In a New Year’s article called “Resolve to Stop Making Resolutions,” the humorist Dave Barry wrote, “Many people give up because they set their sights too high.” He suggested pursuing more realistic goals.
• Unrealistic goal: “I will learn to speak Chinese.”
• Realistic goal: “I will order some Chinese food.”
• Unrealistic goal: “I will read a good book.”
• Realistic goal: “I will waddle over to the part of the bookstore where they sell pastries.”
Somehow the strong verb resolve seems to carry more weight than the overused noun resolution. It you truly resolve to do something, you will pursue it with dogged determination, steadfast faith, and firm commitment. Most of us could use more resolve like the kind described in the book of Daniel.
Strong Faith in a Strange Land
Three words summarize a defining moment in the young prophet’s life: “But Daniel resolved” (Daniel 1:8). The Babylonians forced the Jewish people into exile far away from their homes, but Daniel resolved to honor the Lord.
Daniel and his friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were smart, strong, handsome, and well educated, with noble blood flowing through their veins. They easily could have forgotten their roots and relied on their brains and their looks, but they chose to remain faithful to God. Their Babylonian captors tried to reshape their worldview, giving these sharp young men the equivalent of a three-year graduate education, teaching them the language and literature of their new land, and even changing their identity by giving them new Babylonian names. But in that elite academic environment, while dealing with the temptations of young adulthood in a culture foreign to their own, Daniel and his friends resolved to remember their true identity. At home in Jerusalem or in a faraway land, they were followers of the true God.
The Babylonians not only tried to brainwash their Jewish captives; they even altered their diet. (The way to a man’s heart is often through his stomach.) It may have seemed harmless for the young men to enjoy some fine food and wine from the king’s table, but non-kosher food wasn’t permissible under Jewish law. Eating the king’s cuisine would have violated the dietary regulations prescribed by Moses, so “Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine” (v. 8). Daniel and his faithful friends persuaded their supervisors to give them nothing but vegetables and water for 10 days. Not surprisingly, they ended up looking healthier than their peers who ate the rich royal food.
Daniel’s personal resolve, combined with his God-given intelligence and prophetic gifts, impressed King Nebuchadnezzar. The king found Daniel and his friends “ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom” (1:20). What a powerful witness it would be if those who love God earned a reputation for bringing 10 times more value to our employers and friends because of our integrity and diligence!
The month of January is named after Janus, a pagan deity of ancient Rome, who was often represented as having two faces—one looking backward and one looking forward. As we look back to the past year and enter the year ahead, let’s resolve to be like Daniel: faithful and fruitful. Even when God’s guidance takes us down a difficult path, following him leads to multiplied blessings in the long run.