Staying strong for God under pressure
Daniel remained loyal to God when the heat was on. Will you?
Where do you fit?
Fitting in can be a big deal. Not fitting can be an even bigger deal. That’s why peer pressure exists. I'm sure you can think of times you’ve done dumb things because your mates were doing dumb things. Part of fitting in is working out who you are and where you belong. Someone who knows all about the pressure from other people is Daniel. If you haven't read Daniel's story, take a read of Daniel 1.
This first part of Daniel's story shows him and his mates working out who they are, and what it will mean for them to fit in or not fit in, in a foreign land.
Two very different cities
Daniel 1:1-2 sets the scene for the rest of the book. We’re introduced to two kings and two cities:
- Jehoiakim and Nebuchadnezzar are the kings.
- Jerusalem and Babylon are the cities.
These two cities are probably the most important cities in the whole of the Bible. They are in the opening and closing books of the Bible and everywhere in between.
- Babylon is the city that represents human self-rule. In Genesis 11 Babylon tried to create a city that didn’t need God. There are "Babylons" all over our world today. But we know from Revelation 18 that the ultimate destiny of Babylon is destruction.
- Jerusalem is the opposite of Babylon. It’s the city built by God. It is the Holy City. The future is certain and it’s good: the New Jerusalem will be inhabited by God and his people for all eternity (Revelation 21).
Pressure to change
In the story of Daniel, the King of Babylon has begun recruiting good looking young men to be part of a 3-year Babylon School Bootcamp (vv3-4). Daniel and his 3 good looking mates were chosen to join the school and be part of the king’s posse.
The pressure to lose their identity was intense. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah’s names were changed from Hebrew names to Babylonian names (v 7). There would have been a whole bunch of other ways that they would have actually changed their identity, now that they were in the Babylonian Bootcamp.
However, Daniel resolved to know and keep his true identity (v8). He knew that ultimately he belonged to God, and so he refused to eat the royal food and drink the royal wine. Why? Chomping into the king’s food and wine would mean that his allegiance would be to the king. Daniel knew that his loyalty belonged to the God of Israel. In the end, his vegetable diet proved a hit with the royal officials (v9-20). But even if it didn’t, as we’ll see again later in the book, Daniel was loyal to God even if it meant risking his life.
As you read Daniel 1, it would be easy to think that God has been defeated. The city has been overtaken and the people deported. Yet God never lost control. God was in control of the Babylonians taking over Jerusalem (v2). God caused the temple official to show favour to Daniel and his mates (v9). God is the one who gave them knowledge and understanding (v17).
What does this mean for us? You may not be hanging out with the King or Queen, Prime Minister or President, but you actually live in a city that doesn’t think it needs God. It’s very easy to forget who you are and who you belong to. You belong to the Kingdom that will NEVER BE DESTROYED, you belong to Jesus. He made you, he saved you by his blood. You are his. Your loyalty belongs to him. When you’re tempted to compromise your loyalty to King Jesus, don’t do dumb things! Know your identity.