The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Gal 5:22-23 NIV
Self-control is the last fruit of the spirit. In life no one wants to be last. Somehow last implies that you don’t measure up, didn’t try hard enough or couldn’t quite do it. However, I don’t think being at the end of the list of fruit puts self-control in that same category.
I think self-control is like the parenthesis in math. For example, with (3+2) x (8+2) the math inside the parenthesis has to be completed first. You would get a totally different answer if the parentheses were missing from the equation.
In a sense love and self-control are like the parenthesis. They help group the other fruit. 1 Corinthians 13, the front parenthesis, reminds us that without love we can do nothing. Self-control comprises the back parenthesis.
I believe that with each of the fruit we have to make a choice to exercise our self-control. Am I going to love like Christ? Am I going to be joyful during difficult situations? Will I choose to allow the peace of Christ to invade my life? Will I be patient when all I really want to do is be angry or bitter? Will I demonstrate kindness to somebody who just irritated me? Will I show goodness to someone who is a potential giant in the land? Will I remain faithful during dark times? Will I allow gentleness to change the fabric of my life?
Even though self-control finally completes the list of the fruit of the Spirit, it is not an afterthought. How could I exercise restraint over my emotions, impulses and desires if I am not allowing the other fruit of the Spirit to operate in my life? All of the fruit intermingle and blend together. When we allow them to pervade our life, then others can see Christ here on the earth.
Peter when he cut off Malchus’ ear, Moses when he hit the rock instead of speaking to it, Lot’s wife when she looked back, the rich ruler when he couldn’t give up his wealth, Cain when he killed Abel and the prodigal son’s brother who refused to rejoice after his brother’s safe return, all demonstrated the lack of self-control. After each of these instances, their life fundamentally changed.
Often self-control is difficult. We have to be willing to allow the Lord to take control. That can be extremely scary because we have to be willing to release self. We might think, “If I don’t do it, who will?”
We have to be willing to surrender our perceived rights. We really don’t have any rights, but they are still very hard to release. Only then will we grow, blossom and produce the fruit that will change lives.
In second grade I teach “circle stories.” A circle story is a story that follows a pattern. When you get to the end of the story, if you started it again, it just continues and follows the same pattern. A circle story could conceivably never end.
Self-control is like the end of a circle story. Yes, it is the last fruit, but … without love I can do nothing and I also need joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness. Self-control is necessary within each of these marvelous fruit so, in a sense, the circle represented by the fruit never ends.
Seasons change, situations change and people change but the Lord never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. What a confidence that brings!
My hope and desire for all of is that our lives will continue to change as we grow.
I pray that we could become like a circle story, in the sense that when people see our fruit, they do not notice a beginning or an end. Hopefully, when they view our lives’ stories, our fruit will no longer be separately identifiable. Miraculously, we are becoming one with Christ. What an amazing transformation He makes out of ordinary lives!
Are we willing to have someone read our story?
Read more of Marianne’s Devotionals.