July 1, 2014

A Decided Purpose

In 606 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon went up against Jerusalem and laid siege to the city. A year later, he carried away the finest of what Jerusalem had to offer, including some of the young princes and noblemen. Among those taken captive were Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were taken for the purpose of teaching them “the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans” (Daniel 1:4).

We know that Daniel did learn the language; he wrote the Book of Daniel while in exile, and six of the chapters are in Syriac, or Aramaic, which was the language of the Chaldeans (southern Babylonians). However, he did not conform to the ways of the Chaldeans.

The Book of Daniel contains the testimonies of some of those taken captive. It reveals how these young men were thrust into a very difficult situation, but by God’s grace were able to come through it with victory.

Of Daniel’s testimony, we read, “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself” (Daniel 1:8). Daniel and his friends had been told they would eat a prescribed diet as part of the three-year process of getting them ready to stand in the presence of King Nebuchadnezzar. Perhaps it was the type of meat, or the way it was prepared, or more likely the fact that it had been offered to idols that caused Daniel to be troubled about the prospect of eating it. Whatever the reason, he “purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself.” The word translated as purpose implies a decided resolution.

Forty percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. That is about 127 million people. Historically, by the end of March, fifty percent of those have abandoned their resolutions. By the end of the year, only eight percent are still holding to their resolutions. So what happens during the year? Challenges come. Different circumstances arise which cause people to turn away from what they were previously determined to do.

Annually, the most common resolution is to lose weight. At the beginning of this year, I noticed that I had put on ten pounds during the holidays. I didn’t make a New Year’s resolution, but I thought I would like to take that weight off. In January, I worked away at it, but at the end of that month we made a trip to Romania. I got home and was right back where I had started. I tried to chip away at it again, but along came special meetings. Then there was a trip to South Carolina. The problem with resolutions is that tests and temptations come along. In my case, temptations came in the form of soup, cabbage rolls, schnitzel, homemade bread, and desserts in Romania—late at night, after services. It is easy to let resolutions fall away, and think instead, I will focus on losing weight later.

Daniel and his three friends had a temptation of a higher order set before them. It came in the form of the finest food and drink available—provided for them directly from the king’s table. However, they were able to resist because their purpose not to defile themselves was different in nature from a New Year’s resolution. They had not purposed to lose weight for their own satisfaction. This was not about achieving a personal goal. They had purposed to keep themselves undefiled in order to honor God. The word undefiled here means “not soiled, stained, or polluted.” They had a decided determination to keep themselves pure for God. Their purpose held because it was not made to themselves, but to God.

Daniel asked Melzar, the man who had been set over them, if he and his friends could prove God. Did you know that we can prove God? It is true; we can put God to the test. Daniel said they wanted to eat pulse (edible seeds or legumes) for ten days. Then Melzar could judge for himself how the Hebrews appeared when compared to the others who ate the required diet.

This was agreed to, and after ten days, these four young men were found to be fairer and fatter in flesh and in appearance than all the others. So the king’s food was taken away permanently, and they were given pulse to eat. God honored their commitment even further. At the end of three years, when they were brought to stand before King Nebuchadnezzar, he inquired of them “in all matters of wisdom and understanding” and “found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm” (Daniel 1:20).

Getting saved is a type of decided purpose. To get saved, you must turn away from sin and the world, and ask Jesus to come into your heart. You also must make a commitment to serve the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. When you do this, the Lord will forgive your sins and come into your heart.

Previously, all my attempts to stop smoking, drinking, lying, stealing, and swearing had failed, but when God saved me, all those things were gone instantly.

On January 4, 1984, I committed my life to Christ. I was sick of the sin in my life, and I also realized it was grieving God. I prayed, telling the Lord I was sorry for the sin and for grieving Him. I didn’t understand what it meant to be born again. I didn’t know about God’s Spirit bearing witness with my spirit, but I do know that when I repented, committed to serving God, and asked Jesus into my heart, there was a decided change—a new purpose in my life. It was January, and I don’t believe I made any New Year’s resolutions that year, but getting saved was better than any resolution. Something happened to me when I prayed. Previously, all my attempts to stop smoking, drinking, lying, stealing, and swearing had failed, but when God saved me, all those things were gone instantly. When we purpose to serve God, it is different from making a New Year’s resolution because the purpose is centered on our relationship with Christ, and He is there to help us.

This was not the end of trials and tests for Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It is thought that they were between the ages of twelve and fourteen when they were taken to Babylon, so they had many years ahead of them to prove God. The Book of Daniel gives several wonderful accounts of how they kept their purpose to serve Him. We can gain encouragement from these accounts. They show that we have a God who will help us withstand anything life throws at us.

Sometimes, we may face situations that are clearly impossible. That is what happened to these young men. King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream and wanted someone to interpret it for him. There was just one problem—he could not remember the dream. He gathered the wise men of the land, and as he began to tell them what he wanted, they knew it was simply impossible. In fact, they finally responded with, “There is not a man upon the earth that can shew the king’s matter” (Daniel 2:10). That is just how it seemed to them. They went on to tell him, “It is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can shew it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh” (Daniel 2:11).

They were right, but they did not have a clue as to how to get ahold of God. Their answer angered the king, and he decided to have all the wise men in Babylon killed. News of this reached Daniel, and what was his solution? He went to his friends and said, “We need to pray about this.” That is a wonderful idea in any situation that seems impossible. He suggested they pray that God, in His mercy, would give them understanding. They went to prayer, and God revealed the dream and interpretation to Daniel so he could relay it to the king. God answers prayer! When we purpose to serve Him, He will be there to help, and He is able to take care of what would seem to be impossible.

In 1994, my wife, Rodica, and I had just moved our little family into a new house. Then I was transferred to a bank location that was scheduled to close, and I was troubled by this. My wife did not appear to be troubled. I felt like all of the responsibility was on my shoulders. What was I going to do? Rodica said, “Why don’t you just give it to the Lord?” That was good advice, so I got down on my knees and had a prayer meeting. Once I gave the problem to the Lord, He gave me peace. Still, all I could see was the impossibility, because I was watching all of the steps the company was taking to close that branch. I knew the closing date was set—it was a certainty. The numbers were all working toward zero on that date. However, that location never did close. In fact, it is still open today! God gave me peace, and then He answered that prayer in a way that I had not even imagined. If you purpose to serve God, He will hear and answer your prayers.

For Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, serving God led to a promotion. They were set “over the affairs of the province of Babylon” (Daniel 2:49). That is not a position one would want to jeopardize. God had given it to them. Certainly they looked at it that way. As we know, though, King Nebuchadnezzar built an image of gold and mandated that everyone in the land bow in worship to it. Could these men compromise their beliefs? No way! They had purposed since they were young not to defile themselves. They held that purpose in high regard. They declared to the king, “Be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:18). For this, they were placed in a burning, fiery furnace, but God was with them. The king looked into the fire and asked, “Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” When the answer was yes, he said, “Lo, I see four men loose . . . and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (Daniel 3:24-25).

God may not always deliver us from the fiery trial, but as we purpose to serve Him, He will be with us in it. These men came out of the furnace with a testimony that not only impacted those who had witnessed the event, but everyone else in the land, too. A decree was sent out that all of Babylon must worship the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

We are never too old to experience a trial of our faith. When Daniel was more than eighty, he found himself in the midst of what may have been his most severe trial.

We are never too old to experience a trial of our faith. When Daniel was more than eighty, he found himself in the midst of what may have been his most severe trial. He was the first of three presidents set over 120 princes. He was preferred by King Darius because he had an excellent spirit. The other princes and presidents were jealous and wanted him to fail. They looked at his life and sought to find an occasion against him, but he had an impeccable testimony—no fault could be found in him. They had to resort to tricking the king into passing a law that prohibited Daniel from praying.

However, Daniel remained a man of integrity—he was unwavering in his purpose to serve God. How did he respond when the decree was made? He went into his room, opened his window toward Jerusalem, and prayed as he had always done. The men reported Daniel to the king who realized he had been tricked, but could not reverse the decree, and Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den. What is interesting is that when Daniel was placed there, the king said to him, “Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee” (Daniel 6:16). He had observed Daniel’s testimony. He recognized the purpose that was in his heart.

Darius went back to the palace and had a sleepless night. The next morning, he got up at the break of dawn and rushed to the lion’s den. There, he cried out with a lamentable voice, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?” (Daniel 6:20). In response, he heard a shout of victory: “O king, live for ever” (Daniel 6:21). When we purpose to serve God, we will find that He is with us and will help us!

If you are not saved, you can make a decided commitment today. Forsake sin and purpose in your heart to follow God. He will give you the strength to stand, just as He did Daniel and his friends.

apostolic faith magazine