By: Landon T. Copley
for Carter County Times
The World Evangelical Encyclopedia reports that “Every day over 300 people are killed for their faith in Jesus Christ.” Despite this threat of death, men and women of God continue to remain faithful to him. Daniel knew what it was like to be in the shoes of these martyrs as he stood before King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon with his life hanging in the balance.
In our context, Christians have yet to reach the point in which our lives are at immediate danger of death. Yet, more subtle danger is still lurking in the shadows of the American flag. As external forces continue to press us, Christians are left with an incredibly challenging question: How do we remain faithful to God amidst exile? In Daniel 2, Daniel is given a task to interpret the king’s dream. If he is unable to provide the king with the interpretation, he will be torn limb to limb at the king’s request. Thankfully, Daniel’s response to a death threat from King Nebuchadnezzar provides us with the answer to that question.
Stand together: After Daniel is appointed a certain time to discern the interpretation of the king’s dream, Daniel immediately makes the matter known to his Israelite companions—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. If these Jewish men wish to remain faithful toward God in a foreign setting, they must stand together.
The New Testament church exists as a community of gatherers who are responsible to one another. One great benefit of a local church is that it serves as an outpost for alien travelers who intend not to stay in this world but are just passing through. Thus, when Christians join a local church, they unite with an outpost of like-minded people who share the same goal, the same mission, and the same needs. If we wish to remain faithful amidst our exile, we must run this race with other believers.
Breathe: Not only did Daniel make the matter known to his friends, but he also made a request of them. He bid them to pray, specifically to seek mercy from God, in order that they might not be destroyed.
John Bunyan has said, “You can do more than pray, after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.” Occasionally, we wrongly partake in prayer toward God as a last resort, but prayer should be the Christian’s first resort. Prayer is the very breath that we breathe as Christians. Like a scuba diver who brings his oxygen with him into the water, we too must carry prayer with us in this alien setting. This demonstrates our reliance on God.
Get some sleep: Daniel concludes his prayer-meeting with his companions and then he goes to sleep. Though that may come as a surprise, we know this because the text tells us that the interpretation of the dream came to him through a vision in the night.
How many of us would be able to sleep knowing that our own execution was at hand? How many of us toss and turn at night as we lay in our worries and anxieties? Yet, we can glean from Daniel’s own actions that we must put the matter in God’s hands and then get some sleep. In other words, pray and then trust God.
Hit pause: When the mystery of the interpretation was revealed to Daniel, he did not hurry off to his friends, nor did he rush to the King. Rather, he paused to worship God.
The test of a Christian’s faithfulness is not solely based on the zeal of our prayers in times of catastrophe but also on the wholesomeness of our worship when God acts in grace toward us. Therefore, the test of our faithfulness in exile comes not only before the crisis but also after the predicament is behind us. To remain faithful, we must pause amidst the disorder of daily life and form a habit to worship God through word and through deed.
Be bold: Following his worship session, Daniel was faced with a choice. Would he go before the most powerful man in the ancient world and cower, or would he stand before the King of Babylon and tell him the truth? Daniel chose to remain faithful and stand boldly for the truth.
As we are confronted by this ever-present cultural upheaval, there is immense pressure on the Christian to replace objective truth with subjective truth. We are being squeezed from the outside to conform to the spirit of the age. And yet, if we are to persist in faithfulness, we must live with the boldness provided by the Holy Spirit to stand firm for the certainty of God and the truth of his Word.
While we recognize the wonderful example that Daniel provides for us, we also recognize that the book of Daniel would be a tragic story if it were merely about man’s faithfulness. Thankfully, Daniel’s very character points us to God’s faithfulness, visibly seen in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Like Daniel, Jesus was tried and tested, but only Christ is “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” May we then be challenged in the rising anti-God culture to remain faithful to Jesus in our exile.