-Brandon William Peach-
Jesus returned from the Jordan River full of the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. There he was tempted for forty days by the devil. He ate nothing during those days and afterward Jesus was starving. The devil said to him, “Since you are God’s Son, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus replied, “It’s written, People won’t live only by bread.” Next the devil led him to a high place and showed him in a single instant all the kingdoms of the world. The devil said, “I will give you this whole domain and the glory of all these kingdoms. It’s been entrusted to me and I can give it to anyone I want. Therefore, if you will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It’s written, You will worship the Lord your God and serve only him.” The devil brought him into Jerusalem and stood him at the highest point of the temple. He said to him, “Since you are God’s Son, throw yourself down from here; for it’s written: He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you and they will take you up in their hands so that you won’t hit your foot on a stone.” Jesus answered, “It’s been said, Don’t test the Lord your God. ”After finishing every temptation, the devil departed from him until the next opportunity.
Luke 4:1-13 CEB
Self-control may be the most difficult of the virtues expressed in the Fruits of the Spirit. Since the Fall of Adam, our natural proclivity is to give in to temptation, not to resist it. It exists in decisions we make in our everyday lives. Refuse self-control enough, and you begin to develop patterns: one more drink, one more episode, one more slice. The patterns turn into addictions. They become idols.
Why is self-control so difficult? In part, because temptation hits us at our personal weaknesses. When we give in to temptation, we’re “scratching an itch” that’s unique to our desires. When we begin to address one area of temptation with self-control, it’s often not long before we give into another. This business of sanctification, it’s a lifelong process—a process that requires self-control.
When Christ was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit, He was confronted by the Tempter who tormented Him mercilessly over forty hungry days. We’re not told the details of those forty days, but we know that He was tempted in every possible way [Hebrews 4:15]. The final three temptations exploited his weakened state ruthlessly, yet He displays self-control of a degree we cannot imagine, using the words of Scripture to combat His attacker.
The story of Christ in the wilderness is rich with lessons, but in the context of self-control, there's a striking parallel made between the first Adam and Christ, the "Last Adam." [1 Corinthians 14:15]. Sin nature came through Adam. Self-control nature came through Christ. With Christ as not just the example of self control, but also the source of it, we have the power to overcome temptation and avoid sin.
“Self-control” therefore is not about controlling our selves, despite how the term may sound. Christ’s example in the wilderness and His finished work on the cross allows us to give the control of ourselves to Him. As we determine to do so, and as we begin to hone this virtue, our desires begin to conform to His and the temptations of the flesh—our areas of weakness that the Enemy takes advantage of—become weaker and weaker.
- - -
Lord, help me develop self-control. Purify my desires and bring my will into alignment with Yours. Amen.
Brandon William Peach is, first and foremost, the husband of Kathleen O'Neill and the father of William Sean O'Neill. He is a writer with a degree in literature from Penn State University, and a frequent contributor to various blogs, magazines, and podcasts.
While his career is in marketing, Brandon's primary interests include historical Christianity, literature, art, and pacifism in practice. He lives in the heart of Amish Country in Central Pennsylvania, where "getting stuck in traffic" often means being stuck behind a horse and buggy on a windy backroad. His hobbies include reading, writing, watching good movies, cooking, and most importantly, spending time with his wife and son.
He is owned by his cat Tiger and his dog Millie.