“Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.” –Psalm 34:8
One of my favorite stories from the Bible is from the opening chapter of the Old Testament book of Daniel. It’s the account of when Judah was taken captive by the Babylonians, and their King Nebuchadnezzar decided to take some of the young Israelites and train them up as his servants. That included Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (later known by their Babylonian names Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego).
Anyway, the king ordered the chief of his court officials to handpick some the cream of the crop from among the young captives–“young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace.” He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians, and feed them the best diet from the king’s table.
However, Daniel and his friends decided not to defile themselves with the royal food and wine, and they refused to eat of the king’s food. This caused the chief official great concern, because he knew that by doing so, these young men wouldn’t be as strong and prepared as their peers, and the king would have his head, as well as theirs.
Daniel’s reply was polite, and yet straightforward: “Please test your servants for ten days. Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” The Scripture says that God caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, so he reluctantly agreed.
Here’s where the story gets really good. At the end of ten days Daniel and his friends looked healthier and better nourished than any of their counterparts who ate the royal food. And that wasn’t all. To those four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. I love the way verse 20 describes it: “In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.”
So what is my point? Am I suggesting we all go on a diet of vegetables and water, and resist any other food? Nope, though for some of us that probably wouldn’t be such a bad deal. What I am suggesting is that if you will commit yourself to living your life God’s way instead of the world’s way, I am confident that your life will show the results.
I have never yet met someone who decided to fully follow Christ and regretted it. Whether your life will be quantifably “ten times better” I can’t say, but I can say without hesitation that if you submit your life completely to God and love Him with all your heart, mind, soul and strength you will find more peace and joy and soul satisfaction than you ever imagined.
So here’s a “test” for the new year not unlike what Daniel offered his captors: Make the choice to fully invest your life into your relationship with Christ. Feed your mind and soul with the truth of His word every day; meditate on it and memorize it. Spend time daily in prayer, communicating with the God of the universe who knows you by name and loves you infinitely. Faithfully gather with fellow believers in worship and in small groups where you’ll hear truth and find support and encouragement to make it when times are tough. And then see, if after all that, God does not bless your life.
I am not saying that the difficult circumstances of your life will go away, or that God is going to give you health and wealth. I am saying that He will bless your life, and it will be worth it. In fact, it’s not worth the chance not to accept the challenge.
I am excited to see what the Lord has in store for us in this new year ahead. I’m praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.