How To Shine As The Stars Forever

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The Bible is unlike any other book. In addition to exhortations, practical examples are given in the lives of the individuals whom we meet in its pages. It is not simply a religious manual containing moral teaching that people ought to practice; it is a mirror of life itself. For instance, the instruction to “fear God, and keep His commandments” (Eccl. 12:13 KJV) can be understood, but we may wonder how God can be feared and obeyed in practical ways. We are not left to work things out by ourselves, attempting to adhere to a code of moral instructions. Godly characters whose lives were marked by faith and obedience are presented as illustrations to help us in our own walk with the Lord. Getting to know those who pleased the Lord and finished well can inspire us, with the Holy Spirit’s help, to be like them.

In Scripture, a lot can be compressed into a very few words. One very significant statement is found at the end of the first chapter of Daniel, where we read that “Daniel continued” (Dan. 1:21). What a fine testimony this is! He was not like a comet that blazed across the sky and then disappeared into the darkness. The light that shone forth in Daniel’s early life continued to burn brightly. Many in our day start out well and begin to serve with great zeal and enthusiasm. They promise much, and their potential is recognized. Soon, however, the brilliance begins to fade, possibly through disappointment or through an unrealized goal. Excellence is replaced by mediocrity, and great things are no longer achieved. The luster has gone, and others are left to reflect upon “what might have been” in their lives.

Daniel was not like that. Unlike the “stars” who occupy the world’s stage and then fade away, men and women who love and fear God can shine eternally. “They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever” (12:3). The truth of this statement is demonstrated in Daniel’s life. As one who was wise and turned many to righteousness, the brightness of his life did not fade. Like the stars of heaven he shines for ever and ever in the presence of his God (Dan. 12:3). A life of earthly value may be impressive for a time, but it counts for little when weighed in the divine balances. The Lord wants those who belong to Him to attain better things. He wants us to surrender our lives to Him, to continue as Daniel did, and to finish well.

Daniel began promisingly when he refused to defile himself with food that had been offered to idols and “purposed in his heart” that he would please God (1:8). What a challenging statement! This is, in fact, the first statement that is made about Daniel himself in the book bearing his name, and it provides the key for understanding his exemplary character. We need to consider the background in a little more detail in order to discover what made Daniel such a remarkable man of God.

Transported To Babylon 
Faced with an unknown future in a foreign land and heathen culture, Daniel determined that he would remain true to his God. With other young Israelites who possessed intelligence, Daniel (perhaps just 16 or 17 years of age at the time) had been transported to Babylon. A first-class education had been planned, and the finest food had been made available. Daniel had all the opportunities the world could offer to be a successful student in the Babylonian university. His name had been changed in order to wean him from his past and give him acceptance in the leading nation of his day. Yet we find this young man resolute, or determined, to remain true to his God.

Like Timothy many years later, Daniel must have known the Holy Scriptures from childhood (2 Tim. 3:15). He knew what God expected of him and made up his mind from the very beginning that he would stick to his principles and honor Him – even if it meant the end of his prospects in Babylon. Knowing that certain aspects of that alien culture would “defile” him, Daniel “purposed in his heart” that he would remain true to the Lord and to His Word.

As we think of the bold stand taken by this young man, it is clear that his parents must have done a good job in training him to recognize the difference between right and wrong. Without their presence and support in Babylon he was still able to stand on his own feet and remain true to his convictions, which were born out of love for his Lord. This is the youth who in later life was addressed as “a man greatly beloved” of God (Dan. 10:11).

The early part of Daniel’s life was extremely challenging. Today we are urged by the media and Christians who are moving with the world’s tide to be “politically correct” and tolerant of other viewpoints. “Tolerance” was not part of Daniel’s vocabulary! His heart was set on pleasing the LORD – and ours should be too. Without being bigoted or rude, Daniel politely and firmly made his convictions known and stood by them regardless of the consequences. It is all too easy to be swept along in the popular, easygoing form of Christianity where lifestyle and ambitions – even music and worship – mirror the unconverted world around. Surely it is time for believers, like Daniel, to purpose in their hearts that they will be separate from those things that are contrary to the plain teaching of the Word of God.

The LORD honored Daniel’s stand and endowed him and his three friends with wisdom and understanding surpassing that of their contemporaries (1:20). With his university training over, Daniel “continued” in his commitment to live for the Lord.

No Complacency 
To start out well is one thing, but to finish well is something else. Away from home, a young Christian at a college or university may well honor the Lord commendably. Later, however, after graduation and when life becomes more comfortable materially, it is possible to slow down spiritually. Not Daniel! He “continued” until Cyrus the Persian came to the throne – and he continued even beyond that point. For more than 70 years this man of God “continued” until he was approximately 90 years old – such was the quality of his life!

God used him to explain the meaning of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams and to interpret to Belshazzar the writing on the wall. God also gave him personal revelations of significant future events. Daniel, who all the time was faithful to his God, ultimately proved God’s faithfulness when he was delivered from the lions’ den. At the end of a long life he entered into rest, assured that “at the end of the days” he would stand in his appointed place (12:13).

Daniel’s Legacy 
How can we be like Daniel? Paul, writing to Timothy, supplied us with the answer: “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of” (2 Tim. 3:14). That is the secret. Many today are turning, either willingly or in ignorance, to new ideas and practices which plainly contradict the teachings of God’s unchanging Word. God has revealed His mind in the sacred Scriptures, and we must “continue” in them if we ourselves would be faithful to God. Barnabas encouraged the believers at Antioch “that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord,” (Acts 11:23). Daniel had that purpose.

The hymn writer Philip P. Bliss wrote these challenging words:

Dare to be a Daniel!

Dare to stand alone!

Dare to have a purpose firm!

Dare to make it known!

Will we dare to be different?

The Lord is calling us to be people with a purpose – people who will, by grace, “continue” until He comes or calls. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10). Those who are wise will fear Him, and they are the ones who will “shine as the brightness of the firmament” (Dan. 12:3). The testimony of such people is powerful. By turning many others to righteousness and to the Lord, they will shine as the stars for ever. Don’t seek to be a “star” on this world’s stage! The glory of this world is transient, but “he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 Jn. 2:17). It is those whose lives have been made to count for God who will shine eternally.

The sun is the great and supreme source of light for the whole earth. The stars are needed when the sun is away, and the minor light they emit is of the same character and nature as the light of the sun. In Christ’s personal absence the perfection of the Church’s witness would be to emit the same character of light as Christ in heavenly glory – the same in quality, though so far removed in volume. —Hamilton Smith, “The Addresses To The Seven Churches”

— Martin Girard