Imagine returning from vacation only to find that someone completely redecorated your house–new color scheme, flooring, furniture, the works. As you stand in the middle of your redesigned living space, your brain would be working overtime to comprehend how you could simultaneously be in your house yet not at home.
As we reflect on 2015 and launch into 2016, we might have a similar experience as Christians in America. Biblical standards for understanding sexuality, gender, and marriage no longer run parallel to the laws of the land. Concerns about the future of religious liberty ripple throughout the evangelical church. We feel a growing sense that, though this is still our house, we are no longer home.
One response to this is to intensify our efforts to enact legislation that more perfectly mirrors Biblical ethics, to “reclaim America.” This approach has merits, and we certainly should have Christians seeking to work in government for the common good. But as we read the biblical narrative, another response emerges. We need to acknowledge that, no matter how influential Jesus’ followers are, until our Savior returns we will not be at home. In other words, the events of the last year may serve to clarify for us our status as exiles.
The book of Daniel offers a timely message for Christians in America. If we are indeed entering an era when we could be persecuted for our biblical convictions, a cursory scan of Daniel confirms that we are on the extremely light end of that spectrum. The Babylonian kings had no restraints in employing “cruel and unusual punishment.” The judgments these dictators doled out were nothing short of savage–being torn limb from limb, thrown into a flaming furnace, or tossed into a pit with hungry lions.
Instead of whining about the unfairness, Daniel and his three friends faithfully submitted themselves to the only One with higher authority than the foreign king: Yahweh, the only Sovereign God who “changes times and seasons” and “removes kings and sets up kings” (Daniel 2:21). Extracted from all that was familiar in Jerusalem and forced to serve their oppressors, these exiles maintained such a vision of God’s absolute control over human affairs that they conducted themselves with exemplary wisdom and courage.
This will be our theme as we study the stories and visions of the book of Daniel: “Wisdom, Courage, and Vision under God’s Eternal Kingdom.” As we observe the powerful lives these worshippers of Yahweh lived in circumstances vastly more extreme than ours, we will pray for God to make us a people of wisdom, courage, and vision in our context.
Let me give you two challenges for how to go about this. First, get help. While the pages ahead are written for personal study, we learn from Daniel and his friends that personal faith is never private. As you work through God’s word and spend time in prayer, identify who can share your insights and resolve for change. It could be your spouse, roommate, accountability partner, or someone from your small group. If you do not have a person like that in your life, make finding a trusted Christian companion a top priority for 2016. You cannot do this alone.
Second, commit to a month of fasting. Follow Daniel’s example of refusing to be defiled by the king’s food (see Week 1, Day 3). Look at the world’s offerings that allure you away from full submission to God, and cut that out of your life for a month. It could be fasting from food once a week, significantly curtailing your time on screens (TV, movies, games, social media), or taking a break from some other activity that consumes much of your time. The aim is to create time and focus for meditation on God’s word and communion with him as you set the pace for 2016.
May God be glorified as we submit ourselves entirely to him!
Click here to view or download a PDF of the 2016 Prayer and Fasting Guide: