By Mike Willis
Suppose that one of our young men enlisted in the military and was sent to a foreign country. Perhaps he was stationed in a country in which there was no faithful church. What would he do? How many of our young men would make the effort to worship the Lord on the first day of every week, even starting a church to enable them to do so? And, would we excuse their not worshiping the Lord on the basis of their youth and circumstances? We see a youth placed in very similar circumstances in the book of Daniel.
In approximately 606 B.C., in the third year of King Jehoiakim of Judah, Daniel was taken into Babylonian captivity. He was in the first of three deportations. Daniel was one of the young aristocrats taken into captivity and given special training to serve the king of Babylon (1:3,4). Among those taken were also Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.
In preparation to serve the king, these young men were given a daily portion of the king’s dainties for three years. There was something about these dainties that defiled a man. Perhaps the dainties were sacrificed to an idol, included unclean foods, or included intoxicating beverages. For whatever reason, a Jew could not be faithful to God and cat them. Therefore, “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself” (1:8).
Daniel’s faithfulness to the Lord is all the more remarkable when his circumstances are remembered: (a) He was away from home. Many young people who are faithful when under parental direction reject the Lord when they get out on their own. (b) He risked his position to be faithful to God. His decision not to eat the king’s dainties endangered his position as a court servant; he could be killed or demoted to a common field laborer. (c) He risked the lives of others to be faithful to God. The man in charge of Daniel feared for his life because Daniel refused the food given him (1:10). (d) His faithfulness was in matters which most would consider mere trivialities.
Nevertheless, Daniel had purposed in his heart to be faithful to the Lord. He knew that faithfulness to God does not occur by accident; it requires commitment and sacrifice. He was willing to make it. Therefore, he requested that the overseer give him and his three friends pulse to eat and water to drink, rather than defile himself with the king’s dainties. The overseer consented to try them for ten days. At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his friends looked better than the other youths. The Lord had blessed Daniel and his friends.
Daniel was faithful to the Lord because he purposed in his heart to be faithful. In other verses as well, the Scriptures tell us that men need to purpose in their hearts to be faithful. Let’s consider some of them:
1. One must purpose in his heart to cleave to the Lord. Luke records that when Barnabas was sent to Antioch to investigate the preaching of the gospel to the Grecians, he “exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord” (Acts 11:23). “Cleaving to the Lord” requires purpose of heart – a resolution to abide faithful to God.
There are some times when young people especially need to make such resolutions. When our grade school children go into junior high, they meet fresh temptations. Some school officials have told me that the temptation for drugs is greater among junior high children than high school; by high school age, the youths have already decided which group they will run with. This is a time when we particularly need to exhort that our children “cleave to the Lord.” As they move into high school, again they need to resolve to “cleave to the Lord.” There are so many distractions for our children such as sporting events, extra-curricular activities at school, part-time jobs, etc. Young people need to make a commitment not to allow any of these activities to take precedence over the worship services. Like young Daniel, they need to go to their supervisors or teachers to make clear that they will not be missing worship to attend ball games, extra-curricular activities, work a part-time job, and such like things. Usually those who oversee them will respect their conscience and work around their schedule, as was done for Daniel.
When our youth leave for college, again they need to resolve with “purpose of heart” to cleave to the Lord. Many young people quit worshipping God when they move away to college. As a young person leaves home, he must “purpose” in his heart to find a faithful church and make the effort to be present at worship.
When families are moved from one city to another by their employer, they need to “purpose in their hearts” to cleave to the Lord. They should resolve to become active in the local church where they will live after they move. Far too many drop out of faithful service when they move from one location to another.
2. One must purpose in his heart to control his tongue. David said, “I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress” (Psa. 17:3). As our young people enter their teenage years, they need to make such resolutions. There is a temptation for our children to curse, tell filthy stories, take the name of the Lord in vain, lie, and gossip (see Jas. 3:6-8; Exod. 20:7; Eph. 4:25,29). The resolution not to sin with the tongue should be made, not only by our children, but by all of us. Christians need to “purpose” in their hearts not to sin with their tongues in the heat of anger (Eph. 4:26). One does not accidently control his tongue; he controls it by “purposing” in his heart what kind of conduct he will do.
3. One must purpose in his heart what he will give to the Lord. Paul wrote, “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver”(2 Cor. 9:6-7). Bible giving does not occur accidentally; it has to be planned.
Far too often, Christians wait until the collection basket is being passed before they think about how much they are going to give. Then they open their wallets and pick out one of the smaller bills to contribute to the Lord. Perhaps they even justify themselves saying, “I had $20 and gave $2; I gave 10 percent.” What they gave was 10 percent of their leftovers. They got paid on Friday, paid their bills on Saturday, went shopping, and then gave out of what they had leftover.
Let me suggest to you that waiting until the collection basket is being passed is too late to plan your giving. A person should plan his giving when he receives his paycheck. Even as he has learned to set aside so much every week for the house payment, car payment, credit cards, etc., he needs to set aside what he is going to give to the Lord. This is planned or purposed giving.
4. One must purpose in his heart to become an elder or deacon. Becoming an elder or deacon requires planning and purpose. It will begin when a man chooses a mate. Not every woman can be an elder’s wife; only a godly woman who meets the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3:11. Consequently, the man who plans to be an elder or deacon needs to look for a wife who will grow into the woman mentioned in that passage. To be an elder or deacon requires that a young man bring up his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). Rearing faithful children (Tit. 1:6) and having his own house under control (1 Tim. 3:2,4-5) are qualifications of elders. Hence, as a young man, he must purpose in his heart to train his children to live in obedience to the Lord. He must also be able to teach (1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:9). This requires that a man study his Bible to learn the revealed will of God. All of these qualifications require years of service and training.
To wait until the congregation decides to have elders and deacons and then decide that you want to be one is to wait too late. By this time, too many years have passed, the children have grown up outside the Lord, and this person can never serve as an elder. To be an elder or deacon requires that a man “purpose in his heart” early in life that this is what he wishes to be.
5. One must purpose in his heart to maintain his sexual purity. Fornication is a planned sin. A person plans with whom he is going to commit it, when, and where it will occur. About the only thing not planned about fornication is getting caught. Consequently, a person can purpose in his heart to maintain his sexual purity.
Young ladies should purpose in their hearts before they go on their first date just what is acceptable conduct and what is not. They should resolve not to allow a young man to put his hands all over them and to keep their clothes on. They should decide what is modest dress. They should decide what kinds of movies they are willing to attend. They should resolve that going parking is not the kind of date they are willing to go on.
Our young men must also be reminded that they are just as responsible for stopping fornication as are the young ladies. Young Joseph refused a willing woman (Gen. 39); young men faithful to God still do. Before they go on their dates, young men should purpose in their hearts what kind of behavior is acceptable. They should resolve what kinds of movies they will take their dates to, not to use a drive-in movie as a place to “make out,” and not to go just as far as the girl will let them.
Young people need to understand that waiting until they are in the passion of petting is too late to make decisions about proper conduct. They need to “purpose in their hearts” beforehand what is acceptable conduct and abide by those decisions.
A word of advice needs to given to the preacher as well. The preacher needs to purpose in his heart to maintain his sexual purity. That means that he must set some restraints in place to protect himself. Here are some suggestions: (a) Do not go to a woman’s house alone; (b) Do not counsel a woman in a troubled marriage, after the loss of her husband, or some other situation without another person present. Too many preachers have stumbled into fornication because they thought they were strong enough to resist these temptations. They have put a blot on their reputations, hurt or destroyed their families, and done untold damage to the cause of Christ thereby.
6. One must purpose in his heart to avoid intoxicating beverages and drugs. One does not accidentally get drunk. Consequently, a person can purpose in his heart to avoid those things which lead to intoxication. A young man can resolve, in obedience to the words of Solomon, to “look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his color in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder” (Prov. 23:31-32). He should plan what his conduct will be in the event of temptation. If he is with a group of guys who stop to get a six-pack, he can get out of the car, call his parents to come get him, and resolve not to associate with that group again. Waiting until the temptation comes may be too late to decide not to drink.
Dare to be a Daniel! Make your resolutions to be faithful to the Lord in every circumstance and situation, not allowing the pressure of the moment to keep you from obedience to God. The same God who sustained and exalted Daniel will be with you.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 19, pp. 578, 598-599
October 1, 1992