The Bible gives us many rich resources to help us understand how to reweave shalom. One is found in the book of Daniel as four young Hebrew exiles, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah follow Jeremiah’s call to “work for the peace and prosperity (shalom) of the city” (Jer. 29:7, NLT)
Daniel 1 introduces us to a type of Christian activism demonstrated through cultural resistance. Daniel provides a model of how to reweave shalom as an exile. This idea is repeated throughout the book of Daniel, which is written for the people of God living in a world opposed to them. Daniel refused to succumb and take a first step toward the abandonment of his faith. At the same time, he works in the culture with a high level of competence.
Daniel was determined not to assimilate into the Babylonian culture when it was possible for him to actively resist. J. Ligon Duncan notes that Daniel’s resistance illustrates three principles that apply to all of God’s people who are struggling to be faithful in the midst of a godless culture:
- Daniel “purposes in his heart” (Dan. 1:8) to be holy and not be absorbed into the idolatry of the Babylonian culture.
- Daniel does not carry out his resistance in an arrogant way but exercises his opposition with genuine humility and grace.
- Daniel exhibits faith, trusting in the power and promises of God and expecting God to respond to his faithful obedience.
Daniel’s story can significantly help us in our struggles as believers in our current post-Christian culture. It provides the model for faithfulness to God’s call on our lives—no matter what the environment. How do we imagine reweaving shalom through the work of our hands in a culture that is becoming more and more hostile to Christianity? Like Daniel and his friends, how do we reweave shalom and persevere with excellence and faithful obedience?
Perseverance with Excellence
Daniel’s example first calls us to perseverance. His message is: Don’t give up, continue to resist the temptations of the culture while being obedient to what you know God has called you to do, to the best of your ability. There are two critical issues for us to consider as we strive to persevere: Everything is important to God, and we are called to excellence. Let us look at these two issues in more detail.
Everything Is Important to God. Christians today have mistakenly bought the idea that some things in our lives are spiritual and some things are secular. We have become double-minded, seeing a false divide between “spiritual” and “secular.” This divide is responsible for the popular misconception that our relationship with God can be reduced to church-related events and activities. By demolishing this dichotomy in our lives, we realize that God cares about everything we do. Our response to God’s power and glory can come from every thought, word, and action if we steward all we have to his glory and honor. In this way, we find purpose and fulfillment in even the most mundane things we do.
Called to Excellence. Ken Eldred suggests in his book The Integrated Life that one way to help Christians integrate their faith and their work is to see their work as “A ministry OF work: serving and creating via work itself.” He suggests there is an importance in the work itself; all the work we do has intrinsic value no matter how insignificant it may seem. And because all work is important, it is all done to the glory of God. Therefore, for Christians, all work should be a sacred calling from God. Understanding this great truth should help us maintain a level of excellence in everything we do.
The second message of the story of Daniel is the call to faithfulness: to stand firm through faithful obedience to God’s divine word regardless of the circumstances. This is the reason God blessed Daniel and his friends with such great insight. They acted upon the spiritual light they had, and God honored their faithfulness by imparting more, but it is important to see that this process did not happen overnight. The good news is that these small steps of faith (like not eating from the king’s table) are easy to do; the challenge is persevering when it doesn’t initially seem like we are making much progress. But if we continue, over time, the cumulative effect will generate significant results. The problem is that while these small steps are easy to do, they are also easy not to do.
We see this biblical principle in the book of Proverbs in the comparison between the ant and the sluggard (Prov. 6:6-11). In this passage, we are encouraged to avoid the path of the sluggard and instead study the ways of the ant. The ant does the small things that are easy for him to do day after day. Even the small things you do today matter. When we do these things that seem to make no difference by themselves, and we do them over and over, a surprising thing happens. God changes us, and that change has a profound effect on those around us.
We work not to prove ourselves to God or attempt to earn our salvation. Our motivation to obey God is out of love for him and in gratitude for what he has done for us in Jesus Christ. Faithfulness is the key to living the Christian life, and nowhere is that more important than in the work we do. As Oswald Chambers writes in My Utmost for His Highest, “…if I obey Jesus Christ in the seemingly random circumstances of life, they become pinholes through which I see the face of God.” Through slow, faithful, daily acts of obedience and by God’s grace—this is the way we are transformed into the likeness of Christ and the way we transform the culture around us.
Editor’s Note: The new booklet, Reweaving Shalom: Your Work and the Restoration of All Things, from which this article is adapted, is available now from our bookstore! Secure your copy here.