Saturday, August 6, 2011

Standing together in faith and friendship

Okay, how blessed was Daniel? I mean really, he was surrounded by friends who were not only great examples, but stood by his side in faith. To have that circle of friends can give you the encouragement and inspiration you need to make it through any situation.

"Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me-a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus." 2 Timothy 1:13

I was taking some time reading in Daniel and it was his relationship with his friends that stood out to me in the very first chapter. They all had a strong faith in God and they walked that faith. I mean, here they are together and all of a sudden they are thrown into a scary situation. All throughout the story of Daniel you see no fear from these young men. King Nebuchadnezzar would have scared the daylights out of me, but for these young men they stood firm in their faith. At no point were they even disrespectful or rude. They remained kind and compassionate even though their entire lives were changing before their eyes.

"Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:18

They were selected because of their stature, strength and wisdom. These were good-looking men. Wise young men. Men with faith that is not wavering. I look at our world today and see how difficult it is for young adults trying to find their way in the world, but were things really all that different for these young men? I think the difference is they were focused on God. They were dedicated to Him and were ready to surrender all for their King of kings.

"Walk with the wise and become wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble." Proverbs 13:20

So, these young men are held captive. I wonder if they were even able to say good-bye to their families. They are now being trained to learn the Babylonian language and literature of this time. They were to be trained for three years then they would be ready for royal service. Can you imagine? This king wants to change everything about these young men. He even changes their names! Daniel is now called Belshazzar. Hananiah is now called Shadrach. Mishael is called Meshach and Azariah is now called Abednego. These Hebrew men are facing change of every kind. Nothing is the same, except one important aspect of who they are. They are children of God. Their faith remains therefore they are complete in Him and Him alone. Nothing else matters to them. They could have ended up anywhere. Their faith is so strong. I want a faith like that. I want that unwavering faith that remains even in times of fear and change. They had no idea what was facing them.

"'For I know the plans I have for you', says the Lord. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11

I too look at Timothy. He had a wonderful friendship with Paul. Paul was his accountability partner. He was his teacher and example. They were friends who could talk, laugh and walk this road together, lifting one another up in encouragement. I love these words:

"Preach the Word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching." 2 Timothy 4:2

"But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don't be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you." 2 Timothy 4:5

That too is what, Daniel, did. He walked with his friends in faith, knowing that God had a plan and they were safe within His hand. Friends must love one another enough to correct each other when we are wrong and love them enough to give them your heart. These friendships were lasting because they took time for one another. They didn't put each other off. They made themselves available.

These young men were great because of their faith in God, but also in the fact they had godly friendships. They had friends that were willing to stand with them and not cause them to stumble. Can you imagine the late night talks they had? The laughter and closeness that brought them through the days of struggle?

Look at David and Jonathon, Ruth and Naomi, and Elijah and Elisha. These were great and lasting friendships.

"There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends." John 15:13

We can look to these powerful friendships for our example. We must be the kind of friend we want to have. We are blessed with the most amazing friend of all, Jesus Christ. He gave His life for you and me. He will walk with us through every season of life. He is the Friend of all friends. The wonderful thing is, He chose us! He chooses us for a friend. That should make us feel overwhelmed in love. To be called His friend should be the greatest compliment of all.

"You are My friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn't confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told Me. You didn't choose Me. I chose you." John 15:14-16a
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