During this season of political and social turmoil, Bridgewood Church is examining how we maintain our courage in the middle of chaos, maintaining God's standards in a world that is pressing us to compromise. And when we look into the book of Daniel, we get a biblical understanding of what that looks like.
Two weeks ago, Pastor Jon Rokowski urged us to stop asking God to get us out of our circumstances, and ask Him to get us through them. This is an important distinction to make because it asks us to become involved in the world around us.
In Pastor Curt's message in week one, and in our last entry, we discussed that the world is the object of God's redemption, and his great love. And even though as Christians we are no longer of this world, we are not supposed to bury our heads in the sand.
The king talked with them, and no one impressed him as much as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they entered the royal service. Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom. Daniel remained in the royal service until the first year of the reign of King Cyrus. (Daniel 1:19-21)
In week two, we saw how in every situation, be it a blazing furnace, a diet, or interpreting a dream, the boys never tried to get out of their circumstances, but trusted God to get them through their circumstances instead. In the passage above, it says that the boys were found ten times more capable than any of the kings advisers. Do you imagine this would be so if they chose not to participate?
The boys were prisoners of war. They had no obligations to Babylon, be it religious beliefs, cultural norms, or economic ties. They had no reason to participate and use their influence for a kingdom that wasn't their own, but they chose to anyway.
The passage also says that Daniel remained in the royal service until the first year of the reign of King Cyrus; this was in 539 BC. King Nebuchadnezzar besieged Judah in 605 BC and took the boys captive, and two years later, in 603 BC, Daniel interprets his dream. Looking at the dates, we see that Daniel remained in the service of the Babylonian kings for 66 years.
Do you think Daniel could have stayed in his position for sixty-six years if he tried to get out of his circumstances, instead of through them? This is why we have been encouraged to pray for our leaders and vote. Whether we chose them or not, we have to participate.
In week two, Pastor Jon said the church must become a unified body with one goal in Christ. As Jon said, courage comes from a relationship with Christ, but it is strengthened by a strong relationship with others. And last week, Pastor Curt reminded us that in the previous election, 25 million Christians did not vote in an election that was won by a margin of 5 million.
When the church is unified, and makes the decision to participate, it becomes much easier to be courageous in the face of compromise and conformity, and to leverage our faith to influence the world around us. The more people you have in unity, the more the responsibility is spread, meaning that everything does not fall on one person's shoulders.
Jon spoke about a local businesswoman who had a customer attack her faith, ripping a picture of Jesus off her wall, and almost tearing it up. Such an event is threatening, and when our faith is attacked, it is easy to feel as though the church is threatened.
But as Jon said, the church can not be threatened. Jesus himself said “I will build my church, and the all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” The only thing that can happen is a lack of unity hindering our effectiveness, and compromise and conformity weening out those whose faith lacks authenticity.
This is why Pastor Curt told us last week that we need to Stand Out, Stand Up, and Stand Firm. We are going to go through the fire, and we are going to be faced with the choice to go through the fire, or to get out of the fire.
Getting out of the fire means bowing down, conforming and compromising to the world's expectations of you. This would be the fingers crossed human rationalization that Pastor Curt spoke about. We can say to ourselves, “I'll just bow to avoid the fire. After all, I don't really mean it, and how can I leverage my influence if I'm burned to a crisp?”
Getting through the fire means trusting that God will carry you through circumstances that you are unable to on your own. And God will be there with you. He doesn't wait for you on the other side. As we see in the blazing furnace, king Nebuchadnezzar saw four men inside the fire, not three, and said one of them looked like a god.
In the second service, Pastor Curt dropped a gem of wisdom that might have slipped right by you. He said, “people will be able to see God in you the most when you're going through the fire.”
When Daniel interpreted the dream, after giving God credit for doing so mind you, Nebuchadnezzar replied, “Truly your God is the greatest of gods, the Lord over kings, a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this secret.” And Daniel and his friends got promotions.
There is a system that functions when you trust God to get you through the fire. Pastor Curt said, “God gets the glory, and you gain influence to leverage your faith.”
I think of the Parable of the Ten Servants in Luke, chapter 19. The king trusts ten servants with a large financial sum to invest, and upon his return, wants to know their profits. The first two make a ten and a fivefold profit, while the third does nothing out of fear of the king. The king says to the third, “You wicked servant!,” and asks, “Why didn't you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.”
“Then, turning to the others standing nearby, the king ordered, 'Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one who has ten pounds.' 'But, master,' they said, 'he already has ten pounds.' 'Yes,' the king replied, 'and to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away” (Luke 19:24-26).
This is precisely why we can't bury out heads in the sand as Christians. If we want God to trust us with great things, we have to be responsible with the little things. If we do nothing with our small responsibilities, we will lose those as well.
Voting, for example, is a small responsibility. And if we are unwilling to invest even this small sum, how can we expect God to grant us greater influence? The same is true when we bow instead of standing out, standing up, and standing firm. If we cannot stand out, stand up, and stand firm on a small issue, then we certainly will not do it when we are looking into a blazing furnace.
When the boys made it through the blazing furnace, Nebuchadnezzar said:
“Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king's command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore, I make this decree: If any people, whatever their race or nation or language, speak a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they will be torn limb from limb, and their houses will be turned into heaps of rubble. There is no other god who can rescue like this!” (4:28-29)
Once again, God was given the glory in the situation, and again, the boys were given even greater authority.
If you remember from week one, Pastor Curt said, “culture will recruit you and culture will redefine you.” A week later, Pastor Jon said, “culture will test your authenticity.” I would offer another: “culture will entrap you.”
In an effort to get rid of Daniel, the administrators and high officers of Babylon got King Darius to sign a law prohibiting prayer to anyone but King Darius. Of course, knowing that Daniel was in violation, they told the king, and forced his hand to throw Daniel into the lion's den.
Daniel could have easily took a break from praying, or done it in secret to avoid the lion's den, but instead, he stood out, stood up, and stood firm. After finding that Daniel had been saved from the lions, King Darius had Daniel's attackers executed. Then he issued a decree saying:
"Peace and prosperity to you! I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel. For he is the living God, and he will endure forever. His kingdom will never be destroyed, and his rule will never end. He rescues and saves his people; he performs miraculous signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions" (Daniel 6:25-27).
Again, God got the glory, and Daniel got the influence.
Even Nebuchadnezzar himself had to go through the fire. In chapter four, he is exiled into the wilderness because of his pride. The Word says, he ate grass, and his hair and fingernails grew out like eagles feathers and bird's claws. Eventually, he regained his mind.
“After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshipped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever. His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal. All the people of the earth are nothing compared to him. He does as he pleases among the angels of heaven and among the people of the earth. No one can stop him or say to him, 'What do you mean by doing these things?'” (Daniel 4:34-35)
Nebuchadnezzar was not a Jew. He did not grow up serving God, but because of the miracles he witnessed and his relationship with the four boys, he came to know God. And his first response after going through the fire was not to criticize God, but to praise Him. After he was restored to his position, he said:
“When my sanity returned to me, so did my honor and glory and kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored as head of my kingdom, with even greater honor than before. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud” (Daniel 4:36-37).
Imagine what would have happened in all of these situations had the boys chosen to get out of their circumstances instead of trusting God to get them through. Nothing would happen. There would be no glory to God, and the boys would gain no influence. Everything would be business as usual in Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar's dream would be left uninterpreted, everyone would worship the statue, Nebuchadnezzar would not have become a believer, and everyone would pray to king Darius. Sure nobody would have been thrown in a lions den or a blazing furnace, but then the miracle of those events would not have happened, and the Babylonians would have missed out on the glory of God.
I was listening to a sermon from Pastor Steven Furtick, and God was putting something on my heart that I did not want to do. A situation had caused me pain, and I did not want to go back to it. In his sermon, Pastor Furtick said, “Go back to your misery, or you'll miss your miracle.” So I reluctantly did what God was asking of me, and wouldn't you know it, I got my miracle.
Sometimes you have to go through your misery or you'll miss your miracle. The same is true for the fire; sometimes you have to stay in it for God to do something through it. If we back out and bow out to compromise and conformity, we are going to miss out on the miracles that God can pull from the fire.
1) The story of the customer attacking the business owner's faith incites a number of responses in us. Have you faced anything similar, and how did you respond to it?
2) What opportunities do you see for unity and fellowship with the church? How has your unity and involvement strengthened your faith and your resolve?
3) The boys made it through the fire, giving God the glory, and gaining influence themselves. How have the fires you've gone through furthered God's glory and given you influence?
4) What circumstances in your life are you trying to get out of? Which ones are you trying to get through? What miracles might you be missing out on?