If you were sick this winter with any sort of respiratory virus, you were not alone! On a Saturday afternoon in February, our youngest child (who was just over three months at the time), began coughing loudly and became intensely congested. By Sunday morning, his breathing had taken a turn for the worse and I knew we needed to get him to the hospital as soon as possible. Upon arriving at the emergency room, we were met by a team of medical professionals—all of whom were very alarmed by my little boy’s breathing condition. Nurses and doctors came flying around the hospital bed, each trying to accomplish a different task, causing my little guy to panic and become even more exasperated. The doctor in charge began calling out a list of orders that needed to be followed, one of which I didn’t feel totally comfortable with. When I asked the doctor to please explain why this particular protocol was necessary at this point, she became pushy and defensive. Regardless, I continued to prayerfully stand my ground, letting her know we would make that decision after we consulted the doctor in the pediatric intensive care unit. Like music to my ears, the compassionate pediatric doctor who then examined and cared for our baby in the ICU, confirmed that he saw no need to undergo the procedure that the other doctor had nearly demanded.
This whole situation got me thinking about spiritual things. I once heard a political commentator say, “If you are going along with everything that the world says is good, then you are doing something wrong.” That saying has stuck with me for years. But how often as a believer, do I really live that? How often do I firmly take a stand for my convictions—those that God has placed upon my heart—confidently trusting that God will really come through for me on the other side?
The book of Daniel begins with King Nebuchadnezzar instructing his chief official “to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles, youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding, and discerning knowledge, and who had the ability for serving in the king’s court” (Daniel 1:3-4). They would undergo three years of intensive schooling, and each day they would be rewarded with the king’s choice food and drink. We have all heard that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I believe it’s safe to say that mealtime was likely a highlight of the day for these young scholars.
But despite how good this perk of the job may have been to the others, Daniel had a deep conviction that led him to choose another path for himself.
“Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah … But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself. Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials, and the commander of the officials said to Daniel, ‘I am afraid of my lord the king, who has appointed your food and your drink; for why should he see your faces looking more haggard than the youths who are your own age? Then you would make me forfeit my head to the kind. But Daniel said to the overseer whom the commander of the officials had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, ‘Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance be observed in your presence, and the appearance of the youths who are eating the king’s choice food; and deal with your servants according to what you see.’ So he listened to them in this matter and tested them for ten days.” (Daniel 1:6, 8-13)
First thing’s first: Daniel was discerning. He was characterized by his wisdom and understanding. God had prompted Daniel’s heart that he was to go against the mainstream. Daniel didn’t know what the end result would be, but he knew that he had to believe God regardless of the outcome.
As followers of Jesus, you and I have the ability through the Holy Spirit to be acutely aware and perceptive of the things of God. We are able to discern what is of God and what is not. Because of that, there are certain convictions that we will know are straight from the heart of God. And often times, our convictions may go against the normal paths of others. In 1 Corinthians 2:16, Paul says that as believers “we have the mind of Christ.” And we have the mind of Christ because the Spirit of God dwells in us (1 Corinthians 3:16)! Just as Daniel was wise in the things of God, so are we through Jesus. So much of the time we fall into the trap of believing that others are wiser than us in matters of faith. If Jesus died for you, then you (according to the living and active Word of God) have the mind of Christ. If we don’t believe that God can use His Word to practically guide us through life, then we are falling into the enemy’s scheme to keep us vastly ineffective. Some of us have remained far too indifferent to the things going on in the world around us, for far too long. Maybe we have just decided it’s easier to do life the way everyone else does life. Maybe we have unintentionally let the world wreak havoc on our marriages, parenting, friendships, and health. Maybe we have decided it’s easier to just live within our misery and insecurity and oppression, than to deal with the hard stuff. Maybe we have allowed the world to make decisions for us regarding what is acceptable and appropriate in just living life. What happens when we allow the societal norm to guide our lives as believers, is that we forfeit spiritual growth and blessing without even being aware. This is how deception occurs. Colossians 2:8 says, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” It is time to ask God to help us to discern what is of Him and what is not in the world around us. In order to go against the mainstream, we have to know what God is saying to us personally. And then we have to take back our territory as believers. We have to take a stand based on the convictions that God places upon our hearts.
Second: Daniel was decisive. Scripture says that he “made up his mind” regarding what he would eat and what he would not.
When God places a specific conviction upon our heart, we are wise to resolve to stay true to that conviction, regardless of the adversity that may come our way. 1 Corinthians 15:58 says, “Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Daniel made a resolution to stay true to his conviction, even if it meant hardship for him. He was unwilling to be swayed, but he did so with grace. He believed God to pave a way for him, even when it seemed unlikely.
Third: Daniel was determined. His convictions were extremely important to him, because they were convictions that God put in his heart, and he did not care if they went against the norm.
As believers, it is not always difficult to go against the grain when people are doing something bad. It’s often harder to stand up against something that the world says is good. Why? Because we get push-back! People may get defensive and accusatory and even ugly. We might be talked about and judged. I would imagine some of Daniel’s peers thought he was straight up crazy for not eating the good food. His conviction was deeply rooted however, and he was determined to stay on task.
For Daniel, the risk of not following God outweighed the benefit of momentary pleasure. He knew that he would be much more fit and on target for God’s Kingdom, if he stayed true to his convictions. The same is true for us, dear friends. When we are on task, we are on mission. There is too much at stake for us to be deterred—too much blessing, too much strengthening, too much influence.
There are things in my own life that I have had to do differently because God has asked it of me. Would others find some of those things out of the norm, or maybe even extreme? Perhaps. But in the end, I have been drawn closer to the Lord because my faith has had to increase in Him to see me through. And it would be a lie if I said it has been easy. It hasn’t, but it has been so worth it.
If God is calling you to go against the mainstream in an area of your life, this is your encouragement, friend, to go with Him. If He is calling you to step out against the dominant course, tendency or trend of society in a particular area, take that step. Be discerning, decisive, and determined, trusting Him to see you through. Because in the end, His approval is your reward.
“For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still striving to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)
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