Daniel: He Believed in His God – Lessons from Daniel 6 on Faithfulness in Persecution8 min read
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego faced similar threats as Daniel did, but at least they had each other. Daniel apparently only had himself. (Of course, we will see that this wasn’t his mentality). Where will we be when all our moral support is gone and everybody except our own self turns against God and therefore against us? Now, it may be that Daniel had a greater capacity to face persecution on his own since he would have been older (probably over 80) and more experienced at this time than his three friends were when they faced persecution. If this is a valid point, we should find comfort in the fact that whatever our spiritual stage in life, God will grant the resources to us to be faithful in every circumstance. Whatever the case, God is faithful; and we must learn to trust Him even in the greatest threats. (And if you have not read Daniel 6:1-28 recently, you may want to read it to understand the references to the passage)
The Kind of Man Daniel Was
It takes a certain reality of character in a man for him to endure when his foundations are tested. Daniel had just this kind of character. At the beginning of the chapter, we find him becoming distinguished as a man of trust, a man of ability, and a man of peerless conviction. Not only was he above the average citizen in the kingdom, not only was he above the 120 satraps that Darius appointed, but he was even distinguished among the nation’s top three rulers under the king himself. Similar to Joseph, his work ethic and skill earned him favour in the kings eyes, even to the extent that Darius intended Daniel to be second in command over all of the Babylonian Kingdom. While Darius could not appreciate Daniel’s God yet, he could appreciate Daniel’s integrity in regular life affairs, which was founded upon a deep-seated fear of God. Interestingly, with both Daniel and Joseph, their God became known throughout pagan cultures, but only after years of proving themselves to excel in every aspect of life. Wherever Joseph went, he had a reputation of integrity and trust. The same was true for Daniel. Why is this important? It conveys this vital lesson: to have impact on others through our convictions, we must live them. We are never entitled to having a good testimony just because we claim to be a Christian. We are entitled to a good testimony because we glorify God by manifesting His character. This will mean consistency even in life’s mediocre tasks. This is what others see; this is what will mean something to them. With Daniel the only thing that could condemn him before men was his fear of God, which man hates naturally. Is this true of us?
Of course, even pagans can work hard and excel in their careers; what they cannot do, however, is glorify God in that, or in any other area of life for that matter. For Daniel, though, he was a man, not only of skill and integrity, but of communion with His God. Babylon would never appreciate that, but it was so vital nevertheless. We should not base our integrity solely on what the world appreciates of us: God must be our unconditional aim in all things and in all circumstances. With Daniel, he considered his standing before men as secondary to his daily kneeling before God. Verse 10 especially emphasizes this. When his life was threatened (which we will look at closer in the next section), he continued worshipping just as before. Throughout his life, he had a habit of kneeling three times a day toward Jerusalem with his windows open in order to pray (cf. 1 Kings 8:33-34). Had he ceased to do this when his life was threatened, he would have been a hypocrite. Had he begun to do this when his life was threatened, he would have been unreasonable. But because he maintained this conviction for years past, he continued on even in the face of death. What foundations are we laying before our God? Will we stand upon these foundations when they are threatened? Will we still give thanks as usual when persecution strikes? Daniel did this. What was his secret? Priority and practice. Were prayer not his priority, he would have found no problem cutting it from his life. Were prayer not practiced, he would have had no basis for continuing in it. Let us be people of integrity. Let us be people of communion. This is what quality Christianity is founded upon.
The Kind of Persecution Daniel Faced
One of our greatest tools as believers is knowledge, for it equips us in handling situations that we have not faced before. When we know what to expect and what our resources are in those situations, we become far more competent in how we carry ourselves. The same especially applies to persecution. Notice what characterized Daniel’s persecution:
- It was religion-based. Daniel’s opposition knew exactly what they had to do that Daniel might be punished: make a law that opposed his beliefs, since he held them so dearly. “We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.” Persecution is a spiritual battle, even when it comes across as a political one. The sooner we realize this the more confident we will be in facing it.
- It was deceitful. The men knew that Darius favored Daniel. They could not attack him directly, but they did attack him indirectly. Only when it was too late did Darius realize what he did. Was it dishonest? Yes. Did the men care? No. The world acts on its own basis: what is most convenient at the time. Let us not expect persecution to be logical or reasonable.
- It was intense. How could being torn limb from limb by hungry beasts be any less than intense? The world is merciless in its attacks. It will attack the family by indoctrinating children and turning them against the truth. It will attack the assembly by either hyper-regulation from the government or by total denial of freedom to gather. It will attack speech by calling the gospel an offense and a hindrance. It may even harm us personally in a physical way, as was desired with Daniel. The world deserves no ounce of our trust; we cannot afford to give it any. It is utterly without mercy.
- It was unavoidable. The only hope Daniel had was not in a loophole, but only in the sovereign will of God. Yes, as in the case of Paul, certain political structures will have loopholes that we can use to our advantage (Acts 22:25-29), that is, if it will not hinder the gospel. But sometimes persecution will have to be faced head on; will God be enough for us then? Is He enough for us now?
- It was rooted in political formalities. Notice that Darius could not change the law he made on account that Medo-Persian law could not be revoked. This was a political formality that condemned Daniel. Many laws exist in our countries, and with Western mentality that one can interpret legal clauses to mean whatever he wants, we can be certain that many of those laws will abusively be used to condemn us. We cannot afford mistake in this: if the world wants to persecute us, it will find a way. Our rest, however, is not in politics, but in Almighty God – the Sovereign Ruler of all.
The Kind of God Daniel Trusted
In all of persecution’s bitter realities, there is one greater reality that trumps any discouragement: we serve the living God Who will never forsake those that fear Him. There is no better time than now to get a grip of Who we really serve. He is enough to carry us through any onslaught of the world. Was this not Daniel’s secret? He had no complex strategy. He had no formulated plan. This is what Daniel had: “he believed in his God.” This is where true and false Christianity divides. We must believe in our God! He must be a living reality to us! Even Darius recognized the importance of a high view of God:
I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: [is your God worthy of this sort of reverence?] for he is the living God, [is God a living reality to you?] and stedfast for ever, [are you confident in God’s immutability?] and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, [are you content with this Kingdom, or do you need to invest in another?] and his dominion shall be even unto the end [thus, how could he not be sovereign over your life?]. He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions. [How, then, is He not worthy of our utmost confidence?]
Dear believer, take hope; the living God Who is steadfast forever is your God. He delivers and rescues. His dominion shall never fail. He is a God worth trusting. He is a God worth fearing. He will deliver us through persecution, whether that be in life or in death. No matter the severity of the trial, no matter the length of the affliction, the Lord knows them that are His and will be at their side during any and all attacks. The only place we have to go from here is to cultivate real faith. Can it be said of us “he believed in his God”? This in itself is a noble goal for every believer to pursue. This is where our journey starts. This is where our journey continues. This is where our journey ends. Whatever God’s will be for how our journey continues and ends, God’s will always carries with it His presence. It doesn’t for the world; after all, they will have their plans backfire eventually (as with Daniel’s conspirators). But for us, we can be Daniels. “So this Daniel prospered…” Cannot God accomplish this in us?