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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Staying Faithful through Oppression and Corruption

We are seeing both oppression and corruption abounding on the global and national stages. Look at all the Christians being persecuted for our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Whether it’s the Coptic Christians who were gunned down in Egypt as they were traveling in a bus, or the thousands of others who have been murdered by ISIS in recent months, they are all part of the larger spirit of religious oppression—oppression of Christians in specific—that is prevailing the world over, and in your own locale perhaps, in lesser (seen) measures. As far as corruption, look at all that is being uncovered on our nation’s political stage: all the secrets that are coming out from both sides of the political spectrum. The question is, in an oppressive and corrupt milieu that is your workplace or school, is it possible to remain faithful to God over the long haul, living out Christian convictions?

 
Daniel began his career as a statesman-prophet in his teen years, as seen in Daniel 1. In Daniel chapter 6 we find him in his late 80’s, having served his Lord for about 70 known years from 605-535 B.C. Over this long life, Daniel models for us Christian faithfulness in a corrupt and oppressive culture.

Shift in Government, Steadfastness in Character


The Babylonian government was a dictatorial monarchy under Nebuchadnezzar and the kings who followed. After Belshazzar, the last Babylonian king was slain by the Medo-Persians, the world political stage under king Darius, saw a sophisticated form of bureaucracy established—with 120 satraps (the senators of that day)—in order to check oppression and corruption. Yet in this very system, oppression and corruption would rise.

While there was a shift in the ruling system, we find no shift in the rule of Daniel’s life. He remained distinguished and faithful. The Bible says, “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.” (Daniel 6:3) This character of Daniel, of rising above his peers, continued from his youth into his old age. He rises above the rest because of the excellent spirit—not just his excellent spirit, but the Spirit of God—that is in him. Darius recognizes this and wants to make Daniel second in rule to him.

Obviously, this makes the other power-hungry rulers jealous and they want to find fault with him regarding his work ethic. But the Bible says, “they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him.” (Daniel 6:4) Not only is Daniel distinguished, he is faithful. There is no indecency or unethicalness in him.

It’s a wonderful thing when your coworkers, your friends, your fellow students find that you are a faithful person. I wonder if people recognize your faithfulness. In an oppressive culture however, such a testimony may come with risk.

These men who are jealous of Daniel dig for more faults. “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 6:5) Whenever jealous people can’t throw mud at their opponents because of shortcomings in professional performance, they dig more and look to throw mud because of religious reasons. That’s what they do to Daniel here.

“So these governors and satraps thronged before the king and said thus to him: “King Darius, live forever! All the governors of the kingdom, the administrators and satraps, the counselors and advisors, have consulted together…” (Dan 6:6-7) All the governors of the kingdom? There were only 3 governors, of which Daniel was one. He was not privy to this, and yet they say “all.” These are lying government officials, and godless men out to oppress the religious liberty of others. Whenever the goal of a nation’s leadership is the oppression of truth, morals, ethics, and the religious liberty of people, as a consequence, there is bound to be the expression of falsehood, corruption, perversion, and ultimately religious bondage.

So they continue, “establish a royal statute and to make a firm decree, that whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions.” Now, O king, establish the decree and sign the writing, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which does not alter.” (Dan 6:7-9) Darius foolishly falls for their flattery, and signs the decree. Daniel is now in danger of being thrown to lions. And yet when Daniel is in mortal danger, we find that he remains faithful to God. What was his secret?


When No One Else is Watching


The Bible says, “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 a day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.”

Daniel learns of the new religious decree and goes home to pray. Now is he praying simply to defy the king’s decree? No. He’s praying because this was his habit for years, since his “early days.” He practiced this since the time he was brought into Babylon as a teenager. This is a continuation of his relationship with God. Daniel is praying to God in private even in current oppression because he was disciplined enough to do it in past freedom. This was Daniel’s secret of being faithful to God in the midst of an oppressive and corrupt culture: frequent prayer and meeting with God.

Robert Murray McCheyne was the well-known pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Dundee, Scotland, for 7 years. He died at age 29 or 30, having lived a life of total consecration to God. McCheyne said, “What a man [or woman] is alone on his knees before God, that he is and nothing else.” Powerful English evangelist of yesteryear, Leonard Ravenhill said, “No man is greater than his prayer life.” I would add, for the Christian, we don’t have a prayer life, prayer is our life, because the Bible says, “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thess. 5:17)

The secret to remaining faithful to God in public persecution, oppression, and corruption is being faithful to God in our private devotion to Him. The secret is praying always: having both disciplined and dutiful times of prayer, but also times of delightful and spontaneous fellowship with God, at the first chance we get to be with Him. This was the secret of the Lord Jesus Christ, who went apart many times to be alone with the Father. This is our secret too, as we come to know this Jesus, the One who faced great oppression and corruption to the point of death on the cross. Jesus triumphed through it all, rising again. God, the Father, was faithful to Jesus, the Son, because Jesus stayed faithful to God. And only in Christ can we deal with the oppression and corruption that is in our own hearts before we deal with that which is in the culture.

What the world needs today is Christians who remain faithful to God, no matter what, in an oppressive and corrupt culture.

© Kenny Damara, 2017

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