Sunday, November 20, 2011

What Makes a REAL Hero

Heroes are hard to come by these days. I can't name a celebrity, sports figure or politician that I would consider a "hero." A hero is defined as: A person who is admired for courage or noble qualities. I think there are more everyday heroes that go unnoticed than there are heroes who make the cover of People or Time magazine. Our military, police officers and firemen are everyday heroes. So are people like the group of citizens who risked their lives to save an injured motorcyclist by pulling him out from under a burning car. They didn't know a camera was catching the whole thing on tape. They just knew a life was in danger and they sprang into action. They did what was right and good. That's heroism!

In Daniel 1-3 we meet four men who had everything. Looks, wealth, brains, royal pedigree. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were young men--boys, really--when they were kidnapped by the Babylonians. King Nebuchadnezzar wanted these young men to serve him, but first he needed to turn them into Babylonians. He tried to erase their Hebrew-ness---the thing that made them who they are at the very core of their being. He ordered them to study Babylonian literature and learn the language. They were to be trained for three years, eat from the king's own table, and after that they would enter the king's service. King Neb even had their names changed to Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

What makes these young men heroic in my eyes is their steadfast resolve to remain faithful to God no matter what. To remain the men God wanted them to be, not the impostors the king wanted them to become. It would have been easy to just blend in and not rock the boat. It would have been smart to simply appease the king, assuring themselves a comfortable life in their new home.

"But Daniel resolved not to defile himself..." (1:8) 

When they were offered choice foods from the king's table, it took courage not to eat it. Think of how rude and offensive that would be to the king! But it was Babylonian custom to give the first portion of food and drink as an offering to idols, as well as using animals that were considered unclean by Hebrews. Daniel asked the chief official over him and his three friends if they could just eat vegetables and drink water instead. And you know what happened? After ten days these four men were healthier than the others who'd eaten the tainted food. God honored their courage. (1:8-17)

When Daniel needed divine help in interpreting the king's weird dreams, he went to his friends and asked them to pray. (2:17) Their faith saved a lot of lives, because the king was planning to execute all his seers and wise men because they couldn't figure out the meaning of the dream. But God gave the answer to Daniel.

When King Nebuchadnezzar made a giant golden image, our four heroes refused to worship it as ordered. It wasn't because they wanted to be difficult or disobedient to the king, but because they knew there is only One who is worthy of being worshipped. The punishment for disobeying the order was death by fire. Read Daniel 3 for the whole amazing story, but in a nutshell God once again honored their courage to stand up for what is right and good in God's sight. Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego were tossed into the fiery furnace yet came out without one hair singed. Even King Neb was impressed! (3:28)

After Darius the Mede took over the kingdom and institutes an ego-building decree---that no one could pray to anyone but him for thirty days (6:7)---Daniel finds himself thrown into the lions' den because he refused to stop praying to God. Three times a day he was spotted at the window of his house, kneeling in broad daylight, praying and giving thanks to the Lord. He didn't attempt to hide or pray in secret despite the inevitable punishment. God sent an angel to shut the mouths of the hungry lions (6:21) and protected his servant Daniel. Why? Because of courage.

The courage to do what is right.

It isn't always easy being a Christian these days. More and more we are ridiculed for our faith in Jesus Christ. More and more we are mocked, called names, belittled. But like Daniel, Hannaniah, Mishael and Azariah (I won't use their Babylonian names here), we have to remain steadfast in our resolve to be the people God has called us to be. To say, without apology, that we are followers of Jesus Christ. We aren't trying to be difficult or intolerant or any of the other things we are accused of being, but we hold firmly to the truth that is the Word of God. Jesus said in Mark 8:38: "If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels."

I'm sure our heroes from the Book of Daniel didn't set out to be heroic in their faith and actions. They simply refused to disobey God. That's a powerful lesson for me. I don't know that I'll ever be a hero to anyone, but I know I'll do my best to be faithful to my God every day of my life. 

Because He is the ultimate Hero! 

This week's Prayer Shout-Out countries are:
USA, Latvia, France, Romania, Israel, Canada, Germany, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Russia, Philippines, Singapore, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago

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