I hope this isn’t going to insult you, but political conventions seem like such a waste of time to me. Spending millions of dollars on my own birthday party would be horrendous, but it would look like a sound investment compared to these four-day, party-line bashes.
It must have been a slow evening at our house, because I was actually watching all the proceedings of the 1992 Republican Convention in San Diego. The line-up for the presidential nomination included a man who had gone public with his personal faith in Christ. Several political commentators had been invited into one of the network broadcast booths and were asked to give the watching audience a taste of their particular brilliance on the subject of religion. Their “insight” was remarkably sobering.
“All of these candidates are religious men,” one man observed. “But this particular candidate has, in my opinion, gone too far. He has allowed his faith to get in the way of what he says and what he thinks.” The others in the booth chuckled. Imagine anything so outrageous as a man actually being affected by what he believes. Can you imagine?
The story told in Daniel 3 of three Jewish men’s singular obedience to their Heavenly Father is remarkable. The Babylonians had a one-size-fits-all god—a huge idol made of solid gold! And they fully expected everyone, even the Israelites whom they had captured, to be impressed and bow down. Unfortunately, King Nebuchadnezzar and his associates misjudged the commitment of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who didn’t bend their knees to this pile of precious metal.
Exactly like the presidential candidate letting his religion “get in the way,” these men made the tactical “error” of standing up to the incredible pressure of the godless culture that surrounded them. So they were sentenced to die.
Just for the fun of it, look through the third chapter of Daniel. Try to find the names of any of the captive Jews who did bow down. I can save you a few minutes if you’d rather not take the time. You’ll find none—not one name of any Israelite who collapsed under the pressure of his culture, even though there were probably thousands to choose from.
“Forgettable” is probably not your goal in life. “Here lies a man who made no waves” would be a shameful thing to have chiseled on your tombstone. But standing up for what you believe is going to be tough. If you choose to go this route, there will be those who question the prudence of allowing your “religion” to actually affect the way you live your life. The pressure to acquiesce will be hard to resist.
You probably remember the end of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The angry Babylonians tossed them into a furnace. But God provided an angel to join these men in the midst of the fire, and their lives were spared. This is an extraordinary, true story.
In the end, do we really want to make a name for ourselves? A good name for ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with this desire. So we must dare to stand for what we believe. We cannot be afraid to let God’s truth, love, and grace affect our thinking, lifestyle, and decisions.
Sure, it might get a little hot in there. But God has plenty of angels to dispatch. He apparently has a few who are particularly skilled at protecting obedient men and women from the flames.