Friday, August 29, 2014

Boldness in Adversity

This is the 4th in a series of blogs about not only surviving in this world but thriving through our Christian walk...

Daniel 2 [read the entire chapter - emphasis in v16-18]

The example of Daniel here in this story is like a movie, almost surreal. Under pressure and facing what seemed to be certain persecution and death, Daniel calmly seeks God's guidance and relies on Him to deliver.

As believers, we often sing of our "Awesome God", we often tell others "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me..." We can talk a strong game, but how do we react when things are actually happening around us and it is dark and things don't look so good? How do we react?

Sadly, I can say that I have failed miserably when it comes to putting into practice the things I profess with my mouth about the greatness of God. Why is that? Why do we extol the greatness of God but when the situation calls for us to rely on His greatness...we falter and seek to work things out on our own? WHY IS THAT? I believe it is because we secretly believe that the God that we profess can do anything... will cannot actually help us in our situation. Either we believe He will NOT help because we believe that our situation is too small and irrelevant OR we just don't believe He will intervene. If that is truly our attitude, can we really say that we trust in Him? Furthermore, if we cannot trust Him to deliver us from the things of this world, how can we TRUST that He is going to deliver us in regards to the things of eternity? This is a slippery slope for the believer.

When we read Daniel chapter 1 we see that Daniel had already trusted in God about the diet of food he and his Hebrew brothers were receiving from the King and God had delivered on that promise... Here in chapter 2 Daniel simply relies on the same God who had ALWAYS been there for him. But preacher, what about Daniel being in captivity? What about the nation of Israel being conquered? I understand how hard it is for many of us to comprehend how Daniel could still trust in the same God that allowed his nation to be ravaged by Babylon and afterwards allowed him to be taken captive. This is because, as believers, we equate things we deem as bad to an enemy attack and God NOT delivering us. However, we know that the nation of Israel was being disciplined by God for their constant disobedience to Him. They had been warned time and time again by the prophets that they needed to repent or God was going to punish their sinful behavior. Babylon was an instrument in the hands of God to discipline His people.

Now while I do NOT equate natural disasters to 'the hand of God' as many others have done in the past and continue to do so today. I do believe God can use any situation to bring about glory to His kingdom and to His name. Today (8/29/2014) is the 9th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina that ravaged the MS Gulf Coast and Southeast Louisiana and the city of New Orleans. I know for a fact that there were MANY prayers prayed before that storm hit our shores... prayers seeking God to redirect the storm or for the storm to dissipate... as we know it did NOT. 

The damage and heartache caused by Katrina was devastating, many lost their lives, and it is still one of the greatest natural disasters in the history of our nation. However, let me ask this question, "through all the pain and suffering of Katrina, have we seen God's hand at work and wonderful things happen?" The answer YES! While Katrina was extremely difficult and horrendous to experience, God has remained faithful throughout everything. I am positive that Daniel was not happy by being taken into captivity and then placed into forced service for the king. However, as terrible as this may have seemed to him at the time, Daniel never lost sight of the fact that God was in control. 

In the situation we read about in chapter 2, Daniel and his Hebrew kinsmen were about to be put to death (along with all the wise men of Babylon) because the King had a dream that troubled him and he could not understand. He demanded his 'wise' men to tell him what the dream meant, but he would not describe the dream to them. What the king was asking was an impossible task for a human, but NOT for God. Daniel did what ALL believers should do when faced with a seemingly impossible situation -- he turned TO God, not away from Him! He asked God to guide him... He did not shake his fist at God and blame God for his situation nor did he think he could come up with a better solution... He turned TO God and trusted that God was sovereign and would answer!

Trusting God in adversity is a difficult thing because when we 'trust' we let go of the controls... this is is difficult or almost impossible because we want to control our own situations and lives. However, when we say that we trust God, we are saying that we are willing to release the controls of our lives and allow God to guide us and direct our paths! This goes against EVERY human instinct, but yet it is really the only way how we can grow closer to the One who created us!

Daniel understood God's control of the situation as evidenced in v21 when Daniel says, "He [God] controls the course of world events; He removes kings and sets up other kings He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholar..."

God is in control, but He allows His creation to make choices through their own free will and that is where SIN enters the picture. When left to our own devices we will ALWAYS choose the path of least resistance OR the path that provides us with the most pleasure. We need to understand that God is in control and we should trust Him, even when it seems as if He is not there or that He does not care. God DOES care and God has promised that He will never leave NOR forsake His children, so KNOW that HE is there! So often we believe God has abandoned us simply because His answer is not the answer we desire, and if we don't get what we want it is obviously a 'tragedy'.

Believers should live their lives as Daniel lived. In the face of adversity, Daniel was willing to boldly stand up to the tyranny of sin and the acts of the Enemy. The threat of harm or death did not disuade him from trusting in God and waiting on God's direction. Today, we live in a society where every day we can read yet another story about hostility toward Christians WITHIN our own borders. We read of School boards wanting to 'purse' Christianity...about courts twisting the 1st Amendment to satisfy their own personal agendas...about children not being able to read their Bible during 'free' time at school...

The reality of our world today is that, as a Christian, we must be ready to experience persecution. We must be ready to boldly stand before authority and proclaim the greatness of God. It does not matter what happens to us for we are God's messengers and the instruments of His kingdom. It may be that we are like Daniel and God will deliver us FROM the fire. It could be that we are like the 3 Hebrew men who refused to bow to the image of the king whom God delivered THRU the fire! We also may find that God chooses to use our witness and sacrifice for His glory, such as that of Stephen in the New Testament. However, God chooses to act we have to realize that either way God is still there and will not abandon us! Even if our lives are forfeit for the Gospel, we are still loved and cherished by God. For we know that this life does not hold any joy for us outside of Christ, but that we are but sojourners on the road to eternity!

When the harshness of life rears its ugly head and the dark times come your way, my prayer is that you are willing to STAND boldly for Christ before those seeking to destroy you and tear down your faith and Christian witness? Do not allow the Enemy to steal your joy by intimidating you to submit to his low standards or abandon God's heavenly standards. Christianity is not about the lowest common denominator but it is all about being set apart and standing out FOR Christ, even when that means our life is forfeit when we make that choice...

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