For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. - 2 Timothy 1:7
The word “self-control” or “sound mind” only appears once in scripture. It is found in 2 Timothy 1:7. The Greek word for self-control is sōphronismos, which means “saving the mind” or “moderation”. Since the word SELF-CONTROL contains the word "self", I am quick to interpret this to mean something I have to do. However, within the context of verse 7 we see that “God gave us a spirit of...self-control.” The best understanding I have discovered for this verse is:
“This kind of self-discipline comes from continuous reliance on the grace that God gives to individuals who trust Him implicitly.” - Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary
Looking at the entire context of this verse, we see that Paul, who is fully aware of Timothy's timidity in sharing the Gospel, is admonishing him to remember that any fear he is feeling about standing up boldly for the Gospel is not from God. But instead, as Timothy uses his gift (v.5) of teaching and preaching, God gives him the spirit of power, love and of a sound mind.
Other uses of the word "self-control" appear in scripture, but are different from sōphronismos.
egkrateia and egkrateuomai, which mean "the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, esp. his sensual appetites" or "to exhibit self-government, conduct, one's self temperately" are found in Acts 24:25, Galatians 5:23, 2 Peter 1:6, 1 Corinthians 7:9, and 9:25. These verses do communicate more of something we do.
What does this mean for us?
Does God give us the same spirit?
If so, when and how can we feel and/or use this spirit?
If we look at the definition above for sōphronismos, we see that it is "continuous reliance on the grace that God gives to individuals who trust Him implicitly." From this definition and from the context of the scripture, we can begin to understand the following:
1. Self-control begins with God's grace. We must receive and rely on God's grace each and every day, each and every moment. It is something God has done for us and not something we have done ourselves. Christ was the final sacrifice for our sins so that we can have a deep intimate relationship with God our Father here on earth and for all eternity. It is a free gift to all those who will accept and receive it.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" - Romans 8:14-15
2. We must trust God implicitly, which means "without qualification" or "absolutely." God's grace is unconditional, as our trust in God should also be unconditional.
3. God did NOT give us a spirit of fear. When we are afraid of something, it is not from God. We may have the fear of speaking in front of crowds. We may have the fear of being rejected. Or, we may have the fear of failing. This fear is not from God.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. - John 14:27
4. As we exercise the use of our gifts, God gives us the spirit of power, love and self-control. Notice that this spirit of power, love and self-control is within the context of using our gifts from God. As we are going about His work in our lives and in the lives of others, using the gifts He has given us for His purpose, we receive the spirit of power, love and self-control.
Now, obviously, this does not mean that a sound mind from God only exists within the context of non-profit Christian ministry. We all have different gifts and can exercise them in a variety of places, occupations, environments, within our homes and businesses. God is at work all around us and we all have been given different gifts to exercise and use for His purpose.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. - Romans 12:6-8
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. - 1 Corinthians 12:14-18