“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.” Daniel 1:8
When Daniel and his fellow prisoners were confronted with eating the king’s food or standing by their beliefs, they chose to stand by their beliefs. In doing so they risked the ire of the king and the possible loss of their lives. Yet, these men displayed what seems to be so lacking in much of the world today, character and integrity. Their core beliefs were founded upon their faith in the Word of God. When they were asked to hedge their beliefs, they simply refused, and as it turned out, God blessed their show of character and integrity.
A few short chapters later again we see the character and integrity of these men when they were ordered to bow before the image of Nebuchadnezzar creation. Just like the first time, they refused on principle. They declared that though they did not know if their God would save them from the fire or save them through the fire, they were adamant in their conviction that they would obey God and do what He expected of them regardless of the outcome. In this case God honored their faith by preserving them in the fire.
Not long afterwards we see Daniel display this character and integrity again when the king issues the edict that none shall pray to anyone other than himself. Daniel, fully aware of this command continues his daily regime of praying to his God, in spite of the threats of the king. In fact, Daniel makes no attempt to hide his disobedience to the king, and prays before opened windows thus allowing his enemies to see and report this behavior to the king. As a result Daniel finds himself placed in a den of lions overnight. In the morning, the king discovers that Daniel’ God has spared him by closing the mouths of the lions. What can we learn from these three episodes as recorded in God’s Word?
First, we can conclude that character and integrity are established starting at an early age. Daniel and his companions were probably teenagers when the first test occurred. Both are developed over time by using them. Second, we can see that as Christians, the definition of character and integrity spring from our willingness to obey God no matter what the consequences. In Acts 5:27-29, we read of an encounter between the Sanhedrin and the apostles, “And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.”
Obviously, none of us controls what others may or may not do, but as Christians, each of us can decide whether or not we will live lives of character and integrity. It is our choice to make, whether to sell out for some temporary gain or convenience, or to stand fast on the principles of God and be people of principle, character and integrity. Make no mistake, being a person of integrity and character may in the short term result in great hardship, but a wise old pastor who mentored me when I was just starting out in ministry once told me, “Steve, always remember, time won’t tell, eternity will.” It’s all a matter of perspective. Do we strive to please men or God? People of integrity and character already know the answer.