One thing that the book of Daniel is teaching me is about the way we should bring about transformation in this world. At no point in the first four verses does Daniel preach at people; Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego don’t force their choices on anyone else; but they do bring about change, and the way this transformation happens is inspiring me.
There are so many people close to me who aren’t Christians. People I love and care about so much, who I would be overjoyed to see come to faith, but that conversion probably won’t come from me. This is something I’ve already accepted but struggled with. I want nothing more than to see those I care about most get to know the love of Christ, and though that enthusiasm is based on compassion and comes from a good place, it probably means that I would push too hard and try to force it, and I’ve learned that’s just not the way transformation happens.
In the conversion of King Nebuchadnezzar, there are so many stages and so many factors and people involved.
First Daniel reveals the Kings dream to him and tells him what he means, through the power of God he is able to know the unknowable and achieve more than any of the wise men who worshipped the Babylonian ’gods’. The King, in the moment, is amazed by this and declares the God of Daniel to be “the God of gods and the Lord of kings” (Daniel 2:46). This could seem like the King has found God and been transformed, but in the next Chapter we see that things have backtracked and King Neb is the same as he was before. Daniel was simply planting a seed that has yet to grow.
In Daniel 3:5 the King is worshiping idols and encouraging his people to do the same - at threat of death. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego don’t shout at the King, they don’t preach “hell fire and damnation” in the streets, they don’t try to transform or convert by force or even by speaking. But they act according to God’s teachings. They live the way they know they should and lead by example. Of course King Neb tries to punish them for this, but God saves the three from the fiery furnace and the King witnesses the miracle. Again, the King is amazed and he declares “Praise be to the God of Shadrach Meshach and Abednego...no other god can save in this way” and as a reader I think surely that’s it, that’s the second sign, surely now the King had found God and come to faith. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were a signpost pointing the King towards God. And yet again, the story continues and the King is still not in that place of transformation.
The third time it is God himself who steps in, he shows Daniel the meaning of the Kings second dream and reveals that he will be punished by God for seven years and then he will know the truth and he will turn to God in faith. This comes to pass and at the end of Daniel 4, the King says this “Now I, King Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything He does is right and all His ways are just. And those who walk in pride He is able to humble” and is finally saved.
This has made me see that I might just be the first sign in someone’s journey to Christ. I could be a seed planted like Daniel with the first dream. I could be that miracle that first makes them consider God. Or I could be like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego; a second signpost. I could live my life by example, trying to be as Holy as I can, living in accordance with the teachings of Christ. And by demonstrating my faith, I could be watering a seed planted by someone else.
But in the end, conversion is between the individual and God. At the end of the day it is only Christ who can actually bring someone to the father. In John 14:6, Jesus says “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the father except through me”. As followers of Christ we are called to plant seeds, we are called to live according to His teachings and set an example, so that people see us and think of God. It is Christ however who bridges the gap between thinking of God and coming to faith.
We can and should be as brave and faithful and courageous and inspiring as Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. And living in that way will shine the light of God into the lives of others. But we have to remember that it is Christ who saves.
So no matter how desperate I am to bring those I love to Christ, I have to remember that it is my role to lead by example - the rest, I must leave with God. I would love to be able to do it in my own strength, to snap my fingers and convert those I care most about, but in doing things on my own I will achieve nothing, and possibly push them further away from Christ. I have to be patient and look for opportunities to demonstrate God’s love and to live faithfully. I have no doubt that God uses me, I believe that I am a seed or a second signpost in the lives of so many people. But at the end I have to remind myself to trust in God and let this be done His way.
My prayer for you this week is that you be a seed or a signpost, show God’s love, demonstrate God’s wonder, live your life according to the teachings of Christ. Even if you don’t think anyone is watching, God could be using you in a way you don’t even know about! I also pray that when you’ve planted your seed or showed the way, you have the patience and compassion to let God do the rest, He will call you when you’re needed and He will bring about transformation.