As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. Daniel 1:17
For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world- our faith. 1 John 5:4
In our previous post, we considered the fact that radical faith begins by trusting ourselves to our Lord regardless of our circumstances. Making the choice to believe God is critical; however, this decision is only the beginning. Radical faith requires acting on that belief even at personal cost to ourselves.
The Second Invitation: Cost
There is no pain quite like chronic pain. The weight of incessant suffering takes a toll that none of us would choose for ourselves or our loved ones. Physical pain opens our eyes to the reality of pain in areas we might otherwise overlook. Behind the physical exists the dimensions of the emotional and the spiritual—dimensions as important as they are subtle. Though invited and entitled to pleasure, Daniel and his friends chose pain instead. They passed by the king’s best and chose to eat beans and water for years. Undoubtedly, this was to their advantage. Few things are as damaging as a guilty conscience, and we can be certain that their determination to honor the Lord in what they ate prepared them to overcome a host of temptations they met with throughout their days in Babylon. But we should not pass over the fact that their choice to refrain from pleasure cost them something daily.
The Price of Radical Faith
The price they paid probably manifested itself in a variety of ways. It is unlikely that they always smiled at the thought of beans and water. They were almost certainly marked out and ridiculed by those Jews who had chosen to enjoy the king’s delicacies, and they may have suffered physically at times. Scripture tells us they were granted vibrant health at the time of their examination by the steward (Dan. 1:15), and their health must have maintained a good state throughout their schooling (Dan. 1:19). At the same time, their choice set them at risk. Lentils alone are not an adequate meal for growing young men, and, in ancient times, wine and beer were drunk instead of water as protection from ubiquitous waterborne illnesses and parasites. We do not know whether these young men were miraculously protected at every meal or if, perhaps, special care was taken to ensure against these dangers. What we do know is that Daniel and his friends were aware of these risks, and still chose to follow God into the unknown. They chose this path, not because it was easy or painless, but because it was worth it. Their sufferings bring out the reason why we are permitted to suffer temptation: our Lord produces godly character in us by teaching us to trust Him in spite of the cost.
The Bible has a great deal to say about growth through suffering. Has this post brought to mind examples or promises of Scripture that have informed your understanding of what it means to follow Christ? If so, please consider posting a comment below!
Illustrations by Kitti Touzeau