Are you a person of courageous conviction, or are you a cowardly compromiser? Some believe that success and integrity are mutually exclusive characteristics, but the life of Daniel is proof to the contrary.
Every day people make compromises. Some compromises are good and even necessary (e.g., compromising to resolve certain problems within one's marriage). Other compromises, however, are not good because they lead a person into sin (e.g., compromising one's integrity to make more money). We need to learn how to pursue success without making sinful compromises. The Bible is filled with accounts of many godly men and women who are worthy of our imitation in this regard. One such person is Daniel.
Daniel was a man who obtained preeminence and power in his lifetime. He started out as a gifted young man, as Daniel 1:3-6 indicates. He was good-looking, wise, and quick to understand. He soon gained an elevated position among the wise men of the land (1:17-20). In fact, because of Daniel's divinely given ability to interpret dreams, "the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon" (2:48; cf. 5:29). Daniel later received similar power within the Medo-Persian Empire, after it had overthrown the Babylonians. Daniel 6:1-3 records - "It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps, to be over the whole kingdom; and over these, three governors, of whom Daniel was one, that the satraps might give account to them, so that the king would suffer no loss. Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm."
Daniel's life is truly an amazing story. How was Daniel able to reach these positions of power and influence without compromising his position as a godly man? This is an important question and exceedingly relevant for us today. A close look at the book of Daniel reveals that his pathway to success did not involve compromise. Such success is still possible for those who would dare to be like Daniel!
In this lesson, let us focus upon five primary points regarding Daniel as we endeavor to understand how he achieved so much success without compromising his convictions.
1. DANIEL WAS A MAN OF PURPOSE.
Daniel 1:8 declares - "But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself."
Daniel, along with many other Hebrews, was taken captive to Babylon as a young man. Because of his talents, he was given an opportunity to serve Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king. Daniel and the other gifted Hebrew young men would be given a special diet and trained for three years to prepare themselves to serve the king. However, the special diet contained items which were unlawful for Hebrews to eat. Thus, Daniel was faced with a challenge. Would he, a young man in a foreign land, violate God's law by eating the king's food? It wouldn't really seem to be that big of a deal, right? He could simply follow the example of the other Hebrews who were also violating the dietary restrictions. He could "justify" his actions to himself by saying: "It's better to eat unclean food than to stir up unnecessary difficulties for myself, and besides, I'm far from my homeland anyway."
Many Hebrews compromised their convictions in this case, but not Daniel (or his three friends). Despite his youth and the obvious pressure to conform, Daniel purposed or determined in his heart to uphold God's law, no matter what the cost. God blessed him richly as a result of this decision. God enabled Daniel and his friends to have a special diet provided for them--a diet that did not contain unclean elements. Had Daniel compromised here as a young man, I suspect we wouldn't know anything more about him. He would not have risen to such greatness as a compromiser.
Friends, every child of God today needs to be a person of purpose. No one respects a person who is wishy-washy; that is, someone who has no direction to his life. But, a person with a strong sense of purpose is often respected and admired by others.
What should be the purpose of each Christian? Matthew 6:33 summarizes it as well as any passage does - "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." We must dedicate ourselves to seeking first the will of God and fulfilling it in our lives, no matter what the circumstances. If we do so, we will have favor with God at the very least, and that is what's really important.
2. DANIEL WAS A MAN OF PRINCIPLE.
As a young man, he refused to eat the king's meat or drink his wine, as we saw in 1:8. Daniel refused to compromise his convictions. As an old man, he was not interested in the gifts Belshazzar offered (5:16,17). Daniel was only interested in serving the Lord faithfully. Also, under the threat of persecution and even death, he refused to obey the decree of Darius (6:10). He continued praying openly to Jehovah, even when such was illegal. Throughout his life, this truth is easily seen: Daniel was a man of principle.
People typically admire persons of principle. Outwardly they may ridicule them, but inwardly they wish they had the same courage and conviction. God also admires individuals who will stand by their principles and by their words--even when they suffer for doing such (cf. Psa. 15:4).
Our society is in great need of people with principle--people who won't cave in under pressure. Most folks who compromise have some righteous principles, but they have not fully made serving God their basic purpose in life (otherwise they wouldn't compromise in moments of difficulty).
This reminds me of the controversy that has surrounded the Boy Scouts in recent years. The organization has taken a lot of heat in the form of lawsuits and the loss of financial support for their stance against homosexuality. The organization does not want homosexuals to be involved in leadership positions within the Scouts for they believe it goes against mainstream American values. A national spokesman for the Scouts once affirmed that they would not change their policy regardless of how much financial support was withdrawn. He basically declared that their values were not for sale! They, like Daniel, have chosen to live by principle and not falter under pressure. We need to do the same.
3. DANIEL WAS A MAN OF PURITY.
Daniel 6:4,5 reads - "So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him. Then these men said, 'We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.'" His enemies could not find any fault in his daily life. Now that is impressive! There were no skeletons in his closet, so to speak. He was faultless when it came to the management of his business affairs. This explains his rise to positions of great responsibility and power.
Of course, let us hasten to point out that his purity in business affairs was related to his overall purpose, which was to put God first in his life. The fact that he was a man of principle meant he could be trusted. These men understood that, and they eventually tried to use that fact against him. Since he was a blameless man and could be trusted to do what was right, they would attempt to make it a crime to do something which was right (i.e., praying to God), for they expected Daniel to keep on doing the right thing regardless. They executed their evil plot, and Daniel behaved as predicted, but the end result was not what they anticipated.
Followers of Christ today are called to maintain purity of conduct. Matthew 5:8 is true for both the young and old - "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." People who maintain purity in their dealings with others are often given positions of great responsibility and privilege, because they can be trusted to use them wisely.
4. DANIEL WAS A MAN OF PRAYER.
We can see a glimpse into the great prophet's prayer life in Daniel 6:10 - "Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days."
Daniel knelt in prayer, a demonstration of his humility. He prayed three times daily, a demonstration of his continual dependence upon God. He gave thanks in the midst of persecution, a demonstration of his gratitude and the fact that he had not lost sight of God's blessings. He had prayed like this since he was a young man, demonstrating his persistence and faithfulness in service to God.
Dear listeners, is it not likely that Daniel's "custom" to pray so diligently helped him to remain a man of purpose, principle, and purity, despite the temptations involved with his rise to power and preeminence over the empire?
Christians would do well to follow Daniel's example. All through the Bible, God's people have been a people of prayer. We should pray regularly as Daniel did (cf. I Thess. 5:17). If our efforts to live purposeful, principled, and pure lives are not what they should be, could an undisciplined prayer life be the reason?
5. DANIEL WAS A MAN WHO PERSEVERED.
Daniel knew about the wicked decree that had been signed by the king, but it did not stop him from doing that which he knew was right. Ultimately, he did not care what men thought about him. He didn't care if they made it illegal to pray; he would pray anyway. He would persevere and not resist any persecution that found him.
Daniel had made up his mind to be faithful even if it meant facing a den of lions, and that is exactly what it led to! But, that was not the end of this man of God! God delivered him from the den of lions and from his persecutors because of his perseverance.
But what about you and I? Would you continue praying openly to Almighty God if the government made it illegal today? Would you continue meeting with God's church if assembling together was outlawed and terrible consequences were threatened? Will you persevere when difficult times come? Make up your mind today and then be true to yourself.
Are you one of the few who will dare to live life like Daniel did? To answer in the affirmative is to commit oneself to living a life that has God's will as its purpose. It is to embrace a life of righteous principles and purity. It is to pursue a life of prayer and perseverance. It is to live for God uncompromisingly--despite the challenges and the costs.
Sadly, there are very few who will genuinely dare to live a sanctified life like that. So many people mistakenly think that the only way to be successful in this world is to conform to it. Daniel's sterling example is proof to the contrary. Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.