Self-control is an important virtue highlighted throughout the Bible. In a world filled with temptation, having the discipline and willpower to resist sin and focus on God’s calling is no easy task. Yet there are many inspirational figures in Scripture who exemplified extraordinary self-control despite facing great adversity.
If you’re looking for biblical role models of self-control, here are some of the most noteworthy ones: Joseph, Job, Daniel, Jesus.
Resisted temptation from Potiphar’s wife
As recorded in Genesis 39, Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt by his jealous brothers. He ended up serving in the house of Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard. Potiphar’s wife attempted to seduce Joseph multiple times, but he refused her advances, saying “How could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”
(Gen 39:9). Joseph knew it would be morally wrong to give in to her desires, so he resisted the temptation even though the situation put him in a difficult spot.
Joseph showed remarkable self-control and integrity in the face of temptation. His commitment to righteous living is an inspirational model of someone placing faithfulness to God above personal pleasure or gain. As the Bible says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.
And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Cor 10:13). For Joseph, that way out was figuratively and literally running away from sin.
Showed mercy and forgiveness to his brothers
Years later, when Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt looking for food during the famine, they did not recognize him as the brother they had betrayed. Joseph could have reacted in anger, but instead tested their hearts by speaking harshly at first but later revealing his identity and forgiving them (Gen 45:3-8).
He reassured them that while they intended harm, God meant it for good, to put Joseph in place to save his family.
This takes incredible self-control and humility – to not take revenge against people who severely mistreated you. Joseph had an understand of God’s sovereignty and care over his life, and was able to put aside personal vendettas and show mercy.
His example foreshadows Jesus’ instructions hundreds of years later to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44). Rather than insisting his brothers make amends, Joseph simply forgave and invited them to live in peace in Egypt under his provision and protection.
Truly a testament to the power of self-control producing peace rather than anger.
Stayed faithful despite losing everything
Job was a righteous and wealthy man who lived during the time of the patriarchs. He had a large family and owned much livestock and property. However, God allowed Satan to test Job’s faith by taking away everything he had – his children, servants, flocks and herds.
Inexplicably, Job lost all his vast wealth in a single day (Job 1:13-19). Despite this immense tragedy, Job’s faith in God did not waver. He tore his clothes, shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship, saying “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:20-21). Job’s steadfast faith in God’s sovereignty was extraordinary considering that he lost almost everything that was dear to him.
In his deep grief, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing (Job 1:22). This showed that his faith and integrity were not dependent on his circumstances. Job’s unwavering trust in God is an inspiration and example for all believers going through trials.
His tenacious faith fulfills the exhortation that we should “consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:2-4).
Did not curse God when afflicted
After Job lost all his wealth, Satan asked God to stretch out His hand and strike Job’s health so that Job would surely curse Him. God permitted this, so Satan afflicted Job with terrible and painful sores from head to toe (Job 2:7-8).
In his physical agony and intense grief, Job took a piece of broken pottery to scrape himself as he sat among the ashes. His wife told him to “curse God and die” but Job replied, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:9-10).
This exemplified Job’s steadfast faith and integrity despite his enormous suffering.
Throughout this immense trial, Job did not sin with his lips by charging God with wrongdoing. Three of his friends – Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar came to comfort him, but instead they blamed him, telling Job that he must have sinned greatly to deserve such suffering.
However, Job maintained that he was innocent and did not curse or blame God (Job 27:1-6). At one point, Job cried out in despair and complained bitterly about his misery. Yet he did not curse or abandon God (Job 7:11-21).
Job’s persistent faith is a testimony that believers can remain faithful through suffering when they trust God’s sovereignty and goodness.
In the end, God restored Job’s fortunes by doubling all his wealth, granting him ten more children and prolonging his life (Job 42:10-17). More importantly, Job encountered God in a deeply personal way.
His faith remained steadfast, proving that God is worthy of worship not merely for the blessings He bestows, but for who He is.
Maintained holy lifestyle in pagan kingdom
Daniel was an Israelite who was taken captive as a young man and brought to live in the pagan Babylonian kingdom. Though surrounded by a culture that did not honor God, Daniel resolved not to defile himself by eating the royal food and wine (Daniel 1:8).
He instead requested vegetables and water, demonstrating self-control over his appetites. God honored Daniel’s commitment and gave him exceptional talent and favor with the Babylonian rulers (Daniel 1:17-20).
Later, when King Darius decreed that no petitions could be made to any god or man other than himself, Daniel continued his regular practice of praying to the one true God three times a day by his window (Daniel 6:7, 10).
He did this even though it endangered his life, showing remarkable self-control and discipline in order to remain spiritually pure and faithful to God.
Prayed steadfastly even when it was illegal
As a result of Daniel’s steadfast prayer life, his enemies tricked King Darius into passing a law that would condemn Daniel to death in the lions’ den (Daniel 6:4-9). Though Daniel knew that the document was signed, he continued his regular practice of prayer, demonstrating incredible self-control in the face of mortal danger.
Rather than panic or confront the conspirators, Daniel maintained his composure and continued his routines of self-discipline. His poise and self-control were predicated on his firm trust in God’s sovereign control.
When questioned about his lawbreaking, Daniel politely explained his situation to the distressed king (Daniel 6:10-13).
Daniel’s steadfast self-control, even when his life was endangered for following God’s law above man’s law, encourage others to develop similar discipline and character. His example has inspired Jews and Christians for thousands of years and continues to encourage spiritual self-control today.
Fasted 40 days in the wilderness
After being baptized by John the Baptist, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness where he fasted for 40 days and 40 nights (Matthew 4:1-2). This intense period of fasting in solitude prepared Jesus for His earthly ministry.
While fasting, Jesus was tempted by the devil to turn stones into bread, to test God’s protection, and to worship Satan in exchange for authority over all the kingdoms of the world. But Jesus refused to give in and rebuked the devil by quoting Scripture (Matthew 4:3-11).
Jesus overcame temptation through self-control, dependence on God’s Word, and obedience to God’s will.
Resisted temptation from the devil
During His 40 days of fasting in the Judaean Desert, Jesus was tempted three times by the devil (Matthew 4:1-11). First, the devil told Jesus to turn stones into bread. But Jesus refused, saying “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Then the devil told Jesus to jump off the temple to test if God would protect Him. Again, Jesus refused and said, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” Finally, the devil promised Jesus authority over all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus worshipped him.
Once more, Jesus rebuked the devil and commanded him to leave. By overcoming these great temptations, Jesus displayed amazing self-control and dependence on God. His victory gives hope to believers who face temptations today.
Restrained anger at money changers in the temple
One time when Jesus went to the temple in Jerusalem, He found money changers and people selling animals for sacrifice (Matthew 21:12-13). This commerce had turned a house of prayer into a den of thieves. Jesus responded by overturning tables and driving out the merchants and animals.
He showed righteous anger at how the temple was being desecrated. However, Jesus did not sin in His anger. He controlled His emotions and did not lash out violently. Jesus used only the force necessary to correct this wrongdoing. His self-control aligned with God’s justice.
This incident displays Jesus’ restraint and self-mastery, focused on purifying God’s house according to God’s will.
The Bible offers many inspirational models of self-control during times of adversity and temptation. As we seek to grow in Godly discipline and character, we can learn important lessons from biblical figures like Joseph, Job, Daniel and Jesus.
By keeping our eyes fixed on God and relying on His strength, we too can develop the resilience and willpower to overcome challenges and stay faithful to our calling.