Brother Adrian Semerene from Cambridge brought us our message this week. He challenged us to examine the situations we have been called to and to face them with a mind for making a stand for God. He drew his message initially from Daniel chapter 1. He began by reading the entire twenty-one verse passage, as it showed a wonderful overview of his theme. In it we find Daniel and his three companions brought to Babylon as captives or slaves. They are renamed, and educated in the literature and ways of the Chaldeans.
Fair enough, they were forced to be in a certain place, and to accept things unfamiliar to Jews, but when it came to issues that mattered, like eating food forbidden in the Law of Moses, they chose to risk punishment rather than conform. They made a stand for God.
The chief eunuch was concerned by this. He wanted to uphold his king’s demands, and Daniel found a way. He asked that they be given only vegetables for ten days, and then to assess whether the diet was harmful. The result: Daniel and his friends were found to actually be healthier than those who ate “from the king’s table.” The experiment complete, they continued on with their “kosher” diet and in the end were found to be blessed by God, and exceeded the accomplishments of all of their contemporaries. They stood for God, and he in turn stood for them.
This didn’t mean they had life easy, however. Further stands for God by the four led to three being cast into a burning furnace, and Daniel himself into a lions’ den. Again, they made a stand, and God preserved them.
Making a stand for God, involves an active decision to follow His commands. When Jesus was asked about these commandments in Matthew’s account of the Good News, He said the matter was straight forward. To love the Lord your God with all of your soul, heart, mind, and strength.
Brother Adrian noted that this all inclusive list applies to all of God’s people. It is also not a pick and mix, but an expectation for all to follow all. Some might find serving God with all their mind a blessing. They might love to study the Word, etc. But to others that might be an arduous task. For others it might be opening yourself up emotionally (the heart) that provides either the blessing or the trial.
We need to be prepared to surrender whatever it takes, not just embrace the bits we like. Daniel may or may not have been a contented Vegan, but he surrendered to God.
But for those of us who are wonderfully God-centred misanthropes, Jesus challenged us as well. He said the second command spins off of the first. “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Not just the neighbours who love you. Not just the agreeable ones. But to love all of the children of God. Now there is a stand to take.
Are you prepared to stand for God today?