This is part 3 of a series on the impossible faith of the saints mentioned in Hebrews 11. Find part one here, and part two here.
Daniel was given a clear choice – obey the king or obey God. There was no confusion over what King Darius’ decree meant or what God’s will required. There were no fuzzy grey areas or possible loopholes. Either Daniel obeyed the king and ceased praying for the next thirty days or he obeyed God and prayed anyway. To obey the king was clear disobedience to God and to obey God was clear disobedience to the king.
Daniel’s choice may have been clear, but that does not mean it was easy. After all, the consequences of disobeying the king were steep: a long night in a dark den with hungry lions. That is enough to make anyone think twice about defying the king. Perhaps there were other Jewish exiles in Babylon who imagined being chewed to bits by famished lions and began to look for a way out – a way to please both the king and God. Maybe they reasoned that putting off prayer for a month wasn’t so bad and that God would surely understand their predicament. Besides, what good could they accomplish in Babylon if they became a midnight snack for the lions?
But Daniel, according to the biblical text, makes no hesitation. He hears the king’s decree and goes straight home to pray about it – not as a bold act of defiance, but because that’s what Daniel always did. He was in regular communication with his God and neither the king’s decree, nor the lion’s den, was going to stop his daily habit.
Why was Daniel able to remain faithful to God in the face of persecution and certain death? Because he saw things through the eyes of faith. His faith in a loving and powerful God, who was faithful to all his promises, told him that to turn his back on God was worse than facing the lions. Daniel understood that man can kill the body, but it is God who has power over the body and the soul. To lose his life to the lions was nothing compared to losing his soul to everlasting perdition. The flames of hell are worse than the fangs of lions.
Daniel did not know that God would protect him in the lion’s den, but he couldn’t have been surprised when He did. The God who protects his people in all circumstances is the God Daniel had put his faith in since he was a young boy. God had done amazing things before in Israel’s past and Daniel believed that God could do it again if that was his will. And even if it was not God’s will, Daniel trusted that God honours the righteous man.
Daniel’s calm defiance of the king’s wicked decree shows us what it means to see life through the open eyes of faith and reminds us that those who put their trust in God will never be put to shame.
In some ways it seems Paul’s life as a Christian is impossible to emulate. His long list of the things he suffered in the name of Christ is impressive. And some of his writings are uncomfortably radical. Take as example his words to the church at Rome about his fellow Jews: “I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.” How is such faith possible?
Paul endured so much, and with so much joy, for the sake of Christ and His Church, and it all makes zero sense from a worldly point of view. Before losing all for Christ, Paul had a lot of what the world calls “success.” He was a member of a privileged group, he was devout and confident in who he was, he had a position of authority and was making his way up the religious ranks, and he had the respect of his own people. Status, authority, self-confidence, education, identity – Paul had it all. And then he traded it all in for a life of prisons, chains, and thorns. Again, it makes no sense from a worldly perspective.
After Paul was blinded by the glory of Christ on the road to Damascus, he began to see the world differently – through the eyes of faith. He saw the immeasurable worth of knowing Christ and the unseen riches which were his through Christ. He saw that all the “treasures” of the world simply cannot compare to what is gained through Christ. He saw that suffering and scorn is a small price to pay in order that the world might know Christ. He saw that it is better to suffer for what is righteous than to prosper while doing evil.
Towards the end of his ministry Paul stood before King Agrippa and his friends and recounted the story of his life. He told them how his whole life was turned upside down by an encounter with the living Christ and how it was his life’s mission to tells others of the death and resurrection of Christ. However, when Paul began to speak of the resurrection, Festus, the governor at the time, couldn’t take it anymore. He interrupted Paul’s speech and shouted “You are out of your mind Paul! Your great learning is driving you insane.” Paul’s life and faith made no sense to the worldly thinking of Festus. It made so little sense Festus burst out and declared Paul insane. So it is when the world tries to make sense of faith in the Living God.
Paul’s response to Festus is flawless. “I am not insane, most excellent Festus. What I am saying is true and reasonable.” Indeed. Paul was thinking clearer than anyone else in King Agrippa’s palace that day for he was thinking with the mind of Christ. Paul was living out the age-old faith of Noah, Abraham, Moses, and many more. The world regarded them as weak, foolish, and insane, but God counted their faith as righteousness. May we too walk in the way of faith, whether it seems insane or impossible. May we have the eyes to see the world as it really is.
A good time to remember that the Lord is in control at all times even now as we are living under the threat of COVID-19. We may not understand why but his ways are always good for us his people, who are his kingdom.