Take a Stand: Handsome Smart and Conquered

“Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility — young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace.” (Daniel 1:3-4)

Babylon had conquered Jerusalem and hauled a good portion of the population back home. Four Jewish teenagers we know as Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were included in that group.

takestand_350Part of Babylon’s plan for conquering the world forever was to take the good-looking, talented, and smart students from all the nations they defeated—especially the ones connected to royal families—and educate them into good and happy and productive Babylonians.

That way, the conquered nation’s best and brightest were less likely to ever think about going back home to try to lead their people—and Babylon became all the stronger for putting the world’s all-star youth to work for them. All they had to do was to get these kids to conform to Babylonian culture.

This week, we’ll watch Daniel and his friends try to stand up to authorities and a culture that wanted them to compromise their convictions—and have a good time doing it.

Think: Does anyone in your life want you to compromise your biblical convictions? Are you trying to stand strong against that or hoping someone can talk you into trying something new?

Pray: Ask God to help you to recognize when friends or family or authorities in your life are asking you to make a compromise with biblical teaching—and to give you the courage to resist that.

Do: Read Daniel 1:1-7 or so to get ready for our study this week.

Take a Stand: Powerful Expectations

“The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.” (Daniel 1:5)

After being selected for the king of Babylon’s “best and brightest ” program, captured students from around the world were put through a three-year course of study and then placed in a high-ranking job. It was kind of like going away to college and a career—except that you were a conquered slave with little chance of ever going home again.

takestand_350Part of the program included the world’s best cafeteria food ever. At this point in history Babylon was the most powerful nation on earth, and they were huge foodies. The kids in this program would get the best food and wine money could buy to help them become the smartest and strongest young men in the world.

Of course, everyone selected was expected to participate in everything they were asked. They were expected to eat meat. They were expected to drink wine. If they didn’t, the king’s anger could be cruel.

Think: Has anyone in your life ever just expected that you would go along with something you believed to be a wrong choice? How influenced are you by other people’s expectations?

Pray: Ask God to give you the wisdom and courage to refuse to go along with anything because it is expected, but to participate only in what you believe to be right before him.

Do: Pay attention this week to the expectations people put on you without ever really asking if you want to do those things or not. What are your family’s expectations? Your friends? Your co-workers? Notice how you respond to those expectations.

Take a Stand: Nothing for Me, Thanks

“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.” (Daniel 1:8)

Daniel, a young Jewish man living in captivity in Babylon, had a problem. As one of the young men in the king’s training program, he was expected to eat the king’s food and drink the king’s wine. The problem: Jews who followed God’s law didn’t eat or drink those things.

takestand_350The easiest choice by far would have been for Daniel and his friends to just do as they were told. After all, they were being treated well. They could have rationalized: “What has God done for us? We’re slaves, after all. At least the king is taking care of us.”

Daniel, maybe about 16 years old, didn’t see it that way. He still trusted God enough to risk his life by asking to opt out of the king’s diet. He would not compromise convictions to make his life easier.

Think: What are some of the ways you have been tempted to compromise your convictions to just get along? Do you think you would have Daniel’s courage in his situation?

Pray: Thank God for Daniel’s courage. Ask him to help you to be courageous like that.

Do: Take a tiny survey: Ask 3 friends what they think they might have done in Daniel’s situation.

Take a Stand: Creative Alternatives

“Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” (Daniel 1:12-13)

So how did Daniel react when this Babylonian official said he and his Jewish friends were going to be treated to the king’s best food and wine, like it or not?

takestand_3501) He resolved in his own mind that he absolutely would not violate his convictions. He would obey God and trust him with the consequences.

2) He didn’t act like a jerk. He didn’t slug the guy. He didn’t react with a holier-than-you-dirty-Babylonians attitude. He responded respectfully.

3) He did the most obvious thing and asked the official for permission to skip the off-limits foods. The official said, “No.”

4) He suggested a creative alternative: Why not test us for ten days and see if we don’t do just as well on veggies and water as all the other guys eating meat and wine? Because God was watching out for Daniel, the official said, “Yes.”

Think: Is it possible to resist the temptation in an ugly or arrogant way? Have you ever avoided compromising your convictions by coming up with a creative alternative?

Pray: Ask God to help you to resist pressure to go along with sin as Daniel did, without compromise, with respect and kindness, and trusting God with the results.

Do: Read about God’s guaranteed “chicken exit” for temptation in 1 Corinthians 10:13.

Take a Stand: What Difference Does Trusting God Really Make?

“At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.” (Daniel 1:15-16)

What’s so different, really, between someone who stands up against the pressure to compromise when it comes to obeying God and those who live by the world’s standards?

takestand_350For Daniel, that difference showed up in an obvious way in his body and good looks. His God-trusting, veggies-and-water diet worked better than the king’s diet for making him healthy, alert, and prepared to do the king’s work.

The difference should show up in our lives, as well. When you stand for your convictions, people will be watching to see if it makes any real difference or if it’s just religious rule-following. What they should see in us is a genuine, ongoing transformation in the areas of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. (See Galatians 5:22-23)

Think: Do the people in your life see a difference in you that comes from following Jesus and living by the Holy Spirit’s power? Why or why not?

Pray: Ask God to allow your life to show the reality of his life in you.

Do: Read (and try memorizing) Galatians 5:22-23.

Take a Stand: When You Stand Up

“To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.” (Daniel 1:17)

While it’s true that Daniel and his friends were captives to a foreign kingdom, “stuck” in the middle of a culture that wasn’t their own, they were also exactly where God wanted them to be. God placed these young guys in the middle of the government of the most powerful nation on earth.

takestand_350What you’ll see if you read on in Daniel is that when these guys made their stand and refused to let the lifestyles and rules of the society they lived in cause them to compromise their obedience to God, two huge things happened.

One was that God used that arrogant, idol-worshipping system to give Daniel and friends a fantastic education to go along with their God-given supernatural gifts. And then he used four Jewish slave students to show his power and glory to the Babylonians and, eventually, to the world.

Think: Your current set of circumstances might not be perfectly Christian. You might be in the middle of a family or workplace or town where your faith is not always respected. How can God use you there to influence others for him?

Pray: Ask God to make your life an example of his power and glory, even if you have to stand for him alone or with a few friends.

Do: Read Daniel 2 to find out how God used Daniel’s position and unique gifts to reveal himself to the most powerful leader on the planet at the time.

Take a Stand: Our God is Better

“The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.” (Daniel 1:19-20)

Our God reigns. Maybe you’ve sung a song with those words in it, Usually, I think of that phrase to mean that the one true God of heaven is in control of the universe. To modern unbelievers, it means that we believe in God while others don’t.

takestand_350But the ancient world was full of the worship of all kinds of gods. To say, “Our God reigns” meant, “Our God is better than your god.” Occasionally, God would graciously prove to unbelieving people that his power was real, while the power of their false gods and false spirituality was either severely limited or completely non-existant.

God used Daniel and his friends to make that point at this moment in history. They were tapped into real power, the power of the God of creation. It’s not surprising that they were ten times more capable than all the other spiritual leaders serving false gods. God used their faithfulness to prove his power.

Think: Does God’s power show up in your life in a way that can be seen by others? What is the evidence that God is alive and at work in you?

Pray: Ask God to make his reality in your life through faith in Jesus evident to those who know you well.

Do: Read in Daniel 3 how Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego risked their lives to stand up for God—and how God used that choice to make his power obvious to everyone.