Daniel: Thriving, Not Just Surviving

The worship team and I have been reading through the book of Daniel and thought I would share some insights that we have gleaned over the last few weeks. The book of Daniel is one the most profound, if not, the most entertaining books within the Bible. In these amazing pages are stories filled with incredible lessons that we can apply to our lives today. As we have been reading through the book of Daniel we have discovered four themes thus far. 
To give a quick recap on Daniel and his friends Shack, Rack and Benny (this is a reference to the Veggie Tales characters)– I mean Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They had been living in Judah when the city was invaded by King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. Daniel and his friends were not killed but rather marched back to Babylon because of their physical nature and intelligence. They are given new Babylon names, told to eat and dress like the Babylonians and to worship the Babylonian gods i.e. King Nebuchadnezzar. That could be overwhelming for anybody–especially a teenage boy who was abruptly removed from his hometown and taken to a foreign land to serve a foreign king. His identity had been torn from him. Daniel, however, was not shaken. It is here we see the first of four key lessons we can learn from Daniel. 
Daniel wasn’t willing to compromise his standards.
Daniel 1:8 says, “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.” 
Look at the verse again. It says that Daniel resolved not to eat of the food Nebuchadnezzar had provided. The phrase “that he might not defile himself,” suggests that the food King Nebuchadnezzar was serving was a kind of food that the Jews weren’t allowed to eat. Remember that the Jews had many dietary restrictions of foods that were declared unclean.
Here’s my point: Daniel didn’t have to uphold his Jewish standards. He was away from home, in a foreign pagan kingdom, without his parents around. He could’ve eaten the food without a second thought. A modern day example of this would be if a child goes to a friend’s house and they’re playing a video game or watching a movie they aren’t allowed to watch. Since parents aren’t around, this child can easily get away with playing the game or watching the movie. Same thing going on here. Daniel didn’t have to maintain his Jewish standards. But he did. This young boy had the commands of God – as well as integrity – so instilled in him, that it mattered to him whether or not he pleased God. It didn’t matter what everyone around him was doing.
According to the text, only Daniel and his 3 friends refused the king’s food. All the other captives ate whatever the king was offering (probably to save their own necks). This didn’t matter to Daniel. He wasn’t going to compromise. This is an extremely important lesson for all of us to learn — young and old.
Peer pressure is a powerful thing. Peer pressure is when we feel compelled to act a certain way because we want to fit in and be accepted by certain people. It can cause us to fall into a pattern of behavior we didn’t want to fall into. It tricks us into thinking “everybody else is doing it.” It can increase our faith or decrease our faith depending on who is influencing.   As followers of Christ we have to decide up front, just like Daniel, that we’re not going to compromise our biblical principles no matter what. Just as Daniel “resolved in his heart,” we must also determine that whatever comes our way, we’re not going to forfeit what we know is acceptable in the sight of God. Because the pressure will come. Somehow, someway you’re going to get negatively influenced by your peers, coworkers, etc. But if pleasing God and living according to His will truly is important to you, as it was to Daniel, it’ll be easier than you think. Decide right now that if something comes up you know is contrary to God’s word, you aren’t going to participate or condone that behavior.
Part 2 later this week…

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