The story of Daniel is familiar to many of us who have heard it from young. But as we grow older, we begin to appreciate this story in the light of our experiences, and our respect for Daniel grows. We see that he was openly faithful and upheld his Jewish faith, despite being in a Gentile land. This can be seen in Daniel 6:1–4:
It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps, to be over the whole kingdom; and over these, three governors, of whom Daniel was one, that the satraps might give account to them, so that the king would suffer no loss. Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm. So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him.
Daniel was one of three governors who oversaw 120 satraps, and was eventually promoted above his fellow governors. He became the second most powerful person in the kingdom, answerable only to the king. But despite this privileged position, Daniel did not hide his Jewish identity. In fact, it was because of his faithfulness to God that King Darius willingly placed Daniel to take charge of the entire kingdom.
From the start of his exile in Babylon, Daniel was open about his faith. When he was first brought to the court of Nebuchadnezzar, he told the chief of the eunuchs that he was a Jew and hence would not defile himself with the king’s food (Dan 1:8). Later, when he was summoned to interpret the king’s dream, Daniel gave all glory and honor to God (Dan 2). And when he was called before the last Babylonian king, Belshazzar, Daniel again declared the sovereignty of the Most High God (Dan 5:18). The Persian king, Darius, understood Daniel’s faith in God. When Daniel was cast into the lion’s den, Darius encouraged him with the words: “Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you” (Dan 6:16). Time and again, Daniel declared his faith in the one true God to everyone around him.
As children of God—living, working or studying in society—the question for us today is: Are we as open about our faith as Daniel was?
WHAT IS AN OPEN FAITH?
A Faith that Matches Actions
There can be many reasons why we are not so bold in declaring our faith. It could be our conduct that is holding us back. We realize that our behavior is not becoming of a Christian, and if we reveal our identity, we will bring God’s name into disrepute.
In life, there will always be unpleasant people around. They may avoid hard work or responsibility. They may gossip, or only offer negative or snide remarks. Or they may be selfish and self-serving, caring only for their own success. At work or at school, we hope to avoid these types of people. But have we considered whether we fall under such categories? What kind of reputation do we have amongst our colleagues or fellow students?
Daniel was in a foreign land serving Gentile rulers, and this was not by choice. But it was clear to all that he had an excellent spirit in him (Dan 1:3). Daniel did not let his behavior contradict his identity. If we are to be openly faithful, we must also align our actions with our identity as Christians.
A Faith that Does Not Change with Circumstance
No matter how his circumstances changed, Daniel remained true to God. Daniel served under different kings, during a period where power passed from one empire to the next, and yet his conduct was exemplary throughout. His reputation for having an excellent spirit followed him.
If we stay at a workplace long enough, we will see how a change in management can affect the staff. Employees may use underhand tactics and compromise their values to try to curry favor with the incoming boss and to secure their position under the new regime. As Christians, would we do the same?
Nebuchadnezzar was a proud king, while Belshazzar was foolish. Darius, on the other hand, greatly favored Daniel from the start. But under these three kings, Daniel did not alter his behavior in order to garner favor; he remained openly faithful to God. And it goes without saying that his faithfulness continued under the reign of the final king he served, Cyrus the Persian (Dan 6:28).
A Faith that Has Integrity
Daniel held a powerful position as governor, reporting directly to the king. We know how power can corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Yet, this did not happen to Daniel. Those in positions of authority must make tough decisions, sometimes having to choose an outcome that is for the greater good. This delicate balancing act can easily lead to corruption, where the powerful elite take advantage of their privilege and reap the benefits, while the majority suffer.
Though Daniel wielded great power, he remained faithful to God and to his office, and no fault could be found in him (Dan 6:1–5). Neither did he take advantage of his privileged position when others plotted against him and he faced the threat of execution for practicing his religion (Dan 6:1–16). It would have been easier, and more politically savvy, for Daniel to hide his faith and act as one of the Gentiles, but he did not do so. Today, we may not face such direct life-threatening pressure to conform to society. Yet do we have the integrity to declare our faith openly, and manifest the actions of a Christian?
A Faith that Is Resilient Against Attack
Another reason why we find it difficult to be open about our faith is that we fear it will be used against us. This also happened to Daniel:
So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him. Then these men said, “We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.” (Dan 6:4–5)
Daniel was upright in all he did, so his enemies had no choice but to use his religion against him. These governors and satraps convinced the king to sign a decree that, for a period of thirty days, anyone who petitioned a god or man, apart from the king, would be cast into the lion’s den (Dan 6:6–9). How did Daniel respond to such an underhand attack?
Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days. Then these men assembled and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God. (Dan 6:10–11)
Daniel’s strategy against attack was, counter-intuitively, to be defiantly open in his worship of God, praying to Him for strength.
We may never face such a dilemma, but how would we react if we did? Perhaps we would decide to worship God in our heart and in spirit, and just pray silently. Perhaps we would justify our actions, saying that God will understand; after all, our lives would be at risk if we continue to openly worship Him. Moreover, is this not what Jesus meant when He said that we should be as wise as serpents? Was it wise for Daniel to disobey the king’s decree, being fully aware of the consequences? Why, then, did Daniel do as he did?
Daniel probably realized that, no matter what he did to protect himself, his enemies would not stop until they had entrapped him. This decree was targeted at him alone; what was to stop them from devising yet more treacherous plots? They could arrange for another decree, declaring that the nation could only eat pork―which was forbidden by Mosaic Law―for thirty days. To avoid this cat-and-mouse chase, Daniel openly faced the challenge and trusted in God. He continued practicing his faith for all to see, in spite of the consequences.
A Faith that Leads Others to Know God
It may be that having a faith puts us at a disadvantage, or that we face prejudice and intimidation because of it. But from Daniel’s example, we see that it is better to openly declare our faith. While some will use our faith as a reason to attack us, others will see our righteousness and may be led to know God.
King Darius, who had carelessly signed the decree, was distraught when he realized that Daniel would be punished. He was “greatly displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him” (Dan 6:14b). When he was informed that it was not possible to retract the decree, he tried to comfort Daniel: “Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you” (Dan 6:16b). While Daniel was in the lion’s den, Darius could not sleep; he spent the night fasting. So worried was he that early next morning, he hurried to the den, to see if Daniel had been spared (Dan 6:18–20).
It is clear that Daniel’s religious openness had made an impact on the king; Darius twice declared the power and mercy of the living God (Dan 6:16, 20). Though he did not have complete faith in these declarations, he could clearly witness God’s power in Daniel’s deliverance.
Today, if we do not declare our faith in God, then others will not have the opportunity to see the power of God. Surely, such a positive outcome outweighs any disadvantage we may face when we are honest about our faith.
For Daniel, the positive effects did not end there. God’s name was glorified amongst all the Gentiles.
Then King Darius wrote:
To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth:
Peace be multiplied to you.
I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel.
For He is the living God,
And steadfast forever;
His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed,
And His dominion shall endure to the end.
He delivers and rescues,
And He works signs and wonders
In heaven and on earth,
Who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.
By this proclamation, citizens throughout the Empire of Persia and Mede came to know the living God. This was a result of Daniel’s open faith and worship of the Lord.
Let us return to the question: Are we as open about our faith in God as Daniel was? In the New Testament, Jesus said:
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:14–16)
As Christians in the world, we cannot hide our identity. We are the light of this world and, just as no one would put a lamp under a basket, we must not hide our light. The light that we should shine before men is our good works and our Christian conduct, so that men may see and glorify our Father in heaven. This is what Daniel did.
As we mature and experience the realities of living as a Christian, we can appreciate what Daniel went through, and the integrity with which he practiced his faith. Can we continue to carry out God’s will and openly manifest our faith no matter how our circumstances change? Do we have the strength to remain openly faithful when it does not appear to benefit us, or when much is at stake? Daniel did so, and was delivered by God. God’s deliverance may not come in the way we hope, or even in this lifetime. But let us maintain an open and obedient faith in God, knowing that His salvation goes beyond this physical life.