I was recently thinking and praying about the principle of willpower. When you think about willpower, you probably think about self-discipline, right? I’ve found that a typical sense of willpower is very humanistic; we usually think, “I’m going to find the power within me in order to get this done.” However, this is not a biblical framework.
When reading about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, self-control is the last one on the list. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (NIV). I believe this is intentional because all the other components of the fruit of the Spirit are externally focused, while self-control is the only one that’s internally focused. This is the difference between worldly leadership, which says, “I have self-control because of who I am,” and biblical leadership, which comes from actually giving yourself away first through the other fruits of the Spirit.
Now, of course, this aspiration can only come through the transforming power of Jesus’s love, grace, and mercy provided to us through the regenerative power of the Gospel in our lives. His work of sanctification in us is perfecting our ability to operate in the fruit of the Spirit.
If you operate in the other aspects of the fruit of the Spirit in your life, then you will become better at self-control. I can have more willpower because I’m giving and focusing my attention on others rather than holding onto a humanistic view of self-control, which says that all power is going to come from within me. None of us have the power necessary to truly be self-controlled. None of us have the power to control our own carnality. But when we focus on and love others, self-control is cultivated.
I just watched my grandkids for four days. I prayed over them every day. I envisioned what I wanted for those three children. I thought about and visualized what kind of adults I hope they become. My love for them helps me to have more self-control. The last thing I want to do is disappoint my grandchildren because of my love for them. I will sacrifice anything for those kids, and that makes me have more willpower because of my outward focus through the gifts of the Spirit.
The gifts of the Spirit are incredible, and Paul’s construct that he lays out for us on willpower and self-control is so needed and inspiring—especially when it comes to leadership.
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” (2 Peter 1:5-7, NIV).
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