Friday, 12 September 2008

Dare To Be A Daniel

Orange Standard ~ Article 3 ~ September 2008

One of the better known Old Testament books is "Daniel" with its stories of the burning fiery furnace, lion's den and the mysterious writing on the wall.
Daniel tells of the experiences of four men - Daniel, of noble birth, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego - Jewish captives in the reigns of four kings or regents of Babylon; Nebuchadnezzer, Darius, Cyrus and Balshazzar.

There are dreams and their answers, the kings and Daniel, and miraculous escapes from the near death of the four of them. The characters and events make for a thrilling tale which is told skilfully and dramatically. Jesus valued the book highly.

The story of Daniel and the three, told in the book of his name had a particular purpose - to steady the hearts and minds of those patriotic Jews who were at the time of writing, suffering fearsome persecution for their faith. It describes the courage, loyalty and devotion of the men to a cause, faith in God, which meant to them more than life itself.

Daniel came out of the crucible of suffering to encourage the Jews to stand firm in the defence of their faith. It is not only a tale of brave men, their incredible experiences and rescues from death by divine intervention but of men whose faith in God meant everything to them.

It is the reminder too, that where there is faith in God there is also the alternative way of life in which people find satisfaction only in what they can see, feel and taste. Their concentration is on the everyday things of life, its joys and sorrows, pleasures and pains, gains and losses, so that they have no time for "deeper things".

We are faced, constantly, with the questions - am I responsive to the inward voices of the soul, to take them as the whispers of God to me? Or shall I value more the tangible things around me?

The choice is between the spiritual and the material and for some the middle way when effort is made to be both and it is a matter of priority. For the Christian that should be God first.

When Christians are faced with decisions they have inspiration and encouragement from their faith in Christ.

St Paul described it, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me".

Daniel and his friends stood firm for their faith and they came through horrific experiences by the help of God. There are times when people must take a stand for principles important to them, when to question emotions and motives can be difficult for someone who wants to think and do what is right. There has to be the listening to the voice of conscience. It is the guarding of truth. Daniel and the others chose the way they should go, deliberately and determinedly. They had no doubt about what they had to do and they did it. Their dependence was on God, and they were willing to accept what that meant for them. They were in His hands whatever happened, confident that He would be with them.

When Martin Luther was taking his stand for the Reformation of the Church an official came from Rome to ask him to say or do nothing that would hurt the church. The messenger spoke of the strength of those who would be against him and the dire consequences of his disobedience if he refused to do as he was asked. The question to Luther was, "where will you be then, in the face of all these?"

There as now, replied Luther, "in the hands of God".

We are reminded of the words of Minnie Louise Haskins:-And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year."Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown".And he replied:"Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God.That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way".

The secret for successful living for the Christian is to have the certainty of the divine presence all the time.

J.B. Phillips had that conviction:-
God is the great reality.His resources are available and endless,His promises are real and glorious beyond our wildest dreams.

He added:-
In Christ …death can be safely ignored and Heaven confidently welcomed.

Rev. Canon Dr. S.E. Long

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