From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 4 – The meaning and importance of faithfulness
The faithfulness of the prophet Daniel If you are looking for a role model from whom to learn about faithfulness, then the prophet Daniel is one of the very best you will find, anywhere in the Bible. He faced far more pressures and problems than we are ever likely to face. There were also many temptations, and opportunities for him to become proud or corrupt or to compromise, but he never did. He was remarkably faithful to God, to the Kings he worked for, and to everybody he ever met. Therefore not even his enemies could find any fault in him, even though they wanted to:
1It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom a hundred and twenty satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; 2and over them three presidents, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. 3Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other presidents and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4Then the presidents and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom; but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. 5Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”Daniel 6:1-5 (RSV)
Daniel is best known for the episode where he ended up in the lions’ den because of his refusal to stop praying to God, even when it became illegal to do so. He risked his life over that issue and never wavered in his faithfulness. That was a big test for anybody to face, even Daniel.
However, we would be wrong to think that this huge, life or death crisis was the first test Daniel ever faced. That is very rarely the way that God operates. He does not usually expose us to life or death situations as the very first test we ever face. God is practical and He knows that our faithfulness and courage have to be developed over time, like a muscle. Therefore He starts us off with small tests and builds up to larger ones, stage by stage.
The same was true of Daniel’s three friends, who ended up being cast into the fiery furnace because they refused to worship the Nebuchadnezzar’s image. That, likewise, was not the first test that they ever faced. The first test that we are told about arose shortly after they all arrived in Babylon, after being taken there as prisoners. All four of these young men, probably in their late teens, faced the test of what to do about the food that was being offered to them. It did not meet the requirements of the Law of Moses. Today we would say it was not kosher.
Instead of compromising by just quietly eating it, they asked to be given vegetables. This stance was less likely to get them into trouble with Nebuchadnezzar than was the case on later occasions. Indeed, there is no indication that he ever even knew of it. So, the risk was less intense. However, the point is that it was that smaller test which prepared those four teenagers to take and pass the huge tests which they faced many years later.
If we are not willing to take a stand on smaller issues and face things such as criticism, disapproval, ridicule or damage to our careers, then we will never develop the levels of faithfulness that are needed to face up to the threat of martyrdom, or even the loss of our livelihoods or homes for Jesus’s sake. Many Christians have wondered whether they could be sufficiently faithful to pass the test of martyrdom if they ever had to face it. But the real answer to that question is that if you are faithful now in the small tests you face at school or work and are willing to be disapproved of, or laughed at, for the sake of Jesus, then God will give you the grace you need to pass the life or death tests that might arise in the future.
So, not only do we learn that habit of faithfulness. It is also that our small acts of courage today qualify us to receive God’s help in future when the stakes are much higher. It is God’s nature to respond with loyalty to those who are loyal to Him. He also honours those who honour Him. Therefore, if you want to maximise the likelihood of your staying faithful to the end, no matter what, then take care to be faithful now in the small, day to day pressures that you currently face.
The one thing we absolutely must not do is to be presumptuous or over-confident. I say that because I once heard a man say that, if faced with a man pointing a gun at him, he had no doubt that he would “definitely not deny Jesus.”
Even as he said it, I was reminded of the over-confident bravado of apostle Peter as he ‘talked big’ on the night Jesus was arrested. He would have done much better if he had simply said: “Lord, if I am tested today, please give me the grace and courage I need to stay faithful to you”. Those are the kind of words that real martyrs say.
Daniel was like the prophet Samuel, Job, Joseph, Moses, John the Baptist, Apostle Paul and other remarkable figures. They all refused to compromise with sin or to betray God by letting Him down or taking Him for granted. Now let’s consider someone who was very different; a man who began well, but ended in failure because of his unfaithfulness.