Phillip Brooks said, "Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones." We all will have times in our lives in which the temptation to do the wrong thing will be very strong. If you have ever wondered whether you would be able to resist a certain temptation, the answer is, in fact, entirely up to you. The bottom line is this: The stand you make today will determine the kind of stand you will make tomorrow. That is why we have to think about the foundations that we are laying for our lives.
It is not a bad thing to be set in your ways – if you are set in the right ones. As we get older, we start to like routines. We like to know what is about to happen. We don't like surprises as much. That is why it is so important to lay the right foundations, so we get into the right routines. And the most important time to do this is early in life.
In our youth, we lay the foundations that we will build on for years to come. It is at this time of life that courses are being set. Habits are being formed. Attitudes are being developed. Decisions are being made that can have a lifelong impact.
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Today I think it is more difficult for parents to raise their children with strong moral values and help them lay a good foundation for their lives, because we are living in a culture that is largely hostile to Christian beliefs. It wasn't always that way. There was a time when television actually supported the value of family. Programs like "Leave It to Beaver" and "Father Knows Best" seemed to reinforce the idea of family values and sticking together. But on sitcoms today, families are laughed at. The idea of an intact family is almost a freakish thing to many people today. And we are reaping the consequences of this in our culture.
Those of us who pray for our children and grandchildren probably pray something along the lines of, "Keep them safe," "Help them," and "Guide them." But we also should pray that God would be glorified through them. Why? Because they don't belong to us; they belong to God. We may call them ours, but they really are on loan to us from God. Therefore, we are to commit them to him, point them in the right direction and pray that God would be glorified through their lives.
Had you been the mother of Jesus, would you have prayed, "Lord, may my son be crucified"? Of course not. Could anything be more heartbreaking than that? Nothing is more difficult for parents than to see their children suffer. Imagine what it would have been like for Mary to see her own son that she bore hanging on a cross. Those once tiny hands that she held had nails driven through them. That forehead she used to kiss was bloodied by a crown of thorns. As his mother, she probably thought it was the worst thing that could ever happen. But through his death came the salvation of the world.
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Had you been one of the parents of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, would you have prayed they would be taken captive, carried away to Babylon and end up in the palace of the king? I don't think so. But that is what happened to these three young Israelites. God had different plans and used their lives as a testimony for his glory.
Their decision to make a stand against compromise in a small matter laid the foundation for their taking a stand against compromise in a big area. They had decided not to eat the choice food from the king's table, probably because some of it – if not most of it – was forbidden in the Mosaic law. I also think they refused the food because it was offered to a false god. Babylon was idol central. They worshiped many gods, so no doubt the food would have been dedicated to King Nebuchadnezzar's god. So for them it was a compromise. They decided to do the right thing, and God blessed them for it.
But then King Nebuchadnezzar erected a 90-foot gold statue of himself and commanded everyone in Babylon to bow down to it. Whoever didn't bow down would die. They would be thrown into a blazing furnace to be burned alive. But Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did not comply. Clearly if they made a stand in something as small as not eating certain food, they were not going to bow before a 90-foot idol. God had given the commandment, "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them … " (Exodus 20:4–5 NIV). Bowing down to Nebuchadnezzar's statue would have been a blatant act of idolatry. There was no way they would do it.
So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were called before the king and given one last opportunity to bow down to the idol. They refused. Nebuchadnezzar was so furious with these three men that he commanded the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than usual. So they were tied up and thrown into the furnace, fully clothed. But suddenly, as he was watching, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement. He saw four – not three – men walking around in the furnace unbound and unhurt. Then he ordered the three to come out of the furnace. The Bible says that when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego walked out from the flames, "the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them" (Daniel 3:27 NIV). As a result, King Nebuchadnezzar gave glory to God.
This reminds us that a little with God is better than a lot without Him. Every day, you make choices. There are things you will say no to that sometimes you may want to say yes to. And sooner or later, you will have to make a stand. In some way, shape or form, you will be asked to bow before some god, before some principle, before some idea. You will be asked to keep your convictions to yourself and get in line and do what everyone else does. The question is, will you stay true to your beliefs, or will you cave in? It's up to you. People can get angry at you when you stand up for your convictions. But you just hold your course. Because I have found that whatever I have given up for God, he has more than made up to me.