My daughter teaches me about self-discipline.

Every school day, she is up before sunrise. She wakes me up with a huge hug and says, “Mom, I want to get to school early.” Then my oldest daughter makes breakfast for herself and her sister while I make the lunches. She applies this same self-discipline to her schoolwork where she always does her best. Most importantly, she pours over the Bible verses she is learning at church. My husband and I are so proud of her diligence and hope this type of discipline and love for learning lasts her whole life.

I, however, am less self-disciplined. Just ask my high school cross country and track coach who had a special name for people like me: “the back pack,” as I was always bringing up the rear. Thankfully, my coach was an encourager; he patiently cheered me on even though he knew I was not giving it my best.

Fortunately, since my younger years, I have matured in many ways. No, I haven’t become a marathon runner, but I can clearly see the value of being self-disciplined in my life, both physically and spiritually. I’ve also come to understand how being disciplined is an act that has value and is pleasing to God. It’s a way we can honor Him.

Daniel teaches us about self-discipline.

One excellent demonstration of spiritual self-discipline and the blessings it brings can be seen in the life of Daniel. Even as a youth, Daniel was disciplined in his faith. He held fast to his beliefs and trusted God, even when it could have cost him his life.

In Daniel 1, we see Daniel asking for permission to refrain from eating the food and wine given to him by King Darius, perhaps to avoid violating his Jewish beliefs. This request could have caused Daniel to be severely punished. But God protected Daniel and caused him to look healthier and be better nourished than the young men who had eaten the king’s food. God also blessed Daniel with an unusual aptitude for understanding and wisdom, and He gave him a special ability to interpret dreams. This gave Daniel great favor and promotion in the kingdom.

In Daniel 6, we see Daniel remaining steadfast in his prayer life even though a decree had been issued that forbade him from praying to anyone except King Darius (Daniel 6:7). Violating this law would result in Daniel being thrown immediately into a den full of lions.

But even with this decree in place, Daniel was faithful to God and continued to pray. Daniel 6:10 says, “But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.”

As promised, Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den and a stone put over the mouth of its entrance. Daniel stayed there all night. Early the next morning, King Darius returned and discovered that God had protected Daniel. God had sent His angels to shut the mouths of the lions (6:22). King Darius was amazed and ultimately acknowledged that God was the one true God (6:26–27).

The story of Daniel reminds us of some very important truths about self-discipline:

Our self-discipline shows we trust God and desire Him above all.

Our self-discipline is rewarded by God.

Our self-discipline strengthens our relationship with God.

Our self-discipline, according to Hebrews 5:14, gives us the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong, just like Daniel could.

Our self-discipline leads others to God. People notice when we respond faithfully to God; our actions draw them to the Lord.

If we desire to have a closer relationship with God, to experience His blessings, and to live a life that glorifies Him, we must become disciplined. We must remain strong in our faith, no matter what comes against us. It won’t take long for us to see the value being self-disciplined brings to life as a whole.