Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if He doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” - Daniel 3:16-18
I've been studying Daniel, alongside Psalms, for a little while now and they are books just filled to the brim with things to study and reflect on. One of the several things that has repeated itself over and over from the start in Daniel is the integrity of the Jewish men's faith and their faithfulness to God.
When we first meet Daniel and the three other Israelites, they are young men, likely teenagers, who have been taken from their homes and brought to a pagan land with pagan beliefs. Immediately these four men stand up for their faith. They could have easily fallen into the pagan lifestyle, abandoning their faith, choosing to blend in, but instead, they were bold and kept on choosing God. Time and time again through this book, trial after trial, all four of these men chose God. They proclaimed His name, they lived out their faith, and did not compromise their convictions nor did they dishonor God in any way. How many of us find it easy to just blend in in this world? We adapt ourselves to living similar, if not identical, worldly lifestyles that are in clear violation of God's commands for His children simply because we don't want to stand out? How many of us remain silent when peers and leaders mock God's name and other Christians in fear that we too will be ridiculed?
God does not want followers who only praise Him and represent Him just in church circles; He wants radical, obedient disciples who are willing to give everything they have for Him every day, regardless of circumstances and surroundings. This can be done in simple conversations and being obedient in the small things, as well as in more public situations, such as standing up for your faith in an office or classroom where others do not believe in God. In this day and age, most of us, aside from Sunday mornings, will be in nonreligious environments. To live out our faith in a true, biblical manner does cause us to stand out but as Christians, which translates to “little Christs,” it is our responsibility to represent Him well, just like those four, young Israelites did. O God, You are my God; I earnestly search for You. My soul thirsts for You; my whole body longs for You. - Psalm 63:1 In this world there are many other “gods” presented before us: technology, relationships, body image, food, attention and fame, money, career, possessions, but in the end, none will last. None ever actually satisfy. None can save. Christ alone, the One True Messiah, is God, our Savior. Clothes will fade to rags, relationships can be broken, bodies will change, and technology will fail (Matthew 6:19-21, 2 Peter 3:10). Are any of those things truly worth all our love and devotion? Are they deserving of our full attention? Christ has pursued our hearts past the point of death on a cross to show how relentless His love is. Our walk with Him is vastly more important and far more fulfilling than anything else this world has to offer. We must pursue God with our hearts and minds (Deuteronomy 6:5, Mark 12:30), choosing Him because He alone is more than enough. Choosing to seek God first, and in turn choosing to live like Christ, is a daily thing. We must constantly surrender to Him in everything we do. It is not easy but it is so worth it. When we purposely and diligently seek God in everything with everything, we are filled with things that can only come from Him. We find courage and strength, wisdom and knowledge, peace and comfort, guidance, joy - the list goes on! We will find ourselves in unfamiliar places, in nonreligious environments, surrounded by non-believers who bash the title “Christian” and God Himself, but in the end, we must evaluate our hearts and ask ourselves, “Am I willing to choose Jesus over everything else, knowing that there is always the likelihood that everything else can be stripped away? Do I believe choosing God is worth it far more than anything this world offers and the opinions of other humans?”
I can’t answer for you, but I know what my answer is and I will choose to declare it every day, in every situation, no matter the cost, just like those young Israelites did. It won’t always be easy, and we’re humans -- some days we might fail at this. But God is gracious and forgives. He simply wants our hearts to be fully devoted to Him and when our hearts are, there is absolutely nothing more satisfying. Reflection 1. Am I seeking God wholeheartedly in everything with everything, truly choosing Christ over all, or am I only "seeking" Him on Sundays but throughout the week am longing after and idolizing worldly pleasures? 2. If I am not seeking God the way I should, what things do I need to rid of so that I can choose Him wholeheartedly? Prayer Father, Thank You for remaining so faithful to us, even when we ourselves are not always faithful to You. Forgive us of our idolatry and sinful desires. Give us hearts that know You and desire You wholly (Jeremiah 24:7); hearts that run after You and not away. Clear our vision to see what may be taking Your place in our hearts, drawing our love and devotion from You. Give us the strength to let go of worldly things so we may choose You above all this world offers. Amen
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