Imagine you were invited to eat at a dinner featuring all of the best foods in the world. The choicest cuts of meat, the freshest vegetables, the most decadent sauces, the tastiest recipes. And can you even imagine the desserts? Then imagine that this food was available to you every day….three meals a day. Even better…it was free. Every morsel, every bite tastier than the next, and it’s all at your disposal. Best of all, you never had to cook a meal, wash a dish, or answer, “What’s for dinner?” ever again. Who wouldn’t be tempted to jump at this offer? When you read Daniel 1, we see that this was exactly the opportunity placed in front of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. In case you aren’t familiar with them, let’s take a look at their story. It takes place during the time of the Major Prophets. All of the world is in upheaval as King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon is conquering and taking over. This includes God’s people who are repeatedly warned throughout the prophetic books that they need to repent and turn back to God or lose the land God has given them. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariahwere part of a group of exceptional young men—-those who were “without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace” who were taken to Babylon the first time Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Israel. (Daniel 1:4) It was a heartbreaking time for the young men who were forced to leave their home, their families, and their way of life to serve an evil king in Babylon. And yet, because they were the best and the brightest, their new position did have its perks-one of which was that they were given the best food and wine from the king’s during their three-year training period table. However, for them, this perk was actually a problem. You see, the food and wine that they were being offered were against the dietary restrictions that God had laid out for His people in His Law. Essentially, eating this food would be disobedience to God. And yet it had to be tempting. I mean, the food was FANTASTIC. What did it matter if they broke God’s Law? Didn’t He allow them to be put in this terrible situation? Couldn’t He have protected their city, protected them, kept them from being carried off to this God-forsaken country? After He let this happen to them, what did they really owe Him anyway? Obeying God’s Laws also presented another problem: The king told them to eat the food. Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t known for his understanding ways. Raising a fuss, questioning his generosity, refusing to eat what they were given was a HUGE risk. If they caused a problem, they could have lost their position, been put in jail, or even been killed. There were so many things to consider. And yet, these men stood by their convictions, went to their caretakers, and said they could not disobey God and eat the king’s food. Can you imagine the shock on their caretaker’s face?? Who turned down the food? Who dared to defy the king? And then the caretakers experienced their own fear and panic as they realized that they would carry the responsibility and blame for the situation. Obviously, the chief officials said, “No way—-you have to eat the food. We aren’t paying the price for your convictions.” That’s when Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah made a proposal: Just give us ten days. Let’s give it a try. We’ll obey God’s Laws and eat only vegetables and meat. At the end of ten days, you be the judge. Talk about standing by your convictions! These young men put it all on the line as they resisted temptation, remained faithful to God despite their circumstances, and put everything on the line to stand by their beliefs and obey God. Today, they stand as an example for us all what it means to be a man or woman of conviction. The challenge they present to each of us is: will we follow their lead and be people who obey God no matter what the cost? Are we people who dare to stand by our convictions, or are we people of compromise? You see, the same challenges that faced these young men still plague believers today. All around us, there are opportunities to abandon God’s ways and fall into sin. Honestly, sometimes the temptation is real. There is an element in which sin is pleasurable, even if only for a moment. Like these young men had to be tempted just to taste the food, we face the temptation to “sample” sin every day. Other times we are tempted to compromise to make things easier. Who wants to stir the waters? Why take the risk of losing friendships, family members, maybe losing a job, or a promotion at work? When following your convictions means walking a hard road, it’s always tempting to compromise and take an easier path. Then there are the days of disappointment….when God doesn’t do things the way that we think He should. In those times, we wonder, “Why should I walk the harder path and be faithful to God when it doesn’t seem to be doing any good?” In each of these situations, we have a choice. We can compromise, follow the crowd, and disobey God, or we can follow the example of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, go for broke and say, “I must obey God.” As you decide, here is a truth to keep in mind: You cannot fulfill God’s purpose for your life when you are walking in compromise. As tempting as it is to soften it or say it isn’t a big deal, the truth is that compromise is sin, and God cannot bless sin. However, when we are men and women of obedience, we open the door for God to use us in any and every way that He plans. Again, this is demonstrated by Daniel and his friends. As we look at Daniel 1:15, we see that Daniel and his friends looked healthier and better nourished at the end of ten days than all of the other men who ate the king’s food. Not only that, but after years of continuing to obey God: “At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.” (Daniel 1:18-20) Because of their courage, commitment, faithfulness to God, and determination to obey God’s Laws, God trusted these young men and placed them in a position of honor in the Babylonian kingdom. They were considered the best of the best—-men the king could trust and rely on. More importantly, God could depend on them to fulfill His purpose in their lives. Each day, as we face the choice between compromise and following our convictions, the question we need to ask ourselves is, “Can God count on us?” Will we be men and women of conviction? Will we faithfully live in obedience to God and His Ways? Even when it’s tempting to compromise? Even during times of disappointment? Even when obeying God requires us to take a risk, will we follow their example and be men and women who say, “Whatever it takes, I will avoid compromise, and walk in obedience to God”?
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Adessa Holden is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God specializing in Women's Ministry. Together with her brother, Jamie, they manage 4One Ministries and travel the East Coast speaking, holding conferences, and producing Men's and Women's resources that provide practical Biblical teaching for everyday life.
When asked about herself, she'll tell you "I'm a women's minister, a sister, and a daughter. I love to laugh and spend time with people. My favorite things are chocolate, the ocean, sandals and white capris, anything purple, summertime and riding in the car listening to music. It is my absolute honor and privilege to serve Jesus and women through this ministry.