The challenge of today has been about living distinct lives at the heart of pagan societies. David Tripp (Wellington doctor & TSCF grad) spoke of the small choices we make each day working their way into our lives and producing fruit into the long term.
Daniel chose to eat veggies rather than being ‘defiled’ through taking the food and wine from the king’s table. He obeyed God’s law in doing so BUT he did more than the law required. He chose to remind himself in the patterns of his day that he did not belong in Babylon but was a citizen of another city: that his true King was God.
How do we, how can we, build distinctive patterns in our lives that will remind us of our allegiance to a Better City (Heb 11)?
The chat in seminars and around tables has been quality – working out being distinctive whilst living for Jesus.
Nigel Pollock (TSCF National Director) spoke this evening from Daniel 3 about the inevitability of persecution if we are living godly lives in the midst of a world which does not choose or treasure the Sovereign reign of God.
Daniel’s 3 friends are in the firing line because they will not defile themselves by bowing down to a statue of the king. They’d made a choice not to eat his food and now they will not bow down to his image in worship. The smaller choice makes this life and death choice easier – but it is essentially the same choice. They will not deny that God who has brought the people of Israel into relationship with himself. They will not turn away from Him to make their own lives easier.
The precise nature of idolatry works itself out differently around the world. In each of our cultures and contexts idolatry is seen in different ‘clothes’. It may not be a 90 foot statue like for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego but it will be a particular expression of our culture’s values, aspirations and allegiances: it might not be ‘visible’ but it will present a clear and real danger to our allegiance to the one true God who has made Himself known in Jesus Christ.
The balance of power, in human terms, is entirely against the friends. They have nothing other than their integrity and faith in God. Nebuchadnezzar has everything in his power to hurt them. The friends recognise this as they speak to Him: they declare that they will be faithful to God regardless of the outcome for them. Doing the right thing does not necessarily lead to an easy time – the people of God can testify to this all over the world. God is just and his justice will prevail but there are no guarantees of an easy solution for the faithful.
All too often we are not willing to endure hardship, persecution and difficulties. We show it in asking what’s going wrong when things are hard. Are there any parameters, any extremities, that would put limits on your discipleship? Are there any situations which would be too far for you?
Persecution is inevitable – if we refuse to bow the knee to the idols of this age. It might be in social slights, in employment disadvantage or in physical attack or imprisonment. It can seem unreal form the comfort and relative security of New Zealand but the reality is working itself out for Christians around the world right now.
The reality for Daniel’s friends was ferocious persecution and a firey pit! Miraculous intervention ensues and the place of destruction becomes the place of liberty. The friends are preserved and actually fellowship together and with the ‘fourth man’ in the flames. It is true that we are brought closer to God in trials but it is no less true in this situation that trials brings God’s closer to us – He enters into their situation.
The church globally is facing persecution and trials. Are we ready?