Daniel 1:17-21

I love those words in Daniel 1:21 – “Thus Daniel continued.” He finished strongly! He was persistent. For 70 years he did not give in, nor did he give up, nor did he give out. He was not only resistant but also consistent and persistent. He outlived Nebuchadnezzar and he even outlived Nebuchadnezzar’s empire. Daniel lived into the days of Cyrus the ruler of the Medes and Persians, and God used him to make a tremendous difference in his culture and in his world.

When we do not give in nor give up nor give out God will bless. Note that He will give protection. God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs. (Daniel 1:9) God has His own ways of watching over His own when they are faithful to His word and obedient to His will. It is a wonderful thing in a crumbling culture to know that God has the controls in His own hand. He also gives knowledge. God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom. (Daniel 1:17). At the end of three years Daniel took his oral exams. He flew through to the head of the class. He applied himself, he prepared, and God blessed him. Preparing intellectually is a requirement for living in our Babylon. Like Daniel, we do not live in Jerusalem any longer. For example, who would have thought we would ever have to ask if it was okay to see a Walt Disney film? As was true in Daniel’s day, truth is on our side. We, like him, can live uncompromising lives. We, like Daniel, can stand true to the Word of God. We should not let anyone in the king’s court tempt us to compromise and the Lord will raise us up before our peers as He did Daniel. Promotion does not come from the east nor the west but from the Lord.

God will also give us influence. The Bible says, Thus Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus. When we read these words in Daniel 1:21 we find that this has covered a span of 70 years. What an influence Daniel had. He not only did not give in, he did not give up, and he did not give out. When Cyrus made a decree that allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem, Daniel had a part in that. When Nehemiah went back to be the rebuilder of the broken walls, Daniel had a part in that. When Ezra went back to re-establish the book of the law Daniel had a part in that. And 500 years later when the wise men made their way to Bethlehem from the East, if you will look back far enough you will find Daniel behind that too. Those Magi knew about a Messiah because their ancestors had heard through the uncompromising life of a young Hebrew captive in Babylon by the name of Daniel.

Yes, Daniel continued. And God gave him protection, wisdom, and influence along the way. This should be a tremendous encouragement to all of us who are seeking to address a 21st century Babylonian culture in the western world. It would be wonderful if it were said of us that we too “continued,” that we did not give in nor give up nor give out, that we too were resistant, consistent, and persistent. In 1992 our First Baptist Church of Dallas high school choir had the wonderful privilege of ministering during the Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. Those of us who remember those Olympic games have forever etched in our minds the 400-meter run. The favorite to win the gold medal was a young man by the name of Derek Redmond. Derek was 26-years-old. In the middle of his race Derek Redmond fell flat on the track. When he fought his way back to his feet he grabbed the back of his leg in pain. A torn hamstring had brought a lifetime of dreams to a miserable end in a split second. But Derek Redmond got up. He began hopping around the track on one leg. When he reached the home stretch a large man broke through the security guards and onto the track. He was wearing a tee shirt that said, “Have you hugged your kid today?” The man put his arms around Derek Redmond and together they hobbled toward the finish line. That man, it turned out, was Derek Redmond’s father, Jim Redmond. It made for a beautiful picture. There was a fallen hero and a loving father making sure that he finished strongly. And anyone who watched on television that day will never forget that scene.

Derek Redmond is a picture of some of us. Some of us are lying on the track of life with our dreams smashed and our hopes dashed. Setbacks are no fun. But look, from out of the stands comes a loving father who takes our arm and puts it over his own shoulder. He’ll see us to the finish line if we will walk with him! Like Derek Redmond we have a hope. Don’t give out, be persistent.

In every one of these verses in Daniel 1 we see God is not removed from the events of human history. He is not sitting in a rocking chair somewhere with His hands folded, twiddling His thumbs on some distant planet. He is here. And, He is holding the controls! He can turn you on or turn you off at His will. He can quiet you or let you be heard at His own will. I know brilliant men like Daniel who had it all going for them but they gave in and God turned their volume down so that no one hears them anymore. I know others for whom He pushed the mute button and still others where He turned them off completely. I know others He’s turning back up and putting back in service. He’s going to use them again for His glory. He holds the remote control in His own hand. He was not only active behind the scenes in Daniel’s day but in ours as well. No wonder Daniel is saying, “Don’t give out, be persistent.”

We live in a world today much like Daniel’s. Ours, too, is a world that is out of control. We’re living in a culture that is increasingly opposed to what we believe. We live in a culture that is busy at work with a plan to re-educate our young minds. We don’t call it Babylonianism but that’s what it is and it is all around us.

Daniel purposed in his heart. (Daniel 1:8). And Daniel continued. (Daniel 1:21). Daniel lived to see the fall of that pagan empire. Daniel’s God is our God! He has not changed nor has His word. Could it be that He’s simply waiting on some of us to purpose in our hearts and continue? Could it be that He’s waiting on some of us to stop giving in and giving up and giving out. He is at work behind the scenes and is in control.

What does this mean for us today? Simply because God is in control does not mean that Daniel was passive and did nothing. He worked, he prayed, he took a stand, he studied, he influenced others. Yes, God is in control but He desires and expects our own obedience. Daniel made a choice. He purposed in his heart. God did not make the choice for him. His friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not make the choice for him. He purposed in his own heart. The same is true for us. Life is about making right choices.

Daniel is saying to us today that we, too, can make it! How? By deciding which way we’re going to turn before we ever get to the intersection. Along the way we hear him saying, “Don’t give in, be resistant.” Our tendency tomorrow is simply to give in to the culture, to go its way, but we must not. We must “purpose in our own heart” and draw a line with the Word of God.

We can also hear him saying, “Don’t give up, be consistent.” Our tendency tomorrow is to be so overwhelmed that we give up and lay down our biblical principles and conform to the culture. We can also hear him saying, “Don’t give out be persistent.” Our tendency is so often to simply quit the race – but we’re called upon to finish strongly. I love those words in Daniel 1:21, And Daniel continued. Are there any of my readers who seek to control your own life? You hold the remote control in your own hand seeking to control everything around you – your volume, your brightness, and your contrast. Give the remote control back to Him today. Say, “Lord, here it is. You control my life.” And then, “purpose in your heart” to continue. Daniel’s God is our God. “Don’t give out, be persistent!”

O.S. Hawkins is president and chief executive officer of the SBC Annuity Board. He is a Contributing Editor to Preaching.

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