Today’s reading is Daniel 1.
King Nebuchadnezzar, leader of the Babylonians, took over Jerusalem and ruled the Jews. He asked his chief eunuch to bring in some of the sharpest Jewish youths to come and learn in order to teach them the language of the Chaldeans. They also must eat the king’s food which was different than the diet of the Jews and eating it would defile them. But, Daniel said he would not eat the food and defile himself leading Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to follow suit. Daniel even suggested that they test their diet by comparing them to others who ate the king’s diet and after 10 days, Daniel and his friends were healthier. Not only did the stewards of the king then let them eat their own diet, but when they were put in front of the king in Daniel 1:20, the king noticed they had much better wisdom and understanding than his own magicians and enchanters.
A while ago a brother in Christ shared with me a story about when he was in high school. He was a good athlete, popular, and known to be a Christ-follower and someone who although not perfect, stuck to his values and generally did the right thing. A group of peers, and one peer in particular, kept trying to get him to do something high school kids often do but that he did not. He stood his ground saying no many times, but then finally gave in agreeing to partake. Jesus says in Matthew 26:41, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” I could have used one of many examples of my own missteps and mistakes, but this story is especially insightful. The one peer who was always trying to persuade him to take part admitted that he was not only surprised, but actually was disappointed that this individual finally gave in. You see, even those that try to persuade us to do bad things often secretly want us to stand our ground. Even though they will typically never admit it, not only do they respect us for doing the right thing, but they secretly want us to continue to do the right thing because they want to believe that good still exists. This inspires them to want to do better and believe that they too can do the right thing when faced with temptation. They may not come around at the time, but just like King Nebuchadnezzar who later came around and gave glory to God after God protected Daniel’s friends in the fiery furnace, they may too in the future as a result of your actions today. St. Francis of Assisi is generally given credit to saying, “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words.” Others must see the truth and good that exists through the Holy Spirit and Jesus living in and through us.
We will, however, mess up. Thankfully, that’s when we have our greatest opportunity to speak the Gospel. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” He’s our lifesaver. We humble ourselves before God and others to let Him and them know we are not perfect and are in need of a savior. We can let them know we are saved and forgiven by His grace alone through his death on the cross. And we too will live, just as He lives through His resurrection on Easter. They can do the same…all they have to do is ask and believe. Just grab the ultimate lifesaver right there within arm’s reach. Is it that simple? Yes..it’s that simple.