A message for those who have children or friends graduating this year. An annual message:
There is excitement in the air. Proms are over. Next, for many of our children, is graduation.
This is a bitter-sweet time for many parents. This is what we’ve raised our kids for. This is why we’ve guided them, pushed them, fretted and worried over them. They are approaching the time to leave the nest.
Some will be going on to college. Some will begin to pursue their working lives. All of them will enter a new, often hostile environment.
All parents worry. Are they ready? Will they be ready to withstand the pressures and temptations? Have we, as parents, done all that we can to get them ready?
The first chapter of Daniel is a tremendous teaching tool for our kids as they approach this wonderful, if scary time in their lives. I’ve reproduced the entire chapter as an addendum to this blog.
As teenagers, Daniel and three of his friends were carried into captivity (slavery) in Babylon. In essence, Nebuchadnezzar placed them in an elite college. Everything they were introduced to there was intended to wipe away their learning and culture. Their history was to be replaced with the manners and customs, the knowledge and religious beliefs of the Babylonian court. Even their names were changed in an effort to totally change the nature of these teenagers from their Jewish heritage to that of Babylon.
Compare the lives of Daniel and his friends to what our kids will be facing:
Professors intent on wiping away their knowledge and beliefs and instilling something entirely different.
An entirely changed diet.
New names and new classmates.
New religion (including new Babylonian names associated with Babylonian gods.)
These teens were privileged. They could have had anything they asked for.
And they were, even in captivity, given new freedoms that they didn’t have in Jerusalem.
This is not so different from the challenges that our own kids will face. Peer pressures, opportunities, professors, co-workers or bosses with vastly different world views are but a few of the things our kids will have to deal with.
Drugs, sex, alcohol and self-discipline on a scale they haven’t faced before will also present challenges. New ideas, knowledge and ideas that challenge all they have known will surround them.
It’s going to be a tough, challenging world for them.
Daniel and his friends withstood these challenges. They remained faithful to their upbringing and to their God.
And they excelled! After three years, when they were brought before Nebuchadnezzar, they excelled to a level ten times better than the others. And they were rewarded for it, both by God and in the Babylonian court.
Read Daniel 1 with your children, whether they are graduating this year or they still have a way to go. Talk with them about the lessons Daniel teaches, both for success in this life and the one that is yet to come.
Alive in The Word
1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god.
3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility- 4 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. 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.
6 Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.
8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”
11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 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.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.
18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 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.
21 And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus. (NIV)
Daniel is certainly a good lesson for children and especially those about to leave home.
I believe ministry to children and teens is the most important ministry of the Church. It is so essential to instill in them a Biblical worldview from an early age and to give them a solid understanding of WHY they believe WHAT they believe.