I remembered as a child watching two boys fighting in the schoolyard. The larger of the two swung his smaller opponent around and held him in a headlock. The little guy fought hard slamming his fist against his challenger’s back and kicked him with all his might. Finally, the oppressor gained his footing, snatched the small boy’s hand, and held it behind his back.
“Say Uncle!” he demanded.
“Say it, or I’ll hurt you.”
With one final twist, the little guy went down and knelt on the asphalt.
“Are you going to say it or not?”
The smaller boy scrunched his face. “I don’t want to,” he cried. “Okay, I give; Uncle. I give, I give.” With that, the superior boy released him and punched the air like a Prize Fighting Champion.
The small boy sat quietly not saying a word.
A compromised person becomes vulnerable and inflicts shame and dishonor on himself. We, as Christians, compromise when we allow the world to tell us what to think and how to act. Other times we remain silent to the truth while others spew lies about God around us.
In Daniel chapter 3, we learn of three men who refused to cooperate with the Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar. The egotistical monarch created a statue of himself that measured 90 feet in height and nine feet in width. When the time came to unveil the monstrosity, Nebuchadnezzar gathered all of his government officials and demanded that at the sound of a horn blowing, everyone must bow down to his image. Refusal to bow would be an insult to the King and an immediate cause of death.
However, Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego stood erect and denied the statue their worship. Faced with the threat of burning in a furnace, they refused to retreat from God’s command not to worship any other god and remained unflinching.
When asked why they refused to bow the men said, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18; emphasis mine. NASB)
Their love for God outweighed their impulse to live. Nonetheless, they would not presume that God would save them. Despite their imminent death, they remained steadfast.
Most of us know the outcome of the three men; the King peeks into the furnace, but instead of three men burning, he sees four men walking. Not only had God saved Daniel’s friends from the fire, but he also entered the oven with them! Amazing.
Jesus knows that it hurts to be unloved and disliked. He underwent rejection from the people he created and felt that heartache. Jesus understands our weaknesses. He knows our feeble hearts and our ability to kowtow to pressures of society.
Even so, no middle ground or fence is sitting is acceptable with God. It’s all or nothing. Calling yourself a Christian is either true of your heart, or it isn’t. It’s the same as saying, you’re a little pregnant; you are, or you’re not. Likewise, you can’t proclaim, “I once murdered, but now I’m not a murderer.” You are a murderer. There’s no going back, or in between.
Some will say, “I was a Christian, but I’m not now.” It’s probably safe to say that you were never a Christian. True faith does not give up. It does not fail. It does not try a new thing. It does not stop believing. It remains firm, without compromise, unbending.
Easy to say? No. The Christian life is not an easy road. It is not simple to remain joyful when the word Christian has ridicule and resentment associated with its name. However, like Daniel’s friends, we’re confident that God will accompany us during the rough times, and he will provide strength to persevere. Romans 8:37-39 says, “That we are conquerors through Him that loves us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life … or any created thing will be able to separate us from the Love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Paraphrased, NASB)
Finally, in her book, Secure in the Everlasting Arms, Elisabeth Elliot says, “For most of us, it (obedience) will not mean lion’s dens or Auca spears, or imprisonment, but it will mean a daily, faithful, humble, glad obedience to the same Lord who has held steady all those who commit themselves to Him. It will mean the willingness to stand against what everybody’s doing and what everybody says is OK. It will mean the surrender of what the world calls safety, and the acceptance of whatever sacrifice and suffering God may choose to send. Do it! Choose Jesus Christ! Deny yourself, take up the cross, and follow Him – for the world must be shown. The world must see, in us, a discernible, visible, startling difference.”