Why Not Now?
Dare to be a Daniel:
Godly Service and Renewal in the Professions, Institutions and Government
Newspaper headlines all across the Caribbean trumpet corruption and incompetence, in high places, and in low. Even more sadly, in a region boasting one of the highest church attendance rates in the world, Christians too often for good reason are frequently derided as hypocrites, just as bad as their neighbours, but sanctimoniously pretending to be "holier than thou."
What a contrast we have in Daniel! When envious men sought to break his career, they "could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent." [Dan. 6: 4b, NIV.] So, they had to resort to attacking his godliness: "We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God."
They went to the king with a flattering lie: "The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions' den." [v. 7, emphasis added.] Daniel, duly caught in the act of prayer to God, went to the lions' den because a foolish king had listened to deceitful advisors and issued a rule that had consequences he did not understand. Thankfully, God delivered Daniel to a grateful king.
Sadly, destructive scheming, corruption, incompetence and folly in high places are still with us. How, then, can we work to be true "salt and light" in the office, factory, institution or community?
Daniel's career path has much to teach us. Born in a generation justly under the shadow of God's judgement, he was taken as war booty and sent to "College" in Babylon, to be trained for the Babylonian Civil Service.
The first step was to try to destroy his faith in God, so the pagan Babylonians gave him an idolatrous name and tried to force him to eat ceremonially unclean food. But "Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way." [Dan. 1:8.]
The reply was telling: "I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you." Thus, we see the callous brutality and intimidation that mark so many who hold high office.
Daniel persisted, and approached his guard: "Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see." [vv. 12-13.] God blessed his persistence, and he and his three companions were able to keep themselves ceremonially pure.
God also blessed their studies: "To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds. At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the . . . 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." [17 - 20.]
In short, right from youth, Daniel boldly put God first, and courageously and persistently "dare[d] to stand alone." Accordingly, his competence was grounded in his commitment to God, even in the face of a dangerous, unstable situation Nebuchadnezzar's favourite solution for those who displeased him was to put them to death and in God's gifts of knowledge and tactfully applied wisdom and prophetic insight. Thus, "he was found to have . . . a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to . . . solve difficult problems." [5:11 - 12.]
Even before the three years of training were over, Daniel faced a major crisis. Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, demanded its interpretation, and refused to tell his astrologers what it was, to test their power. They replied: "What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among men." [2:11.] The king promptly ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon.
Daniel learned of the crisis when "men were sent to look for Daniel and his friends to put them to death." [v. 13.] Daniel spoke to the captain of the king's guard "with wisdom and tact" asking for clarification rather than accusing and complaining and was able to request time to interpret the dream. Together with his three friends, he prayed to God, and during the night, "the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision."
Soon, Daniel was ushered into the king's presence, and told and interpreted the famous dream of the great statue of the kingdoms of men shattered by the power of the eternal kingdom of God. "Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men . . . at Daniel's request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon." [vv. 47, 48.]
Thus, Daniel's coolness, tact, wisdom and seeking of God saved the day. His three friends, likewise, stood the test of a fiery furnace. Later on, Daniel had the opportunity to tactfully call the king to repent when God warned him, by another dream, about his arrogance. The king persisted in wickedness and pride, and was struck mad by God, ultimately confessing: "Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble." [Dan. 4:37.]
Nasty schemes, corruption, incompetence, arrogance and intimidation to do or support wickedness are all too familiar to most of us as we live and work in the Caribbean and beyond. However, prophetic dreams, rescuing angels in fiery furnaces, and silenced lions sound more like fairy tales than realistic expectations. As Amos records: "You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts. Therefore the prudent man keeps quiet in such times, for the times are evil." [Amos 5:12, 13.]
But such "prudence" is not the whole story. As Jesus put it: "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" [Matt. 16:25 - 26.] Indeed, when Daniel's friends were facing the furnace, they were confident that: "the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." [Dan. 3:17 - 18.] In short, courage, witness and martyrdom have always been linked.
Second, there is the principle of escape: "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." [1 Cor. 10:13.] Sometimes, that way is a miracle; sometimes, courage to suffer for Christ; sometimes, strength to resist temptation; sometimes, avoiding or getting out of situations that put us under unyielding pressure to sin. Frankly, poverty or even martyrdom are preferable to prosperity at the price of one's soul.
Finally, there is the strategy of the godly alternative. The church is a bright "city on a hill" in a dark world. [Matt. 5:14.] We therefore have a collective responsibility to develop alternative systems and structures that show the godly way to the surrounding society. This clearly includes: family structures, businesses, professions, industry, institutions, education, conflict resolution, outreach to the poor and needy, etc.
If we were to systematically develop such structures, many Christians who are presently struggling to stand under crushing pressure to yield to wickedness at home, school or work would have godly alternative frameworks for living, studying, working, and serving that would collectively be a powerful witness to the world, demonstrating how Christ works to "fill all things." [Eph. 4:10.] Could it be that this is what God is calling us, as His people in the Caribbean, to do and demonstrate in our time? Is this our "way of escape," and the "good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do"? [Eph. 2:10.] Have we "come to . . . position for such a time as this"? [Esther 4:14.]
Why not now; why not here; why not us?
§ In our region, much of the corruption in official institutions and the professions is linked to inadequate training, and to the effects of political and personal patronage and secret societies. There is also a tendency to excuse going along with evil since we have to survive. What would Daniel have to say?
§ What would he say to you?
§ How then could we work to promote renewal and reformation in Government, Civil Society and the professions across the region?
§ How does this fit in with the fulness vision?