Heroes of Faith for Hostile Times

“The real calling is not a certain place or career but to everyday obedience. And that call is extended to every Christian, not just a select few… The Bible is full of ordinary people who went to impossible places and did wondrous things simply because they decided to follow Jesus.” 

Brother Andrew

While preaching in a communist country several years ago, I talked with my interpreter about how far we should go in defying various government restrictions on the proclamation of the gospel. We had been pretty bold, getting in trouble occasionally. We were arrested and thrown out of the country, only to get another passport and go back in, where we got arrested a gain.

My friend – who is still in Eastern Europe – said, “Andrew, I want you to think a little more about Daniel.

When Daniel was in the lions’ den, God did protect him, but he did not go around pulling the lions’ tails. Nor did he try to brush their teeth.”

How far can we go in the face of danger? How far can we defy the enemy? To what degree should we stand up and proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord?

It is easy to shout “hallelujah” when you know there will be a lot of “amens” coming from your audience. But who among us is going to stand up in Red Square or in a public place in another society that is antagonistic to Christianity and shout “hallelujah?” Who is going to make such a hostile setting his or her platform to tell people that God is love? In situations where the political system or the prevailing religion is determined to wipe out the church, where the forces in power have become a direct instrument of the devil, who will stand up and single-handedly – if need be – proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord? Who will tell the people that the Word of God is true, and that the devil is not going to have his way?

I think Daniel was such a man! And that’s just as dangerous as pulling the tail of a lion.

Daniel: A Hero for Hostile Times

The Components of Crisis

Daniel lived during one of those low tides in Israel’s history when everything had gone wrong. Jerusalem had been destroyed, the temple was in ruins, the leaders had been killed, and the youths taken off to Babylon in exile – Daniel and his friends among them.

Satan, the inspiration behind Israel’s enemies, was making an all-out attempt to eradicate the Jewish people as a nation, but his deeper goal was to destroy the plan God had for the redemption of humanity. That purpose is always behind Satan’s attacks. In a way, you could say the devil is not against individual people; he is against our willingness to do God’s will. That’s why some people who do not believe seem to have a much easier life than those who do believe. Satan does not oppose them.

The writer of Psalm 73 wondered the same thing: “I was envious of the arrogant, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. … always at ease, they increase in riches. All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been stricken, and chastened every morning” (Psalm 73:3, 12-14). But then the psalmist took a look at how their life ended (after all, it is the end that counts), for he said: “But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end. Truly you set them in slippery places; I you make them fall in ruin” (Psalm 73:16-18). The end is determined by the beginning.

Attack on the Identity of the Faithful

When the captives arrived in Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar’s chief eunuch assigned new names to

the Hebrew young men (see Daniel 1:7). This was because their Jewish names were related to their destiny as appointed by God Almighty. The enemy was not satisfied with moving the Hebrews out of their own country so that Jerusalem could not function. He wanted to destroy their identity.

Satan’s objective was to make sure the messianic prophecies could never come true. If there was no nation, no identifiable people who could return and rebuild a nation, there would be no Jesus born in Bethlehem. If there was no Jesus, there would be no Savior of the Hebrew people and of all the world who would be crucified in Jerusalem and rise again according to all the prophecies.

Not only did the devil want to destroy all God’s plans, he also wanted to eradicate all the religious remains. By taking away the captives’ names and giving them heathen names – occult names of heathen gods – their whole religion was in jeopardy. There was a good chance that they would completely forget the God of their fathers.

The Durability of True Faith

But apparently Daniel didn’t allow his new name to stick. It’s amusing that Scripture says, “Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus” (Daniel 1:21). Cyrus was the fourth king in succession after Nebuchadnezzar, and still he was being called Daniel. Belteshazzar, the name the king’s eunuch assigned, never replaced it.

That delights me! It means the devil cannot succeed in eradicating true faith in God. It will always be there. Evil people come and go, but God’s people will remain. This is encouraging because in today’s world, with constant threats of revolution and active persecution spreading to more and more countries, it’s easy to fear that soon the church may be completely wiped out. But change the

believers’ names and give them numbers instead, drive them from their homeland, take away Sunday for worship, take away the Bible, take away their freedom, even take away the liberty that Christian parents should have to teach the Word of God to their own children, and the church will still survive. Jesus has promised: ” … I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

Although Daniel was brought to Babylon as a captive, King Nebuchadnezzar selected a group of bright young men – Daniel and three of his friends among them – to be trained and groomed for special service to the king. What a ripe situation for temptation! Cut off from their home and religious heritage, prisoners in a strange land, yet indulged, educated, favored, flattered. Many young people would say, “Oh, well, why fight it; this is a pretty good deal,” and embrace the idolatry of this new life.

Daniel and his three friends, however, refused to go along with the lifestyle of the king’s court. They did not want to defile themselves with the rich food and wines normally on the menu for young men being trained to serve the king. The amazing thing is that they refused in such a way that they were allowed to follow their religious beliefs in this matter, and when the king saw the results, he commended them for it.

This was just the beginning of trying to be heroes of the faith in a hostile land. One day Hananiah

(Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abednego) were governors over the province; the next they were thrown into a fiery furnace for refusing to worship the image of the king. One day Daniel was the king’s most trusted advisor; the next he was in the lions’ den because his colleagues had plotted against him. But whether they were honoured or persecuted, they remained steadfast in their belief in

the one true God and their identity as his children. And all the Babylonian kings, from Nebuchadnezzar to Cyrus, were deeply affected by the steadfastness of their faith and the truth of the words they spoke.

The Frailty of the Godless

In contrast to the durability of the faithful, the story of Daniel also shows us the frailty of the godless. In Daniel 2:1 we read that King Nebuchadnezzar was having bad dreams, his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. Isn’t that unusual? The king of the strongest empire in the world trembled because of one thing he couldn’t explain. Something supernatural was happening, and the whole empire shook to its very foundations. It shows the weakness of the godless.

According to the communists’ plan in our own century, after sixty to seventy years of revolution there

shouldn’t be a church left in Russia. But what’s happening today? A revival, and they can’t stop it. It shakes them; they don’t know how to handle it. The late chairman Mao thought that after ten or fifteen years – certainly after the cultural revolution from 1965 to 1975 – there should be no church left at all in China. But the communist leaders are awakening from their dream. They see that the church is ten or twenty or fifty times bigger than it ever was. They cannot explain it.

These amazing things give us great joy as we travel in the countries where Christians have been persecuted. We are not fighting a lost cause. We are winning! These antagonistic regimes tremble because things are happening there that they cannot explain. In Russia, parents still take their children to be baptized. In Eastern Europe, young people come to the Lord. In Nicaragua, the church has grown three times since the Sandinistas took over. The oppressors don’t know what is happening. What a

tremendous perspective for us today as we fight this spiritual war.

The Nature of the Conflict

Daniel was able to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, and even though the interpretation was a strong warning and judgment against the king, Daniel won the king’s respect and became an esteemed ruler in the land. Later, during the reign of Belshazzar, Daniel also had a dream. Part of the interpretation explained the tactics that the enemy uses against God and his people: “He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law … ” (Daniel 7:25).

The battle described here is a battle of words, of ideas and ideologies. It involves attacks on what we believe. It is a battle for the mind, and that is why we must never give up our vision of the Kingdom of God. We must remember our commission from Jesus to preach the gospel to the whole world and make disciples of every nation. Until all peoples know about God and worship him voluntarily, there will always be this battle. Evil will always fight good; darkness will always oppose light; hatred will always try to replace love. The devil will always try to unseat Jesus Christ from his throne in our hearts, from his throne in society and over the whole world. Not everyone knows that all the kingdoms of the world will

one day become the kingdoms of Christ Jesus our Lord. 

One of the devil’s most effective tactics is propaganda deluge. He speaks out. He will talk, talk, talk just like the giant Goliath. Goliath made the same boastful claim for forty days, every morning and every night. That means eighty times he brought the same evil, atheistic, nihilistic, anarchistic sermon: “You will never do it; you won’t make it; you’ll always be slaves; you’ll always be weak; you’ll always be defeated; you’ll never have the victory.” No matter how false or outrageous the message, the human

mind tends to succumb to that kind of barrage. Daniel said that the evil one intends to “wear out the saints” speaking words against the Most High.

The Response of a Hero

I see this happening in the world today. We in the church are getting so tired of the unrelenting propaganda from every side, both the left and the right, that we are ready to throw up our hands in despair of ever sorting out the truth. But God has an answer!

Know your God. Daniel 11:32 says that the evil one “shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant; but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.” There is victory for the people who know their God, but knowing takes time. You can never get to know any person unless you spend time with that person.

Our problem is that we are not feeding ourselves enough on the Word of God for us to get to know him. No wonder we lack peace, security, and joy. We are being worn out. I want to warn you not to become worn out by what you hear. Spend less time reading books that do not matter, less time watching television. It’s just like marriage; the more time you spend with your partner, the better life becomes.

Stand firm. God’s people who know him will display strength. Our strength is from the Holy Spirit, but it is also the strength of our character, the strength of our “guts,” our moral courage to stand up in the face of evil.

Take action. Daniel 11:33 says, “And those among the people who are wise shall make many understand.” This is the action we are to take. We are to denounce evil, expose it, and proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord. We will not let God’s people be persecuted until they no longer know what to do.

To be effective in bringing understanding to people, however, we’ve got to have insight into the problems that exist today, exactly as they existed in the time of Daniel. That is why we must learn from these heroes of the faith.

Prayer in a Crisis

Even in the darkest hour, God will not forget a people as long as there is even one person who qualifies in the sight of God to be a hero of faith, who can claim his nation back for God. What happened to God’s people in Babylon?

Daniel 9:2 records events in the first year of Darius’ reign: “I, Daniel, perceived in the books the numbers of years which, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.” By this time Daniel was already in his nineties. He had stood by his three friends as they went through the experience of the fiery furnace. He had survived persecution in the lions’ den. He had had many confrontations with the ways the Babylonians wanted to subvert the Hebrews, both on the grounds of their religion and their distinctiveness as a people. But always God’s people came out as winners because there were heroes willing to lay down their lives

for the truth – and even the pagan kings respected them for it.

Searching for God’s Plan

On a quiet morning, Daniel turned to the Book of Jeremiah and read: 

For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you ….

Jeremiah 29:10–14

Who was going to be that hero to search for God with all his heart? Daniel. He was the only one who did any searching at all, and he discovered in the book the prediction that the captivity would end after seventy years. Then he looked at the calendar and saw that the time was up. That year something big was going to happen. God had a plan: “We’re going to get out of this place!”

But were they? Here is the secret of intercession. You may say, “Well, the prophecy said the captivity was going to be over.” That’s true; it was the appointed time. But the prophecy also said, “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me.” There was more to it than an automatic, guaranteed deliverance. God interacts with us. Remember that Nineveh was not destroyed simply because there

had been a prophecy to that effect. The people’s response affected the outcome.

Praying According to God’s Plan

Situations can be changed when God “changes his mind” because somebody steps into the gap and does something about it, fulfilling the conditions God has set forth. What did Daniel do? When Daniel saw that it was the appointed year, he did not close his Bible, fold his arms across his chest and say, “Well, praise the Lord, now the end is near.” No. I personally think that Israel might not have gotten out of exile at that particular time had not Daniel reacted the way he did.

He read what God said through Jeremiah, and then he did something very dramatic. He called upon the name of the Lord because he knew that even though the prophecy was written in the book, it would still have to happen through people who would get involved in a personal way to make deliverance happen. Therefore he said, “I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession” (Daniel 9:4). In this mighty prayer of confession, he worshiped God, the great and awesome God who keeps covenants and is steadfast in loving kindness for those who love him and keep his commands.

Then Daniel admitted the condition of his people, confessing their sin – not just a few little mistakes, but

” … we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and ordinances; we have not listened to thy servants … ” (Daniel 9:5, 6). In all this Daniel identified with the people, yet when we study the life of Daniel it appears that he is just about the only person (other than Jesus) of whom nothing negative is mentioned anywhere in Scripture. He

was a mighty warrior for God, but he got on his knees in sackcloth and ashes, humbling himself to identify with his people.

After confessing the sin and praising the Lord, Daniel said,

O my God, incline your ear and hear; … for we do not present our supplications before you on the ground of our righteousness, but on the ground of your great mercy. 0 Lord, hear; 0 Lord, forgive; 0 Lord, give heed and act; delay not, for your own sake, 0 my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.

Daniel 9:18–19

To me this is most reassuring. We have a basis for our intercession for the suffering church in Russia and China. We have a basis for our prayer that God will help us to break open all those doors and borders and barriers – not because we deserve to have our prayers answered, but because of God’s great mercy and because those people are called by his name.

Praying as a Participant in God’s Plan

Would the Hebrews have gone back to Jerusalem had Daniel not prayed? That’s the wrong question. In God’s economy, those who remind God of his characteristic mercy and forgiveness, who humble themselves, who confess their sin and the sin of the nation, are used by God to bring about his word. The question should be: Where are the heroes of the faith who will participate in God’s plan through prayer?

God’s promises are not something that are detached from human affairs. Even though God said it, God still needs people to make it happen. That is really the whole process of becoming heroes of the faith. That is what makes people Christ–like – when they say, like Jesus, “I came to do your will, 0 God.”

God works through people. God worked mightily through Daniel. We see him battle through in prayer; we see him fight the paralysis that came upon his nation because they were worn out and worn down by the enemy and his relentless propaganda.

But then came that tremendous day not long after this prayer when Daniel stood at the gates of Babylon and saw the first group of Hebrews return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and the city, and eventually the walls themselves, so that the people could live and worship God in peace and safety.

How do we measure up when the society around us tries to seduce us with an indulgent lifestyle, with all the “knowledge” of a secular education, with privileged positions? Yet all of us who are children of the Most High God are strangers in a strange land, no matter where we live. Even in our own country, where we experience great freedom in religious matters, we also face hostile forces whose desire is to wipe out godly influences from political, social, educational, and even family life.

Will we, as Daniel and his friends, stand firmly as heroes of the faith, whether we are honored or persecuted for our action? Will we be steadfast, even though the enemy tries to wear us down with constant godless propaganda? Will we be faithful to confess our sins and the sins of our people, and pray for God’s will to be done in the land?

God calls each of us to be a Daniel in our own time.

This article is excerpted from A Time for Heroes, Chapter 6, by Brother Andrew with Dave and Neta Jackson, published by Servant Books, Ann Arbor, Michigan USA, © copyright 1988 by Open Doors International.

Top photo of Brother Andrew with his VW Beetle car distributing Bibles in Eastern Europe and Russia 1955, source Open Doors UK.

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