Have you sometimes wondered what Jesus’ life was like during his teenage years? Have you wondered if he faced some of the challenges you face today as a Christian youth? Did He deal with peer pressure, ridicule, sexual temptation, and so on? The Bible does not tell us much about His younger years. But one thing it does say is that He grew in wisdom (Luke 2:52), and by the time He was 30 years old, He had matured enough to be commissioned by God for public ministry.
Daniel, whose life I write about in this article, also grew in wisdom and used his God-given wisdom to prosper in a hostile and ungodly culture. Daniel’s situation was probably not very different from what’s experienced by God-loving youths in our time. Let me explain.
Daniel was raised a strict Jew, one who feared God and followed His laws. Unfortunately, his country, Israel, rebelled against God and refused to heed His calls to repentance. So, after many warnings, God permitted the kings of Assyria and Babylon — very wicked and immoral nations — to attack and defeat them. Ten tribes of Israel were attacked and destroyed first; their people were captured by the Assyrians and never really returned to God. The other two tribes were attacked later and the people taken captive by the Babylonians. This occurred about the time Daniel was a youth. Since their captivity lasted 70 years, Daniel pretty much lived his entire life in Babylon! So although he had learned about and loved God as a child, he found himself living most of his life among people who did not recognize or worship his God.
Babylon, Daniel’s land of captivity
Let me paint a picture of Daniel’s world at the time. In its glory days, Babylon was a developed and sophisticated city. It was the seat of world power and the front-runner of development. It is said that Nebuchadnezzar’s palace, into which Daniel went often, was one of the most magnificent buildings ever erected on earth.
Nebuchadnezzar had a powerful army. At his peak, he defeated every nation he attacked and ruled over the entire world of that time. (Scripture says it was God who gave him that authority and might.) Babylon was also a citadel of idolatry. It had 53 temples and 180 altars raised to an idol named, Ishtar.
This was the environment into which Daniel, snatched from everything that was familiar, was taken. But he was not intimidated.
When he got to Babylon, Daniel was chosen to be an adviser to the king — he was good-looking, intelligent and had leadership potential. To fulfill this role, he was required to learn the language and idolatrous literature of the Babylonians. He was also required to eat the king’s diet for three years. After doing these, he would be qualified to serve the king. Serving the king was probably considered a great privilege by many, but it brought significant challenges to Daniel.
First of all, the king’s diet was different from what God’s law permitted him to eat. Second, the king worshipped idols and expected all his advisers, officers, and workers to do same. Third, the king and his people lived without the moral restraint that God required of Daniel.
Daniel was faced with a dilemma: disobey God and please the king or obey God and face the king’s wrath. Unfortunately, he did not have the choice of withdrawing from the role; he probably would have been killed if he did so!
Like Daniel, many Christian youths today live in cultures that are sophisticated but do not acknowledge or worship God. Although they know and love Him, such youths are required to submit to the rules and ways of a world that does not obey their Lord.
Some of them are blessed with talents and abilities that lead to their being chosen to represent their schools and colleges in academics, sports, and arts. Some serve in leadership positions at school or work. And while such opportunities are exciting, they sometimes require Christians to compromise their spiritual standards in order to fit in, raising the question: how does a godly young person who aspires to be successful cope?
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 Luke 2:52
 Jeremiah 27:5–8
 Chester G. Starr, A History of the Ancient World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 139
 Daniel 1:3–4