How to learn self-control and why we need to

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“One spring day a swarm of flies found a jar of honey which had been discarded alongside 


a road.  Gladdened by their find they immediately set upon the contents of the jar determined on eating every drop left inside.
Soon however, they found that their feet and wings had become sticky with the honey, and they could neither fly nor crawl away from their sticky treat.
In despair they cried out, ‘How stupid we are.  For a moment’s pleasure we have thrown away our entire lives.’

Aesop’s Fables

Have you ever battled to lose weight or to stick to an exercise program? You endure for a while, but then one day in your weakness you eat a chocolate, or you decide to sleep in instead of getting up early to exercise. This first transgression may be the first step to failure depending on how you handle this mishap. You can exercise self-control and continue with your diet or exercises, or you can kick the scale and say: “Aw; I can’t do this anyway” and continue in your self-indulgence. This is a very real battle, the battle of self-control.

What I have described here is not sin, but these battles we fight every day can be compared to our battle against sin. This battle is a spiritual battle and giving in to temptation could be the first step you take in throwing away your entire life for a moment’s pleasure, as illustrated in the little story above about the flies and the honey.

For this reason Peter warns, “for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.

2 Peter 2:19
19 promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.

When you have been overcome by temptation to sin, it is the first step to being enslaved to sin. Satan is on the look out for our weaknesses, and we will be tempted by him and when overcome by this temptation, we can become enslaved by it.

1 Peter 5:8–9
8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.

It can also be likened to someone having a problem with pornography, drug or alcohol addiction. One failure to control themselves when tempted may plunge them back into slavery to this sin. Self-control is for this reason one of the most important things we have to learn. We are to learn to resist temptation, that is what self-control is about.

James 4:7
7 Submit therefore to Elohim. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit described by Paul in the book of Galatians.

The fruit of the Spirit

Galatians 5:22–25
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Messiah Y’Shua have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

The lack of self-control is listed in 2 Timothy among the characteristics of people in the last days. These characteristics stand in stark contrast to the fruit of the Spirit. We can choose to exhibit Y’Shua’s nature, which is the fruit of the Spirit or Satan’s fruit, those listed in 2 Timothy.

2 Timothy 3:1–4
1 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of Elohim,

What is self-control?

Here is a definition from the Louw Nida Greek Lexicon:

88.83 ἐγκρατεύομαι; ἐγκράτεια, ας f: to exercise complete control over one’s desires and actions—‘to control oneself, to exercise self- control, self-control.’ 1

Solomon, in all his wisdom, also wrote about self-control. He compared a person without self-control to a city broken into or without walls, thus vulnerable and in danger of being overcome.

Proverbs 25:28
28 Like a city that is broken into and without walls Is a man who has no control over his spirit.

Paul compares life to a race run by an athlete. Self-control is once again the key here, if you want to win the race of life, you have to have self-control. He gives us such great advice: we are to discipline our bodies and make it our slave, not the other way around. Animals are controlled by their instinct; humans are different in that we have the ability to control ourselves. Sadly, we often choose not to.

1 Corinthians 9:24–27
24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

Paul teaches that we have to have self-control in all things, and he achieves it by disciplining his body and by making it his slave. How are we to do this?

How do we discipline our bodies?

What does the word discipline mean?

88.89 ὑπωπιάζωb: (a figurative extension of meaning of ὑπωπιάζω ‘to strike the eye,’ not occurring in the NT) to keep one’s body under complete control, with the implication of rough treatment given to the body, possibly as an aspect of discipline (a meaning evidently taken from the language of prize-fighting)—‘to keep under control, to exercise self-control.’ ὑπωπιάζω μου τὸ σῶμα καὶ δουλαγωγῶ ‘I keep my body under control and make it ready for service’ 1 Cor 9:27. 1

The Scripture teaches us ways to discipline the body. Here are some ways.chocolate souffle - self-control

Renewing of the mind

Another way to help you to exercise self-control is by renewing of your mind. If you know what is right and think about it, you will not be thinking sinful things. Let us go back to our example in the beginning… If you are on diet, and you think about chocolate cake the whole time; you won’t be able to resist it when it is offered to you, on the contrary, you might want to grab the whole cake and run away with it.


Romans 12:2
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of Elohim is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

How do we do this? David tells us how…

Psalm 119:9–16
9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. 10 With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments. 11 Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You. 12 Blessed are You, O YHVH; Teach me Your statutes. 13 With my lips I have told of All the ordinances of Your mouth. 14 I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, As much as in all riches. 15 I will meditate on Your precepts And regard Your ways. 16 I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word.

If we study and meditate on YHVH’s word, the change of us being tempted to sin is less for we have His word in our minds. Another bit of practical advice is given in the epistle to the Philippians.

Philippians 4:8
8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

Avoid temptation

James explains to us how sin takes place. It starts with temptation, being enticed by our own lust. This is the point at which self-control must be exercised. If not it will give birth to sin. The best advice is to avoid temptation. I am sure I don’t have to mention the chocolate cake again…

James 1:13–15
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by Elohim”; for Elohim cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

Applying diligence in our faith

Peter explains this very well in his second epistle.

2 Peter 1:5–8
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Master Y’shua Messiah.

What is Peter saying here?

  • When we apply diligence or zeal in our faith we achieve moral excellence. To be diligent is to make sure we never compromise; for compromise is an open door to sin.
  • Moral excellence is outstanding goodness or virtue and when applied will lead to knowledge.
  • When we have knowledge, self-control will be possible because knowing what righteousness and excellence are, we will not be easily tempted.
  • When you have self-control you will achieve godliness when you persevere in applying it.
  • When you live a godly life you will be kind to your brother and that will lead to love among the brethren.

We see ones again self-control playing an important part in leading a godly life. If we persevere in controlling ourselves, it leads to godliness.

Being led by the Spirit

We have learned that when we are redeemed, we become sons of Elohim, not ruled by our lusts, but by His Spirit. We are to listen to His voice. He is there with us in our temptation leading us in His way through His Spirit. We need to make the choice to listen and exercise self-control and so keep from sinning.

Romans 8:12–14
12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of Elohim, these are sons of Elohim.


We have learned what the importance of self-control is in our journey towards salvation. We as redeemed children of YHVH have responsibilities. One of these responsibilities is to exercise self-control in everything we do. As long as we practice these things, we will never stumble!

2 Peter 1:10
10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;


  1. Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (750). New York: United Bible Societies.


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2 responses to “How to learn self-control and why we need to”

  1. Henry Brinkman

    Thanks for the teaching. It is certainly relevant for me!!! I am certainly glad and thankful for all the work you are putting into this.


  2. […] and sin. However, if we know this and know what to look out for, we can stand strong against this. Self control is important, but at certain times our self control may fail us due to tiredness or stress. We need […]

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