To repeat an important point from yesterday’s lesson, you and I face a world whose value system is hostile to the standards of the Lord Jesus Christ and in which we are constantly pressured to compromise or deny our faith. How are you and I going to stand for righteousness in a world like that? Let me suggest three ways.
1. You have to know that God is sovereign over circumstances and that He is in charge.
That gives you great power, because it means that even if things do not go right for you from a human point of view, it will still be right since God understood and ordained those hard circumstances from the beginning. God knew they were going to come, and they are part of his plan for your life.
That is what gave power to the three friends of Daniel. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stood against the most powerful monarch of their day, King Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar had decreed that everyone had to worship a golden statue he had set up on the plain of Dura. It represented the Babylonian empire. To refuse to bow to it was treason. These young men would not bow to it, however, because to them such an act was idolatry. Nebuchadnezzar was about to execute them by throwing them into a burning furnace, but they were utterly unafraid. How could that be? Where did their strength come from? It came from their knowledge of God’s sovereignty. They said, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold which you have set up” (Dan. 3:17-18).
The first thing you have to know, if you are going to stand against the world, is that God is sovereign over circumstances. That includes even the most minute details of your life.
2. You have to know the Bible. This is because the situations we face are generally not black and white. If the situation is black and white, we know what to do. But the problems we face are usually gray. It seems that we ought to do one thing, but then again there is another side to it. And if the situation does not seem gray to you immediately, if you talk to your friends, it will become gray soon enough, since everyone will see it from a different point of view. How do you find your way through the gray areas of life? There is only one way: by studying, meditating on and seeking to apply the Bible. The Bible is not gray. There are things in it we may not fully understand, but when we do understand them, which is often enough, they are clear. The Bible is a light upon our path. The path is dark because the world is dark. But the Bible illuminates the path and shows us where to go.
3. You have to be willing to pay any price necessary to remain true to Jesus Christ. Any price? Yes, any price, even death if that is demanded. There are times in history when Christians are told, “Bow down or die,” as Daniel’s three friends were. They have refused to bow down. Many have died. The history of the church is filled with the stories of the martyrs. At other times it is not death that is required but such things as loss of reputation, success, advancement or the good opinion of our friends. We say, “If I acted as a Christian in that situation, my boss or my wife or my parents or my friends would never understand.” We fail to do what is right because we are not willing to pay that high price. We are not ready to surrender everything to follow Jesus.
You can know that God is sovereign. You can know what is right because you study the Bible. Yet you can still fail to do what is right because you value something else more than your obedience to Christ.
You and I are servants of the Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of a hostile world, and the only way we are going to be able to stand against the world when it pressures us is if we are willing to give up everything to follow him.
“Everything?” you say.
Yes, everything. But why should we be surprised? He gave up everything for us, and it is He who said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). A cross is a symbol of death. He was teaching that we must be willing to die to be his followers. That is the victory of faith that overcomes the world.