Daniel 3:16-18 (ESV)
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Dear Friends in Christ,
What do you think of when you hear the word compromise? I suppose how you answer that question would depend to a great extent upon how you define that word because compromise is kind of like a battery. It has both a positive and negative side to it. Positively, Webster’s Dictionary defines compromise as “a settlement in which each side makes concessions.” Think marriage here where a husband and wife are having an argument with one another, but rather than each demanding their own way, they actually listen to each other and they work hard at arriving at a solution where both sides give a little and both parties are satisfied. And that of course is a good thing!
But compromise also has a negative side to it. Another definition given by Webster says that to compromise can mean “to surrender one’s principles.” And that’s the side of compromise that we want to look at today on this Confirmation Sunday as we examine the importance of living an uncompromising life in the midst of a compromising world.
And we really do live in an age of compromise, don’t we? We see it in the world of politics where shady deals are made behind closed doors which basically amount to one politician saying to another, “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” We see it in our schools today where according to surveys conducted in recent years cheating by students has become commonplace, even among the most gifted of students. We see it in many marriages today where couples compromise or surrender the vows they made to one another on their wedding day by bailing out at the first hint of disharmony or dissatisfaction. We see it in the business world, our legal system, and even in many churches where pastors and laypeople and entire denominations have compromised their belief in the Bible as the true, inspired, and inerrant Word of God and instead try to make it fit with our culture rather than vice versa.
So with all this compromise going on all around us, the question is how can we who are Christians live an uncompromising life of total allegiance and commitment to our Savior Jesus Christ in the midst of such a compromising culture? That’s what I want to talk to you about today, especially our confirmands as they speak their vows of commitment to Christ this morning.
And the first point that I want to make today is this: we need to recognize that compromising one’s relationship with the Lord never – and I mean never – produces lasting positive results. And just to drive that point home to us and make it as clear as possible, God has provided us with a whole multitude of examples in the Bible that illustrate this truth.
Consider Adam and Eve who compromised their relationship with God and their obedience to the only commandment he had given them when they ate of the forbidden fruit and they ended up losing their place in Paradise as a result. Or how about Esau who compromised his position in the family as the firstborn son for a measly bowl of stew and he lost his birthright and all the privileges it brought with it. Aaron, the brother of Moses, compromised God’s views on idolatry when he made the golden calf, and he and those who worshiped it lost the privilege of entering the Promised Land. Samson compromised his vows of devotion to the Lord over and over again and lost his strength, his sight, and ultimately his life. David compromised God’s moral standards, had an affair with Bathsheba, had her husband killed in battle, and in the process not only lost the child that was born to him and Bathsheba but also peace in his family for the rest of his life. Peter compromised his self-proclaimed love for Christ, denied him three times, and lost his joy and self-esteem. Judas compromised three years of discipleship with Jesus for 30 pieces of silver and lost his eternal home in heaven. And on and on it goes.
Compromise – never a good thing to become involved in because it always creates problems. It always carries with it consequences that will catch up with you sooner or later. Which brings us to the second point that I want to make and that is that God loves to honor the one who lives an uncompromising life. I’m sure some of you older folks here today will be able to remember the movie Chariots of Fire that came out in 1981. It was about a very gifted athlete named Eric Liddell who had spent months training for the Olympics. The year was 1924 and he was the one who was the odds on favorite to win the 100 meter dash, thus earning for himself the title of the world’s fastest human being. But when he learned that the race was going to be held on a Sunday, this posed a problem for him. You see, Eric who was a committed Christian felt he could not honor the Lord by running this race on the Lord’s Day which was set aside for rest and worship, so guess what he did? He withdrew from the competition. Can you imagine an Olympic athlete doing that today under those circumstances? Needless to say, his fans were stunned. Some who had cheered him now jeered him and the press had a heyday ridiculing him for his refusal to run on a Sunday. But then something unexpected happened. A runner was forced to drop out of the 400 meter race and they had no alternate to replace him. Since it was scheduled for a weekday, Eric offered to fill the slot even though this race was 4 times longer than what he was accustomed to running. Amazingly, he won the race. Now I’m not going to go so far as to say that God is a sports fan, but I can’t help but feel that he honored Eric Liddell’s uncompromising spirit that day by giving him the ability to win that 400 meter race and still obtain the gold medal that he was expected to win in the race he dropped out of.
And again, the Bible is full of examples of people who lived an uncompromising life in the midst of a compromising world and who were honored by God, sometimes in miraculous ways, for doing so. I think of Daniel who was delivered by God from a den of hungry lions for his uncompromising refusal to stop praying to the God of Israel when he was ordered to do so. Or what about his 3 contemporaries that we hear about in our text for today – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Talk about refusing to compromise. Here they were staring into the jaws of a blazing furnace with the king threatening to throw them into that furnace if they did not bow down and worship a 90 foot idol that he had set up. Listen to the uncompromising stand they took on that occasion. They told the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Wow! That’s what you call courage. That’s what you call trust. That’s what you call living an uncompromising life in the midst of a compromising world because everyone else that day did what the king ordered and bowed down before that idol.
And God honored the stand that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego took for although they were thrown into that blazing furnace, Daniel 3:27 says that those who did that to them “saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.” And as if that wasn’t enough, in vv.28-29 we read: Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.” Oh that God would give each and every one of us the same strength, the same courage, the same uncompromising conviction that those 3 young men displayed that day!
And that takes us to the final point that I want to talk about this morning, and that is: we should live an uncompromising life not out of a desire to get something back from God or because by so doing we’re hoping to somehow earn salvation for ourselves, for the Bible makes it abundantly clear that no person can be saved through their own works and efforts. So we live an uncompromising life out of nothing but pure love, gratitude, and appreciation for all that our Savior Jesus did for us because, you see, he never once compromised, he never once wavered, he never once faltered in his allegiance to us and the plan of salvation that his Father had sent him to this earth to carry out on our behalf.
Over the years one of my favorite verses in the Gospels has become Luke 9:51 where it says, “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” That’s the New International Version’s translation of that verse. The Amplified Bible puts it this way: Jesus “steadfastly and determinedly set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Or I like the paraphrase of the Bible known as The Message which renders that verse this way: “When it came close to the time for his Ascension, he gathered up his courage and steeled himself for the journey to Jerusalem.” No matter how you put it, the point is that Jesus, knowing full well everything that was waiting for him in Jerusalem – the beatings and scourgings, the betrayals and denials by his closest companions, the cross and the nails, the rejection and humiliation, the cold dark tomb – in spite of knowing all of that, he still set out to go there and face it head-on because that’s what he had been sent into this world to do for you and for me.
And you know what, my friends? Because he did that for us, because he willingly sacrificed himself in our place on the cross to pay for our sins, we can now find forgiveness for all those times that we have failed to live an uncompromising life in the midst of a compromising world. We can find pardon for those times we’ve gone along with the crowd and failed to take an uncompromising stand for what we knew was right and good and God-pleasing. And we can find the strength and motivation to follow in our Master’s footsteps and through the power of his Holy Spirit live a life of uncompromising devotion to this uncompromising Savior.
One of the saddest stories in the Old Testament deals with compromise. It can be found in 1 Kings 18 where the prophet Elijah comes before his fellow Israelites who had come under the influence of a very evil king named Ahab, and who were deeply entrenched in the sin of idolatry – worshiping a false god by the name of Baal. So Elijah confronted them about this and called for them to make a choice. He said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” And the very next words we read are what I consider to be some of the saddest words in Scripture for it says, “But the people said nothing.” They weren’t ready or willing to proclaim their undying, unwavering, uncompromising allegiance and love to the one and only true God who had blessed them in so many different and wonderful ways throughout their history.
Well, what about you, my friends? The same question that Elijah posed to the Israelites is before us today and really every day. Who are you going to serve? Who are you going to follow? To whom are you going to pledge and give your love and devotion? Is it going to be the true God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Or are you going to pursue the other false gods of today: money, materialism, technology, sex, alcohol, career, or any of the other hundreds of gods that are calling and clamoring for your attention and commitment?
Oh how I pray that the true God will send his Holy Spirit into our hearts and especially the hearts of our 7 confirmands and may that life-giving, life-changing Spirit move in, take over, and take complete control so that we will be able to do what I firmly believe all of us really want to do, and that is to fearlessly and courageously live an uncompromising life in the midst of a compromising world, a life that will be a fitting response and a beautiful tribute to the One who never compromised in all that he did for us. Amen.