By David Faust
A friend in our church has been battling cancer, so he and his wife met with the elders for prayer. It was a tearful but inspiring scene as the elders gathered around, laid hands on the couple in a gesture of support, and prayed for their physical and spiritual health. My friend urged everyone in the room to appreciate our blessings. Months of chemotherapy have affected his ability to taste and smell, so he reminded us, “Enjoy your food! Don’t take for granted the simple pleasure of eating.”
He’s right, of course. I enjoy eating. What if I couldn’t taste my food? I take for granted the ability to walk. What if I couldn’t do it? I can see the changing colors of fall, hear the familiar voice of my wife, smell the aroma of fresh-baked bread, and feel the warmth of my granddaughters’ hugs. What if I couldn’t enjoy those blessings?
Controlled by Others
Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah had a lot going for them. They were “young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand” (Daniel 1:4). Yet one by one, these sharp young men saw their blessings taken away.
Others decided where they would live. They were taken captive to Babylon, far from their homes in Israel (1:1, 2).
Others tried to shape their worldview. The pagan king ordered his chief of staff to bring these young men into his palace and “teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians” (1:4). Like college students, they embarked upon an intensive educational journey. “They were to be trained for three years” before entering the king’s service (v. 5).
Others tried to control their diet. “The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table” (v. 5). The faithful foursome balked at the thought of eating non-kosher food and persuaded their supervisors to give them nothing but vegetables and water for 10 days. After this test period “they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food” (v. 15).
Others tried to determine their identity. The Babylonians assigned each man a new name—Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (1:7). Evidently this was an effort to make them forget their Jewish roots.
Worse, they were ordered to worship a false god.
Obedient to God
However, even when civil disobedience meant being thrown into a blazing furnace, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow before the imposing gold statue erected by the king. They bravely told King Nebuchadnezzar, “The God we serve is able to deliver us.” Even if God chose not to save them from the fire, they insisted, “We will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (3:16-18).
Later, Daniel was ordered not to pray to God. But the faithful prophet went home and prayed three times a day, just as he had done before (6:10). By defying the anti-prayer decree, Daniel ended up in the lion’s den, but even there the Lord protected him from harm.
Most of us enjoy God’s blessings every day, but what about when we can’t live where we prefer or eat what we like? What if the culture tries to indoctrinate us with a worldview that diminishes the relevance of God? What if circumstances make it difficult to pray and worship?
When the blessings go away, will we still be faithful then?
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2012, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for November 22, 2015
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
1 John 4:1-6
1 John 4:7-21
1 John 5:1-12
1 John 5:13-21
Daniel 1, 2
2 John 1-13
Daniel 3, 4
3 John 1-14
Daniel 5, 6