Fruit: Temperance


I want you to take your Bibles this morning and turn to 1 Corinthians. That’s right. Not Galatians. 1 Corinthians. Chapter 9. Verses 25-27. Let’s read this:

”And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

I don’t know if you realize this or not - but the Olympics are on right now. The Winter Olympics. I’m not too big on the Winter Olympics anymore. I used to be into snowboarding so I’d always watch that and the hockey games, but it’s kind of lost its luster. But I still love the Summer Olympics.

My daughters have both said they want to be swimmers in the Olympics someday. I don’t want to discourage them, but that’s not something I want for them. You see, to be a swimmer in the Olympics takes thousands and thousands and thousands of hours of grueling work. It takes waking up early nearly every day and jumping in a cold pool at 6am to swim for miles, then going to the weight room, then going back into the pool in the evening and doing it again. Micheal Phelps, in his prime, never missed a day of training for three years. He trained on Christmas. He trained on Thanksgiving. It takes an absolutely insane amount of discipline to do that, day in and day out, for years. And here is the thing, many, many, many swimmers put in the work and aren’t Micheal Phelps.

This is true of more than just swimming, its true of running, it’s true of cycling, gymnastics. Just about every Olympic sport. Not curling. But just about every olympic sport.

Now look at Paul’s words here again. Look what he says:

”And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.”

That’s talking about athletes. It says they are “temperate” in all things. That doesn’t just mean they don’t drink alcohol. That means they have self control.

Notice the next phrase:

”Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.”

Listen, Christians are supposed to be ”temperate in all things”. We have a BETTER motivation for being self-controlled than olympians do. They just get temporary rewards but we get eternal rewards in heaven for our self-denial and self-control. So we have to do what Paul says in verse 27. We have to ”keep our bodies and bring them into subjection.”

This morning we’ve come to the last of the fruits of the spirit. I’ll read the verse - you don’t even have to turn there. Galatians 5:23:

”Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:23)


Again, temperance in the Bible doesn’t mean what “temperance” means today. The only time people ever use the word “temperance” today is to refer to the “temperance movement” - a historical movement that got alcohol banned in the United States for a decade. This word isn’t referring to alcohol. It’s referring to us.

Strongs dictionary defines temperance this way:

Temperance: self-control. The virtue of someone who masters his sensual appetites.

Temperance actually comes from two greek words, en and kratos. En means “in” and kratos means “mastery, control, or power.” So literally “in control.”

It was the word that was used for having a strong grip on something. So the phrase “get a grip” totally fits here.

So control over what? A grip on what? Well, it’s a grip over our fleshly appetites. It’s a grip on our internal desires.

Look, all of us have God-given desires. We all desire food, shelter, friendship, prestige, pleasure, sex, sleep and rest, possessions.

None of these desires are inherently bad. They are all good things. But all of these desires can also be abused.

  • Food, which God provided for our enjoyment, can become a source of gluttony.
  • Our desire for rest can turn us into lazy slobs.
  • Our desire for pleasure can be hijacked by drugs to make us senseless addicts.
  • Our desire for sex, fulfilled outside of the bonds of marriage, can destroy our life and the lives of others.

We have to get a grip on our desires. Because when our desires rule our life its not a good thing. It’s not good for us. It doesn’t satisfy us. It actually makes us miserable.

Do you know that? Do you know that if you get everything you want it will actually make you miserable? You will lose more and more control over yourself and it will be bad.

Proverbs 25:28 says this:

”He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.”

In Bible times a city without walls was a defenseless city. It could be taken advantage of by anybody. It was just waiting for the next group to come along and take it over.

And that’s the person who isn’t in control, who doesn’t have a grip over his desires, he’s just going to get rolled over by the next desire to come into his life. It’s really, really bad.

I think you see this crystal clear in drug addicts. I mean, they will do anything to get a fix. They’ll let there entire life fall apart for a fix. I’ve seen horrific videos of a mother in the middle of a CVS having and overdose while her two year old daughter cries and tries to wake her up. Drugs drive people into crime and prostitution. My brother who is a cop says that sometimes people will have an overdose on purpose and call the cops, knowing they have a drug to bring them back. They aren’t in control. That desire has just taken over their life.

What desire rules your life? Maybe it isn’t drugs, maybe it’s the desire to stay on the lazyboy and watch TV. Maybe it’s the snooze button. Maybe it’s the desire to procrastinate on your chores. Maybe its a desire for pornography. Maybe it’s an unhealthy relationship with food. Maybe it’s alcohol. Maybe it’s binge watching Netflix. Maybe something else.

It could be something totally different: it could be an unhealthy relationship with work. That’s a different kind of lack of self-control. Maybe your desire for work is so strong you can’t take a break and play with your kids.


Remember it’s one of the fruits of the spirit. That means, when we are walking in the Spirit, when we are letting the Holy Spirit control our life, then we will have self-control. We will have a grip.

Let me put it in one sentence for you:

When the Holy Spirit is controlling your life, your sensual appetites will not be controlling your life.

Remember, walking in the Spirit is allowing the Holy Spirit to live through you. Being “filled with the Spirit” is like being a glove filled with the hand of the Holy Spirit. When you are walking in the Spirit, filled with the Spirit, then the Holy Spirit is going to be in control, and the Holy Spirit can’t be in control and your appetites and desires be in control at the same time.

So how do we develop self control? Let’s go back to the verses we started with in 1 Corinthians 9:25-27. Because I think that passage has a some ideas that can help us.

”And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

Paul uses an athletic analogy here when he is talking about temperance, or self-control. So let’s carry that athletic analogy. Let me give you four keys to developing self-control: they are dream, rules, routine, and team. Dream, rules, routine and team.

The first one is…


Paul said

”Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.”

If you are going to master yourself, if you are going to have self control, then you have to have a reason to do it. You have to have a very big dream. For olympians it’s standing on that podium and receiving the gold medal. For Paul it was standing in heaven and receiving a crown from His savior and hearing “well done thou good and faithful servant.”

Here is the deal: if you are going to say “no” to your desires, you have to have a bigger “yes.” You have to have something that is more important to you than those desires.

The philosopher Neitsche said “He that has a big enough why can bear almost any how.”

So developing self-control starts with getting clear about what our “why” is. Why are we doing it? What are we after?

As Christians, we are all going to stand before our Lord and Master someday and give an account. Jesus, the one who died for us, the one who gave His life on the cross for my sin and for your sin. We are going to have to answer for how we lived the life He gave us.

Listen to me, if you waste your life growing fatter on the couch binging on Netflix and covered in Cheeto dust, no one may call you on it here, but someday you are going to stand before God and have to answer for that. If you spend all your time at the office chasing a promotion and neglecting your family and your church and having no ministry whatsoever, you are going to answer to God for that.

Jesus died for us and it’s totally reasonable for us to live for Him.

So start with a why. Start with a vision. Dream.

The second word I think is a key to self control is…


In our text Paul said

”lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway”

The words “a castaway” there means “disqualified.”

2 Timothy 2:5 says:

”And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.”

You guys know the story of Lance Armstrong. Greatest road cyclist who ever lived. Amazing record of 6 tour de France victories. Medals in the olympics. All of it taken away because he didn’t strive lawfully. Now he’s a disgrace. He’s disqualified. He’s banned from all competition.

Christian, you have to know that there are certain actions that are going to cause you to be a castaway. They are going to be disqualify you from ministry for awhile. They are going to sideline you.

You have to know that if you get overtaken by drunkenness, if you get overtaken by lust, if you can’t control your appetites, it’s going to sideline you from service.

So a flip side to the coin of a goal is also a healthy fear that you are going to mess it up.

Your desires can ruin your ministry, they can destroy your career, they can explode your family. You have to say no. There has to be rules.

So, goal, rules, the third word is:


Again, in our text Paul said ”But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection:”

The way athletes prepare to reach there goal day by day is by making a plan and sticking to it. They follow a routine. They follow a plan. The plan turns into habits and those habits become second nature and before you know it, they are doing things other people didn’t think were possible.

But it wouldn’t happen if they only hit the gym when they felt like it. It wouldn’t happen if they kept hitting the snooze button because they didn’t feel like getting up. It wouldn’t happen if they kept saying to themselves, “I’m just going to take it easy today”. There has to be a routine. There has to be a plan. That plan needs to become a habit.

Some of you need an old fashioned routine. You need to develop some habits. You need to set some limits. You need to wake up around the same time every day and go to bed around the same time every night. I was reading recently about how they treat people with extreme anxiety disorders and one of the first things they do is get them to have a set time to wake up. Seems silly, but just getting a grip on something spills over into other areas.

You look at someone who is amazingly good at something and almost always, it’s because of a routine. You see an amazing piano player. That person was probably once as bad as you and the only difference between them and you is that every day, for years, they sat down at a piano and practiced for an hour. You see someone who really knows his Bible - they probably read and study it every single day for years and years. This applies to almost anything.

So a dream - get the incorruptible crown. Rules - don’t be a castaway. Routine - keep under your body.

There is one more word that is important to temperance and it is:


You know, even athletes that do individual sports like running, swimming, or gymnastics - they practice as a team. Why do you think that is?

It’s for accountability. Your teammates help you. You know you aren’t in it alone. They call you out when you are being lazy.

Can I submit to you that in this matter of Christian temperance, you are on a team, it’s your local church. You have coaches. Your pastor. Listen, this is really, really old-school - but that’s ok.

Your fellow church members ought to have leeway to speak into your life and help you develop some self-control. Your pastor ought to be able to tell you, lovingly, that you certain habits and actions aren’t good for you and will cause you to lose your grip.

On the flip side we ought to be encouraging one another. Encouraging each other towards good habits and actions.

In your family, are you encouraging each other and keeping each other accountable to have temperance?