We find in the first chapter of Daniel where king Nebuchadnezzar demonstrates his dominance throughout Jerusalem by taking many of the wisest and most beautiful people to Babylon as captives who would be trained so they could serve throughout his kingdom. Daniel was among this group, but he had resolved himself that he would not become dependent on the king’s gifts or favors and would not partake of anything forbidden by Jewish law. Although Daniel was now in a culture that did not honor God, he still obeyed God’s laws and did not give in to the pressures around him.
“5And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king. 6Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah… 8But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.” —Daniel 1:5-8
Daniel was determined to remain true to God’s law. This was not only difficult because of the potential punishment for disrespecting the king, but also the numerous luxuries he was offered would certainly be enticing. However, Daniel and his friends had already resolved themselves to be faithful to God’s laws and they knew where to draw the line so they would remain faithful.
We are often left to decide our level of commitment once we are in the face of temptation. Having a firm foundation with clear goals and a ready made decision of what you will or will not do makes it much easier to stand your ground in the face of desire, impulse and decision. Just because we want God’s will to be accomplished in our lives, wanting it is not enough to withstand temptation and this can cause us to constantly redraw lines within our faith commitment as we go along.
Resisting temptations and societal pressures is more likely if we have thought through our convictions and know where we stand before having to determine them in the face of trouble or enticement. We can see from Daniel and his friends that it is not only possible to remain faithful to God in the midst of a culture that does not honor Him, but they were also sustained and blessed by God because they did not compromise their belief.
As Christians, we can certainly make adjustments in our daily lives depending on the culture around us, but we must never compromise God’s instruction for us. When it comes to the teaching of Christ, we’ve fallen into a mentality of changing whatever we think necessary to make us feel better about ourselves, rather than serving God and living a life that produces fruit of our devotion to Christ. Daniel is a great example of how we can remain faithful to our convictions, yet earn the respect and favor of those around us, even when they believe differently.
I pray, “Father, give me the courage to stand firm in my faith. Let me find favor with those around me and help me always display a Christlike attitude. Let me be a living, loving, and encouraging example for those in need. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.”
Rev. Cathleen N. Cathcart is pastor of New Life Worship Center in Spartanburg.