Daniel 1:1-21 How to Live Life Without Compromising My Faith
Introduction: Different countries have different cultural norms, and what is appropriate in one culture may be offensive in another culture. For example, you should never touch a person’s head in Thailand; the head is considered sacred. In Portugal you should never write anything in red ink; it is very offensive. Chewing gum is illegal in Singapore and can result in a large fine. In our message today Daniel illustrates for us how to live when we “leave home” or encounter new situations. While this message is focused especially on those graduating from high school, it applies to all of us. Anytime something changes in our lives (a new job, a new house, a new school, a new stage of life), we face challenges to our faith. Daniel illustrates how to live when we leave what is familiar to us and encounter new situations.1
PRESSURES I ENCOUNTER TO COMPROMISE MY FAITH
As Christians, we will face pressure to compromise our faith. Even when we are teenagers, this can happen. Daniel was a teenager when he was taken captive to Babylon and served under their government. He faced this compromise early in life.
1. Pressure to change the way I think about the world (Daniel 1:3-8)
When one enters the world, one will be pressured to conform or adapt to that way of thinking. Whether it is a company, school, or some other institution, we will be asked to change our thinking. The pressure on Christians to change their thinking today comes from the print media, movies, and television as well as from teachers.2 The world will try to conform you into their mold. In other words, they will brainwash you. These Hebrew young teenagers were being brainwashed into a Babylonian worldview. There are different ways they try to do this. The same pattern employed by Nebuchadnezzar to draw Daniel and his friends away from the Lord is employed all around us today.3
FOUR WAYS THE WORLD WILL TRY TO PRESSURE ME TO FIT INTO ITS WORLDVIEW
In the first place, they were isolated from the influences that would mold their lives and characters in the ways of the Lord. In Babylon, they were separated from the regular public worship of God, from the teaching of the Word of God, from the fellowship and wisdom of the people of God, and from the daily illustration of what it meant to be a citizen of Jerusalem.
They were taught “the language and literature of the Chaldeans” (Daniel 1:4). That might seem harmless enough. After all, there is surely nothing wrong with God’s people studying foreign literature. The aim of this course in Chaldean language and literature, however, was not merely academic. It was to retrain their minds to think as Babylonians rather than Israelites.
The Jewish youngsters enrolled in Nebuchadnezzar’s school were given “a daily provision of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he drank” (Daniel 1:5). What Daniel perceived (correctly) in this food allotment was an effort to seduce him into the lifestyle of a Babylonian through the enjoyment of pleasures he had never before known. The good life that Daniel was offered was intended by the king to wean him away from the hard life to which God had called him. It would encourage him to focus on himself and on a life of enjoyment. It would lead him to think of himself no longer as a servile Israelite but as a distinguished courtier.
The fourth element in the process of weaning these young men from the truth was the changing of their names. What is certain is that anything that reminded them of their origin and destiny was removed in the change of names given to these four youths.
The same pattern employed by Nebuchadnezzar to draw Daniel away from the Lord is employed all around us today. The way I think about the world is also tied to the way I worship. If my spiritual life affects my thinking in my life with other people, then there will be pressure to change the way I worship. One can see that the pressure to change their worship was enormous. The culture changed their names to honor the culture’s worship practices. The fact that we remember Daniel’s Hebrew name and not his Babylonian name Belshazzar speaks to the ongoing influence of a name.
You will be tested in a similar way. You need to know that that pressure is there. The pressure will be there to change about how I think about the world. I will also receive pressure to change the way I live out my faith.
2. Pressure to change the way I live out my faith (Daniel 1:5, Daniel 1:8)
“The king assigned them daily provisions from the royal food and from the wine that he drank. They were to be trained for three years, and at the end of that time they were to serve in the king’s court.” (Daniel 1:5, HCSB)
“Daniel determined that he would not defile himself with the king’s food or with the wine he drank. So he asked permission from the chief official not to defile himself.” (Daniel 1:8, HCSB)
Eating this kind of meat was against Mosaic Law and it was also food that was sacrificed to idols. Some will say that we don’t live by the Mosaic Law and we don’t sacrifice meat to idols. We may not be sacrificing meat to idols, but we are sacrificing our time. We don’t worship on Saturday. Instead, we worship on Sunday, which the New Testament calls the Lord’s Day because Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday.
The way I think about the world is also tied to the way I worship. If my spiritual life affects my thinking in my life with other people, then there will be pressure to change the way I worship. One can see that the pressure to change their worship was enormous. Instead of changing the names, our culture is redefining words that matter to our faith and trying to change how we spend our time.
Even today, we see that the conviction of worshiping on Sunday is being threatened by outside compromise. The world is trying to squeeze time away from the opportunity to worship at church. It’s not just at the workplace. We are being encouraged to engage in sports activities that conflict with times of worship.
Some would say that the church needs to adapt its practices to change to the culture. There is some logic to that. But when you look at the Bible, there are serious consequences to ignoring the rule of the Sabbath. The Sabbath (or time to worship God) was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. The New Testament encourages us to spend time together in worship as a group of Christians.
However, ignoring a time to worship God by engaging in other activities is exactly what caused the Israelites to be taken to Babylon for 70 years in the first place.
“This fulfilled the word of the Lord through Jeremiah and the land enjoyed its Sabbath rest all the days of the desolation until 70 years were fulfilled.” (2 Chronicles 36:21, HCSB)
The reason that Daniel was in captivity was because God’s people had ignored God’s instruction about worship. There is serious pressure in our culture today to replace the worship of God with the worship of culture’s activities. It’s ok to engage in those activities, but it is not ok to replace your worship of God by the engagement of culture’s idols. Today, the idols of our American culture is sports.
I hear people say: “Let your kids play sports.” And they do. But I am not going to have my kids spend almost every waking evening engaged in a cultural activity at the expense of taking them away from the influence of God’s Word.
Sometimes, God takes us out of our comfort zone (mainly because of our own doing) where we learn to trust in Him alone. Sending God’s people to Babylon was an act of judgment. They had abused the Sabbath. At the same time, it was an act of mercy. God was going to teach them what it meant to sing praises to God in a foreign land. This leads me to the ways in which I can prepare to pursue God’s holiness out in the world. How do I live out my faith in the world? God gave three communities. He also gives you these same three communities to help you live out your faith in the world.
THREE COMMUNITIES TO HELP ME LIVE OUT MY FAITH
1. My Church (Daniel 1:1)
There were a group of people coming together to worship, even in Babylon. Daniel may have been isolated, but he had the hope of a community coming together. Today, we worship together here. There are all kinds of Christian communities. Those communities will adapt based on changes in the world. The fact some are watching this sermon online tells us that the communities change.
2. My parents (Daniel 1:6)
Daniel’s name speaks to the value his parents placed on God. They named their son “God is judge.” It was as if Daniel’s parents knew how important it was to follow God. Your parents have an influence on your faith and your future. Parents have 18-20 good years to make an influence on their children.
3. My God (Daniel 1:9-10)
My church has an influence on me to prepare me. My parents have an influence on me to prepare me. But ultimately, God has an influence on my life. God works on my heart. God leads me. Apart from God’s work in my heart, I cannot walk in holiness. Out of these three communities (my church, my family, and my personal relationship with God), I will be able to affect other people.
THE POWER OF PERSONAL FAITH
My personal faith will have an influence on my friends (Daniel 1:7-8)
Daniel’s courage inspired the other three friends. Daniel would not eat the meat sacrificed to idols. This three friends later would not compromise as well.
All four young men were given new names, but it was Daniel who first resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine. And Daniel’s three friends followed his lead. Not only that but two chapters later in this book we will see these three young men standing all by themselves in front of a fiery furnace facing death. Daniel is nowhere to be seen. Remembering the resolve that Daniel had alone and how he brought them into the test, they then stood firm without compromise before a powerful king in a test bigger than the first.4
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king, “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”” (Daniel 3:16–18, HCSB)
Christianity is a faith, but it is also a way of life. It will conflict with the business world. One must learn that if one is to follow Christ, there will be costs. We can’t always take the easy way out.
My personal faith will affect me personally (Daniel 1:15-17)
My personal choice to follow God can affect me. How I choose to live for God can affect myself. In these verses, we see that play out in the life of Daniel. My personal faith will affect me in three different areas
1. My body
“At the end of 10 days they looked better and healthier than all the young men who were eating the king’s food.” (Daniel 1:15, HCSB)
By making the choice to follow God, in Daniel’s case it was a healthier choice. He was not eating all of the rich meat that could affect his body negatively. He was healthier.
2. My spirit
“God gave these four young men knowledge and understanding in every kind of literature and wisdom. Daniel also understood visions and dreams of every kind.” (Daniel 1:17, HCSB)
Daniel’s was in tune with God and Daniel was able to hear from God. He was more spiritually in tune and able to listen to God.
3. My mind
“In every matter of wisdom and understanding that the king consulted them about, he found them 10 times better than all the diviner-priests and mediums in his entire kingdom.” (Daniel 1:20, HCSB)
Daniel’s mind was clear and sharp. His mind worked better than the people around him. My personal holiness affects me. The way I grow in my faith can actually help my mind, my spirit, and my body. But it is more than that.
My personal faith will have an influence on others (Daniel 1:18-21)
Daniel influenced King Nebuchednazzer, King Nabo, and King Belshazzar until the reign of King Cyrus the Persian king who overthrew the Babylonian empire.
“Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.” (Daniel 1:21, HCSB)
These government leaders were the ministry that God gave to Daniel to influence. Daniel was able to influence these kings and have an impact because of his devotion to God.
At its height in the beginning of the nineteenth century, the British Empire was the largest world power in history. By 1922 it governed over 450 million people (one-fifth of the earth’s population at that time) and covered more than 13 million square miles. It was known as “the empire on which the sun never sets.”11 Viewed against the larger backdrop of human experience, however, its greatness was relatively short lived. By July 2013 it had been reduced to only one out of twenty-eight countries that constitute the much smaller and less powerful European Union. As of 2017, the British Empire is now in the process of being in control of only one country – the United Kingdom of one. Other powerful countries of the world today can learn from this example. The ultimate kingdom of the sovereign God—in which we are privileged to play a small part—is the only one that endures forever.5
When I influence others, it becomes essentially my ministry. When you live out your life as a Christian, you will have an influence on others. What kind of Christian are you going to be? In Daniel’s case, he was put in a position to influence three successive secular kings. What is it going to be in your case? Who are you going to be able to influence?
1 Robert J. Morgan, Nelson’s Annual Preacher’s Sourcebook, 2006 Edition. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), 150.
2 Rodney Stortz and R. Kent Hughes, Daniel: The Triumph of God’s Kingdom, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004), 17.
3 Sinclair B. Ferguson and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Daniel, vol. 21, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1988), 30.
4 Rodney Stortz and R. Kent Hughes, Daniel: The Triumph of God’s Kingdom, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004), 25.
5 Ronald W. Pierce, Daniel, ed. Mark L. Strauss and John H. Walton, Teach the Text Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2015), 27.
Photo by Otto Adolph Stemler (1872–1953) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons