A few years ago, when I was footloose and fancy-free, a buddy and I decided to go on a camping trip for a few days. We loaded up with supplies and fishing gear and drove to an out-of-the way spot on the ocean. It was the ideal situation: beautiful weather, a nice, private place to camp, and lots of islands with beautiful beaches to explore. We set up camp, and the next day we headed out to do some fishing. One of the fish we landed was a strange-looking but tasty fish called a flounder.
Flounders are unique because they look like normal fish when they are young, but as they mature their right eye actually migrates over to the left side. The left side of the flat, thin fish becomes the top and is a mottled sandy brown color. This allows the fish to lie flat on the bottom and hide from predators while waiting for food.
That fish reminds me of the approach many Christians have toward the culture around us that is becoming increasingly anti-Christian. They try to blend in with their surroundings. It’s a basic desire all of us have. We all want to fit in and be accepted. It’s not comfortable to be different. The problem is that it is usually wrong. We are living in a world that is poised against God and His Word. Satan is the god of this world (1), and most of the time Christians will find themselves at best going against the current, and at worst facing intense opposition and persecution. It’s hard to be the only one in your company that refuses to go along with wrongdoing. It’s difficult to be a bold testimony for the Lord in your neighborhood.
However, in the Bible the book of Daniel gives us an encouraging example of a man’s resolute stand for the Lord in a very similar situation. It offers us helpful insight into how to avoid compromising to the culture yet adapting where necessary. It gives us some great examples of how God honors those who are loyal to Him by standing firm in two areas.
Stand firm in difficult circumstances
The book of Daniel opens by describing the incredible difficulty Daniel faced as a young man. His entire life was crumbling around him as the Babylonian empire crushed the nation of Israel. Born in the royal family, his rank and privilege evaporated as the walls of Jerusalem fell. His heart was torn as he watched family members killed in battle or publicly executed. His home was destroyed and his financial stability lost. He was led away in chains.
Somewhere along the line, perhaps in the arduous journey to Babylon as a prisoner – the spoils of war – Daniel must have meditated on what brought him to this point. It wasn’t his fault that his forbearers had rejected God, bringing judgment upon his nation. Yet Daniel didn’t lash out in anger against God. Instead, he developed a deep commitment to obeying and following His laws, knowing that was the only hope for the restoration of Israel.
This became extremely difficult as Daniel was soon surrounded by a culture that was completely in opposition to his convictions. He was to be lavished with luxury and given the best of education, food, and clothing in order that he might become ingratiated to the Babylonians so that he would help his people integrate into their empire. It must have been a strong temptation for him to enjoy himself and give up his convictions. Many times the situations that test our commitment to God the most are not the external difficulties but the ones that test our commitment with internal temptations.
Stand firm amid temptation to compromise
In order to deal with the temptations he faced, Daniel had to develop a strategy. He had to decide what was worth fighting for and what could be adapted to avoid confrontation. Here is how he did that.
Daniel recognized that some things, while appearing innocent, like partaking of forbidden foods, would open the door to more temptation and debauchery. He would have nothing to do with it. In an audacious move, with a humble manner, he requested an exception to the king’s orders. But he didn’t just stubbornly refuse. He offered an alternative, “Please let us try this special diet for 10 days and then see how healthy we are.”(2) By using a tactful, creative approach, and trusting God to give him favor, Daniel was able to do the right thing and open doors of opportunity at the same time.
Eventually, Daniel became one of the heads of state. As a result of his testimony, the worship of God became an officially authorized religion. He was well loved and respected for his impeccable character, even while he maintained values that were completely opposed to the surrounding culture.
As Christians we will soon be facing intense pressure to conform to popular opinions that attack biblical morality. Already we are bombarded by a culture that pursues pleasure and debauchery. While this culture preaches “toleration” and “individuality”, anyone that doesn’t look or smell like the culture is at best looked down upon and at worst persecuted.
So what’s a Christian to do? The right thing. We must be men and women of principle. It is easy for us to let our spiritual discernment become dull as we are exposed to temptation over and over again. Therefore, we must be continually renewing your mind with God’s word and imbibing God’s principles into our mindset and worldview. We must commit to those principles and stand by them, because the barrage of temptations we face is unrelenting. It starts with little compromises, and gradually by degrees drifts into apostasy. Will you purpose in your heart that you will not defile yourself? At first you may find yourself to be the laughingstock of others – even worldly Christians who think it you are some kind of radical for trying to be faithful to God, but remember the story of Daniel, and remember Daniel’s God. God honors those who are loyal and stand firm for Him.
Daniel’s life covers a great deal of the situations that we will face in our lives. Whether we are facing temptations or trials, the solution is found in maintaining an unshakeable commitment to Biblical principles. It won’t be easy to take a stand, but it will be worth it. God honors those who are loyal to Him in difficult circumstances and temptations.
Dare to be a Daniel!
Dare to stand alone.
Dare to have a purpose firm.
Dare to make it known.