Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Persevere in Obedience

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...but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king... The king would then have my head because of you.”

Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “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.” So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
Daniel 1:8, 10 (selections), 11-14

In today's passage Daniel is put forward as a biblical model of persevering in obedience. Obeying God in a world that pressures you constantly to disobey Him isn’t easy. There are always people ready to stand in your way, so you must persevere like Daniel did. Daniel had purposed in his heart not to defile himself with the king's food. (For more on this decision read this blog post.) You would think that God would make it easy for Daniel to obey him, but He doesn't. Daniel hits an obstacle. The chief eunuch isn't willing to risk his head for Daniel to obey. So what does Daniel do? He perseveres and tries another tactic. He goes to another official (one who is under the chief eunuch but still over him and his friends) and asks for a ten day trial. "Give this a chance," Daniel says in essence and the steward relents.

When I think of persevering in obedience, I think of Pastor Richard Wurmbrand who lived in Romania during the rise of Russian communism. As the anti-Christian communist government took hold in Romania, Wurmbrand boldly and publicly proclaimed the gospel. When Christians were forced into hiding, Pastor Wurmbrand worked in the underground church sharing Jesus secretly not only with people on the street but even with communist officers. Inevitably Pastor Wurmbrand was imprisoned. In 1948 he was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison. During this time he was brutally tortured, even spending three full years in solitary confinement! Afterward he was released and warned not to preach the gospel any more.

Knowing exactly what tortures awaited him if he were arrested again, Pastor Wurmbrand persevered in obedience to God and resumed his work with the underground church. Within a few years he was arrested and imprisoned a second time. This time he was sentenced to 25 years. By God’s grace Richard was released after serving only five years of his second sentence. He was ransomed out of Romania by foreign believers and Pastor Wurmbrand spent the rest of his life traveling the world, raising awareness and support for the underground church. He wrote a book about his ordeal entitled Tortured for Christ and began a ministry that continues to this day named The Voice of the Martyrs.

Christians like this are an example for us. We must not cave to the pressures of this world or to the obstacles we face. We can persevere and trust that God will make a way when our road is blocked. How often do we just give up on obedience because it’s too hard? What have you given up on? Perhaps you have given up on sharing the gospel with your friend because he gets a little touchy when you talk about Jesus. Or maybe you have given up on prayer because it just isn't "your thing." Most of us have given up on fasting. Jesus clearly expects us to do it (Matthew 6:16-18 & 9:14-15), but it just seems too hard. We have too few Christians like Wurmbrand or Daniel today. Resolve to be different. Persevere in obedience.

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