By Tim Frizzell
Reprinted from the November 2013 issue of “Gospel Advocate” Magazine.
A critical time when some young people lose their faith is when they leave home for the first time, often to go to college. Some do not totally lose their faith, but when they return home, it is so dramatically skewed that their beliefs are almost unrecognizable. Others leave home, and their faith becomes strong, and their roots grow deeper into the Word of God. How can we keep our youth grounded in the truth?
We as parents need to realize we are in a battle for the souls of our children. The opposing forces are strong, and we are not able to win this war alone. Satan and the temptations of this world are too strong for us to be confident in our own efforts to protect our children. We must rely foremost on God’s protection of our children’s souls and pray earnestly for the Lord’s intervention to keep their souls safe.
We do have a God-given responsibility, however, to bring our children up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Therefore, we must give every effort to prepare our children for their own battles with the world and with Satan. How can we help our children develop a strong faith of their own that grows stronger when tested instead of withering under the heat of trial?
The Example of Daniel
When we want to build a strong marriage and family, it is a good idea to study the lives of people who have healthy, successful marriages and families. The same is true when it comes to wanting our youth to grow strong in their faith when they leave home instead of growing weak. Let’s consider a remarkable young man who was snatched from everything familiar, taken far from home, yet who held onto and constantly deepened his faith in God. The young man is Daniel.
We know nothing about Daniel’s family from Scripture, but by studying his life, we get a clear picture of the lessons and values that were impressed on him at an early age. When we consider the upheaval that took place in Daniel’s life when he was a young man, it is truly impressive that he was able to hold onto his faith and stay grounded in truth.
In his youth, Daniel’s home country of Judah was invaded by the Babylonian army, and he was taken as a captive about 900 miles away from his home to live in Babylon. He was forced to leave everything that was familiar to him. The people of Babylon spoke a different language. The Babylonians were a pagan nation; they did not believe in God. Daniel did not have the security and support of his family. Daniel did keep company with some other young men from his homeland, but that was about all he had in Babylon to remind him of home. It would have been very tempting for Daniel to conform to Babylonian ways and beliefs just to survive in this foreign land.
When our youth leave home to go to college or take a job, they often face situations similar to those of Daniel. They are away from the security and support of their families. They are outnumbered by people who are ungodly in their behavior and beliefs. They are away from their spiritual mentors and the spiritual family that has nurtured their faith. Tragically, too many of our youth pack all the things they will need in their dorm rooms or apartments, but they forget to pack their faith. They act as if their spiritual habits are not transferable to the college campus or their new home.
Evidence of Daniel’s Faith in Babylon
Daniel was a young man who took his faith with him to Babylon. He stayed grounded in truth. How do we know? In Daniel 1, we learn that Daniel was determined not to defile himself with the food and drink from the king’s table. Surely Daniel would have been viewed as the luckiest guy in the world to receive the best food and drink in the Babylonian Empire! But Daniel valued his relationship with God over the quality of his cuisine.
Likely, the pagan king’s food did not conform to the food laws given by God to His people, the Jews. It is also likely that the food and drink provided had been dedicated to a false god, an idol. It is hard to say no when almost everyone else is indulging and telling you what you are missing. Daniel purposed in his heart to be true to his faith (Daniel 1:8).
In Daniel 2, Daniel chose to give credit to God instead of arrogantly boasting about his abilities. As a foreigner – as the “new guy” in town – it would have been tempting for Daniel to have solidified his standing in the empire by boasting that his dream-interpreting skills made him indispensable to the Babylonians. Instead, Daniel claimed no credit for himself. He said only God could perform such a miracle. Daniel’s humility and dependence on God kept him grounded in his faith.
In Daniel 6, we learn that Daniel insisted on continuing his consistent prayer life with God even though it would mean a penalty of death. How remarkable that in a life or death choice, Daniel’s faith was so important to him that he would not compromise his time with God! Daniel could have rationalized that in the Persian world, he needed to conform to Persian law, but he knew that he must obey God rather than men.
Principles That Guided Daniel
We would love to have more information about how Daniel was trained in his home. Truly, training was a key to his incredible spiritual strength to stand firmly for his God in a pagan land. There is much, however, that we can surmise about his training by considering the principles that determined his decisions and actions. Daniel must have been taught these important lessons before he was taken as a captive to Babylon:
- God is over all, and His instructions must be followed rather than man’s (Daniel 1; 6).
- God’s way is right even when the whole world seems to go in the other direction (Daniel 1; 6).
- Selfish ambition leads to pride and away from God (Daniel 2).
- Praying to God is the proper response to problems (Daniel 2; 9).
- We need friends who pray for us and with us (Daniel 2).
- We are to express our thanks and praise to God for all His blessings (Daniel 2; 9).
- God deserves the credit and praise for every victory. We are to submit humbly to His will and not take credit (Daniel 2; 4; 6).
- When we sin, we are to confess, repent and pray for God’s forgiveness (Daniel 4; 9).
- Prayer to God is to be a consistent, daily part of the lives of God’s children (Daniel 6).
- Matters of faith cannot be compromised to gain popularity or to avoid persecution (Daniel 6).
These principles kept Daniel firmly grounded in truth even though he was far from home and living in a pagan society. We may not have any firm evidence of the home training Daniel received prior to his captivity, but we do know some things about Daniel’s homeland at that time. For example, the leaders of God’s people had turned their backs on the Lord long before the fall of Jerusalem. The people of God were trending toward the ways of pagan nations with idol worship and immoral lifestyles.
Daniel had evidently already faced the choices of God’s way or the popular way of the world even in his homeland. Likely, Daniel had witnessed in his family and been instructed in his home the very principles he practiced when he lived as a captive in Babylon. So what are some home-training tips we can glean from looking at Daniel’s example? How can we help our children to be grounded for life in the truth?
Home-Training Tips for Today
- With every decision, ask what God would want. Go to the Bible to seek wisdom and the right path.
- Show the example of a consistent, daily walk with God in prayer and study of Scripture.
- Talk about and practice non-conformity with the world. Point to Bible heroes who chose God, not popularity.
- Train your children to choose godly friends who will help them go to heaven.
- Prepare your children for leaving home by teaching them to establish a faith of their own in God, rooted deeply in the truths of God’s Word.
- Teach your children to maintain an attitude of humility and to recognize their dependence upon God. When the storms come, they will run to God instead of trusting the false claims of the world. o
Tim Frizzell is the youth and family minister at the Crieve Hall congregation in Nashville, Tenn. He is the father of Andy Frizzell (see his article on page 17), and he can be reached by email at TFrizzell@crievehall.org.