Among the heroes of the Old Testament, Daniel stands out as a model for believers in our modern, secular world. Many spiritual principles in the book of Daniel correct a number of errors prevalent today.
A life that is pleasing to God consists of obedience, prayer, and cultivating inner qualities of the heart, rather than adherence to traditions and rituals created by men.
• Daniel lived as a Bible-believing person devoid of ceremonial rituals. He lived after Judah went into captivity—at a time when the Temple was gone, and when many of Israel’s ceremonial observances were not able to be performed. As believers in the New Testament age, we too live at a time when we do not have a temple, priesthood, or elaborate religious rituals. (We have two ordinances: baptism and the Lord’s table—but they are much simpler than the Old Testament rituals connected with Israel’s sacrificial system.)
• Daniel’s tools for spiritual growth consisted of:
• The Scriptures
• Life of faith and obedience
Believers today have the same resources as Daniel, coupled with the addition of the indwelling of the Spirit, to enable us to abide in Christ and to bear fruit for eternity. The Spirit of God uses His Word, prayer, and fellowship to teach us, to guide us, to empower us, and to hold us accountable. Daniel’s religion did not consist of religious ceremonies. He did not compartmentalize his life into a religious sphere and a secular sphere—both his daily life and his work were prescribed by the teachings of Scripture. What pleased God was his life of faith lived out at work, at home, and in every other area of his daily life. Spiritual growth takes work (“agonizing” work, Phil. 1:27; Col. 1:29; 1 Tim. 4:10; Heb. 12:24), and God has given us the same tools today that He gave to Daniel.
It is possible to live the Christian life in any environment or situation.
• Daniel lived in Babylon, a pagan city outside of Israel, yet
he still lived an exemplary, distinctive life.
Sometimes believers today think that the key to our spiritual success is living in a Christian environment— that living in a pagan, hostile environment makes it almost impossible to live a life pleasing to God. Not true! The Christian life can be lived out anywhere, and in any circumstance (Phil. 4:11-13). In fact, the darker the room, the brighter the light!
The choices we make matter to God and affect our witness.
• No sin of Daniel’s is recorded in Scripture (he of course sinned, but interestingly, none of his sins are recorded)
What we do shows who we are. The new birth evidences itself in a changed life—an altogether new quality of life. This doesn’t mean that we stop sinning, but we are to grow in holiness and confess our sins daily. We should loathe the evil in our lives and constantly strive to lead blameless lives (Heb. 12:24).
We honor God by our choice of friends and our proper monitoring of relationships. Our closest circle of friends should be godly believers.
• Daniel had a circle of godly friends, among whom were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah
With regards to friends who are unsaved we must monitor our hearts to make sure that we aren’t pulled down by these relationships. Our Lord dined with unsaved people and was criticized for being a “friend of…sinners” (Matt. 11:19). However, His inner circle consisted of three close companions: Peter, James, and John.
Discipline plays an important role in the Christian life, just as it does in other areas of life. A disciplined life, regulated by the Word of God, produces spiritual stability and growth. We must not allow feelings to determine our decision to pray or to follow Christ’s precepts.
• Daniel prayed three times a day (and prayed out loud—hence he was heard and brought before the king).
Too often people think that they must be led by spiritual impulses rather than by spiritual principles. Daniel shows us a remarkable example of a disciplined life: in his choice of food and drink (Dan. 1:8) and in his regimen of prayer. As a worker in the highest echelons of civil service, Daniel was a very busy man. However, he made time to pray three times a day! There were no public calls to prayer, no electronic reminders—it was his personal, God-empowered discipline that made him faithful to this task. It wasn’t any easier for Daniel than it is for us today! He didn’t pray because he felt like praying—he prayed because it was a fundamental part of his commitment to the Lord.
One of Daniel’s prayers, featured in Daniel 9, is a model prayer for forgiveness—on par with Psalm 51. Much good theoretical and practical theology can be found in this prayer!
It is possible to excel in both our secular job and in our service to Christ.
• Daniel had a secular job as a civil servant within the Babylonian government
• He excelled in both his secular job and in his service to the Lord
Daniel illustrates how those who hold secular jobs can be greatly used of the Lord. Daniel was a civil servant: a leader, and administrator, and a counselor to kings. Nevertheless, he was greatly used of God, and was exactly where God wanted him! Our job is part of our testimony and is included in doing “all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). However, while we can (and should) be excellent at our secular job, we shouldn’t crowd out spiritual opportunities because of ambition in the workplace.
We must speak the truth, but do so exercising wisdom and prudence through love.
• Daniel’s influence spread to others in government, and quite possibly to a wider sphere, including the ancestors of the wise men who visited the infant Jesus
• Daniel delivered God’s Word without compromise and without flinching
Daniel was known, not only for being a model government worker, but also as a worshipper of the God of Israel. He gained a reputation for being wise and discerning, and, because of this was called upon to interpret the handwriting on the wall at Belshazzar’s feast (Dan. 5:11).
The Value of a Study of Daniel to Living in Our Contemporary Society
The book of Daniel has special relevance to believers in the New Testament age. It teaches us how to have a fruitful, God-honoring life in a hostile environment, armed with the Bible, prayer, and fellowship. It also engenders faith and confidence in view of prophetic details looming over the horizon. God knows the future and it is His prerogative to reveal it as He sees fit. He is working all things according to divine plan, and no power of man can overthrow it. The book of Daniel teaches us that we can live the Christian life in any kind of situation.
Do we feel a measure of cultural isolation from the world in which we live? So did Daniel. Is it possible to excel in both our secular (day) job and in our service to our Lord? Daniel did. Can we live the Christian life in a non-Christian environment? Daniel and his friends did. Can we maintain a strong witness for Christ as a spiritual minority in our contemporary society? Daniel did. Could we someday face laws that violate obedience to Scripture? Daniel’s three friends did. We have the same tools that Daniel had: Scripture, prayer, and fellowship. We have the same God who is sovereign, all-wise, and who empowers us to live obedient, overcoming lives.
This summer, consider studying the book of Daniel. It showcases the power, might, and sovereignty of God. It gives courage, provides devotional insights, and strengthens our faith.
May God give us all uncompromising faith and a bold witness. As believers, we look forward with joyful anticipation to the final victory of a life lived in obedience to the Word of God.
The book of Daniel is noteworthy for its biographical material, principles, and prophecies. If you are interested in further studies in this tremendous book, here are two books that showcase different aspects of its timeless message for believers today.