What Happens When You Get Out of Your Comfort Zone?
We are living in a post-Christian culture. Your parents and grandparents grew up in what was called a Christian culture, which means that they looked at life through the prism of Scripture and the law of God. This Bible-centered culture is rapidly being replaced by secular views which contradict God’s Word and ignore His commandments. That means that you, Christian young people, are in a minority. Every time you leave home in the morning you are stepping out of your comfort zone and entering an environment that is hostile to the lifestyle you have grown up with. What you learn in church, home and Christian school is so different from what you are exposed to in the world. The question is how do you handle this?
The example of Daniel
How do you react when you’re out of your comfort zone? Let’s look at how Daniel and his friends reacted when faced with a similar situation. Here they are in the palace of King Nebuchadnezzar. They have been captured by the Babylonians (Dan. 1:3). However, the king is looking for bright young people whom he can use in his kingdom. So he selects Daniel and his three friends along with a few others for special training. They are placed under the supervision of one Ashpenaz who begins by giving the young men new names. What’s in a name, you say? Much in this case. All their original names have something of God in them: either El or Jah, God or Jehovah. Their new names are chosen to identify them with Babylonian gods.
Temptation through food
Next Ashpenaz orders the food they are to eat. Meat fit for kings and wine to go with it. The young men are to dine on it for three years and then present themselves to the king for inspection.
What will the boys do now? To refuse is both risky and foolish. Why? Food is food. It’s a neutral thing, isn’t it? No, not for Daniel and his three friends. Being Jews they have to follow certain rules about clean and unclean foods. They can only eat what is kosher, approved by the Law of Moses. But the food offered to them is not kosher. So Daniel says to Ashpenaz: we will not defile ourselves with the king’s meat and drink. Warned that the king will be displeased with them and with his servant if they will refuse to eat the royal food, Daniel suggests, to another official, that they be put on a simple diet of “pulse” or vegetables for ten days and that they be examined at that time.
The result is amazing. When the ten days are up their trainer is surprised to find the four boys looking healthier than the rest who agreed to eat the king’s meat. Eventually they are brought before the king who is very pleased with their appearance and their intelligence, and they are appointed to important positions in his empire.
What may we learn from this success story of the four youths in Babylon? For one thing it shows that coming out of our comfort zone may present us with uncomfortable situations. Daniel ran a huge risk by refusing to eat from the king’s menu. But he also understood that he would run an even greater risk if he complied with the order. He would be unfaithful to his God and the religion of his fathers. You can experience something similar; for instance, you apply for a job and are told that the condition is that you work on Sundays. Or if you are a nurse and are asked to participate in abortions or something else that clearly violates God’s law. In all such cases your duty is clear. You are to do what’s right, even if it means foregoing that nice job or be labeled a religious fanatic.
Daniel and his three friends chose to remain loyal to the religion of their fathers. Not all of the Jewish young people followed their example. Many adopted the Babylonian way. They found the price of being different too high and decided to compromise. But they forgot that compromise always ends in apostasy.
Whose side are you on?
You are either on God’s side or Satan’s. God wants you to be on His side. He has placed you in His church and covenant. He separated you from the world and put His claim on you. Your names are connected to His because when your parents held you up for baptism the minister said John, Gerald or Lucy I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. He gave you parents who taught you what your baptism means. That the Lord promises salvation to you in Christ, but also that you must cling to this one true God, trust in Him, “forsake the world, crucify your old nature and walk in a new and holy life.”
That is the only way to happiness and true success. Daniel was willing to put up with potential ridicule and even death in order to keep the approval of God. And often such a stand will bring respect from the world as well.
Exposure to culture is not always wrong
There is another thing we can learn from Daniel’s experience. It is not always wrong to be exposed to non-Christian culture. Daniel and his friends immersed themselves in the literature and language of the Chaldeans (v. 8). “God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom” (v. 17).
These young men were capable of interacting with an ungodly culture without being contaminated by it. They did not just drink in Babylonian ideas uncritically. What these young scholars learned in the palace school was filtered through and controlled by what they had learned earlier at home. The Law of God was something with which they were well acquainted.
The importance of prayer
What was the secret of Daniel’s strength and courage? It was regular prayer and Bible reading. Before interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream what does he do? Pray (2:17-19). When later enemies plot against him what do they find him doing? Praying (6:10). Throughout the book of Daniel we read that he prayed regularly and at stated times.
That is still the secret of remaining true to God in a hostile environment: a consistent prayer life and regular times of Bible reading and devotions. Here is where many of us fail. This explains why we are often so weak in faith and lacking in courage. Recognize this as your problem and begin or resume such a life of prayer. Then see what will happen. The Lord will bless you and use you even to the point of influencing our godless culture in a positive way.