I wonder what my spirit would have been like as a fourteen year old boy if I had been abducted by invading conquerors and taken seven hundred miles from home to serve in a foreign country.
I’m amazed at the response of Daniel and his three Hebrew friends—Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah—to that very scenario. In every way, these young men responded with excellence.
These four young men were surrounded by heathen influences and commanded to blend in. They were pressured from every angle to compromise their convictions. Apparently, all the other Hebrews around them yielded.
The culture today is no less ungodly. We are inundated with opportunities to conform to the world. In appearance, in activities, even in methods of ministry, pressure abounds to “fit in.” Other Christians do it. We fear losing influence if we don’t.
How can we, in this time in history, live with the excellence of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah?
Standing with Excellence
Daniel 1:8 records the incredible stand Daniel took when he was required to compromise his convictions: “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.”
It would have been so easy for Daniel to blend in with the culture. But, even in this seemingly small matter, Daniel remained loyal to his God and committed to obeying His law. And he did it with an excellent spirit.
If someone were to describe a temptation of compromise that you have faced, could he quote Daniel 1:8 inserting your name for Daniel’s? “But [your name] purposed in his heart that he would not [compromise in any way].”
Suffering with Excellence
Every Christian with a godly testimony will face trials related to his stand for Christ. Second Timothy 3:12 confirms, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
For Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (renamed by the Babylonians Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego), this suffering came when they refused to bow with those surrounding them to the king’s idol. For their stand, they were cast in a fiery furnace.
American culture raises many idols, and, amazingly, the world really expects Christians to bow to them. Unfortunately, many do. Francis Schaeffer commented, “Here is the great evangelical disaster—the failure of the evangelical world to stand for truth as truth. There is only one word for this—namely accommodation. The evangelical church has accommodated to the world spirit of the age.”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew nothing of this kind of accommodation. They courageously refused to bow, and God stood with them through the ensuing trial. He walked with them through the trial, and in the end, His name was exalted far above any false idol’s.
At what point are you willing to accommodate rather than stand? May we all have the courage to stand no matter how hot the furnace is heated!
Praying with Excellence
Daniel was not only uncompromising in his stand, but he did it with a right spirit. His excellent spirit set him apart from others, and he was placed in a position of leadership: “Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm” (Daniel 6:3).
I’ve known men who have unrelentingly stood for truth, but their spirits were so sour, that their influence on others was spoiled. So, how did Daniel—in the midst of a heathen system and under constant pressure to bend to the culture—maintain an excellent spirit?
Daniel maintained a prayer life that sustained his spirit: “…he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime” (Daniel 6:10).
Daniel didn’t reserve the privilege of prayer for special times of trouble. He prayed regularly and diligently. Then when the times of trouble came, he simply continued his already established pattern.
How is your spirit? How is your prayer life?
These men—Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah—set a high standard of excellence. Regardless of what pressure we may feel from the world or what compromise we may observe in others, may we live with the same measure of excellence!
In the end, it was the stand, suffering, and prayer life of these men that gave them the greatest influence for their God.