We need self-control to grow in our faith and keep ourselves from sin . . . it’s essential in our walk with the Lord.

Many other religions besides Christianity teach the concept of self-control. But unlike other religions, Christians have the help of the Holy Spirit to develop this important character quality.

The following article on self-control is reprinted with permission of Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators and the author, Kris Hage. It originally appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of The Paper MACHE (now called Homeschool Now Minnesota). Visit MACHE.org.

Self-Control ~ Character Corner

We who live in North America are not accustomed to seeing cities with walls around them, but they used to be quite common in Europe and Asia. That’s why King Solomon had an excellent word picture to use to describe self-control.

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.

Proverbs 25:28

Self-control is the last fruit listed in Galatians 5 that God wants to produce in our lives and in the lives of our children, but it is certainly not last in importance. After all, which city would you feel safer in, one with walls or one with the walls broken down around it?

Self-control is defined like this: the ability to keep one’s appetites, desires, and emotions in proper balance to what is wholesome and expedient; temperate; self-restraint.

If we are not able to control ourselves, we will be prime targets for spiritual enemy attacks. Self-control is also necessary to live out other godly character traits. Once we know Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, we are to live each day under Spirit control!

Of course, as it is with all godly character, it’s often more caught than taught! When is the last time you said no to some indulgence before you or whispered a prayer for the Spirit’s help instead of letting angry words come out of your mouth? When we have self-control growing in our spiritual gardens—parents and children alike—we will bear fruit to God’s glory, as we get to know more and more about the Lord Jesus and become more like him (2 Peter 1:8)!

Remember that the fruit of the Holy Spirit in us is like a cluster of grapes. Not all the individual grapes on a vine mature or ripen at the same time. It’s the same way with God making our character more and more like Christ’s. Our joy or peacefulness may be sweetly evident to others, while our patience or meekness may be small and a little sour at times. But praise God, he is the perfect vinedresser and knows just what each one of us needs to produce luscious fruit for his glory!

Exploring God’s Word

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

Galatians 5:25

Here are some Bible verses to read with your family that show us some practical ways to exercise Spirit control over our bodies, our minds (soul), and our hearts (spirit).

Spirit control of my body

1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Ephesians 6:1 & 10-11, 1 Thessalonians 4:11 & 5:15-18, Psalm 141:3, James 3:5-10, Colossians 3:8-10 & 23-24

Spirit control of my mind (soul)

Romans 12:1-2, Luke 10:27, Isaiah 26:3-4, Romans 8:5-9, Philippians 2:5-8 & 4:8, Hebrews 4:12

Spirit control of my heart (spirit)

Luke 6:45 & 10:27, Proverbs 4:23, Psalm 141:4, Proverbs 3:5-6, Matthew 12:34, Psalm 19:14

Daniel’s 3 friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3:1-30, give us a real-life example of God’s power working in these three areas of our lives. God gave these young men strength to keep their bodies from bowing down to Nebuchadnezzar’s idol. Their minds were not deceived into thinking this god was real and their hearts did not turn to worship the idol instead of the one true living God.

Putting It Into Practice

Activities and Games

As 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 brings to light, any activities our children participate in, such as athletics, singing or playing a musical instrument, art, woodworking, etc. provide perfect opportunities for training our self-control. Practice…practice…practice. It takes years in many cases to achieve mastery. So encourage your children to persevere as unto the Lord in whatever they are doing.

Several children’s games also encourage the practice of self-control. Playing games like Simon Says, Red Light/Green Light, Catch Phrase, Freeze Tag, Taboo, or Duck Duck Gray Duck is a fun way to practice control over these amazing minds and bodies God has given us.

Tame that Tongue

Control of speech and emotions comes into play with the inevitable sibling squabbles or troubles with friends. Pull out appropriate Bible verses to help your children with the specific area of struggle, whether it be anger, jealousy, quarreling, selfishness, or whatever. The Virtue Training Bible or Proverbs for Parenting by Barbara Decker are the ultimate tools for this. Let your artists have fun making posters with the scriptures on them so the whole family can be encouraged to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14).

Lessons from God’s Creatures

God has given many animals instinctive behaviors that exhibit great self-control, especially those who are prey for other animals. Here are some examples:

• The North American opossum has the astounding ability to play dead as a defense mechanism. His heart and respiration rates slow down and he falls over on his side when he is terrorized by a predator. “The body will be so stiff and unresponsive that the opossum won’t respond when poked, bitten, or even carried off.”

• The hognose snake also exhibits this same amazing behavior, which scientists call thanatosis, when its imitation of the cobra does not scare its enemy away.

• Among over 33,000 species of fish, there are those who will use self-control and refuse the tempting bait on your hook, thus saving their lives. The salmon also shows amazing self-control as they journey back through incredible obstacles to their original spawning grounds.

These wonderful creatures teach our children God’s greatness, while at the same time provide a perfect springboard from which to show them the godly character that makes their Savior and their parents happy!

Here’s a beautiful prayer to pray with your family as we wrap up our Character Corner look at the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:
“Empower us by Your Spirit to be people who are loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, gentle, faithful, and self-restrained. Since we live by the Spirit—our spiritual life comes from Him—we beg You to help us walk daily in His strength. Anything less is neither worthy of You nor consistent with our new nature as Christians.”

Download a free lesson on self-control from Growing the Fruit of the Spirit ~ A Bible-based Unit Study

Please share any ideas you have implemented to help your children grow in the fruit of self-control below…