Wednesday of 5 Lent

Self-control

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”  — 2 Timothy 1:7  

“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.”  — Proverbs 25:28  

“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, and steadfastness with godliness,and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”  — 2 Peter 1:5-7  

Solomon writes, “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (Proverbs 25:28). For the walls to stand in the New Jerusalem, the living stones must be capable of controlling their self-will. They must practice self-control. Paul tells young Timothy that self-control is a gift of God that has been conveyed to him by the sacrament of the “laying on of my hands”.  But it is also a decision that we must make. We must desire to submit our will to the will of God, to learn to want what God wants. The spirit that Paul says is conveyed is a spirit “of power and love and self-control.” Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit that is at work in all who are walking in Christ (Ephesians 5:8; Galatians 5:23).

The Greek word for self-control derives from the word for power. To have self-control is to have the inward spiritual strength, the power of God over selfish desires. If we are honest, we will admit that most of us lack self-control over our appetites. We want what we want, when we want it. So, a man (or woman) without self-control will be caught in these selfish desires. But for the walls of the Temple of God to stand, the living stones must be able to work closely with the other stones in the wall. We are to do “nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). And Paul takes this one step further, noting that we cannot exercise the power of self-control without the grace of our Lord Jesus. God gives the grace, but we must desire to receive that grace, and be willing to change. He adds, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5).  We must choose, by grace, to deny our worldly desires, and seek the mind of Christ. St. Peter explains it this way:

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 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, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. (2 Peter 1:3-7)

We must make every effort to receive “all things that pertain to life and godliness.”

St. Peter’s word in the quote above is essentially a summary statement of the virtues we are called to pursue this week. We are to put on the new self, the one being renewed in knowledge after the image of Christ (Colossians 3:10). We must desire to be transformed by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Then we can pursue justice, practice self-control, and persevere in God’s will and the wisdom of God.

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