I’ll never forget the first day I arrived on my college campus. There was a desire for a freedom in my soul that I had not experienced as a child—at least I thought it was freedom.
I wondered what it would be like to touch, smell, and taste the things that I had been kept from by my parents. I just wanted to test and see what the world had to offer. The parties, the alcohol, and the access to explore cheap relationships all enticed me even as I sought to stand strong in the faith I’d received.
But within a few short days of arriving, my appetites began to be saturated with worldly desires. And it was within days of arriving that my faith would be challenged by my professors. That campus would become a battlefield for my soul and a war fighting for my appetites, education, and good name.
I imagine the experience I share with many was what teenaged Daniel faced as he left the ordered and comfortable land of Israel for the chaotic and hedonistic world of Babylon, forced to venture out of the sure safety of his people’s protective arms for the dangerous wild of the Chaldeans.
Yet Daniel’s faith in the Lord was incredibly strong. He had determined in his heart to be faithful to the living God, even as a foreigner and an exile to the kingdom of Babylon, knowing that the food, wine, and worship that they had in store for him would be detrimental to His relationship with God and the rich heritage he had known among the people of God. And as an act of generosity, the Lord granted Daniel both kindness and compassion from those he would serve (Daniel 1:9).
It was Daniel’s grit that gave him the determination to stand apart. But it would be God’s favor combined with Daniel’s intelligence that allowed him to remain in good standing with the officials and the king. He used his influence and winsomeness to position himself to honor God and honor the king, simultaneously.
The story of Daniel not defiling himself before the king while growing in influence in the Babylonian empire gives us a front-row seat to what faithfulness looks like in the corrupt world we find ourselves in today. It’s a reminder that we, too, can choose to live above sin while still living in this world. And it’s an encouragement for us to engage with the world around us while not compromising the holiness that God seeks to display through our stories.
We can have both: We can honor God and we can honor humanity, His creation. We can live for the kingdom of God while still living in the kingdom of darkness. But it requires abstinence and submission; abstinence from what we know would displease God and submission to the people He puts in our path as leaders and authorities. Daniel knew how to stand in the balance. Oh, that God would empower us by His Spirit to stand firm in the faith like Daniel.
Written by Jonathan Pitts