How should you respond when someone demands something that goes against your faith convictions? What if those making those demands are your government leaders who have been established by God? We begin reading Daniel with today’s Bible reading*. As I read it, I saw a powerful application for today and will use this in today’s sermon.
In Daniel Chapter One, we see four Hebrew men — Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah — who have been taken captive by the Babylonians. As part of erasing their Hebrew identity, they are assigned new Babylonian names: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Another aspect of obliterating their Hebrew identity was changing their diet. You’ll remember that God had specific foods designated as clean or unclean. Daniel saw this as a test of his faith convictions; he didn’t want to defile himself by eating unclean foods. He was willing to submit to his new king, so long as it didn’t violate his faith convictions. He offered to compromise on his diet: he would be tested after ten days of eating only vegetables — as opposed to the king’s food. Depending on his health outcome, he would continue eating clean foods or submit to the king’s food.
Note: Vegetables were considered clean foods, and the king’s food presumably included unclean foods.
At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his friends were found to be in better health than the other Hebrew men who were adjusting to their new Babylonian diet. At the end of three years of learning the Babylonian culture, the King found these four men ten times better in wisdom and understanding than anyone else in the kingdom. God had rewarded them for their faithfulness and diligence.
In Daniel Chapter Two, King Nebuchadnezzar had a troubling dream and no one in the kingdom could tell him what he had dreamed, much less the dream’s meaning. So the king threatened to kill all of the “wise men” in the kingdom. Daniel enlists his friends to pray about the situation. God gives Daniel the king’s dream and its interpretation.
In Daniel Chapter Three, the king commands everyone to bow to his image or be executed by fire. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego rightly saw the command to worship someone other than God was in violation of their faith convictions. They refused to bow and were thrown into a furnace.
The young men confessed their belief in God’s absolute sovereignty. God could deliver them from the fire, but if He chose not to, at least the king would know that they would not — and could not — compromise on their faith convictions. God honored their faithfulness by sparing the young men.
The king and his attendants saw something unusual. Jesus showed up in the furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! When the three Hebrew men were taken from the furnace, Nebuchadnezzar and his attendants saw that they were completely untouched by the flames. They didn’t even smell like smoke! The king acknowledged that no other god could deliver like their God and prohibited anyone in the kingdom from speaking against the Hebrews’ God.
Not every hill is a hill worthy to die on.
Not every challenge is a challenge to your faith convictions.
Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were willing to submit to their king. They realized that in submitting to Nebuchadnezzar, they were ultimately submitting to God. They offered to compromise when they could, without violating their faith convictions.
However, they were unwilling to compromise on their faith convictions. When it came down to breaking the First and Second Commandments, they stood their ground. They would not compromise. And they were threatened with their life. But they knew that God was in control. They knew that God could deliver them; the only question was, would He? Regardless, they were willing to lay their lives down to stand for their faith convictions.
The biggest question in applying this lesson today is, “How do you know which hills are worth dying on?“
It comes down to knowing your own faith convictions. As they say, “If you don’t know what to stand for, you’ll fall for anything.” Some things are worth compromising on; you don’t always get your way.
But there are some things worth standing for. Some things are not worth compromising on. Some things are worth dying for.
I need to add that Believers — particularly in the United States — desperately need to distinguish between our Biblical faith convictions and our cultural and political convictions. Just because a government leader implements policies that disagree with your political views doesn’t mean that your faith convictions are being violated.
Know your faith convictions.
* Chapters covered in today’s reading: