We are going to study four examples of self-control in the Bible as well as a handful of verses. I do want to take a different spin on this than I’ve talked about in the past. Before I explain, let me ask you a question.
What is the first image that comes to mind when you think of a lack of self-control? Perhaps it is someone spewing profanities or losing their temper. Maybe lack of self-control comes in the form of an inability to sit still or think before acting.
In this post of Bible characters who showed self-control, I want to explore how self-control is linked to obedience to God. When we choose to obey God, we learn to bring our flesh under subjection. This includes our minds, bodies, tongues, and hearts.
The following Bible verses about self-control are a great study. As the title mentions, I am writing this with every intention of using it as a study with my own kids, however, it is a great small group study or individual reading.
Bible Verses about Self-Control
First, a few Bible verses about self-control. Note words like righteousness, godliness, and discipline. Self-control is a huge subject matter!
2 Peter 1:5-7
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. (2 Peter 1:5-7)
So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (Psalm 1:19-20)
Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry,
For anger rests in the bosom of fools. (Ecclesiastes 7:9)
Whoever has no rule over his own spirit
Is like a city broken down, without walls. (Proverbs 25:28)
1 Corinthians 9:27
But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:27)
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14)
He who guards his mouth preserves his life,
But he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction. (Proverbs 13:3)
The power of the tongue and don’t we all need to learn self-control in this area?! For more on controlling the tongue, check out this post!
Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;
Keep watch over the door of my lips. (Psalm 141:3)
I have a coloring page for this verse!
Bible Characters that Showed Self-Control
When I think of Bible characters that showed self-control, my mind first goes to Adam and Eve who did NOT exhibit the fruit of the spirit we are talking about here. They did not fully resist temptation to the demise of all that came from them.
We are faced with the same need to bring our bodies under subjection and obedience to the righteousness of God. Hebrews reminds us that Jesus was tempted in every way that we are and yet remained sinless (Hebrews 4:15) and it is through him that we gain the self-control we need to do so.
For Bible characters that showed self-control in this article we examine David, Daniel, Joshua, and Jesus, but there are so many more. Think of Abigail, Hannah, Noah, Stephen, Paul, Hagar, Peter etc. They all faced circumstances that were difficult and handled them with grace! We should expect no less of ourselves.
Examples of Self-Control in the Bible
Ok! let’s read some stories of self-control in the Bible, beginning with King David (but before he was king!).
David: A Worthy Example of Self-Control in the Bible
David is an open book, so to speak. The Bible records a lot of his life and we can see times in which he has a lot of self-control and times when he does not. For these examples of self-control in the Bible, we are going to focus on two stories.
David chooses not to kill Saul
Jealously does terrible things to us. King Saul knows that he has fallen out of favor with God and that a new king has been chosen. He is also aware of the fact that the people love and respect David.
A jealous rage blinds Saul and he hunts David down to kill him. He is convinced David is out to take his throne.
We begin our story in 1 Samuel 24 where David and his band of men are hiding in a cave. Saul does not know this and enters the cave to “relieve himself”.
David’s men are excited, God is delivering Saul into David’s hands. It was well within David’s ability to strike Saul and kill him right there in the cave. After all, Saul has been hunting him like some kind of animal.
David chooses to spare Saul’s life and merely cuts the corner of his royal robe. He even repents of this act!
David respected Saul and God’s anointing on him.
Joshua: A Military Example of Self-Control in the Bible
The Children of Israel had been wandering in the desert for 40 years. Joshua had wandered needlessly as he and Caleb had been the only two faithfilled spies when the time had come to enter Canaan with Moses. Due to the unbelief of the people God had just parted the Red Sea for, Joshua was forced to wait to enter the Promised Land.
This is the first time we see Joshua’s patience (and self-control).
The next time we see Joshua’s character is his obedience to God’s voice. This is where I wanted to make a point about self-control. When we choose to wait for God and travel in obedience to Him rather than run ahead with our own ideas and plans, we are exhibiting self-control.
Finally, after forty years and the death of their beloved leader, Moses, God commissions Joshua to lead the people into the Promised Land and what are God’s instructions? Not to ambush the city of Jericho as he had most likely spent the last forty years dreaming about, but to march around the city and return to camp.
What? March around the city and return to camp? Not only once but six days in a row?
What does Joshua do? He obeys. Through his obedience, we see self-control, faith, and a power that belongs to those who call on the name of the Lord.
What is the outcome? Complete victory.
Daniel: An Example of Self-Control in a Heathen Place
As we’ve seen so far, obedience to God’s word and self-control are directly related. In this story of Daniel, we see this once again.
The year is 597 BCE and the place is Judah. King Jehoiakim had stopped paying taxes to the powerful kingdom of Babylon.
King Nebuchadnezzar took this act of rebellion seriously and began the first of three sieges on Judah. Thousands of children of Judah were exiled to Babylon, among them a young man named Daniel.
Now, Daniel and several other young men who were intelligent, good looking, and of noble descent were brought to the palace. Here they would be taught in the education of the Chaldeans and trained for three years. They were also given much better food than the other exiles.
No doubt Daniel felt that God was taking care of them, especially after what must’ve been a terrifying experience. Can you imagine being hauled away from your family while the horrors of war raged all around you?
Daniel’s faith is about to be tested and our Bible story about self-control comes to a very important climax.
As mentioned above, Daniel and the other select young men were given food from the king’s table, the best in the kingdom. However, Daniel and his friends have a problem with this. The food was prepared by gentiles, most likely involved in pagan rituals, and not at all prepared according to the law given to the children of Israel by God.
A man of lesser self-control and faith would have simply gone with it, but not Daniel. Risking what is actually a good deal in the midst of a terrible situation, he tells the eunuchs that he does not wish to eat the food. He would rather obey God’s commandments than save his life.
He resisted the urge to satisfy his flesh which is what makes him such a great example of self-control in the Bible.
The eunuchs are skeptical and a little worried because they are disobeying the king’s orders, but they agree to give Daniel and his friends, vegetables and legumes and find that they agree with them better than the rich food previously offered.
All’s well that ends well and Daniel continues a life of importance both spiritually and politically.
Jesus: Our Greatest Example of Self-Control in the Bible
Let’s examine self-control in the face of severe temptation. Everyone’s temptations are different. I came from a home of substance abuse and addiction was a severe temptation. Your temptation might be envy and covetousness, anger, gossip, pride, or pornography.
The temptation of Jesus mentioned in scripture occurs in the wilderness after his baptism. He had fasted for forty days and was physically weak. As is always the case, Satan being an opportunist, takes advantage of this weakness and moves in for the attack. He uses the same tactics he used on Eve.
He tries to make him doubt what He knows about God.
First, he tells him “if you are the Son of God…” and tells him to turn a rock into bread. Notice the “if”. He is trying to create doubt. Jesus combats him with scripture.
Next, Satan takes Jesus to a high mountain and shows him all the kingdoms of the world, telling him all could be his if he would bow down and worship him. Sounds like Satan’s words to Eve “your eyes will be opened and you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5)
Again, Jesus combats Satan with the word of God.
Thirdly, Satan brings Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple and using scripture tempts Jesus to prove that God is true to His word. Once more, Jesus resists Satan with the word of God.
After this, Satan departs from Jesus “until an opportune time”.
Let’s look at our example of self-control in the Bible a little closer. Jesus was completely in tune with the word of God and used it to resist Satan. His flesh was weak from fasting which is how he brought it under subjection.
The closer you walk with God, the easier self-control will be.
How are you feeling about these examples of self-control in the Bible? I can honestly say that as I wrote this I became more and more confident that self-control is obedience to God and His word. Which puts a lack of self-control in the category of disobedience. Not a place I want to be!
What are your thoughts? Share them in the comments below!