My early-morning men’s group is currently studying the book of Daniel. Each week we get together and go through a section of the book as we study and try to apply the principles in the book to our own lives. This week we looked at the incident with the furnace. As is the case with most studies of this chapter we began discussing the ever-popular question: “So where was Daniel?”
The author of our study guide gave an explanation I had never heard – and, honestly, that I wasn’t that fond of. The author suggested that perhaps Daniel used his royal position to come up with an excuse to remain back at the palace doing official business. That way he was able to avoid the situation all-together. Our group discussed this for a few minutes, and during the discussion I made the comment I found it hard to accept Daniel – with everything we know about him from scripture – would use his position to avoid a confrontation (look what he did when he was ordered not to pray or face death by lions). As we threw this back-and-forth between us I just could not accept that someone with Daniel’s character would cower in the face of opposition. I found it much easier to accept the idea that he was actually away on official business – not cowering in fear.
Regardless of where he was, though, it opened a great conversation with the men about our character. The reason I had a hard time accepting the author’s commentary was I didn’t view it in line with Daniel’s character.
And that’s where we are now: an examination of our character. Bill Hybels, author and pastor at Willow Creek Church in Illinois, says that our character is “who we are when no one is looking” – in other words, it’s what we do when no one around us can see is. Are we honest only when someone’s watching? Do we tell the truth only if we know we’d get caught telling the lie (but lie at other times)? Do our actions remain consistent with our words? Those are all issues of character.
And the only way we can have good character is to rest in the character of Jesus. Scripture tells us that Jesus lives in us – that it is not our life we live but his. In essence, this means the incarnation was both a one-time occurrence (back 2000 years ago) and also an on-going daily experience for those who call themselves Christians. Think about that again – it’s not that we have to be good or do good, what we need to do is step aside and let Christ live his life THROUGH and IN us, so that it is HIS goodness and righteousness that others see – not our own. In short, because of Christ we don’t need good character ourselves, we just need to rest in his perfect character.
That’s something Daniel didn’t have access to, but you and I do.