Those who fear God have no need to fear anything else. And those who walk in the fear of the Lord walk in the path of God’s favor, one that chiefly promises life everlasting (Prov. 8:32-36). The world can neither tamper nor thwart what God has promised His people. Because eternal life is ours, we can boldly stand in our convictions.
No word better describes the prophet Daniel. Believers have long marveled at his willingness to boldly endure a night in the presence of hungry lions—knowing that death was a likely outcome—because he esteemed God over man.
There is a simple moral in Daniel’s story: stand for God, no matter the consequences.
And the application seems obvious. Have the same courage as the prophet. Don’t compromise your convictions, even if death is the result. Of course, following Daniel’s example isn’t always as simple. That kind of conviction can be costly, and oftentimes dangerous. Daniel-like courage can come at the price of life itself, and who is willing to pay that?
To understand why Daniel had such courage—and how we can as well—we need to understand that the fuel for Daniel’s courage was not his convictions. It was the God he served.
Obviously, Daniel was a man of conviction. However, he didn’t build those convictions himself. Instead, he saw the will and work of God in him and all around him.
True and experiential knowledge of who God is and what He’s doing transformed Daniel.
Our pagan society—our modern-day Babylon—is not all that different than the society of Daniel’s day. Twenty-first century believers have much in common with the people of God in the ancient world. We too are aliens in a foreign, pagan land. We too are asked to compromise our beliefs, pledge allegiance to men over God, and forsake our devotion to our Heavenly King. And if we are to share Daniel’s resolve, we must draw our courage from the same source he did. The stories we tell about this great man of God are less about the man and more about his God. Though the call to be courageous and faithful can be difficult, it is not impossible because it is not dependent on our strength. Our courage can be the same as Daniel’s because our God is his God.
In this article, I will share three encouragements for a courageous life that can anchor our gospel courage not in ourselves, but in the gracious and generous God who grants deep-rooted convictions and life-long faithfulness.
God Establishes Where We are Planted
The book of Daniel begins by describing the tragic fall of the Jewish people into the hands of the Babylonians (606-605 BC). The narrative describes a complete takeover by a king, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who believes he defeated Yahweh Himself when he transported “vessels of the house of God… to the house of his god, and the vessels into the treasury of his god” (Dan. 1:2).
Having seemingly stripped the Jewish people of their God, Nebuchadnezzar then asked and demanded whatever he wanted of them. He drafts the sons of Israel into his personal service (Dan. 1:3-5), and he educates these Hebrew boys in the customs and systems of Babylon. He even administers name changes that disassociate these men from their heritage and instead assimilate them into a new, pagan culture. Given those circumstances, Daniel would have had every reason to be broken, distressed, or indignant. But that is not the case because Daniel recognizes God’s providence in his life. Daniel 1:2 holds the key to Daniel’s courage in a hostile environment. It says the chaos, the loss of a home, the dominance of a foreign power, the need to assimilate to a new culture were ordained by God Himself. “The Lord handed Jehoiakim king of Judah over to him” (Dan. 1:2). What Nebuchadnezzar never imagined was that his conquest of God’s people fit perfectly into the will and purposes designed by God for His people.
The world did not slip out of God’s grasp in Daniel’s day. Neither has it today. In God’s wisdom, he always plants his people in fertile soil where they can live and minster with courage. What good is courage if it is unnecessary?