If all things were equal, it should be very easy to tell people about Jesus, and what Jesus did for them even when they opposed God (Romans 5:6–8). However, in the Western world, and especially in the US/Canada region, it has become difficult for a myriad of reasons. While the enemy of God may have a hand in it and did probably provide some nudges here and there, much of the loss of Jesus has to do with Jesus’ followers.
While there has been much talk about it is because the White Evangelical church was predominately (by appearances, at least) pro-Trump, it has more to do with the empty lives that Christians have been living. This also isn’t strictly a white Evangelical issue, either. Our brothers and sisters in Christ in the “mainline” denominations have been experiencing decline, for they often watered down Christ for other goals (many of which were worthwhile).
The Gospel of Jesus Christ hasn’t lost its power or grace. Western Christians have lost it themselves. Whether it was power or grace, Western Christendom chose one or the other and ended up losing the witness.
All of this sounds harsh, and it is. It hurts to read (and write) it. This also is nothing new. On the other hand, living in the power and grace of God doesn’t necessarily mean anything either, and that can get particularly depressing.
Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were undeniable witnesses of/to God. By their faith and love of God lived out, their relationship with God was known and acknowledged. In today’s story of Daniel, this was used against Daniel.
What is troubling is not that people conspired against Daniel. It wasn’t that Darius was deceived by his advisors. It wasn’t even that Daniel was thrown into the den of lions. The most deeply troubling thing was that this faithful witness was not particularly effective. It wasn’t effective at all, really.
Yes, the witness of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah was ineffective. Their faith was acknowledged. God was acknowledged and even given great accolades. Yet, time and again the Babylonian leaders went against God.
By the measure of Christian Evangelism, they were failures. It is entirely possible (and even probable) that seeds of faith were planted in Babylon at that time. Certainly, seeds that led to the restoration of Jerusalem (under Nehemiah) were planted. Without the faithfulness of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah along with their honorable fealty to Babylon, Jerusalem may not have been restored.
So, why bring up Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah as evangelism failures? We often look at the great ones of the Bible (which these four were) for what they did successfully. We often fail to see what they didn’t do well.
The opening statements of today’s devotion are about what we haven’t been doing—and continue to not be doing—well. Opening our eyes and hearts and looking at them is fine. We shouldn’t feel bound or weighed down by them. In fact, they should instead provide us the initiative and determination to break these bonds so that we can do as we are commanded, “Go…make disciples…”
- What other Bible characters can you think of that you only look at one side (good or bad) of their lives? Why do you think that is?
- Does one’s success at evangelism impact one’s witness? Does one’s witness mean that one will successfully evangelize?
Lord, we are to be your light into the world. Help us to be the light and to not just light the darkness, but draw people to you. Amen.