Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials.
Outside of Jesus Himself, nobody in the Bible better illustrates bending but not breaking under persecution than Daniel. In 605 BC when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded Jerusalem, he took a group of Jews back to Babylon; those captives included nineteen-year-old Daniel. Daniel immediately distinguished himself, and he was selected to become part of a group of Jewish young men who would assist Nebuchadnezzar in reigning over the Jewish people. These men were given new names, a Babylonian education, and a special diet–no longer would they follow the Mosaic requirements for food and drink, but they would eat the choicest foods from the king’s table. This was a privilege, but it was also a strategy to erase their Jewishness, to make them think and act like Babylonians. Daniel accepted the new name and the new education, but when it came to breaking God’s dietary laws, he would not do it. He made an appeal to Ashpenaz, who was in charge of this training program. Ashpenaz was sympathetic, but he said, “How could I violate the king’s orders?” Daniel said, in essence, “I have an idea. You let me and my friends not eat from the king’s table for ten days; instead, we will eat vegetables and water. After ten days, you can see if we are not in better shape than the others.” Ashpenaz agreed. After ten days, Daniel and his friends were so superior in appearance and abilities that Ashpenaz let them continue their chosen regimen.
Daniel’s example gives us four principles for bending without breaking. First of all, when you are faced with opposition, be a winsome witness for Christ. There is something about being happy and joyful about your stand for truth that attracts people to the gospel. Think about how Daniel approached Ashpenaz. He could have said, “You want me to eat this filthy food and become as ungodly as you are? I don’t think so.” Had Daniel acted that way, I doubt Ashpenaz would have looked with favor upon him. Instead, he approached Ashpenaz in a winsome way. As Christians living in this increasingly unrighteous world, we should not be surprised when sinners sin. They are prisoners, Romans 8 says, of sin and death. What they need most is a relationship with Jesus Christ, and the way we lead people to Christ is by being winsome witnesses rather than angry ones.
I have my moments when I am not as winsome as I should be. But I had one interesting experience when I went out to be on the HBO show “Real Time With Bill Maher.” There is certainly nobody who has been more hostile to the Christian faith than Bill Maher, but Bill and I ended up having a tremendous interview. After we finished the show, Bill and I had a private conversation, and I will never forget what he said: “Pastor, I don’t believe one thing you believe. But you are a great representative for your faith. You are a happy warrior.” That is the best compliment I could get from a non-Christian. There is no reason for us to be angry and frothing at the mouth when we talk to non-Christians. We do not have to be defensive. We have the truth on our side. That is why the best way to win people to Christ is by being a winsome witness, even when facing persecution.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Survival Tip #6: Bend, Don’t Break” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2019.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.