The lesson about the "beginnings" from Daniel, Chapter 1, I believe is an extremely important one, but it is far from the only lesson that we can learn from these young heroes of faith. They teach us so much just in their day to day life. Let's pick up with their story just after they pass the "test of the delicacies" "Now at the end of the days, when the king had said that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. Then the king interviewed them, and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm" (Daniel 1:18-20). In these three verses we find a couple of things that teach us so much about these young men.
The first thing is that they were faithful to the decision to not be defiled. In Daniel 1:5 it reads, "And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king's delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king." We need to understand, three years had passed between the ten day "veggie test," and the beginning of verse 18. Three years of being faithful! Three years of keeping a vow made to "watch what they ate." Three years of choosing day by day to stand faithfully and not be defiled. How was it possible for these young men to keep their vow? After all they were living in the luxury of the palace, and being offered the king's food. The best in the land. It must have smelled and looked great! How did they resist the temptation to try the "king's provision" for three whole years?
The commitment level of these young men is way beyond what most Christians today experience. Example: How about the last time you were moved by a Sermon to increase the time you spend in His Word, (Your mealtime). You set your alarm to go off earlier than normal. (Great so far!) The next morning arrived with that dreaded noise you hate. You rolled over and then temptation struck. The "luxury" of the snooze button hits! Did you use it? Day by day, for three years these young men lived a commitment that went beyond just good intentions. Their intentions, plus action, (today known as follow thru) equaled a day by day lasting commitment! Their commitment to eat God's provision instead of the king of Babylon's is a much better example to follow! Which brings us to the next point.
Day by day faithfulness brought about some definite results. Take a look at what was said about them in verse 19 after their three years of training. "And among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah" Verse 20 says, "In all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them 10 times better than all the others."
How was this possible? Easy! God was their source. We know this because it tells us that in the one and only verse that covers the three year time period. We find it sandwiched between the end of the "veggie test',(vs. 16), and (vs.18)the "end of the days" when they were brought before the king. Verse 17 tells us "As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom." God blessed and increased them as they were faithful to put God first and to honor Him day by day, one meal at a time, even in the midst of this Babylonian world in which they now found themselves in. Their day by day commitment along with the results of their faithfulness, offer us a perfect example of what Jesus spoke about in Matthew 6:33, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His rightousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."
Once again, the question comes. "How do we inspire the youth of today to walk with the same degree of faithfulness and commitment to the ways of God. And again, the answer is the same. It begins with us! It starts with those of us that have the responsibility of living it, in front of them. Do we, like these young men of faith, day by day watch the "food" we take in? Is our daily provision provided by the king? Have we "put" it in our hearts and our actions to eat only the provision of the King of Kings? Are we living examples of a faithful, day by day resistance to palace life? Do we say, "No," to the "luxury", (my personal temptation), of 5 more minutes and keep our commitments to seek Him fresh every day. Our young people need to see the Word of God having a first place priority in our lives and in our ministries!
Have you ever seen a parent trying to get a baby to eat their vegetables? What do they do when the baby doesn't want to try it? They take a bite and say, "Yum, Yummmmmm, Good!" Or when its something you don't want them to eat its "Yuck, Yucky," etc. How about when they don't want them to touch a hot stove. They pretend to touch it, start blowing on their fingers while saying, "Ouch, hot burn," They try to lead by example!!!
The importance of leading by example is one that Jesus taught us. In John 8:28b-29 Jesus uses these words, "...And that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him." Or how about John 5:19-21,when Jesus answered and said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does the Son does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will." Jesus made it clear that He was following the example of His Father! The youth of today need to see our day by day commitment and devotion to good "food" before it will ever become real in theirs.
Everyone wants a reputation like the one these young men had. When you say the names, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego you don't think Ohhhhh, Yuck. They were associated with Cool God Stuff and that is what comes to peoples mind when you hear them mentioned. We all want to hear these words addressed to us, "Well done my good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things" ( Matthew 25:21). We as shepherds need to make sure our young people know its not about the "meat" or the "delicacies" they give up but about the rewards they receive. We need to tell them! We need to show them that day by day faithfulness reaps a reward that is so much more than what they might have to give up. We need to make sure they understand the principle that our young heroes experienced is real! Day by day faithfulness and obedience will bring to their lives, the same results, "TEN TIMES BETTER!" (Daniel 1:20)