If you’re anything like me, you love the idea of a good New Year’s resolution, a goal to tackle and ultimately accomplish in the new year. And if you’re like me, you probably start out strong, completely committed with the mindset that nothing is going to get in your way or stop you, but after just a few shorts weeks, you’ve “fallen off the wagon.” Can anyone relate?
There is something so beautiful in a new start, though; it’s refreshing. Choosing to commit to something or make a change in a certain area and having a fresh, clean slate is an incredible thing. The idea is great. Following through is the challenge.
I can’t help but think of Daniel. You know, the guy in the Lion’s Den that you learned about in Sunday school? As thrilling as that story is, there is so much more to be said about the life of Daniel. Come with me today to Daniel chapter one as we take a look at a life well lived in the face of challenging new starts.
Daniel, just a young boy at the beginning of the story, was taken into captivity along with his people (the Israelites) to the wicked city of Babylon. The “Sin City” of its time, Babylon was full of idolatry, lust, greed, and every kind of evil imaginable. Daniel, a devout follower of God, and his friends were immediately met with temptations of every kind pursuing them with a fierce tenacity. Although many of his people fell to the temptations of their new “home”, there were few that remained faithful, Daniel being one of them. Despite the fact that Daniel was taken by force, he still had decisions to make. He was given a new start and a new place to begin afresh. He could have fallen away like many others alongside of him did, but the difference between Daniel and them was this: he had an old conviction. He stood on the solid rock of his faith in God and would not waver from it. Like Daniel, we’ve recently been given a fresh start, a new beginning. Regardless of what failures came with last year, by God’s grace we can move forward into our new start this year with the old conviction we have in our faith in Jesus Christ.
As we continue in chapter one following the early life of Daniel, we see him make a bold request in his new “home”, a request that fit with the convictions he had but one that could have gotten him killed. The King granted him fine foods to eat every day, yet Daniel refused them and asked to eat foods that would not “defile him” as Daniel 1:8 puts it. The food from the King’s table was not only sacrificed to idols but much of it also went against the dietary laws of the Israelites. Daniel stood in faith and refused to compromise. He chose obedience over convenience, and God met him with favor. Not only was Daniel’s life spared, but he stood out among the young men in the King’s court. As we study the life of Daniel here, we can take away a very important truth: Blessing always follows obedience. Every time I read this story, I’m met with a fresh and challenging conviction. Perhaps you need to ask yourself this question as well: “What are the things that vie for your attention, that seek to distract you from the convictions and commitments you have made?” Because the truth of the matter is simple. We have an opportunity today, this week, this month, this year to be an influence to the world around us by living out our convictions and commitments we’ve made to the Lord. Because of Daniel’s strong convictions and his obedience to God, he lived in the pasture of God’s blessing, thus having an influence even on the King!
Where has God placed you to be an influence? Have you responded to His call? Despite every obstacle that Daniel faced in coming to Babylon and starting over in a foreign land, he remained faithful to the Lord, even in the face of adversity. This new year is sure to come with new joys and sorrows, new excitement and disappointments. What will you choose to be committed to – the situation or to the One in control of it?
When God’s meets me in His Word with fresh conviction, I always benefit from taking the time necessary to meditate and reflect on it. I usually turn to journaling, which is one of the best ways for me to process what the Lord is speaking to me and to gather my own thoughts in response to Him. I’ve listed a few questions below, and I would invite you to grab your Bible, a journal, and some quiet time to work your way through them with the Lord. Let Him speak to you, and choose to fall back on your faith as you respond to His voice with obedience. It’s a new day, a new year, and a fresh start in front of each one of us. What will you make of it?
1. In what ways have you experienced this statement to be true in your life: “Blessing always follows obedience”?
2. No matter what situation you find yourself in during this season of your life, can you commit to a fresh New Start with the Lord? What will this look like for you? Be specific.
3. What area of your life needs a New Start, a fresh beginning?