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Friday, August 17, 2012

Faithful In A Faithless Generation

I have been reading the book of Daniel in preparation for starting a Bible study on that book this coming Sunday. As I look at the life of this man who endured so much, I am convicted by his life.

As a young man, Daniel was taken captive from his home never to return. Although he lived in a foreign land under some crazy rulers, he never wavered in his faith or his dedication to God. He could have given in, gone with the flow, taken the comfortable route. Given his talents and abilities, he still might have exceled and been successful, but he would have missed the blessing of God. Daniel was ridiculed and persecuted for his beliefs, but he perservered and was blessed by God every time.

Christians are living in a difficult time. We may not be living in a foreign land, but in many ways our culture is trying to take us captive. The recent Chick-fil-A debacle is a prime example. One man, expressing his opinion supporting his beliefs, started a nationwide firestorm. This week, the Family Research Council was accused of "hate speech" and labeled a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Group because of their support of traditional family values. They were violently attacked and a security guard was killed at their facility. (Don't know if the gunmen knew that the head of FRC is a Marine, but anyone else wanting to try this might want to think twice...) Anyone who listens to the news, knows how the media feels about the "religious right", as conservative Christians have been labeled.

How do we respond? Maybe we can take something from Daniel:

  • Daniel lived under and worked for some political leaders that he did not agree with. From the very first chapter, Daniel stands up for his rights by not eating the king's food. He is always respectful and diplomatic, but never compromised his values. We have to stand up and be counted. We cannot sit quietly by and just absorb the "food" the culture sets before us. This will not be popular with many, but we are called to be set apart.
  • Daniel lived in a polytheistic culture where tolerance was expected but not returned. Remember the golden statue? Nebuchudnezzar wanted everyone to worship him. You could worship other gods if you wanted, but you were forced to worship the statue, too. Daniel isn't specifically mentioned in this story, but his best friends are and they didn't bow down to the culture. They stood for their religious rights and almost lost their lives for it. Favorite verse from Daniel is in this chapter. "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. BUT EVEN IF HE DOES NOT, we want you to know, O king, that WE WILL NOT SERVE YOUR GODS or worship the image of gold you have set up." Daniel 3:17-18. We will pass through the fire. We must remain faithful to our God and not give in to cultural pressure.
  • Daniel was persecuted for his beliefs. In chapter 6, he encounters some jealous co-workers because he got the promotion they wanted. They decide to dig up some dirt on Daniel ~ negative campaigning if you will. Here is the great thing about Daniel - they couldn't find any. Daniel lived such a life of integrity before them that they could not find anything to present to the king. In order to get to him, they chose the one thing that they knew he wouldn't compromise...his faith. They literally talked the king into passing a law that they KNEW Daniel would break. No one could pray to any "god" but King Darius. No way Daniel would pray to Darius and he continued to pray to God. He was cast into the lions den for his trouble, but God saved him once again. As we stand for our faith, we should strive to live such a life of integrity that those around us can find nothing negative in our behavior. Tall order...but "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Phil. 4:13
Because Daniel was faithful, he prospered in spite of his circumstances and late in his life, God gave him spectacular visions related to end time prophecy.

How was Daniel able to remain faithful? First of all, he had an active, intimate relationship with God. He prayed daily - three times a day. Secondly, he remembered that God was in control. No matter what happened he trusted that God would only do what was best, even if it cost him his life. Also, Daniel knew he had a purpose in life. He knew God had placed him where he was and he was determined to serve Him no matter what. Lastly, he knew God is faithful. As Daniel's life grew longer, so did his history with the Lord and he knew God would be faithful to him - how could he be any less faithful in return?

Daniel and his friends give us a marvelous example of commitment, intergrity, and faithfulness when faced with a faithless culture. May we learn from their example and stand for Christ in the midst of the faithless culture by which we are surrounded. Let's let our voice be heard!

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