Mastering Self-Control in a World Out of Control

I’ve heard more than one mom bemoan the choices their adult children are making. What do you do when you can’t stop the downward spiral of your health, finances, country, or loved one? Old Testament Daniel models a godly response.

Daniel’s world spun out of control when King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed his country and captured him and his three friends and hauled them off to Babylon. Daniel no doubt witnessed terrible atrocities, perhaps even the murder of his family.

He was put into the king’s service, indoctrinated in Babylonian values, history, language, and demonic religion. He was given a name that praised a pagan god. King Nebuchadnezzar possibly had these young men castrated.

Talk about a world beyond your control. Yet Daniel not only survived, but he rose to the top and faithfully served God for over six decades under four pagan kings. His secret? Daniel practiced self-control in his private and public habits.

Daniel Practiced Self-Control in Three Crucial Areas

  • With himself—he would not defile himself with food and drink.
  • With others—he treated people with kindness despite his cruel environment.
  • In his spiritual habits—he faithfully maintained spiritual disciplines for more than 60 years in captivity (6:10).

Let’s touch on the first two.

“But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself” (Daniel 1:8 NASB 1995).

Daniel made up his mind, determined, resolved not to defile himself. After losing so much, would you care whether the food served to you met your dietary standards? Eating from the king’s table might be the only small compensation he’d receive. But that’s not how Daniel saw it.

His diet was part of his Jewish identity. It set him apart as God’s child. His body belonged to God. He couldn’t control the king or what others did, but he could practice self-control.

A person without self-control
is like a city with broken-down walls” (Proverbs 25:28 NLT).

Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit provides the strength to control ourselves even when everything else seems out of control.

Self-control isn’t gutting out self-will. It’s submitting to the Holy Spirit and surrendering to His control. In Ephesians 1:19-20, Paul prays that we “will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him.” 

The Spirit also produces kindness. Even in a cruel environment Daniel treated others with kindness. When the officer over him expressed concern he might lose his own life if he let the Hebrew youths eat a different diet, Daniel proposed a test that took into consideration the officer’s legitimate concerns.

‘Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,’ Daniel said. ‘At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king’s food. Then make your decision in light of what you see’”(Dan. 1:12-13 NLT).

When life spins out of control, it’s easy to trade self-control for self-indulgence. Why not throw a pity party and veg out in front of the tv with Doritos® and a soda?

Why? Because self-indulgence weakens us (Romans 6:12-16), and self-control strengthens us and honors God. And when we honor God in small ways, He blesses us in big ways.

  • “At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king” (Dan. 1:15 NLT).
  • “God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom. And God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams” (Dan. 1:17 NLT).
  • “Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom” (Dan. 1:20 NLT).

Daniel and his companions surpassed all the other youths in every way. And that God-given wisdom would save their lives in later tests.

In life we all face areas we wish we could control. But God has provided a better gift—self-control. Like Daniel, we can make up our minds to honor God and practice self-control. When we honor Him in small ways, He favors us in big ways so that we too can thrive even in the worst of times.

A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls” (Proverbs 25:28 NLT). #BigGod, #BiblicalHelp Share on X

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  1. Sudano Stephanie

    Goodness you really had me with this one! “ When life spins out of control, it’s easy to trade self-control for self-indulgence. ” – that has been a struggle for the past year and a half really! Thank you for an encouraging blog post that is helping me see things a bit differently!

    • Debbie W. Wilson

      It’s all too easy, isn’t it, Stephanie. I’m glad you enjoyed it. A glitch this week shut down the website and lost the blog and comments. Finally back up and running.

  2. Annie Yorty

    This is an excellent post with great insights, Debbie. Trying to control others and/or situations is sure to produce anxiety and frustration. But those of us with the Spirit indwelling us always have a supply of self-control on hand, if we will apprehend it.

    • Debbie W. Wilson

      Annie, what an amazing difference it makes to invite the Holy Spirit to lead and control us.

  3. Paula Short

    Debbie, This>>”Self-control isn’t gutting out self-will. It’s submitting to the Holy Spirit and surrendering to His control” spoke volumes to me. I never thought of it like that and I’m happy you talked about self control today.
    Visiting today from G&T

    • Debbie W. Wilson

      Thank you, Paula. It makes a big difference!

  4. Leah @ Little House of Sonshine

    Excellent post! I have been praying and meditating on this just this week. My response to my children when they are having an attitude or they are all talking at once should be one of gentleness. When it’s not, I am not practicing self-control. My children’s actions should never dictate how I react. I should react the same way to each and every situation – with grace, gentleness, and self-control. Thank you for these great reminders!

    • Debbie W. Wilson

      Leah, we all have our weak points. I’m thankful God provides strength beyond ourselves!

  5. Yvonne Morgan

    It can be so difficult in some circumstances to give it all over to God but it is what we must do. I’m working on it each and every day. Thanks for the advice Debbie

    • Debbie W. Wilson

      Thank you, Yvonne!

  6. Joanne Viola

    Wonderful post, Debbie! This >> ” Because self-indulgence weakens us, and self-control strengthens us and honors God.” May we exercise self-control and be strengthened as the Holy Spirit works in our lives. It takes such strength to refrain.

    • Debbie W. Wilson

      Joanne, I’m so thankful that God has provided supernatural strength, because I certainly lack the strength to fight my fleshly tendencies.

  7. Lauren Sparks

    This spoke to me: “Self-control isn’t gutting out self-will. It’s submitting to the Holy Spirit and surrendering to His control. ” Thank you!

    • Debbie W. Wilson

      Thank you, Lauren. I need that reminder when I face my fleshly tendencies.

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