READ: Daniel 6
THINK: There’s a reason that this is one of the best-known stories in the Bible. For starters, it’s high on drama, it’s miraculous, and it’s just awesome to think about being in Daniel’s position – sitting there amongst the hungry lions and watching as God shut their mouths. Seriously, picture yourself in his position for a minute. It’s nuts! But I think that that there’s an even bigger reason than the high drama of the narrative. At least for me, the thing that is so compelling about this story is Daniel’s outrageous courage.
I want to be courageous like that. I think that something inside every one of us wants to be courageous. But we’re not. To be honest, I have known fear all my life. And fear is a cruel mistress and even crueler master. I have allowed my fear to cripple me as I watched other people living out the life I dreamed of living, as I saw them making the choices that I knew I should be making, as I sat by while they lived courageously and made an impact and at best I lived vicariously through them. I’m guessing you have to.
The thing about Fear is that it impacts every single area of our lives. It impacts relationships – we’re afraid to put ourselves out there, to trust other people, to reach out and make friends, to love someone else, to be vulnerable at all. It affects our choices and keeps us from pursuing our dreams because we’re stuck with the constant terror that we don’t have enough talent, enough ability, enough capacity. And that inadequacy fuels trepidation about the future. We are paralyzed every day by the pressing fear that we are not good enough, cool enough, smart enough, pretty enough, or worthy enough. And we retreat from the lives we desperately want to live – the lives we know God created us for and called us to – because we are held captive by fear. We are imprisoned by it and most of us are desperate to know courage.
The story of Daniel in the lions’ den has something to tell us about living courageous lives. If we want to be who God called us to be and live the lives he created us for then we need to pay attention to the lesson in Daniel’s life. What is it? We will never live courageously unless we have integrity! Unless we have a solid commitment to living out who we know God calls us to be no matter what the situation.
Integrity is who you are when nobody is looking. Integrity is being the same person at home and at school and at work and with your friends and alone on your computer and at church. And that’s not easy! I think a lot of us fall into this temptation of believing that we can manage multiple personalities. And so we kind of separate our lives into the spheres of “Church” and “Other” or and maybe even a bunch of different ones for “work” “school” “home” “alone” etc. And in each place we act differently. We act however we think the people in that space would want us to act because we are crippled by the fear that they might not accept us if we don’t. We allow them to control who we are and we throw integrity out the window. And then we wish for courage.
But for Daniel – integrity was the foundation of his courage. Right away (Chapter 1) he showed up at Nebuchadnezzar’s court and get offered food he knew he shouldn’t eat. Now, there were no Hebrew priests around and nobody who would have judged him for eating it, but he knew who God called him to be. He saw right through Nebuchadnezzar’s attempt to indoctrinate him, and he realized that he’d be compromising his integrity if he went along. So he spoke up! And here’s the crazy thing: he had no idea what would happen when he spoke up. He and his buddies were a bunch of captives and nobodies at that point and they very well could have been killed. There was no reason they shouldn’t have gotten their heads chopped off. And for all they knew, that’s what would happen. But Daniel had integrity. And that fueled his courage.
And the same thing happened later. Daniel could very easily have closed his window or gone into a closet so that nobody saw him praying to God instead of to King Darius. But he wasn’t about to fake it! He didn’t need to hide who he was, and he wasn’t willing to be a different person in public than he was while hiding in his room. So he boldly followed God. So he got thrown into a den of hungry lions. Daniel knew who he was. And he chose to be that guy no matter what the consequences. His incredible integrity fueled his outrageous courage.
I think sometimes we totally miss this one because we become convinced that the opposite of courage is fear. It’s not – that’s not how it actually plays out in our lives. See fear is a feeling but courage is a verb. You can’t be courageous unless you do something! And when we think fear is the opposite of courage we tend to picture it as: Courage=Doing Something, Fear=Doing Nothing. But that’s a false picture. It’s a lie because fear is not a neutral emotion. What we term “doing nothing” in that picture is actually doing something, and that something is compromising. Compromise is the opposite of courage. We can either live with integrity or we can compromise. We can eat the food, bow to the idol, pray to the false god and hide our faith because we’re terrified. But if you want to live courageously, integrity is the fuel.
PRAY: “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.” – Proverbs 11:3
Memorize Proverbs 11:3, and then ask God to help you live with the kind of integrity that is necessary to be the courageous difference maker that he created you to be!