It is allowing the Holy Spirit exercise restraint over our natural impulses, emotions and desires such that our flesh is subdued and our Spirit is heightened.
Self Control is Control of Self
The self we refer to here is the selfish tendencies that want to grant pleasure to our flesh and human desires. You might ask why is this bad? After all God has given us this human desires because we are human. But the title verse states that not everything we have the right to do, or that our human bodies desires is essential beneficial for us. More than that we know that our spiritual nourishment is of way more importance than being able to boast about our natural exploits;
Philippians 3:3 (ESV) "For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—"
Self Control goes beyond the usual suspects in terms of controlling our sexual desires and appetites’. It also involves an over indulgence in luxurious items that can cause our spiritual antenna to become weakened. Things like food, an overindulgence in social media, in attention, in buying material possessions, in our anger/emotions or in anything else that seems to have an unhealthy control over us.
Soldiers and Athletes exercise Self-Control
If we use the analogy of a soldier on duty, who cannot engage in certain things that everyone else does and must discipline themselves in order to be sharp and ready for duty. On a less serious note, let’s consider the professional athletes like NBA players, someone like Lebron James has been in the NBA League for close to 20 years, has to be incredibly disciplined with how he spends his time, the type of foods he eats, the activities he engages with and the content he consumes. He must exercise intense self-control in times such as the NBA playoffs which consequently tend to fall around the summer time around May-June, when everyone else is living their best life and enjoying the summer. Yet, as someone who has been to the NBA playoffs 10 times, he’s had to make some tough sacrifices in order to give himself and his team the opportunity to have a chance to win the NBA Championship. It’s the same with our Christian race. The funny thing is we have the best personal trainer and cheat code in the person of the Holy Spirit.
He is there to guide and teach us as that still small voice telling us when we need to steer clear of that guy or girl that might be taking us a dangerous path, or that will caution us when we are eating too much of that particular thing, or spending too much time on that particular app, or spending too much money in that area, or speaking too harshly or reacting too quickly in certain situations. Whatever the vice is, only we can know and the Holy Spirit can check us individually. We know that sometimes a good thing isn’t necessarily the God thing. It’s all about prioritizing and setting boundaries because unlike a NBA Championship that only lasts for a human lifetime, we are in the journey to win a heavenly price which is for eternity.
1 Corinthians 9: 25 - 27 (ESV) "Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."
The bible says that anyone without self-control is likened to:
Proverbs 25:28 (ESV) "A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls."
I’m sure none of us what to be known as people without any boundaries. This means anything goes and everything goes. It might sound like we are just going with the flow and there’s nothing wrong with that. But the truth is without structure and boundaries chaos will ensue. We have never seen a prospering city or country that is thriving without any regulation or fortification. If you know any please comment below, but I can confidently state at the time of writing this that there is none. Therefore, why would we want to govern our own lives in such a frivolous manner. Instead the weapons of our warfare are not carnal and we do not easily give in to what our flesh dictates, rather we adhere to what the Word says in Ephesians 6:
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm" Ephesians 6: 10-13 (ESV)
Journeywoman podcast – ‘Self-Control’ episode