Self-control is important fruit

Published 9:57 pm Thursday, February 21, 2019

By Thurman Hayes

Yesterday, I had a conversation with a person who has been trying to quit smoking. This person had told me about a month ago that her New Year’s resolution was to give up cigarettes. But when I saw her again yesterday, she confessed that she had started smoking again.

It’s that time of year, isn’t it? January is the month of New Year’s resolutions. February is the month where they bite the dust, due to a lack of self-control.

Email newsletter signup

This morning I just read about a Christian leader whose ministry has gone up in smoke. Why? His lack of self-control.

Drew Dyck has written a new book on the subject of self-control, titled “Your Future Self Will Thank You: Secrets to Self-Control from the Bible and Brain Science.”

In a recent article for “Christianity Today,” Dyck said, “Self-control isn’t simply a dam holding back a surge of destructive desires. It’s part of a process of sanctification that ultimately heals our sinful hearts.”

Self-control is what helps us to say “yes” to the things that lead to flourishing, and “no” to the things that harm.

He points to three actions that help us grow in the critical virtue of self-control:

  • Preserve your willpower — Researchers have discovered that people are far more likely to succumb to temptation after performing stressful tasks. It turns out that our willpower is sort of like our cellphone battery — it gets depleted and needs to be recharged. Have you noticed that certain things deplete your phone battery faster than others? Well, guess what: Certain things deplete your willpower faster than others. We can’t always avoid stressful tasks, nor should we. But what we can do is be careful to monitor the battery life of our willpower. For instance, if meetings deplete you, be sure to take some time after a meeting to do something that restores you. Also try to avoid too much multi-tasking and conflict, which are notorious drainers of willpower.
  • Create new habits — Author and pastor John Ortberg has pointed out that “Habits eat willpower for breakfast.” So true! This is why New Year’s resolutions and other well-intentioned vows fail — we start out with the determination to do better, but we don’t change our habits to support our good intentions. For instance, if you want to improve your sleep by not looking at a screen right before you drift off, but you have the habit of keeping your phone and tablet right beside your bed, what is the logical thing to do? Don’t keep your phone and tablet right beside your bed.
  • Stay rooted in God — Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” This means that self-control comes from a close walk with God. Just today, I was reading from Psalm 1, which tells us that a person who walks closely with God is “like a tree planted beside flowing streams that bears its fruit in its season.” In order to grow in self-control, or any other fruit of the Spirit, we must walk in the Spirit. We must dwell by the well. Do not neglect your relationship with God. Everything else follows in its wake.


Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr. is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.