After being elected to head an organization, it came to my attention that some ‘insiders’ were using their positions to gain personal perks. It probably was not illegal, but it certainly was unethical. With that knowledge came a choice! Do I change the ways things are being done and risk the wrath of those who were profiting or just ‘look the other way’ like others had done in the past? I took the matter to prayer and the Spirit impressed me with the story of Daniel whose integrity led him to make hard choices to do the right thing.
As you might expect, my choices did not win applause! I was accused of being ‘such a Boy Scout,’ of being naïve, of ‘not understanding the way the game is played.’ Today I remember it with a smile, and thank God for His wisdom and courage.
Jesus said, “God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” (Matthew 5:10, NLT) From where we sit it looks like the ‘bad guys’ win sometimes, doesn’t it? Our brave and faithful prayers do not always produce an immediate victory or the appearance of positive change.
Daniel’s choice got him thrown into the lion’s den. When I first heard that dramatic story in my Sunday School class as a little boy, gazing on those cut-out pictures pressed onto a flannel board in a little church in Iowa, I was wowed. Her voice earnestly told us about Daniel’s faithfulness to God, about his prayers, and the terrible people who hated him so much that they conspired to have him tossed to the lions. She told it with such passion that my little heart pounded and I wondered if “that good man was eaten up?” The Sunday School version has God showing up to shut the mouths of the lions and Daniel emerging from the danger like a conquering hero. “Yea!” I cheered. Faith grew in me and I learned to trust the Lord.
With maturity, there is another lesson that emerges from the story too subtle for a little child. God allowed Daniel to enter the lion’s den for a greater purpose. Temporarily, evil seemed to win. He spent a long night alone with lion’s snarling and snapping an arm’s length away! But, Daniel’s integrity was so notable, his faith so unquestionable, that even the pagan king shared his hope of ultimate salvation!
Key verses summarize the story – “So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!” (Daniel 6:16, NIV) “At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” (Daniel 6:19-20, NIV)
The Almighty God reveals Himself to a pagan king
through the suffering of Daniel!
Are you living in the lion’s den of life right now?
Has the Lord, your loving Father, allowed you to live with suffering, or defeat, or circumstances that defy your best efforts to turn them around?
Pray for rescue! He is a good God and He weeps with us in our hard times. But, also remember that it may be His will to leave you there for a long night, for His own purposes. “Come on, Jerry, that is not fair.” Yes, I understand that and I weep with you. I have known life close to sorrow, in the presence of pain, too. In those dark days, my preference would have been that He would show up with a miracle and make it all right. But, the greater thing is that through trust and faith, He will always be able to use me to reveal Himself as the Lord of all through my steady faith, my hope, and my obedience.
Peter introduces a key thought about being persecuted that we do well to keep forefront in our minds. “Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.” (1 Peter 4:13-15, NIV)
In short he reminds us that if we finding life a tough go, we need to do a check and make sure we are not bringing the hardships with others on ourselves with bad behavior or foolish choices. We can assume that we are being sidelined because of Christ when in fact it our own ineptness or lack of grace that is causing our problems.
Here is a word from the Word. Let it inspire you to hold onto God even through the night in the lion’s den. “Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything. … God blesses the people who patiently endure testing. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:2-4, 12, NLT)
True-hearted whole-hearted faithful and loyal
King of our lives by Your grace we’ll stay true
Under Your standard exalted and royal
Strong in Your strength we will battle for You
Peal out the watchword and silence it never
Song of our spirits rejoicing and free
Peal out the watchword Loyal forever
King of our lives by Your grace we will be
True-hearted whole-hearted fullest allegiance
Yielding each day to our glorious King
Valiant endeavour and loving obedience
Freely and joyously now would we bring
True-hearted whole-hearted Saviour all glorious
Take Your great power and You reign alone
Over our wills and affections victorious
Freely surrendered and wholly Your own
Frances Ridley Havergal