We have three Redbud trees out in our back yard, standing alone in a little row. Every spring they bloom beautifully and give us a lot of joy as we look at them from the house. However, we began to notice over the past couple years that they were struggling. They just weren’t as vibrant and full, especially the tree in the middle. Finally, last year, we had to cut down that middle tree. We felt it was just too far gone to have any hope of survival.
Weeks went by, and one day as I stood at our kitchen window, I noticed something between the two remaining Redbuds. It looked like a clump of some sort. Was it a pile of dead grass left from Gary’s mowing? I soon forgot about it, but once again several days later I noticed it in the distance. This time my curiosity got the best of me, so I walked down to the two trees to investigate. I was a little surprised to see some small twigs poking out of the ground, complete with little leaves on them. Could it be the Redbud still growing?
Of course, I shouldn’t have been so surprised. The following few weeks proved my guess to be true. The chopped down Redbud was indeed growing again, and why shouldn’t it? The Redbud roots were still in the ground, undamaged and alive. Those roots were doing what Redbud roots do. They were growing a new little tree, or at least the beginnings of a new tree. So there between the two tall Redbuds stood this living, growing small tree. It wasn’t showy…..it wasn’t big…..it was hardly noticeable…..but it was growing faithfully.
A couple weeks ago I was reading Daniel 6, the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. Yet what captured my attention this time, more than the den of lions, was what brought Daniel to this point in his life. Daniel had shown maturity and faithfulness over the years as he was held captive in Babylon. There he was, along with his friends……young Jewish men in the middle of their enemies. They continually obeyed God while living in very difficult circumstances, all the while being mature and respectful. God blessed them for their faithfulness. He gave them protection and He gave them responsible jobs within the Babylonian government.
Darius decided to appoint 120 assistants that would be in charge of his kingdom. He appointed three commissioners to be in charge of the 120 assistants. Daniel was one of those three commissioners. As time went on, Daniel distinguished himself so much among the other commissioners and the assistants that Darius planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom. This made the other commissioners and the assistants very angry. They were jealous of Daniel, and so they decided to plot against Daniel……to find some corruption in him concerning his government job, and then to use that as grounds for expulsion. However, they could find no grounds of accusation, so they went to Plan B.
Plan B was to devise a plot of some sort concerning Daniel’s religion that would at last give them grounds to be rid of Daniel. They approached Darius with praise as they stroked his ego, telling him how almighty he was. In fact, they managed to talk Darius into believing that he was so majestic that he should build an image of himself, and then enforce a law that everyone must bow to his image and pray to him for thirty days. If anyone prayed to any other god during this thirty day period, then they would be cast into the den of lions. Darius, full of himself, signed this law…..a law of the Medes and Persians that could not be revoked.
Now Daniel knew about this law, of course. After all, he was one of the three highest ranking rulers in the land. So what did Daniel do? We’re not told that he went into a rage, that he insisted on seeing the king, or that he stormed into the next commissioner meeting and demanded to know why he wasn’t involved in the planning of a new law. Nope. Instead, when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he just quietly went home. Daniel 6:10 tells us what happened: “…..he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.”
In other words, Daniel just kept being faithful. He continued to obey God. He continued to grow. He knelt as he always did, in front of his open window for all to see, including the hateful plotters. And his conniving fellow workers came by agreement, we’re told – and just as they planned, they found Daniel praying before his God. I’m sure they were beside themselves with satisfaction as they presented their evidence to Darius……evidence that Darius’ favorite was a law-breaker……along with the reminder of the new law, the one that couldn’t be revoked. Darius was in a pickle, and soon Daniel was in the lion’s den.
Just before Darius tossed Daniel to the lions, he said a most amazing thing. Darius said to Daniel, “Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you.” And we know the rest of the story, how God did just that. He stopped the mouths of the lions, and Daniel was not the main course that night. But what I noticed the most on my recent reading of this ageless story was the fact that Daniel was just quietly faithful. He CONTINUED kneeling three times a day to pray, as he had always done. Even Darius noticed as he said, “Your God whom you CONSTANTLY serve.”
You and I live in some pretty stressful times…..times that are particularly stressful for followers of Christ. Our culture and our politics are full of craziness right now. I’ve never talked to so many who are feeling burdened and even very worried about the future. God’s Word is being rewritten by those who want it to say whatever would support their lifestyle. Legislation is being enacted in order to legally defend their beliefs. Christians are mocked, hated, ridiculed, and even arrested. And though these times were prophesied and we have known that someday they would come, many of us find ourselves awake at night, wondering how bad it’s going to get.
So I think of our little Redbud and I see a lesson. I see faithfulness to grow….to grow from the roots that are deeply planted. Just to grow, surrounded by trees much larger than it is. To grow like Daniel, faithfully serving God in the midst of extremely difficult circumstances. Daniel knew what he faced. Lions…..very hungry lions! Yet he just quietly and constantly obeyed God by praying as he always prayed, and trusting God to take care of him.
So I want to say to all of us who are walking the narrow way, following God in this world where to be narrow is considered an insult, to just be faithful in the ways that you have always been faithful. Be like Daniel. CONTINUE to obey God, and CONSTANTLY serve Him, even if there might be some lions in our future. Don’t bow to the pressure of this culture and to the pressure of large issues that we face. Instead, let’s bow our knees to the one and only God in Whom we need to be deeply rooted.
The same God Daniel served is here for you and for me today. And we do know the end of the story, don’t we?