by Mike Ratliff
10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra-which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:10-13 ESV)
“Christians” in the United States and other so-called “civilized” countries do not exist in a climate of a fear of persecution like those in China and India. Some would say that is because of our culture or that there are huge numbers of Christians here. However, the truth of the matter is that Christians who live in total obedience to their Lord will be persecuted. So, what does that say about Christians who live at peace with the world around them? The truth of the matter is this; the reason Christians are not persecuted in the US is that very few of them are walking in the level of obedience to their Lord that would draw attention to them from those who hate the real Jesus and the Word of God. However, if they were living holy lives, sharing their faith, actively making disciples, and preaching the whole Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ the wrath of Satan and his seed would come upon them.
Nothing has changed in the hearts of men and women since the fall into sin in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). Men’s hearts are wicked beyond belief. None are righteous and no one seeks after God. Unless God regenerates his or her heart no one can believe and repent. Therefore, those who have followed hard after God have always been the persecuted, the ridiculed and those of whom the world is not worthy. Daniel was one of these.
1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; 2 and over them three presidents, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other presidents and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 Then the presidents and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.” (Daniel 6:1-5 ESV)
Never let anyone tell you that God’s Law and His ways can ever be at peace with the world and its ways. That is why this merging in the US of the “Religious Right” with the Conservative wing of our political system is a foolish match. The fact that it has been going this way for so long should be a huge warning to us that the “Religious Right” is Christian in name only. If these people were living Righteous, Holy lives in obedience to their Lord; they would not be concerned about worldly things, but would be obeying their Lord in all things. That would mean living lives that please their Lord by seeking first the Kingdom and His Righteousness instead of trying to build that Kingdom here in partnership with godless men and women.
Daniel lived that way. He served his King, but his primary purpose in life was serving God. That is why he had such an excellent spirit. He was not bound to “stuff” or “money” or “fame” or “self.” Instead, he simply lived out his life in obedience to God in whatever he did. This provoked the godless men he kept honest to try to have him removed. Without Daniel in charge these men could line their own pockets at the King’s loss. They were right about one thing though. The only way they could ever get leverage against Daniel would be through his uncompromising service to God.
6 Then these presidents and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! 7 All the presidents of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. 8 Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 9 Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction. (Daniel 6:6:9 ESV)
What was the method of attack they came up with in order to have Daniel removed? They incited the King to pass a law that no one could pray to any god or man for thirty days except to the King himself. This sounds strange doesn’t it? However, these pagans knew in their hearts that their gods were impotent therefore they often worshipped their monarchs as gods. This plot was based upon stroking the King’s ego to have people actually worship him. What is the penalty for not worshipping the King exclusively? It was death by being cast into the lion’s den.
10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. 11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. 12 Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 13 Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.” (Daniel 6:10-13 ESV)
Did Daniel hide his faith? Did he try to appear innocuous to everyone in an attempt to avoid this danger? No! He did not compromise anything. He knew the new law was meant to “get” him. He knew he was being watched. He knew that he could simply not pray to God for thirty days and there would be no danger, but he also knew that thirty days without prayer and fellowship with God would be like death to him. In his economy, God’s glory and his obedience far outweighed any temporary benefit that would be gained by compromise. He had eternal focus. He had a heart that went hard after God. To him, the eternal was far more important than the temporal. Therefore, he changed nothing. He prayed to God three times a day as he always did. Then his accusers went to the King to bring charges against Daniel. I am sure they thought that this was it. Daniel would soon be gone and the kingdom’s riches would be easy pickings for them. Notice also that their total accusation against Daniel is not that he doesn’t serve the King with an excellent spirit, but that he is praying to and serving his God.
14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. 15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.” 16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17 And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. 18 Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him. (Daniel 6:14-18 ESV)
We see in these verses that this King saw the folly of this stupid decree now that Daniel had been caught in its net of intrigue. He knew that Daniel had done no wrong. He had obeyed his God over the commands and laws of men. That was his crime. I believe that God is calling His people now to live at this level of commitment to Him and His commands. The reason that most professing Christians are not persecuted is that they do not live this way. They do not have this level of commitment to their Lord. The vast majority of them are not genuine. However, those who are should repent, seek the Lord, go hard after Him and then walk in repentance and obedience to Him in all things. Persecution will surely come to those who do this, but what is that when we are eternally focused? The King’s heart was broken over these events. I am sure he saw the folly of the decree. God gave him no rest this night.
19 Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” 23 Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 24 And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions-they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces. (Daniel 6:19-24 ESV)
I once watched a video of Benny Hinn trying to show his miraculous healing powers to a large crowd. Of course no one with obvious infirmities were allowed to come near him. Only people with diseases or maladies that could not be verified were allowed to approach him. He did all sorts of arm waving and voice characterizations. He looked like a circus performer mimicking a magician to me. This miracle of the lions not harming Daniel is one that only God can do. Daniel was not harmed. Why? He constantly served His God and trusted Him. The King knew this. He prayed as Daniel was cast into the lion’s den for him to be protected by God. He cried, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” That is quite impressive that this King knew that Daniel’s God was the Living God not anything like those impotent stone gods his people worshipped.
The King’s justice is swift and succinct. He casts those who accused Daniel into the den of lions. This time no angel stopped up their mouths. Before they, their wives and children even reached the bottom of the den, the lions overcame them crushing their bones. This is a good analogy of the final judgment by God. When people are judged by God it is always just and right. These evil people were killed the way they sought to have Daniel killed. Instead of removing Daniel, they were removed.
The enemy of man, Satan, is a liar and a murderer. He accuses God’s people continually before God’s throne. However, he is powerless to touch any of them unless God allows it. The persecution that comes may be unto death or great pain, but in it God’s will is done and He is glorified. Justice will prevail in the end as God is worshipped and glorified, as he deserves.
25 Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. 26 I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. 27 He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.” 28 So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian. (Daniel 6:25-28 ESV)
Why is it that professing Christians would ever believe that God is not sovereign? King Darius (or Cyrus) was not a Jew and probably not a believer, but he knew that God was the living God who could humble the proud and deliver His people with no problem at all. Tragically, most professing Christians are in love with this world and see their religion as a ticket to Heaven so they will not go to Hell. In the meantime, they simply live as they please. Why? Their religious leaders tell them that that is okay. God is love and just wants to save everyone. Forget that repentance stuff. Just love Jesus and you’re okay, after all, Jesus loves you just the way you are.
That is a “fairy tale” or “myth” my brethren. God is the living God, enduring forever. His Kingdom shall never be destroyed. His dominion shall be to the end. He judges the wicked and demands obedience from His people. Our Lord Jesus Christ went to the cross to be the propitiation for the sins of His people. He took their sins upon Himself and had the Father’s wrath against those sins poured on Him. This satisfied the Father. The penalty had been paid. The work of redemption was complete in His death. He rose from the dead on the third day. He is risen! This proves to all those who believe on Him that their sins are forgiven and they have eternal life in Him. Those who are Born Again believe and repent then are justified, sanctified, and adopted. They are not perfect, but live lives of repentance. They do not take their salvation for granted nor live any way they choose. They are New Creations who have been freed from the penalty of sin in their justification and are being freed from the power of sin in their sanctification.
Only those who are truly Born Again believe and are saved. Only they will be able to stand and not fall before the fires of persecution when they come. Those who are not genuine will compromise their faith and do anything possible to avoid the persecution. On the other hand, those who do know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour will be given courage and the words to speak when the time comes. We must pray that the Lord be with us in these last days that we will stand and not fall as He gives us the grace to do so.
Soli Deo Gloria!