Great Boldness for God
We had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. (1 Thessalonians 2:2)
Those who know God show great boldness for God.
Daniel and his friends were men who stuck their necks out. This was not foolhardiness. They knew what they were doing. They had counted the cost. They had measured the risk. They were well aware what the outcome of their actions would be unless God miraculously intervened, as in fact He did. But these things did not move them.
Once they were convinced that their stand was right, and that loyalty to their God required them to take it, then, in Oswald Chamber’s phrase, they “smilingly washed their hands of the consequences.”
“We. Use obey God rather than men,” said the apostles(Acts 5:29). “I do not account of my life any value nor as precious to my self, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord,” said Paul. (Acts 20:24) This was precisely the spirit of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It is the spirit of all who know God.
They may find determination of the right course to take agonizingly difficult, but once they are clear on it they embrace it boldly and without hesitation. It does not worry them that others of God’s people see the matter differently and do not stand with them. (Were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego the only Jews who declined to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s image? Noting in their recorded words suggests that they either knew, or, in the final analysis, cared. They were clear as to what they personally had to do, and that was enough to for them.)
By this test also we may measure our own knowledge of God.
What is it that moves people like Daniel and his three friends, or Peter and Paul, or for that matter any of those who choose to obey God even at the risk of loss? Fox in his Book of Martyrs writes the stories of those who literally gave their lives for their faith. Many of them suffered torture, deprivation and public scorn as well as death. What motivated them to hold fast to the truth of the gospel even with these things hanging over them?
Perhaps we might also ask what motivated Jesus to continue toward the cross and crucifixion even though He knew what awaited Him. We find Him in the garden pleading with the Father to change course and then to humbly submit Himself to the Father’s will. We must know that even to the end, He chose this path. We read in John’s Gospel that all this was done because God so loved us.
The Bible tells us the secret that produced the boldness in Daniel, Shadrach, Meschah, and Abednego. It began when they initially arrived in Babylon. They begin to make choices contrary to their surroundings.
But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile (taint, dishonor) himself with the king’s finest food or with the wine which the king drank; so he asked the commander of the officials that he might [be excused so that he would] not defile himself. Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials, and the commander of the officials said to Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has prearranged your food and your drink; for why should he see your faces looking more haggard than the young men who are your own age? Then you would make me forfeit my head to the king.” But Daniel said to the overseer whom the commander of the officials had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Please, test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the young men who eat the king’s finest food be observed and compared by you, and deal with your servants in accordance with what you see.” As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all kinds of literature and wisdom; Daniel also understood all kinds of visions and dreams. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all the [learned] magicians and enchanters (Magi) in his whole realm.
Lesson one: we choose to obey God in the small things and we deny ourselves indulgence in the things of the world. While most of the young Jewish captives decided to fit on, Daniel and his three friends refused to become like their surroundings. We are pressured to “fit in” with the world. When we choose to not go along with the decadence of the world we are immediately branded as religious fanatics. In our world today and sometimes even in the church, when we choose to live a biblical lifestyle we are often ostracized so we become tempted to give way and participate. There can be no question that these four boys, away from parents and religious influence were no doubt feeling the pressure to blend in in the same way we as the church feel the pressure to blend in. But they chose to continue to live their lives in a manner pleasing to God at risk to themselves. And we see how that God rewarded them with wisdom and knowledge.
There’s a country song that goes something like this: “You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.” How true that is!
Taking a stand is not the same thing as attempting to force everyone else to live according to your standards. It is knowing God and taking Him at His word, believing His promises and submitting yourself in total surrender to His will. This was exactly what Christ did in Gethsemane. He surrendered Himself to the Father’s will knowing that once He placed Himself in that will all that occurred would be controlled by the Father. Even His suffering and death would not be the result of the power of Satan or the Romans or the Jews but only in accordance and under the supreme authority of the Father.
We see this same spirit in the three Hebrew boys as they faced the test of their faith. Being brought to the plains of Babylon where an idol was, they were demanded to bow and worship as everyone else was. They did not raise a mob to support their decision. They did not rant against the king. They merely took their stand of faith and obedience to God.
Then Nebuchadnezzar in a furious rage gave a command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; and these men were brought before the king. Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image which I have set up? Now if you are ready, when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image which I have made, very good. But if you do not worship, you shall be thrown at once into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can rescue you out of my hands?” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to answer you on this point. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up!”
Hear their response: (John’s paraphrase) We don’t need to discuss this matter or to think about our response. We know that God is able to deliver us from this trial, but even should He choose to not do so, we’ve already decided that we will not yield our relationship with God even though it may cost us our lives.
This is bold faith, a faith that chooses the paths of righteousness even if it brings loss, hardship and suffering or death.
As you read through the Bible you will find this over and over again. You find it as David stood before Goliath, as Nehemiah rebuilt the wall, Peter and John as they stood before the Sanhedrin and Paul as he faced persecution and resistance even from his own people. We find it in John on Patmos and in the Acts church as they chose persecution and death rather than renounce their faith. No more vivid picture may be seen than that of Stephen stoned for his faith.
It is interesting to note that while facing persecution the Acts church prayed not for deliverance from it boldness in their suffering.
So what about us today? Are we choosing to live the Christ-life at our own expense? I’ve learned that there is a cost in being a Christ-follower. To mine the deep things of God, to know Him intimately and to be a godly influence calls us to March to the beat of a different drummer. It calls us to live what is termed “radical faith” but what I call biblical faith. It calls us to see and practice the instructions of the Bible in a fuller measure, letting it make our decisions for us. It brings us to a place of surrender to God long before we face the test so that our decision is already been made waiting to be carried out. I believe all those in the above examples would have failed the test had they waited until they were facing it to make their decisions.
I urge us as people of God that we come before God, that we seek to know Him and His will and that we choose now, make our decision now that our obedience to Him will influence and control all out other decisions. I beg us as believers that we allow our faith and knowledge of God to determine how we live rather than conforming to the ever declining morality of this world. Paul makes this plea much better than I so I give you his words:
Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].
Do not be unequally bound together with unbelievers [do not make mismatched alliances with them, inconsistent with your faith]. For what partnership can righteousness have with lawlessness? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and Belial (Satan)? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said: “ I will dwell among them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people . “So come out from among unbelievers and be separate,” says the Lord, “ And do not touch what is unclean ; And I will graciously receive you and welcome you [with favor], And I will be a Father to you, And you will be My sons and daughters,” Says the Lord Almighty. Therefore, since we have these [great and wonderful] promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, completing holiness [living a consecrated life—a life set apart for God’s purpose] in the fear of God.
2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1
May God grant us in these dark days to boldly be light and salt!
Dr. John Thompson