THE STORY OF DANIEL – Daniel 6:16–23 – Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.
Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
One of the most appealing lies out there is that God’s grace ushers us into an easy life. Few of us would say it this bluntly, but deep down, we would like to think that if we’re following God well enough, he’ll do his part to give us smooth sailing along the way.
The trouble is, the dark underside of that lie holds sway as well: If our lives are in a terrible spot, we tend to assume we’re at fault. Even for Christians, it’s easy to subscribe to a sort of functional karma: Good circumstances are a sign of God’s favor; bad circumstances are a sign of God’s wrath.
God’s grace doesn’t quite work like that. Yes, in the end, God rewards righteousness and punishes evil. But in this life, it’s not always so tidy. You may follow God faithfully and find yourself betrayed, lied about, even threatened with violence. Like the prophet Daniel.
We envy experiences like Daniel’s because of the dramatic good ending. The lions didn’t lay a paw on Daniel! He survived! We aren’t nearly as envious of the road that led up to that ending.
Remember: Daniel didn’t have any guarantee that he would survive his night in the lions’ lair. We might imagine him having a similar spirit as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego earlier in Daniel, who, when forced to choose between idolatry and certain death, were prepared for death: “[O king] … our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace … But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:16–18).
In choosing to receive God’s grace, we are faced with a staggering cost. Yes, the gift of grace that God offers is free.
But in order to take it, we must let go of everything else. We must be prepared to follow Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—trusting an uncertain future to a certain God.
Ask any of the saints of old if this trade is worth it and you’ll get a unanimous answer: “Absolutely.” What we gain in following Christ far outweighs whatever cost we have to pay. The cost, however, is real.
It is worth remembering that no human in history would ever pay a greater cost for obedience than Jesus. At Christmas, we celebrate God the Son leaving the glory of heaven to inhabit a world far more dismal than any lion’s den, far more dangerous than any fiery furnace. And what was his motivation?
Mild he lays his glory by, Born that man no more may die. Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth.
When we realize the sacrifice God made so that we “no more may die,” we can step forward in courage and sacrifice for him.
In our call to follow Jesus, very few of us are given a life or death choice as Daniel was (lions and all). But all of us face moments when following Jesus seems costly. Where are you most tempted to shy away from obeying Jesus because the cost seems too great? How can you display the same courage Daniel did in these situations?