A lack of self-control in any part of our lives does not
surrender to Him so that His Spirit can produce in us the
fruit of self-control.
If we are in a tug of war with God for control over our
lives, we’ll experience tension, stress, and unhappiness
because we are at odds with Him. Anytime we let our
desires and impulses rule our lives, there will be no rest,
peace, or joy.
Do you struggle with any of these desires?
Acceptance by others. How powerful is the need for
acceptance in your life?
Being loved by others. Is this a motivating factor in your
Pleasure. Are you dominated by whatever is fun or
makes you feel good at the moment?
Wealth and security. Are these a priority in your life?
Achievement. Has a healthy desire to excel become
competitive and out of control?
Notoriety or fame. Do you seek prestige without
considering the cost?
Happiness. What will you do or become in the pursuit of
Personal attractiveness. Are you consumed with a
desire to look better than others?
Control. Do you long to control other people or be in
positions of power and authority?
Self-acceptance. Are you discontent with yourself and
how God made you?
The Flesh Versus the Spirit
Self-control is thinking before acting and seriously
considering the possible results. It is one aspect of the
fruit of the Spirit that stands in contrast to the deeds of
The Deeds of the Flesh. “Now the deeds of the flesh
are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,
idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts
of anger, disputes, dissentions, factions, envying,
drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which
I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those
who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of
God” (Gal. 5:19-21).
This is a list of actions that are not from the Spirit but
from the fleshly sin nature. The warning is given that
those who practice these sins will not see heaven.
This isn’t talking about having committed them in the
past or occasionally failing to resist temptation in one
of these areas.
The word practice is the key to an accurate
understanding of this passage. To practice means
to make it a consistent habit, a lifestyle, or an identity.
Those who do this are most likely not true Christians
because no one who still lives continually in sin is
The Fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit
is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).
These are attitudes that result from the Holy Spirit’s
work within those who have trusted Jesus as Savior
and Lord. The people with these characteristics stand
in stark contrast to the society around them because
these are Christlike attributes. There are places they
will not go, activities in which they will not participate,
and things they won’t watch because to do so would
not fit who they are in Christ.
All who have genuinely been saved turn their backs
on sin. Although this doesn’t mean they will never sin,
their old lifestyle has been renounced. They are now
committed to being obedient to the Lord and walking in
His ways, not in the deeds of the flesh. As they yield to
the Holy Spirit within them, He produces His fruit that is a
reflection of Christ and a blessing to them.
The battle comes when those of us who are believers
want to do what’s right but feel something pulling us in the
other direction. The only way to break this tension is to
surrender to the Lord by confessing and turning from sin
and yielding control of our lives to God. If we refuse to do
this, we’ll become more enslaved to that sin and miss out
on the blessings and rewards of obedience.
It may seem impossible to give up an enslaving sin, but
it’s not if we have the Holy Spirit within us. He empowers
us to turn away from it and surrender ourselves to God.
When the Spirit has control of our thoughts and actions,
then we’ll be able to think before we act and have the
willingness and strength to follow God’s will for our lives.
The Key to Self-Control
Self-control requires that we think before we act. If we
fail to do this, we will regret it later.
We must have a strong desire to obey God. If we don’t,
we are not going to overcome the inner battle with sin or
live a godly lifestyle.
We must believe in our hearts that the Holy Spirit who
lives within us will enable us. The evil condition of our
society need not overpower us because we do not fight
this battle alone. The Spirit will provide the enablement
so we can renounce sin and live in submission to Him.
When we are tempted to yield to sin, we
should ask ourselves the following questions:
How will this affect me spiritually?
How will this affect me financially?
How will this affect my health?
How is it going to affect how others see me? Will they
see someone who is truly committed to the Lord or
someone who claims to be a Christian but doesn’t live
like one? Is the fruit of the Spirit evident in my life all day,
Is this better than having God’s best for my life?
Don’t be deceived.
A life spent walking in the Spirit and bearing His fruit is not
always easy, but it’s God’s best plan for us. Furthermore,
serious and painful consequences await us if we yield to
sin. Paul warns us about this in Galatians 6:7: “Do not be
deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows,
this he will also reap.” To claim Christ as Savior and then
live as we please mocks God and results in a future painful
harvest of what we’ve sown. But to live in obedience to
the Lord produces a great crop of righteousness and the
fruit of the Spirit in us.
In what part of life do you lack self-control? Why is it so
difficult for you to surrender this to the Lord?
Think about the areas in which you have already
relinquished control to God. What has been the result?
How would remembering God’s faithfulness in the past
help you yield even more of your life to Him today?