Stand up, stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross;
Lift high His royal banner, it must not suffer loss.
From victory unto victory His army shall He lead,
Till every foe is vanquished, and Christ is Lord indeed ~ George Duffield.
In a country with about 71% of the population ¹ dentifying themselves as Christians, it is baffling the moral decadence that plagues us. There are churches on almost every street which are full during worship hours on Sundays. With such statistics of professing Christians, it is expected a high, holy and moral life will be upheld.
Unfortunately, our profession of faith doesn’t translate into our daily lives. The lives of many Christians are marked by compromise; conforming to the pattern of this world. We have failed to ‘Stand Up For Jesus’ by forgetting who we are and our purpose here as ambassadors of Christ Jesus. In 2 Chronicles 36, the Bible tells the sad story of the nation Israel. During the reign of Jehoiakim the nation descended into a state of evil and disobedience. “He [Jehoiakim] was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God”. His evil reign resulted in Israel being carried away into captivity in Babylon.
The scene of this story is not new to humankind. In Genesis, God made for our first parents –Adam and Eve — a habitation in the Garden of Eden, where they had the privilege to enjoy great fellowship with God and have all that they needed. However, they disobeyed God and brought upon themselves and rest of humankind the captivity of sin.
Israel’s captivity in Babylon has an encouraging parenthesis in the lives of those who stood up for the cause of God and refused to compromise. As a result of the nation’s rebellion, Daniel and his generation became strangers and exiles in Babylon. Like Daniel and his countrymen, all Christians are strangers and pilgrims in this world. “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14).
We live in a hostile environment in which our commitment to God is tested by the world systems on a daily basis. We are surrounded by people who do not recognize the authority of the God we serve, and rebel against His rule. We are hard pressed to conform to the lifestyle of the world and forsake the precepts of holiness set out for us in scripture.
A look at the story of Daniel and his three friends in captivity teaches us how a people in exile, who are hoping for a lasting city must live their lives in a world that is fleeting. We are God’s representatives on this earth, ‘ambassadors of Christ’ and the bible admonishes us that whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, to do all to the glory of God (1Cor. 10:31). To stand up for Jesus is to defy the status quo in our world today and obey God. We are in this world but we are not of this world. We are to travel the road less travelled: “broad is the way to destruction and narrow the road to life” (Matt. 7:13)
In Daniel 3, we see Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refusing to bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s graven image. Rather, they chose the narrow and unpopular path. While everyone around them bowed, they chose to obey God by not bowing. We also see in chapter 6, Daniel refusing to obey the commandment not to pray to any god for thirty days except to Darius the King. These choices were not pleasant, and came with dire consequence. In the case of the three, they were thrown into a fiercely burning furnace and for Daniel he found himself having a sleepover with the lions.
Despite the glaring danger associated with choosing the side of God, He calls us to persevere to the end. He calls us to obedience regardless of the consequences.
There are tree lessons to be learned from these four Hebrew captives in Babylon:
They Kept their Identity
Though Nebuchadnezzar changed their names, their identity as Jews and children of God was intact. In a land of captivity, Daniel and his friends never compromised on who they were. As believers, we are described as pilgrims and strangers in this world (Heb. 11:13). Paul, writing to the Colossian Church, emphasised the necessity to keep focus on the Kingdom of God. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:1-2). We have been bought with the precious blood of Christ. We are a new creation. We live in the world but are not of the world. We must not lose our identity as Christians in a world of compromises.
Consistency In Prayer
What actually got Daniel into trouble was his prayer life. But God answered and kept him out of danger. The believer is admonished to pray without ceasing. Jesus says we “ought to pray and not faint”(Luke 8:1). Prayer is to the believer, what water is to the fish. A prayerless Christian can easily fall prey to temptation and defeat.
A Life of Integrity
The believer is called to a life of integrity. Though Daniel’s enemies sought an avenue to trap him, they could find none. In a world filled with decadence and evil, God calls the Christian to live a life that is set apart. Peter admonished his readers to keep their conduct among the gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation (1 Pet. 2:12).