Living a Faithful Life
Within both religious and scientific communities a growing interest has developed about the life of the ancient Hebrew prophet Daniel. This interest is being driven, in part, by increasing disease rates within Western nations.
Daniel’s life and health practices were based on God’s moral and health laws, and he emerges as a pattern of integrity amid a corrupt world. He and his companions even risked their lives in order to maintain fidelity to God’s laws.
Let’s look briefly at what some studies are now saying about Daniel’s biblically informed health practices.
Choosing the Best Diet
When offered the king’s food, Daniel instead chose to eat only plant-based foods (Dan. 1:16), the diet originally prescribed for humankind at Creation (Gen. 1:29).
When a plant-based diet was recently followed for 21 days by researchers, it was discovered that its adoption led to “improved cardiovascular and metabolic health.” 1 In addition, those following such an eating plan had better blood sugar control,2 which researchers are finding is directly related to one’s level of self-control and willpower.3 Simply put, if your blood sugar is consistently in the optimal range, your ability to control your actions and reach your goals are greatly improved.
The plant-based diet Daniel and his friends requested would have protected them from eating animal products, which are high in arachidonic acid, a chemical shown to increase negative moods and emotions. 4 Daniel’s biblically informed diet increased his mental ability and thus put him in a position where he could serve as an example for the principles and purposes of God.
Daniel chose water to drink instead of wine, which also may have given him an edge mentally. Not only does drinking water enhance memory in the young 5—a recent study by the University of East London has suggested that drinking as little as 24 ounces (three cups) of water before taking a test improved reaction time by as much as 14 percent.6 No wonder Daniel and his friends ended up having a tenfold cognitive edge!
Prayer and Meditation
Daniel led a life of prayer and meditation on God’s Word.
Researchers have been amazed to find that just thinking about religious themes can refuel self-control. 7 Another study has indicated that prayer is “a kind of anaerobic workout for self-control,”8 with just three hours leading to “improved attention,” and with 11 hours leading to “increased neural connections between regions of the brain important for staying focused, ignoring distractions, and controlling impulses.”9 The study resulted in participants having “more gray matter in the prefrontal cortex,”10 as well as increased “blood flow to the prefrontal cortex,”11 the brain’s center of executive functions that differentiate humans from the animal kingdom.
Thus, those who follow Daniel’s divinely informed practice of private prayer (Dan. 10), in addition to corporate prayer (Dan. 1 and 2), can expect similar results.
Daniel’s brain health and success were certainly based on his confidence in God. As a result, he devoted unswerving obedience to God’s moral and health laws (Dan. 9:4, 13). Daniel’s fidelity to God’s laws benefited not only himself but also those he served, as evidenced by the actions of Darius, the king of the Medes, who put him in charge of his affairs so he would “not suffer loss” (Dan. 6:2), a phrase concerning the loss of revenue. Daniel’s high regard for the law of God led him to be honest not only in his own life practices but also with the king’s and the kingdom’s finances.
Contemporary research concerning honesty finds that those who are even recently exposed to the law of God are also apt to have higher levels of honesty.
Participants in one study were split into two groups. One group was asked to recall the Ten Commandments, and the other to recall 10 books they had read in high school. Among the group that recalled the 10 books, widespread cheating was observed. In the group that was asked to recall the Ten Commandments, no cheating whatsoever was observed.
The experiment was rerun, and this time participants were reminded either of their school’s honor codes or the Ten Commandments. Once again, those who focused on the Ten Commandments were measurably more honest. Even when the experiment was run on a group of self-declared atheists, the same results were seen. 12
Although Daniel faced many stressful situations, he always maintained a spirit of gratitude, even spending time in thanksgiving when he heard about the decree that would land him in a den of lions (Dan. 6:10)!
The ability to maintain a grateful attitude has now been shown to lead to fewer health problems, a better outlook on life, and an ability to progress toward important personal goals in the area of academics, relationships, health, and others. 13 Science recommends that daily gratitude journals be kept for optimal health of brain and body.
Keeping the Heritage
While many factors influenced Daniel’s early years, Josiah’s reform may have somehow played a positive role as well. Daniel was very young when Josiah brought the people back to faithfulness to God and His law.
Daniel’s commitment to do God’s will reminds us of the young King Josiah’s determination to elevate the law and lifestyle of God (see 2 Kings 22; 23). As a result of his rediscovery of God’s law, Josiah experienced a personal revival and reformation, which led the entire nation on a course to revival. Josiah received one of Scripture’s most sterling commendations: “Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses” (2 Kings 23:25).
Josiah’s faithful life and lifestyle parallel that of Daniel and his friends, who years later, exiled in a foreign land, purposed and planned to live a life of integrity within the courts of Babylon.
Ellen White wrote, “The character of Daniel is presented to the world as a striking example of what God’s grace can make of men fallen by nature and corrupted by sin. The record of his noble, self-denying life is an encouragement to our common humanity. From it we may gather strength to nobly resist temptation, and firmly, and in the grace of meekness, stand for the right under the severest trial.” 14
May God help us to be faithful, as was Daniel, in our sphere of influence.
- Richard J. Bloomer, Mohammad M. Kabir, John F. Trepanowski, Robert E. Canale, and Tyler M. Farney, “A 21-Day Daniel Fast Improves Selected Biomarkers of Antioxidant Status and Oxidative Stress in Men and Women,” Nutrition and Metabolism 8 (2011): 17. Available online at: www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/8/1/17.
- M. T. Gailliot, R. F. Baumeister, C. N. DeWall, J. K. Maner, E. A. Plant, D. M. Tice, L. E. Brewer, B. J. Schmeichel, “Self-control Relies on Glucose as a Limited Energy Source: Willpower Is More Than a Metaphor,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 92, no. 2 (February 2007): 325-336. Available online at: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17279852.
- Bonnie L. Beezhold, Carol S. Johnston, and Deanna R. Daigle, “Vegetarian Diets Are Associated With Healthy Mood States: a Cross-sectional Study in Seventh-day Adventist Adults,” Nutrition Journal 9 (2010): 26. Available online at: www.nutritionj.com/content/9/1/26.
- D. Benton and N. Burgess, “The Effect of the Consumption of Water on the Memory and Attention of Children,” Appetite 53, no. 1 (August 2009): 143-146. Abstract available online at: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19445987.
- “How Drinking a Glass of Water Can Make Your Brain 14 Percent Faster.” Available online at: www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2366353/How-drinking-glass-water-make-brain-14-faster.html.
- “Religion Helps Us Gain Self-control, Study Suggests,” Science DailyNews, Jan. 24, 2012. Available online at: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120124113045.htm.
- Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength (New York: Penguin Press, 2011), p. 180.
- Kelly McGonigal, The Willpower Instinct: How Self-control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It (New York: Avery, 2012), p. 25.
- Ibid., p. 24.
- bid., p. 25.
- Dan Ariely, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone—Especially Ourselves (New York: Harper, 2012), pp. 39-44.
- Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough, “Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: an Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-being in Daily Life,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 84, no. 2 (February 2003): 377-389. Abstract available online at: http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=buy.optionToBuy&id=2003-01140-012.
- Ellen G. White, Fundamentals of Christian Education (Nashville: Southern Pub. Assn., 1923), p. 79.