“Use your self-control.”
This is one of my favorite takeaways from my son’s preschool teachers this year. They are so gentle and measured when they say it.
He’s ready to lose it over a near-tragedy—not getting to sit next to his good friend or struggling with the zipper to his backpack because it’s extra full that day.
Their gentle reminder is the same: “Use your self-control.”
I love that it assumes he has self-control and that he can access it, that somehow this little pause and this little reminder gives him the ability to breathe….reflect….choose.
Meltdown? Or self-control?
He’s in progress. He sometimes chooses meltdown.
Fruitfulness is part of the Holy Spirit’s work in us. It means He is alive, and He is active, and we are yielded to Him.
Paul tells us:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things (Galatians 5:22-23 CSB).
It’s not a list for me to tackle like some holy agenda. It is not up to me to manufacture goodness or to self-concoct gentleness or peace. It takes a leaning in with the full weight of my fractured soul on the strength and the character of God in me.
May He be at work and may the work-in-progress be me.
May He be the one to cultivate love in me, to stir up joy, to grow patience, to establish goodness.
May I be the one to learn, to long for the Spirit and to open myself up to the work that He does. May I be the one to focus my eyes on Jesus and His own fruitfulness because He is the perfect model of:
And when I see this fruit in Jesus, I love Him for it. I long to be like Him, to let Him shine in my heart, to turn over hardened ground and to till up the soil and to plant the seeds. Fruitfulness, Lord. Abundant fruitfulness in my life.
It seems fitting during Holy Week to consider Jesus and the fruit He bore out on the cross.
Some conflict, some uncertainty, some worry, some stress may bring out the uglies in me. I’m not always loving, not always peaceful, not always gentle when my kids are picking at each other at the kitchen table and we’re rushing because we need to be out the door in 8 minutes and I’m still trying to cook dinner and give a practice spelling test to a child.
But Jesus endured all of the pain of the garden, the betrayal, the trial, the beating, the mocking, the condemnation, the cross, the sin and the separation.
And the fruitfulness is still there: He showed love, joy, peace. Despite the pain, He was gentle and kind, good and faithful.
He also “used His self-control” by choosing the cross for Himself so He could offer forgiveness to us. It was, after all, His choice to make.
He wrestled in prayer and made the final declaration on His knees: “Not my will, but Thy will be done.”
That set His destination. He would not give into fear or to the flesh. He would choose the cross.
And He chose not to call down angels to rescue Him when the soldiers marched into the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 27:41-42).
With the very power of His voice there in the Garden, He spoke the words: I AM. Then all of the military might fell to the ground, struck down by two small words spoken by the Messiah.
What an embarrassing mess for them. They were all geared up, swords and clubs at the ready, and a completely average-looking Jewish teacher said two little words and they landed on their backsides.
They walked out of the Garden with Jesus as their captive because Jesus chose to be their captive. Paul says it this way, Jesus “loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 CSB).
The author, Selwyn Hughes, reminds me that Paul lists self-control last in the fruit of the Spirit. It’s not first. We don’t begin with self-control and then produce all the other fruit, even though that’s likely what we try to do sometimes.
“I will be more holy. I will be more righteous. I will hate sin more.”
That’s self-righteousness at work.
Instead, Hughes writes that we begin with love—just as Paul lists it in Galatians 5– and “when you begin with love, you end up with self-control.”
Christ’s love covers us and compels us.
Because we are oh-so-loved by a Savior who is oh-so-good and who chose the cross for us, we delight in Him and in what pleases Him and what pleases Him is the Spirit’s fruit in us.