Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-nego - three young men who stand out as heroes, at least to this youth pastor. Look at the stand they took! "We won't bow to your idols!" They made a choice to serve God no matter the persecution or the cost. They made a commitment to their God that they lived with their lives. So, where does that kind of commitment come from and how do we get that same kind of devotion in the youth of today? How do we get our young people to serve Him with the same passion, the same zeal for their God that these young men had? We need to understand that it begins for our kids in the same place as it did for these young men. It begins when someone shares the Word of God . When someone, anyone, will share, "This is the right way, walk ye in it." The beginning of their faith, and the stand that they took started with the people in their lives who had the responsibility of "Training them up in the way they should go."(Proverbs 22:6). It's possible that it began the first time they heard of the goodness of their God and His faithfulness to those who had come before them. Or maybe faith began when they were "church kids" listening to the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It could have been when they learned about Moses and the parting of the Red Sea, or of Joshua and The Lord of Hosts taking Jericho with a shout. The possibilities are endless. Noah, Gideon, Samson, Deborah, Joseph, Samuel. Maybe faith was stirred in their hearts when they heard of a shepherd boy taking on a giant to defend the name of the Lord. Their commitment started for them in the same place as it does for every believer. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). It began when someone, a parent, a friend, or maybe even a spiritual leader in their lives shared the truth of God with them and they were put in that place of decision. That place of choosing to believe, "That He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).
The kind of faith that stands before idols, when all others bow, doesn't begin when the music starts to play. Faith that takes on a fiery furnace doesn't begin with the strike of the match. Faith like that begins long before the test comes. It begins when someone shares the Word of God, a decision is made, and a willing heart receives. It is in that moment that the seed of faith begins to grow!
We don't know when these young men made their decision, but we do know that they made one. We know this because of what we read of them in the beginning of Daniel chapter 1. In the very beginning of their captivity, the very first thing they did was show us that their commitment was to not leave God out of their circumstances. These four young men were not the only ones to be taken captive and brought back to Babylon, but we read in Daniel 1:19, "That among them all none was found like them." This declaration was made about them because of the commitment they made at the start of their testimony. It says in Daniel 1:8,9 that, "Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portions of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and good will of the chief of the eunuchs." According to the Strong's Concordance, the word "purposed" is the primitive root, siym(7760), which means "to put." This tells us that a determination to not be defiled was placed in the heart of these young men by an act of their will. They made a choice to walk according to the Ways of God. Ways that someone, earlier in their life, had taught them were the will of God. These young men put a choice not only in their heart but also in their actions.
In verse 10 of chapter 1 we see the chief of the eunuch's concern for the loss of his own head if they were allowed to refuse the kings delicacies. It's at this point that we see them take a step of faith when Daniel, as the spokesman of the group, made this proposal to the steward. "Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our countenances be examined before you, and the countenances of the young men who eat the portion of the king's delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants" (Daniel 1:12, 13). The favour of God was with them as the agreement was made and the test began.
We can see the results of the test in verses 15 - 17, "At the end of ten days their countenance appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king's delicacies. Thus the steward took away their portion of delicacies and the wine that they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and the skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams." These young men seemed to understand a truth in the beginning of their testimony that many believers today seem to forget. "God honors those who honor Him" ( 1 Samuel 2:30)! How did they know this? They had just been invaded, taken from their families, and brought as captives to another land. Their circumstances should have brought doubt and unbelief. They should have been feeling like God had abandoned them. Instead, they were "purposing," God first! How? How did they know to, "Walk by faith, and not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7)? How could these four young men, under these circumstances, have so much faith at the beginning of their testimony? Or rather, Who? Who had made this beginning testimony possible? Someone had understood and obeyed Deuteronomy 6:4-7 "Hear,O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart; you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up." Someone had prepared them in their "beginning years" for what was to come. Someone had equipped them with a God who was REAL.
So, again I ask the question, "How do we get this kind of commitment and devotion in the youth of today? How do we as shepherds, raise up Heroes?" For our young people it "begins" with us! It begins with anyone who has the responsibility to teach them. It begins when we understand the possibility of every lesson we prepare. It begins when we understand how important what we teach them is to their future, as well as to the circumstances of today. It begins when we understand that our words, and our testimonies, are the "beginnings" of faith for the lives, the potential heroes, that He sets before us! It begins when we as shepherds "purpose," or "put" it in our hearts not to defile our young people with the food we feed them. It happens when we refuse to water down theWord of God! The first truth that we learned from the lives of these young men was that, "What you eat matters!" The truth is, "Whatsoever a man sows, that he will also reap" (Galatians 6:7). If we want our young people, like these young men, living the reality of God, then we need to plant the reality of God in their hearts. We need to understand our responsibility to put the Word of God in first place and to declare that to them. Passion, zeal, and commitment will come in the hearts of our young people when we give it a place to begin. It will come when we realize how much we impact the "beginnings," for our heroes, by the "Word" we speak, the "Word" we teach, the Word we feed them! We must impart truth if they are to ever live by it!