We talk about determination fairly often as Christians. We should be determined to do God’s will. To conduct ourselves in a manner that is worthy of our calling. To cast off sin and put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Christian determination is an attitude of the heart that is fueled by a passionate love for the Lord Jesus. Sometimes, though, as determined as we are to live properly and to walk in fellowship with God, we find ourselves stuck in the middle of that which we are determined to avoid. Our minds are convinced, but our hands and feet are not.
I’ve been reading in the book of Daniel in my morning Bible study time recently, and I am in awe of Daniel’s determination. But as I continue to read, I am struck by something timely for my own Christian walk. Not only was Daniel determined to obey God. He had PRE-determined to obey God.
Daniel is an historical figure to be admired, no doubt. A Judean exiled among the Babylonians, then the Medes and Persians – the very people who captured and overruled Jewish establishment, religion, and institution in the land given to them by God Almighty. Yet, even in the face of dangerous religious difference and godless political activists, Daniel arose to be in several different positions of authority in the governing realm… even among the heathens who had disestablished his people and dispersed them among the nations. There was something about Daniel that set him apart from the rest. Something kings and kingdoms, peoples and rulers admired. Something that God blessed over and over again.
There is nothing wrong with drive. Self-control. Stick-to-it-iveness. Determination. That quality should be yours and increasing, as Peter posits (1 Peter 1:5-8). For in this way, you will guard yourself from being useless and fruitless in the kingdom of God.
Daniel had that. Determination. But his determination was evidently more than a situation-by-situation appraisal of the goods vs evils that may result from a particular course of action. He was pre-determined. His mind was made up without a weighing of pros and cons…
The King James translates the Hebrew suwm (“determined”) into “purposed in his heart.” The Hebrew verb is in the imperfect Qal tense, meaning it is possible and likely that this was something Daniel had already done. More literally, “Daniel had determined in his heart…” His mind was already made up.
Daniel lived in reality. He knew that being transplanted into the Babylonian court, raised and educated in their customs, and pampered as a showpiece of their society, he would be tempted with defilement by eating food of which God had instructed him not to partake. The Babylonians did not follow Judean customs concerning dietary restrictions. Daniel knew that. So he pre-determined that he would not defile himself with the king’s food. And what happened? – God granted Daniel favor and compassion from the authority over him (v. 9).
Later, in Chapter 6, Darius of the Medes was made king after taking the land from the Chaldeans/Babylonians. Daniel, having already been well-established and renown for his wisdom in dream interpretation among the rulers of the preceding empire, was instituted as second in command over the region. His predetermination to follow God’s law rather than seek the approval of men had continued to be occupationally beneficial for him.
Some other jealous leaders tricked King Darius into issuing a decree for everyone in his empire to pray to or petition only him (the king) for 30 days. Of course, that didn’t fly well with the Judeans in exile under the governing authority of the king. But Daniel, undeterred, continued in his predetermined, daily exercise of praying to God and not the king. How do I know he was predetermined?…
Verses 10-11 of Chapter 6 show us that Daniel had a daily practice. Three times a day, at the same time every day, he prayed to God. The men who tricked King Darius knew exactly where and when to find Daniel on his knees in prayer. Daniel received the news concerning the contemptuous decree. He knew what was at stake. But it really didn’t matter. Because he had already predetermined that He was going to be a man who lived a lifestyle of prayer before God. When adversity came, he didn’t have to evaluate anything at all – his mind was already made up.
You know the rest of the story – the lion’s den and all.
From reflection on this truth in my studies recently, I have learned a few things:
1. God desires leaders and followers who will be informed of His timeless standards, and will predetermine to live them out regardless of consequences.
Governmental, Ecclesiastical, Familial, Societal… you name it. Wherever you find yourself as a leader or follower, God desires for you to know His Word. To know His truth. To know His standards. And to live them out. Without regard for their consequences. His way is always best.
2. God will bless your non-acquiescent actions when they are grounded in a predetermination to live a lifestyle worthy of your calling as a believer in Him.
Established authority, culture, peers, family, and friends all have their own expectations of you. Don’t get caught up in what is politically correct, socially correct, or historically correct. But rather, predetermine to be biblically and spiritually correct. When you conform your walk to the character of Christ, and when you predetermine to live by His standards, blessing will come. Material blessings? Not always. Political blessings? Not guaranteed. But spiritual blessings – 100% of the time. See Romans 8:28.
3. To live with purpose and lasting impact, walk in close relationship with the Lord.
Daniel set daily times to seek the face of God. He studied the scriptures to know what God required of Him. He walked in close, obedient fellowship with His Lord. He saved his displaced nation from the sword numerous times. He influenced two different kings of two different nations in such a way that they turned to the One True God instead of their idols. And we are still regurgitating his story today. Think about it.
Grace and peace,