I heard about a pastor who caught a bus one Monday morning and handed his fare to the driver. When the pastor sat down he realized he had too much change. So he went back and pointed it out to the driver.
“Actually, pastor, I didn’t give you too much change,” the driver said. “I was in church last weekend and heard you talking about honesty. I was putting you to the test.”
That pastor passed the test. And if you’re a Christian, you’re being put to the test as well. You may not know it, necessarily, but there are people who work with you, who are related to you and who live near you who are watching you.
Maybe you’re thinking, “I knew I shouldn’t have put that Christian bumper sticker on my car.”
No, it’s a good thing. You’re making your stand, and they’re watching you. Why? They’re hoping you’ll mess up. They want to see evidence of hypocrisy in your life, because then they don’t have to be uncomfortable with the message you proclaim.
We are all being tested more than we may even realize. We see this in the lives of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the Old Testament book of Daniel.
When Israel was conquered by Babylon, the people of Israel were taken into captivity for 70 years. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon at that time, was looking for the brightest and best of Israel, some young men he could bring into his court and school in the culture of the Babylonians and in the worship of the false Babylonian gods.
Among those brought in were Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and it’s believed they were somewhere between 14 and 19 years old.
They were taken from a very simple lifestyle into the very lap of luxury in the palace of the king. The finest food in the world would have been provided to them every day, as well as the finest education the world could offer. It was Nebuchadnezzar’s desire to turn them into Babylonians. He wanted them to leave their Hebrew roots and their belief in the Scriptures and instead think like a Babylonian.
But there was one thing the king didn’t consider: These boys had character. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego demonstrated how to live godly lives in an ungodly place.
The king wanted them to eat at his table, but they chose not to. We don’t know exactly why. It may have been because the king’s food was simply awful. But somehow I don’t think that was the reason. It may have been because the food the king offered them was forbidden in the Mosaic Law. Or, it may have been because these foods were offered to pagan gods, and that would have been a compromise for them.
Whatever it was, they were making a stand in a relatively small area, but it mattered to them. And consider this fact: Nebuchadnezzar was an intimidating person. He was a cruel and wicked king. Yet they made their stand.
Ultimately, Daniel made an arrangement with the man in charge of enforcing the king’s will. In effect he said, “Look, we’re not going to eat this food, so I’ll make you a deal. We’ll eat what we’re going to eat, and you guys eat what you’re going to eat. Let’s do it for 10 days. Everything will be all right.”
The 10 days passed, and Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were healthy and strong. In fact, they looked better than the people who had eaten all the other food from the king’s table.
When we make our stand for what is true, God will bless us. And a little with God is better than much without him.
What do we really miss in life when as Christians, we choose not to get on that merry-go-round of selfishness, drinking, drugs, partying, illicit sex and so forth? Fast-forward 10, 20, or 30 years, and let’s see who made the right decision. I guarantee those who have put God first and the principles of Scripture first will come out in the end knowing they made the right decision.
Daniel held his ground to the very end. The Bible tells us that “Daniel remained in the royal service until the first year of the reign of King Cyrus” (Daniel 1:21 NLT). When Daniel was taken captive, Nebuchadnezzar was in charge. Later, Belshazzar was in charge. Then along came Cyrus and the Medo-Persian forces who overcame Belshazzar. At that time Daniel was still a counselor to the king, which meant that he had been in a place of influence for 50 years.
This reminds me of Billy Graham. When he started his ministry, World War II was wrapping up and President Truman was in office. Then along came President Eisenhower, then President Kennedy, then President Johnson, then President Nixon, then President Ford, President Carter, President Reagan, President George H. W. Bush, President Clinton, President George W. Bush, President Obama and President Trump.
Billy Graham was a counselor to presidents and a pastor to our nation. He was a man of integrity who made the world’s most-admired-men list more often than anyone in history. He lived 99 years and was the right man in the right place at the right time.
No one can stand in the shoes of Billy Graham, but you can be the next you. And you can be the next person God uses – in the area where he has placed you. Our job is not to replace Billy Graham but to carry on the torch he carried, the torch of the gospel. It must be passed from generation to generation, because every generation needs to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.
Daniel was that man in his day; Billy Graham was that man in our day; and there will be other men and women whom God will raise up as the right people at the right time.
At a single moment in time, you can make a decision that will affect your entire life. Therefore, those little tests matter. The stand you make today determines the stand you will take tomorrow.