Let’s take a look at how Daniel coped with his environment. Fortunately, the Bible shows us how he navigated the difficult terrain, and his example is instructive to us, who live in a world just as corrupt.
He purposed in his heart
The first and most important thing Daniel did was to make a quality decision. He purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s food and wine; (Daniel 1:8a). After he saw the glitz and glamour that Babylon served up at every turn, he determined in his heart not to partake in it. He wisely reasoned and believed that the pure worship of God that he had learned in Israel would offer him greater benefits than the immorality and idolatry of Babylon. This was an extremely important decision. For if Daniel had not made up his mind firmly, he would have ended up following the ways of the Babylonians. The ungodly culture was so pervasive and its pull so strong that an indifferent, or slightly tolerant, heart attitude would have opened him up to the lures of Babylon.
Like Daniel, Christian youths today face strong enticements from the ungodliness that permeates most cultures. And the most important battle they must win in order to succeed in living for God is the battle within their hearts. Their hearts may want to be indifferent, or sympathetic, to some aspects of prevalent culture. But to be victorious in living for God, they must resolve in their hearts not to be defiled by the ungodly ways that surround them. This is the first and most important step in surviving an ungodly environment.
He received God’s favour
After Daniel purposed not to defile himself with the king’s delicacies, he took the next necessary step toward preserving his spiritual integrity. He asked to be taken off the king’s diet. At this point, God intervened and granted him favour. The king’s official who supervised his team was empathetic to his cause, even though he knew the decision could cost him (the official) his life.
Despite this favor, the path to righteous living in Babylon was still not completely open to Daniel, so once again he came up with a wise, faith-filled idea to push his plan to the end. He proposed to the official that he and his friends be tested on a vegetarian diet for a specified period. Daniel trusted that God would stand up for them and help them in their quest to honor Him with their lives. And God did! After the test period, Daniel and his friends looked better than their peers even though they had abstained from the king’s “rich” diet. So, the king’s official allowed them to continue with their God-honoring ways for the rest of the training period. Because Daniel and his friends took these bold steps to salvage themselves from corruption, God did something else for them: He gave them knowledge and skill in all that they learned and gave Daniel the ability to understand visions and dreams. Consequently, Daniel and his friends excelled far above their contemporaries at their interviews with the king, and the king chose them to serve him.
Amazingly, God still grants such breakthrough to those who love and obey Him today; He causes them to excel because they choose to honor Him. For example, in the area of marriage, the world proposes many ideas that are opposed to God’s plan for finding a spouse. Many cultures teach that the way to find one’s soulmate is by sampling various relationships, each with some level of sexual activity, before marriage. We are made to believe that those who adopt this approach stand a better chance of having successful marriages. But this is approach is flawed, for it wasn’t, divorce would not be as high as it is today and many more people would be satisfied with their marriages. Because building a successful marriage involves much more than infatuation and sex, Christians who follow God’s direction stand a greater chance of having loving and satisfying marriages. Many years into marriage, God-honoring couples still enjoy their love and sometimes more than when they began.
Through God-given wisdom and favour, Daniel and his friends excelled and rose to positions of influence in their land of captivity. They faced several difficulties along the way, circumstances that threatened their loyalty to God and their lives, but in each instance, they made up their minds to please God and took wise, faith-filled actions to support their decisions. God backed them up every step of the way, and when they endured suffering, He stood by them and in due course delivered them.
Determination played a fundamental role in Daniel’s and his friends’ victories over their defiling environment; wisdom also played a crucial part, but not worldly wisdom. Because they walked closely with God and obeyed Him, He showed them how to wisely navigate the difficult circumstances they faced. As our youth walk closely with Him, He will do the same for them. He will show them godly alternatives to what prevails in modern culture and help them to excel in the different facets of life.
Daniel’s story is proof that we can live righteously in a corrupt world, but we must do so through God’s wisdom and favour. Let’s seek His wisdom, therefore, and combining it with faith and reverence, let’s live victoriously in our world!