For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness… – 2 Peter 1:5-6
When I think of issues around self-control, I tend to go to places where I lack self-control. Whether it’s eating, spending, gossip, alcohol use, or aggressive driving, many people can identify with at least one area of our lives where we lack self-control to the extent we would wish. Whether it’s losing weight or lowering our blood pressure, finding joy in our own station in life, we all have room for personal growth in the area of self-control.
Consider the immediate context of this faith-adornment: knowledge and steadfastness. If we want to gain self-control we will not bypass leaning certain things about good and evil, right and wrong, or beneficial and harmful things. Knowing these things helps us to have a clear focus for our efforts to live our faith in a fruitful manner. Steadfastness helps us to stay the course when the fruit is not immediately forthcoming. This is so necessary whenever we are dealing with any personal growth matter: spiritual growth happens over the long-term, and will involve long periods of plodding faithfulness.
Nor is this quest ever complete this side of heaven. We all struggle somewhere in our lives of self-control. If you think you do not, I’ll clue you in: you struggle with self-deception (cf. 1 John 1:8). Controlling this urge is most important of all! Paul says it this way:
For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. – Romans 7:15
Perhaps you can identify an area where self-control would supplement your faith’s fruitfulness. The key isn’t to jump immediately to producing more fruit, but to attend to that area of self-control for the sake of a life of fruitfulness. Such efforts are grounded in knowing the truth about good and evil, within the context of that which is of good replete, all founded on faith in God’s grace to us in Jesus. The good news is that Jesus offers us the opportunity to exercise self-control in our faithfulness. We’re not puppets on a string.
The opposite of self-control is not licentious debauchery; although that is an abandonment of self-control. The opposite of self-control is slavery, jail, or hell where we are completely under the control of another whose evil intent is to steal, kill, and destroy. Better we should learn to control ourselves within the realm of Christ’s rule and reign than let ourselves be taken captive by another whose purpose is evil.