Worship at Your Own Risk - Part 1: Daniel
Worship can be risky. Just ask the prophet Daniel.
Daniel, because of his fidelity and righteousness, was a beloved and esteemed servant of King Darius of Persia - the great empire. Other officials were jealous of Daniel and plotted his demise by using his faith against him. They deceitfully had the king pass an unchangeable edict that anyone over a 30 day period who bowed down and worshipped any god or man but king Darius would be thrown into the den of lions. The evil politicians did this because they knew Daniel was a devout man of God and that he worshipped the Lord his God regularly.
Worship under the reign of King Darius prior to this time was free from oppression or persecution. Daniel had proven himself to his king time and time again to the point that King Darius was going to make Daniel the head official over all of the land (this is why the other politicians were jealous). But now, things had changed. The law had changed. What was Daniel to do?
Would Daniel just not worship God publicly for the 30 days? Would Daniel fear men more than God? Would Daniel fear the persecution more than he would faithfully follow his one true Lord? Would he allow the trap of the wicked officials to cause him to betray God? Would he seek to take his worship underground? Did Daniel decide not to worship as he had under the premise that, “God will understand”? Of course, it’s not that Daniel couldn’t worship. It didn’t physically disable him from the ability to worship. It just gave a consequence if one chose to worship God. One could still worship, but they worship at their own risk! What would Daniel do now?
“When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.” (Daniel 6:10) What did Daniel do? The EXACT same thing he had always done! Why? Because it was the RIGHT thing to do. It was ALWAYS the right thing to do. To worship his God in reverence and holiness. To set God where He belongs - above all others. Daniel was a man of principle. Something lacking in the world back then just as it is today.
Is the risk now any greater than it ever has been? Physically, no (Probably less). Spiritually, it has always been the same. Consider the persecutions of the 1st-century church. What did they do? How did they respond? Why?
“and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.” (Acts 5:40-42) What did the Apostles do when they were beaten and told to stop preaching Jesus? The exact same thing they were doing before. Why? Because it was always the right thing to do.
“...And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles… But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.” (Acts 8:1-4) What did 1st century Christians do about worshipping when they came under persecution? The exact same thing they did before. They kept assembling. They kept worshipping. They kept spreading the gospel. Why? Because it was always the right thing to do.
“Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10) What would the faithful do when they encountered persecution for the faith? The faithful would persevere! How? In what? In exactly what they had been doing already. Why? Because it was what God expected - Yes. Because God always expects us to do what’s right! His way is right. Being faithful to Him is ALWAYS right.
“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” (1 Peter 3:13-16)
For the first time in American History, in 2020, some parts of America faced criminal charges from their government for assembling and worshipping together. A protection that is codified in the supreme law of the land, the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment. (Emphasis on “First” - as in “foremost”, “primary”, of “greatest” importance. It’s the “first” on purpose, not by accident). Despite that protection by the law, many were still threatened, prosecuted, and persecuted for practicing their faith peacefully. What will 2021 and beyond bring? How will Christians respond when worship comes with “risk”?
For Christians, when faced with the prospect, the risk, of persecution for practicing Christianity; what will we do? I hope, if we’ve been serving God faithfully, that’s exactly what we’ll continue to do. Why? Because it’s what’s right. Always! (Ro. 12:21)