For an introduction to this series, click here.
Oct. 16, 2006Let me give you a hypothetical story. An American fighter pilot is shot down in Iraq during the first Gulf War. He is captured by the Iraqi army and put in a prisoner camp. At the end of the war, he falls through the cracks in the prisoner exchange and stays in Iraq. But he adapts. He gains the confidence of his captors. Within a few years, he is second in command under Saddam Hussein. You would say that man is a traitor and probably brainwashed. But that is exactly what happened to Daniel, and God was leading him all the way.
Daniel is one of the fascinating characters in the Bible. The only other character even similar to him is Joseph. Both men found themselves taken away from their home, enslaved, and then second in command of the greatest kingdom on earth at the time.
Daniel was forcibly captured by the Babylonians and taken away from all he had ever known. He was one of thousands, but he and his three faithful friends are the only ones we know, because they remained faithful to God in spite of their circumstances.
Now, here's where the rub comes in, and I'm about to veer off in a weird direction. We like the story of Daniel. We like to think about God blessing us with wealth and power because we are faithful to Him. But think about Jeremiah. He was probably a generation older than Daniel, or at least that's what I've always assumed. Daniel, by all accounts, was likely in his teens when he was taken away to Babylon. Jeremiah was probably middle-aged, 40-50. Jeremiah suffered through a miserable existence before and after the fall of Jerusalem, while Daniel probably lived a pretty easy childhood and then became the second in command over all the Chaldean and Persian empires. Yet both were in exactly the places God wanted them to be.
I hate it when well-meaning people promise an easy life when you try to follow the Lord. And I'm not just talking about the health and wealth wackos out there, either. Life is tough, no matter who you are, and it is disingenuous to try to pretend otherwise, whether by self-delusion or by preaching or singing to others that trusting Jesus is an easy answer to all of life's problems. If God wanted us to cruise through life, He would have just taken us all to heaven, because that's where life is easy, at least it seems to be. I kind of have the idea that it may not be as simple as we like to think, but we can discuss that another time.
Our response to the troubles that come our way is the key. We can respond out of faith and trust in the Lord or we can give up, look for a quick fix, or any number of other solutions. If God didn't want us to go through trials He could set it up so that we don't. But that's not God's plan for any of us. Even those people that we think have life so easy have problems and trials we know nothing about. I'm not saying God doesn't help us and we're on our own, but, at least in my life, most of what God teaches me (if He's trying to "teach" anything) is what I pick up while I'm trying to make my way through life.