Over the last four weeks, Bridgewood Church has looked at how we are to respond to a culture divided by chaos, maintaining our courage and resolve in the face of compromise.
In this fourth entry, we examine how to stand your ground when you face opposition, and we look to the book of Daniel for our answers.
As we've said in previous weeks, Bridgewood Church encourages you to do two things: vote, and pray for our leaders and our country.
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
God loves the world and everyone in it, and has called us to participate, leveraging our influence to change culture. And this is why we pray for our leaders and vote; we resolve to do everything in excellence, according to God's standards, regardless of our external circumstances.
It was this resolve for excellence that distinguished Daniel from the other administrators appointed by the Babylonian king, Darius. In fact, Daniel did such an outstanding job that King Darius wanted to put him in charge over the entire kingdom.
Daniel was committed to excellence in everything he did because his decisions were not contingent on his circumstances. In earlier weeks, we've discussed how as a teenager Daniel was taken captive to Babylon, and was trained to serve as a royal adviser, a position he held until he was over eighty years old. Daniel was a foreigner to Babylon, a nation with different beliefs than his own, and he spent his entire adult life there. He was able to excel in this environment because he did not make decisions based on his environment, he resolved to uphold God's standards in all things. As a result, God showed favor to Daniel.
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. (Colossians 3:23)
But it was also this resolve for excellence that made Daniel the target of the other jealous administrators in the kingdom, who sought to remove him from his position.
When we are doing something for God, we like to think that God will insulate us from opposition entirely, but it's actually the opposite. Upholding God's standards and living courageously will inspire opposition from culture because culture is hostile to God.
On Sunday, Pastor Curt gave us three truths to stand our ground when facing opposition, the first of which was, when God raises you up, expect people to tear you down.
Because of their jealously, the other administrators seek to tear down Daniel, so they look at his administrative practices, hoping to find something they can use against him. But after an extensive search, they come up with nothing; they can't find a single instance where Daniel was negligent or corrupt. They could not find these things because there was nothing to find. Daniel's integrity and his resolve to uphold God's standards meant that he maintained his excellence in everything he did.
This is why it is important to live a life of integrity. Integrity insulates you from opposition. When your integrity is intact, you don't have anything to fear. Fear comes from secrecy and hiding things from others that could be damaging if discovered. Because Daniel had nothing to hide, they had nothing to find.
But sometimes integrity is not enough to fully insulate us from the opposition in our life. As we see in the case of Daniel, the jealous administrators decided they'd have to fabricate something to use against him, so they used his religious beliefs to frame him. Knowing that Daniel prayed three times a day, they manipulated King Darius into signing a law that prohibited prayer for thirty days.
But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to God. (Daniel 6:10)
When Daniel found out a law was signed, he didn't try to argue or defend his prayer habit. This was because he saw no point in doing so. In our previous entries, we discussed that it is not our job to defend God; God is our defender.
If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet. (Proverbs 29:9)
When Daniel opened his window and knelt to pray, it was not out of any kind of rebellion. He wasn't giving the administrators the bird out the window. The word tells us he simply did what he had always done.
When our circumstances change, our responses usually change as well. We are used to changing and adapting to our environment, but what if we don't want to change along with our environment? The world around us is always going to change, but – even though it tells us to – we don't have to change along with it.
The same way Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were given the opportunity to bow and avoid the blazing furnace, Daniel had the opportunity to take a break from prayer. Daniel could have avoided the lion's den by waiting thirty days until he prayed again. He could have adapted to his changing environment. Instead, he held onto God's standards, just as he'd done since he was a teenager. Daniel's external circumstances changed, but his response stayed the same: he trusted God.
When our integrity is not enough to insulate us from opposition, our trust in God will fill the gap. Because Daniel was committed to integrity and excellence, he knew he could not stop praying to God. Daniel recognized the second truth needed to withstand opposition: kneeling in prayer is what gives you the strength to stand.
Instead of panicking over the threat of being thrown into the lion's den, Daniel knelt in prayer and trusted God. And like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Daniel's circumstances actually got worse. The fire was turned up seven times hotter for the three boys when they refused to obey Nebuchadnezzar, and Daniel was thrown in the lion's den.
By refusing to compromise on his prayer times, Daniel lived out a key truth: our responsibility is to pray, and God's is to control the outcome. By ceasing his prayers, Daniel could have avoided the outcome of going into the lion's den, but that was not his responsibility.
When we trust the outcome to God, we rely on the sovereignty of God, which means that we trust God – in his infinite wisdom and knowledge – to determine the best outcome. It requires a lack of certainty on our part. When Daniel was thrown into the lion's den, he did know with certainty if he would survive, but he resolved to trust God nonetheless.
Pastor Curt said, “don't fear the roar of the lion.” The roar is your external circumstances. It is the wind and the waves that cause you to turn tail and run, attempting to alter your circumstances instead of trusting the outcome to God. When you ignore the roar, you stop trying to get out, and you trust God to get you through.
As it happens, Daniel made it through the lion's den, not because of anything he'd done, but because he trusted the outcome to God, and God sent an angel to shut the mouths of the lions. And just as we've seen throughout this series, God got the glory, and Daniel got the influence to leverage in his culture.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a standard as, “something set up and established by authority as a rule for the measure of quantity, weight, extent, value, or quality.” Something is subjected to the standard as a means of determining its characteristics. With regard to God's standards, we are supposed to subject the world and our circumstances to God's standards as a means of determining our actions. But more often than not, we end up subjecting the standard to the circumstance. We forget that circumstances change, and standards do not.
God's standards do not change because God does not change. When our external circumstances change, our God remains the same. Our God is not contingent on which candidate gets in office, which law gets signed, or which social group has the most influence. If we want to have courage in the chaos, we have to hold true to the standard, ignore the roars of opposition, and trust our all-powerful, sovereign God to control the outcome, according to his perfect will.
Questions for Discussion:
1) What roars are you hearing in your life that are pressuring you toward compromise?
2) How does prayer influence your ability to trust God? Do you feel a correlation between trust and your time spent in prayer?
3) How do your circumstances affect your responses? Does knowledge of God's standards take the pressure off you to adapt to your surroundings?