If headlines like the one above are any indication we are a culture obsessed with the extraordinary. I’m pretty sure that what’s true in the broader culture is true in the church as well. We love amazing stories of faith. They inspire us to dream big and act boldly. This is all good unless it means we begin viewing ordinary acts of faith as something sub-Christian. Sometimes God uses ordinary acts of faith for extraordinary purposes. Case in point: Daniel. Daniel is by every standard a hero of remarkable faith but what did he actually do? Here are his 5 (+1) crazy acts of faith:
- Daniel obeyed God’s laws. Daniel and his friends were carried off as exiles and eventually found themselves in the court of the king. To get them in top condition they were assigned a daily portion of royal food. Daniel, observing God’s laws regarding diet, “resolved not to defile himself with royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself in this way.” After some bargaining Daniel and his friends were allowed to eat only vegetables and drink only water. Because of their obedience God blessed them with knowledge, understanding, and favor with the king.
- Daniel gave God glory. OK, so Daniel did have one extraordinary ability. He could prophetically interpret dreams. When the king had a troubling dream Daniel stepped forward to interpret it. The King asked “Are you able to tell me what my dream was or what it means?” Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician, or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.” Daniel was always careful to give honor and glory to God.
- Daniel had integrity. Eventually Daniel became a ruler of significance in his land of exile. Far from protecting Daniel, his new position made him a target. His coworkers became jealous and looked for a way to bring him down. But they couldn’t. Daniel 6:4 says, “At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.”
- Daniel worked hard. Did you notice the last word of 6:4? Daniel was neither corrupt (he had integrity) and nor was he negligent. He worked hard. He carried out his responsibilities to the best of his abilities.
- Daniel prayed. When those who wanted to bring Daniel down couldn’t find anything wrong with his life they looked for some other way to trap him and they eventually discovered they could trap him in his piety. They convinced the king to issue a decree that said that anyone who prayed to someone other than the king would be thrown into the lions den. So what did Daniel do? “Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.”
- Daniel did all these things all the time: Going to pray got Daniel in trouble. You know the story. He was thrown into a den of lions but God miraculously saved him. But what did Daniel do to get himself into that crazy situation? What were his extraordinary acts of faith? He worked hard. He obeyed God. He prayed. He gave God glory. He did all this when he was a lowly exile. He did it when he was boss over much of the kingdom. He did it when he knew to continue to do so would lead to his execution. And that’s what is truly remarkable. God used some pretty ordinary acts of faith to bring Himself glory.
We as the church in America are coming to grips with the reality that we do not live in a Christian nation. I’m inclined to think we never really did. Perhaps it’s just the veil being lifted. Regardless, those who want to remain faithful to God will find themselves in positions like Daniel. What will set the faithful apart will not be extraordinary acts of faith, but rather simple piety and obedience carried out in good times and in bad.