World-changers are a rare breed. But they don't have to be. If displaced youths can revolutionize the kingdoms of the earth in God's name, you and I can transform our communities with the gospel.
Consider the year 605 B.C., as the nation of Judah is losing power and significance. Babylon rules the world, with Nebuchadnezzar as king and general. Then the unthinkable happens. Nebuchadnezzar besieges Jerusalem, and the city falls because God hands it over to him. Thus begins the book of Daniel: clarifying who truly controls the situation, thereby revealing Daniel's secret confidence that inspires him in three key world-changing behaviors. Since he knows God rules all earthly kingdoms, he can settle down, start small, and win big.
Settle DownDaniel and his three friends are abducted, transported to Babylon, and enrolled at the state university (Dan 1:3-4, 6). They take classes and study the liberal arts, but this state-sponsored education smells more like religious coercion than intellectual stimulation. They're learning the literature and language of a hostile nation. They're being groomed for civil service as cultural elites (Dan 1:4). They're training to embody new customs (Dan 1:5) and proclaim the glories of false gods—like Bel and Nebo/Nego—by bearing their names (Dan 1:7). But they don't stage a protest or instigate a riot. They don't plot a rebellion. They don't even refuse to participate. They take it right on the chin and keep moving. Imagine that you attend Georgetown, but al-Qaeda attacks and levels Washington, D.C. You're taken away and forced to study at the State U in Kabul, Afghanistan, where they interrupt classes five times each day for mandatory prayer, and the cafeteria closes during daylight hours for the month of Ramadan. Upon arrival, they change your name from Christopher Smith to Mohammed Allahu Akbar. Would you take that sitting down? How did Daniel and friends do it? The Lord knew they'd need help, so he inspired the prophet Jeremiah to write them a letter (Jer 29:1). He told them to "build houses . . . plant gardens . . . take wives . . . multiply there. . . . Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare" (Jer. 29:4-7). He told them it would be 70 years until God brought them back, so they should make the most of the time (Jer. 29:10-11). Daniel obeyed. He settled down and served the neighborhood. He became a model student and a pillar of the community. Jesus gave us a similar set of commands. Go to all nations to make disciples (Matt 28:18-20, Luke 24:47). Do not love the world, or the things in the world (1 Jn 2:15), but love your neighbor as yourself (Jas 2:8). Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king (1 Pet 2:17). In other words, settle down and be good citizens.
Start SmallAlthough seeking to be a good citizen, Daniel resolves not to defile himself (Dan 1:8). The problem, however, is that he doesn't have much control over his life. He appeals to the chief eunuch, but his request is denied (Dan 1:9-10). So Daniel goes down the chain of command to the steward, but this time he proposes a 10-day test (Dan 1:11-13). Note these things about the test:
- The test is small. Daniel does not protest, petition, refuse, or revolt. He simply proposes a new menu with a trial period.
- The test is tentative. The fact that Daniel proposes a time period implies that he's willing to go back to the defiling food (and try a different plan) if it doesn't work.
- The test is out of Daniel's control. Picture this New Year's resolution: "I'll eat healthy food for 10 days. If I come out fatter, prettier, and smarter than the rest of my generation, then I'll know it was a good idea, and I'll persevere." Yeah, right. He's obviously expecting God to do something supernatural.