Summary: Here are some self-help principles from Daniel chapter 4 on putting an end to self-defeating behavior in your life.
In Daniel chapter four we read of a king gone mad. This, by the way, is not unusual. There are many instances in history (and in modern culture) of those who have achieved great status, wealth, power or fame, ending up mentally and/or emotionally disturbed.
Sometimes it is directly tied to the use of mind-altering drugs. But the lust for power, fame and fortune can be drug enough to drag someone into a fantasy world.
Lest we feel smug, we must remember that self-defeating behavior does not only inhabit the lives of the culturally "elite". Every human struggles with habits and weaknesses by which we often shoot our own selves in the foot.
But how can we stop the madness?
How can we reinvent ourselves so that we don’t continue to be our own worst enemy?
First of all, Daniel 4 teaches us:
1. We need the Holy Spirit to guide our thinking. (Daniel 4:1-18)
Fear is often the catalyst to our self-defeating behavior. We’re afraid, so we do stupid things in our feeble human attempt to cope with our fear.
Even kings are afraid sometimes. In verse five King Nebuchadnezzar told Daniel, "I had a dream, and I was afraid."
There’s an awful lot said about dreams in the book of Daniel, most of which we’ll get to later in this sermon series. Dreaming is a very interesting phenomenon because we all dream and because dreams can be so unique.
Many believe that dreams are one way the subconsious mind deals with the fears the conscious mind is unwilling to confront. We can’t explain every dream that way but let’s say that is indeed true of some of our dreams.
King Nebuchadnezzar was afraid. The stresses of his kingdom and his human inability to cope were reflected in his subconscious ramblings. He was experiencing prosperity and freedom from want. (Verse 4) But his soul was still empty. Nebuchadnezzar would have been right at home in 21st-Century America.
Before beginning his dark journey into mental illnes, the king calls on his wise men. One wonders why Neb even worried with the other counselors in his kingdom given his previous experience in chapter two. No one but the man of God, Daniel, could help him with his previous dream. Perhaps it’s because old habits are hard to break. But they must be broken if we are going to bring an end to self-defeating behavior.
Once again it is Daniel who interprets the dream. What the kings says about him is key to our first insight. Three times the king said to Daniel, "the spirit of the holy gods is within you." (4:8,9,18)
The king was partially correct in his theology. It wasn’t the spirit of the "gods"; it was the Holy Spirit of the One and Only True God that was in Daniel.
Like the king, in our minds we often fear both the past and the future. But what lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to who lives within us!
To a believer in Christ, one’s body literally becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:19) He lives within those of us who are Christ followers!
If you are not yet a believer and follower of Christ, this is one of many reasons to become one. When you accept Christ as your Savior you receive the wonderful presence of God in the person of the Holy Spirit!
God has always wanted to dwell with people. He walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden so they could talk with each other. After man sinned and consequently lost fellowship with God, He began to reestablish a dwelling with people. First he had them build a tabernacle; then a temple. He even sent His own Son in human flesh.
When Jesus went back to heaven God sent the Holy Spirit to indwell each individual believer. That’s how much God wants to spend time with us!
God offers to be here in person to assist us with every fear we encounter! Our problem is, we aren’t always in our right mind - the "mind of the Spirit". (Romans 8:26-27 KJV) Our thinking gets off track when we forget how God is willing to express His presence in our lives.
Consider Romans 8:5-6 NLT - "Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace."
The Holy Spirit guided Daniel’s thinking. That’s why he didn’t live by fear and had a clear vision of the future. His spiritual mind is evidenced by two more principles that can help us put an end to self-defeating behavior.