When I was growing up, there was always someone in my group friends who was sort of a lunatic. He was the guy who would try anything and do anything. He was the one who, whenever you wanted someone to take a chance, would jump in and do it. He would pick up that weird thing and eat it. He would jump off of that rock into the water, not knowing how deep it was. (Sadly, many of these people are no longer with us today.) He would do these things because of peer pressure, because he wanted to win the approval of the crowd.
In the book of Daniel, we read of three teenagers who resisted the most intense peer pressure imaginable. Their names were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, and they underwent an extreme time of testing.
If you are a follower of Christ, then you, too, will be tested. But if you make the decision now to do the right thing, you will have the strength to stand in the days ahead when those tests come. And they will come. Maybe you have thought, I wonder if I am going to make it as a Christian? The answer to that question really is up to you. You decide what the evening of your life will be by the morning of it.
Let's consider the story of these three courageous teenagers. They were Jews who had been taken captive into Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar ordered a search among the young Jewish men to find a group he could take into his palace and school in the ways of Babylon. They could then interface with the other Jews under his command. Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-Nego, as well as Daniel, found themselves in this group. The king showered them with attention. He wanted to assimilate them into the system of Babylon, which was completely opposed to the way Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-Nego, and Daniel were raised. Their world, as they knew it, had been changed overnight.
But God was still with them. He hadn't forgotten about them. Nebuchadnezzar could change their surroundings, but he could not change their hearts. They were offered the finest food available in the kingdom, and the finest wine as well. But for Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-Nego, and Daniel, it was a compromise to eat at the table of the king. Instead, they determined to eat only vegetables and drink water.
This might seem like a small thing to some of us. Why not just eat the food and enjoy it? But for them, it was a compromise. You show me a person who has fallen away from the Lord, and in every case, I will show you a slow but sure process of compromise over a period of time.
Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-Nego, and Daniel made their stand in what we might consider a small area, but it wasn't small to them. Later, an even more radical time of testing came for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. The king decreed that a huge statue of himself was to be built out of solid gold. Everyone was to bow down and worship it. But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego stood their ground.
When the king heard about it, he gave them one more chance to bow down. Still, they refused. He was really angry, so he had them tied up and thrown into a blazing furnace, seven times hotter than normal. But when King Nebuchadnezzar looked in, he saw four men instead of three. And the fourth, he said, was "like the Son of God" (Daniel 3:25). This is a reminder that when you go through fiery trials, Jesus goes through them with you. You are never alone. Ultimately, the king, who was a nonbeliever, called these three out of the furnace and commended Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego for their stand for righteousness.
Sooner or later, you will be tested too. It will come in one way or another. Will you stand your ground? It's true that you will give up some things to follow Christ. But I guarantee that if you make a stand now to really follow the Lord, you will look back on your life and thank God for that decision.
It may seem that hope is in short supply in our times of crisis. But Pastor Greg Laurie says, “Hope grows in the garden of adversity.” Tune in for A NEW BEGINNING Friday as Pastor Greg helps us find strength and direction, from the Lord Himself. It’s a reassuring edition of A NEW BEGINNING!All Sermons by Greg Laurie