I’m sure there was a time when I did not know the ending of the story of Daniel and the lions’ den. The drama of Daniel’s obedience must have been new and fresh to me, and the outcome extraordinary. I wonder what my initial thoughts were.
Did I see the danger coming to Daniel?
Did I see the foolishness of Darius?
Did I see the beauty of Daniel’s prayers in the face of death?
Did I look down into the den of lions with Darius and wonder if Daniel would be okay?
Did I rejoice like Darius after hearing Daniel’s voice?
Did I rejoice at the comeuppance received by those who betrayed Daniel?
At some point, I must’ve heard the story as I sat in a carpeted room with felt characters and bulletin boards and probably a dozen other kids. But having grown up in the church, that memory has disappeared with so many others, along with a childlike faith I am so restless to recover.
I find it hard to identify with Daniel. I do not live in a culture where I can lose my life by simply praying to God. Yes, I am safe to pray in private and in public, but neither is a good indicator of my devotion or capacity for obedience. Why is obedience so hard?
I cannot speak for you, but if you’re anything like me, I think it comes from not really understanding what obedience actually is. For far too many years, I viewed obedience to God (and anyone else, for that matter) as a way to get what I wanted.
In the face of possible execution, Daniel continued to acknowledge and worship the one true God. “Three times a day he got down on his knees, prayed, and gave thanks to his God, just as he had done before” (Daniel 6:10). Come what may, Daniel obeyed God because he loved Him more than any other outcome or result. His obedience was an act of worship, because, to Daniel, allegiance to God was worth more than his own life. I know that in my own life, I have sometimes acted in obedience because I believed it would bring about a good result; my obedience was merely a means to an end.
How do we become more like Daniel, who worshiped God through obedience, even when it should have cost him his life? Perhaps we should begin by repenting of our disobedience, of our love of self over God, of worshiping the gifts over the Giver. But we cannot stop there. If we do, we will end up in despair.
We must remember and trust in the gospel—the good news of what Christ, the King of kings, has done to defeat sin and death on the cross. What’s more, we must receive the good news of being accepted and loved by Him. From this place of believing and receiving, we can move forward in true obedience as an act of worship, an overflowing of gratitude for what Christ has done for us.
And if we fail? Then we are free to repent and believe it all again.
Written by Matt Redmond