October 31-November 6
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In this week’s chapters, we learn about Daniel and a couple of his buddies who are living in the Babylonian court. They were taken out of Jerusalem, and the king decided to start a program where he gathered some of the youth that showed particular promise. They were brought into the palace, fed, and tutored. Daniel and his friends were some of these Israelites who were brought in.
While Daniel and his friends are young, they are offered a portion of the king’s meat so they can grow big and strong. However, there’s a problem. This meat goes against the Law of Moses, and so Daniel requests different food so that he and his friends don’t have to defile themselves.
Daniel 1:8 But 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.
The man who is in charge of these boys (prince of the eunuchs) was worried about what the king might do to him if Daniel and his friends failed to live up to their supposed potential; he was worried that they would be weaker if they refused the meat. Daniel suggests a test. He and his friends will eat pulp and drink water for ten days and then their countenances will be compared to the countenances of the other children.
At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his friends had a better countenance.
Now there is a principle here I want to discuss, and it revolves mainly around how we build our testimonies. Daniel and his friends were able to build their testimonies with enough strength that it didn’t falter in the court of the king. How can we build that in our own lives?
Let’s remember these guys were exiled
Everyone praises Daniel and his friends for living their religion in a foreign land. Even though their parents weren’t around, these boys lived their beliefs. These are attributes worth praising.
But I think there’s even more here that is both praiseworthy and instructive.
It is incredible and awe-inspiring that these boys were courageous enough to live their beliefs; it is also incredible and awe-inspiring that these boys continued to believe at all.
If we really think about it, why on earth did Daniel and his friends still believe in their God? They had been exiled! We often read stories in the Old Testament about gods who protect their people and help them conquer other people. For example, we read about the men who tried to take Jerusalem during Hezekiah’s rule. They taunted the people saying, “Look at everyone we’ve conquered. They prayed to their gods, and it didn’t save them. Why do you think your God is real and powerful?”
The fact that these boys had been exiled may very well have been a huge testimony shaker. After all, wasn’t protection from other people one of the biggest indicators of one’s god during this time period? Hadn’t the Israelites been promised that they would be able to keep their lands? Why had they lost their land? Wouldn’t their God have protected the temple if He were really there?
We can read the Old Testament and say, “Duh. They lost their land because they were being wicked.” But I’m not so sure that’s easy to do when you’re in the thick of it.
Despite having lost their lands, homes, and temple, these boys kept their faith.
The foundation for our testimonies
So what is the principle? How did these boys keep their testimonies so that they could continue to live the way God wanted them to?
I believe the answer is found in how they built their testimonies.
Our testimony shouldn’t really be based on miracles and blessings; it is not a steady enough foundation. The whole point of coming here to earth was to experience difficulty and hardship (for the end goal of growth of course). If our testimonies are centered on an ability to avoid or escape difficulty, we’re going to be sorely disappointed.
Surely we can pray and ask the Lord for miracles both big and small. Our little daily activities do matter to Him, and He will help us with them. We should thank Him for helping us because He does precisely that! There is nothing wrong with allowing tender mercies to be part of your testimony. There is nothing wrong with having a testimony of tender mercies, but our testimonies can’t be based upon tender mercies.
When the miracles run dry, when it is our turn to experience our Abrahamic sacrifice, we can’t afford to throw up our hands and think, “Maybe He isn’t real after all.”
Rather, we build the foundation of our testimony on Jesus Christ. We have been taught this for a majority of our lives, but what does it really mean?
In my opinion, it means developing a relationship with Him. It means learning to Hear Him just as President Nelson has pleaded with us to do. It all sounds so very simple, but have we really centered our teaching on this precise principle?
The tools for building testimony
One tool is teaching kids that keeping commandments brings blessings, and we should most definitely teach it because it’s true. However, this tool is insufficient when it stands alone. Our kids will one day look up and realize there are other people who don’t keep the same commandments but enjoy plenty of blessings.
Another tool is teaching that the Lord protects the righteous. We should definitely teach this because it’s true. However, this tool is insufficient when it stands alone. David and his friends were righteous; why were they exiles?
We teach these principles (as well as other stories and principles) over and over again in our homes and classes (as we should!), but all of these principles have their limits and that can be confusing for a teenage brain. We have to teach more than the stories and principles.
One of the most essential things we can teach a child or youth is how to talk to the Lord and how to hear Him respond. We testify over and over that He listens and responds, but do they really know how to listen? Do they fully comprehend how to have a conversation with Him? If I’m being totally truthful, do we even know how to initiate a conversation with Him?
I think we spend a good portion of our life kinda fumbling along. Sometimes everything lines up, and we receive an answer from God. Other times, we kinda just miss it.
Imagine the power of carving out time to sit with the next generation to practice receiving revelation. Imagine stepping away from simply asking questions or telling stories. Imagine if we were brave enough to have the youth and children write their questions and find their own answers right there in the classroom. There may be failures a couple times. It might take a while for us to figure this process out, but there is always failure in the midst of practice. We can’t afford to skip the practice for fear our lessons may seem to fall short.
If they can learn the skill of communicating with Heavenly Father, they can be okay.
When the blessings disappear sometimes, they will be able to turn to the Lord so He can remind them of what they need to know. When they run into doubts or questions, He can answer or give them the peace they need to continue on in spite of all that. If everything gets taken away from them and they are taken away and placed in Babylonian spheres of influence, the Lord will be able to lead them where they need to be.
This week I was approached by a friend who has run into some “fun” information about the church. It was a pretty one-sided conversation as she asked questions but didn’t really listen.
As the week has moved on, I found myself revisiting that conversation over and over. I have answers I would have shared and scriptures that would have helped me to explain. But at the end of the day, I don’t think any of it would have really mattered. She had already come to the conclusion that I needed saving. Which is fine. I’ve had plenty of friends who have wanted to save me. It has been a long time since I’ve been in the mission field, and so it’s been a long time since I’ve had a conversation like that. I have changed a lot since the last time I had a friend try to save me.
The bottom line of how I’ve changed is centered on my relationship with Christ. Over the past few years of writing, I have come to know Him. I talk to Him frequently, and I get answers quite often. There have been plenty of times in my life that I’ve worried about my salvation. There have been plenty of times that I’ve wondered, “What if it is all based on a lie?” But I simply don’t feel that way anymore. Me and the Lord? We’re close. We talk all the time, and I’m not scared of what’s coming because I know Him. I know how He is and how He feels about me. We’re good.
That is the power of having a relationship with Christ. That is the power that drove Daniel to stay faithful in the midst of zero outside support. He and Christ were close. He didn’t need anything else in the world.