The Cost of Character
When we take a children’s storybook approach to the Bible we can actually think that Samson and Delilah was a love story, or sing cheerful songs about the “Arky, arky” and miss the tragedy of God’s judgment in the flood. It is this same simple perspective that frames the story of Daniel in the lions’ den as primarily about him sleeping peacefully among some big, cute, and furry felines.
Yes, Daniel was put in a lions’ den. Yes, the lions were kept from gobbling him up for dinner. Yes, this was an amazing miracle! But there is so much more to the story. Daniel 6 teaches us about how living with a high level of integrity and character can cost more than we dream. It reveals that habits of faith and a life of faithfulness are not private matters, but should be lived in the public eye. This chapter also portrays the power of a fearless witness. When God’s people hold fast to their convictions, a watching world stands amazed. Of course, the whole lions’ den part is very cool . . . but it is time that we hear the rest of the story.
More than any time in history there seems to be a famine of character. We need examples of people who say what they believe and then live it out. Character is about holding convictions that honor God and letting those deep beliefs shape all we say and do . . . even when no one is watching! True character is about staying true to what we believe even when there are consequences. Daniel loved God. His faith was real and deep. By the time we catch up with him in chapter 6, he has been a political exile in Babylon for about sixty-five years! No longer a young man refusing to eat rich food from Nebuchadnezzar’s table, he is now well into his seventies or older.
Daniel has developed life disciplines and practices that grow out of a heart that is connected to his God, so three times a day he gets on his knees to pray. You can almost hear his old joints cracking as he lowers his elderly frame to the ground. His window is always open as he faces toward Jerusalem, the childhood home he has dreamed about for almost seven decades. This is his habit . . . and everybody knows it! Daniel’s willingness to die for what he believed became a witness to Darius and the world. It is interesting to note that the word “witness” comes from the root word martyria, from which we get the word “martyr.” It literally means “a person who shows Christ’s passion in life and death.”
Throughout history many Christians have held to their faith in the face of persecution and have paid the ultimate price. Here are a few prayers lifted up by these faithful servants before they died:
Let me be steadfast in my faith to the end.
I have no hope of seeing my brethren again in this life.
If they kill me, let me die as a witness to my faith;
If I live, let me go on proclaiming it. - Gabra Michael, died in 1855 in chains refusing to deny Jesus
This is the end, but for me it is the beginning of life. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, executed in a Nazi death camp
What steps can a follower of Jesus take to stand strong and be a witness in times of persecution and pressure?