Standing Tall

(A message shared by brother Paul Perera based on Evangelist Mark Finley's book, "Satisfied".) 

A number of years ago, Nikita Khrushchev, premier of the former Soviet Union, gave a major address on the state of Soviet affairs before the Supreme Soviet in Moscow.

During his presentation, Khrushchev was highly critical of Stalin. While Khrushchev was speaking, someone from the audience sent up an embarrassing note. The note read “Premier Khrushchev, what were you doing when Stalin committed all these atrocities?”

Khrushchev angrily shouted, “who sent up this note?” Not a person stirred. “I will give him one minute to stand up”. Seconds ticked off, still no one moved.

“All right, I will tell you what I was doing. I was doing exactly what the writer of this note was doing – exactly nothing! I was afraid to be counted.”

Afraid to be counted! Afraid to take a stand! Afraid to stand tall!

It seems to me that if there ever was a time in the history of the world when God has been looking for men and women to take moral stands, to live lives of integrity, to stand tall, it’s today.

• If you do not stand for something, you will fall for anything.

• If you do not stand for something, your faith isn’t worth very much.

• If you do not stand for something, if there’s nothing worth dying for, there is little worth living for.

God is calling us to stand tall.

Let’s consider now the life of one who stood tall. We shall let his courage and faith speak to us. He is one of history’s courageous giants.

• He began his diplomatic service when he was very young and his governmental service continued for approximately over 60 years.

• He served under at least five heads of state.

• Kings valued his counsel.

• Politicians treasured his judgment.

• Statesmen sought out his wisdom.

• When his nation fell to a foreign power, this valued Secretary of State was amazingly appointed to another term by the foreign conquering power.

Daniel’s incredible courage speaks to us of three vital elements of standing tall in a world of moral compromise.

• You cannot stand tall unless you are willing to stand firm.

• You cannot stand tall unless you are willing to bow low.

• You cannot stand tall unless you are willing to hang on.

Standing Firm

Still in his teens, Daniel was taken captive by the Babylonians, when King Nebuchadnezzar took Jerusalem in 605 BC. Nebuchadnezzar took a number of Hebrew captives and some of them he planned to educate in the principles and policies of Babylon.

Subtly, gradually, cunningly Nebuchadnezzar plotted to change their thinking. His goal was to shift their allegiance from the God of Israel to the gods of Babylon.

Early in his captivity, Daniel was ushered into Babylon’s banquet hall to eat from the king’s table.The food at the king’s table had been offered to idols. To eat it would be to accept idolatry and acknowledge the superiority of the Babylonian gods to his God. Also some of the food was unclean. For Daniel to eat, it would be to reject his Hebrew heritage.

Then there was the issue of health. Daniel quickly realized that the rich, unhealthful food would rapidly destroy his health and reduce his physical powers, while also impairing his moral judgment. To eat this food would have been for Daniel a compromise of enormous proportions.

“But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.” Daniel 1:8

Daniel stood tall because he stood firm. He refused to compromise his integrity to gain the king’s favour or avoid his displeasure. You can never stand tall unless you can stand firmly on the side of right.

Let’s fast forward 39 years. Daniel’s decision was not an isolated instance. It wasn’t a once-in-a-lifetime kind of decision. Standing firm was part of his character. It was deeply imbedded within the fabric of his being. It was part of his spiritual life.

Daniel is now in his mid 50’s. King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream, a dream of a great tree that is chopped down. Nebuchadnezzar was confused about the dream and wondered what it meant.

Daniel comes in before the king, the greatest monarch, the most powerful man of the then known world. But he does not tell Nebuchadnezzar what he wants to hear. He gives him a message from God. Daniel stands tall, because he stands firm in courageously telling the king that unless he repents, his kingdom is going to be chopped down, just as the tree in his dream. He’s going to lose his empire and he will be sent out to wander around like an animal, insane and eating grass.

“O king, let my advice be acceptable to you; break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity.” Daniel 4:27

What courage! What resolute purpose! What decisiveness! What firmness, to look into the eyes of the most powerful man in the world and earnestly call him to repentance!

Fast forward another 30 years! Daniel is now in his late 80’s. He is still standing firm. He refuses to compromise.

Evil men have plotted against him. They have laid a trap. They have influence king Darius to pass a decree that it is unlawful to pray to any other power except the king. This is in direct violation to the 1st commandment. “Thou shall have no other gods before me.” As an old man, Daniel stands tall, because Daniel stood firm.

“Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows opened to Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed.” Daniel 6:10

I want to remind you that you can never stand taller than when you are on your knees!!

As a result of his singular commitment to God, Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den. In the face of death, Daniel stood tall, because Daniel stood firm.

• At 17 he refused to compromise

• In his mid-fifties, he refused to compromise

• In his eighties, he refused to compromise.

Daniel recognized that compromise is fatal to a vibrant spiritual life.

It is the daily compromises that gradually erode our faith, that are so destructive to Christian life. Compromise is deadly. You will never stand tall unless you stand firm.

In 1992 the General Conference was preparing for a major evangelistic series in Eastern Europe. During their negotiations for the auditorium, the Official they were dealing with suggested they pay a $20,000 bribe to secure the auditorium. This was quite common after the demise of communism and the fall of the Berlin wall. The way to get things done was simply to pay a bribe. For them this was unthinkable!

What this Official was proposing was very troubling. They wanted to handle the situation sensitively, standing for principle without offending the ex-communist official. They told him they would meet together to discuss their response.

Yes, they wanted the stadium, but as they considered the message they’ll be conveying by paying this bribe, they concluded that even if they lost the use of the stadium, they had to stand firm to their principles. They decided that if God didn’t work to change the man’s mind, then they were not going to compromise their own moral integrity. They went on their knees and said “God we’re putting all of this in your hands.”

They sent a message to the Official through an intermediary that they would not pay the bribe. He sent a message back and said “we have met. And we’ve decided that whatever you pay, it will be in the contract, nothing on the side.”

God worked powerfully to open the door and solve their problem. You can never stand tall my friends, unless you stand firm!

A story is told of a young woman in her twenties. She was making a modest salary working in health care. An employee in her department took another job outside the health care system.

This second young woman tried to recruit her friend for a new job at a salary triple what she was making. The executive interviewing her was deeply impressed with her responses to his questions.As the interview concluded, she said “I have only one more question. I am a Seventh-day Adventist and my day of worship is Saturday. Would I have to work any Saturdays at all?” “That’s really not a problem” he answered. “You’d only need to work four Saturdays a year, representing us at major conventions.”

“I’m awfully sorry” she replied, “but I wouldn’t be able to do that.”

“There’s one thing I haven’t mentioned to you” the man said, ignoring her answer. “When you sign a contract with us, we also will give you significant stock options.”

“You know” she replied, “Your offer is impressive. I don’t mean in anyway here to sound ‘holier than thou’, but I can’t work even one Sabbath a year, because to do that would be for me to put money before God. And that’s a decision I can’t and won’t make. But if you can arrange it somehow for me not to work any Sabbaths, then I’d definitely want to work for you.”

The word came back. She could not have all her Sabbaths off. This young woman knew what it is to stand firm!

She knew what it is not to compromise. She preferred living on a far lesser salary, yet being at peace, to accepting huge financial rewards simply by compromising her convictions. She would not sell out cheap.

People who stand tall are not blown away by every wind of compromise that comes along. The winds of compromise do not blow them over because they, like Daniel, have “purposed in their hearts” to serve God. They have settled – obedience matters.

Bow Low

Now, you also can never stand tall unless you bow low. The strength to stand tall is not some mental toughness. It is not some human determination. It is not some extraordinary will power. It is strength of character rooted in a relationship with God through prayer.

Daniel had it. He stood tall because he bowed low. At each crossroad in his life we see him bowing low.

In his youth, when confronted with the threat of death, we see Daniel, as stated in chapter 2:18 “seek mercies from the God of heaven concerning this secret, so that Daniel and his companions might not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon”.

Later in life, when faced with the threat of being thrown into the lion’s den, Daniel is found “as his custom was”, the Bible says, praying three times a day with his windows open towards Jerusalem. This is found in Daniel 6:10

Still later, under a new king Darius, Daniel is found praying that God will deliver His people from captivity. Daniel 9:3,4 “And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and awesome God,

Daniel’s life was saturated with prayer. He bowed low so he could stand tall.

I have heard that when mountain climbers reach the summit of some of the world’s greatest peaks, like Mount Everest, if the winds are fierce, the only way to keep from getting blown away is to get on their knees on the top. If you want to stand tall on the mountaintop with God, you must bow low.

• Daniel prayed to the God of heaven as a youth carried into exile

• Daniel prayed to the God of heave when presented with the king’s delicacies

• Daniel prayed to God of heaven when thrown into the lion’s den

• Daniel prayed to the God of heaven when empires collapsed and kingdoms crumbled

Daniel stood tall, because Daniel bowed low.

A story is told of an Indian Bible worker from Chennai.

She was an elderly woman with long, graying hair and a sun baked face with deeply etched lines. She had a wonderful smile, but her teeth were not in good condition, some teeth were missing. She wasn’t well educated, though she knew God’s word.

And when the Bible workers divided up the city, she asked to be assigned to the worst area of town, a barrio know for its gangs, thieves, drugs and drinking.

Now, this woman was a true prayer warrior who prayed hours each day. As she visited the area, she would meet with various gang leaders. One day she was meeting with the leading gang leader of the barrio – a tough, ruthless, blood-thirsty thief and drug addict. He confronted her and said, “Old woman, get out of here with your Jesus.”

“Young man” she replied, “tell me why you don’t love Him as I do?”

For two hours then, the gang leader ranted and cursed and railed against her and her Jesus. She listened to all he had to say, then said to him, “Young man, I have listened to you for two hours. Now sit down and listen to an old woman.”

And he did! She told him about the Jesus she loved, and how He had changed her life. She told him about how Jesus had forgiven her. And she told him the love Jesus had for him, and the love He had put in her heart for him as well. She told him how she had pled in prayer that God would lead her to the leader of the barrio, and that He had answered her prayer. “even your shouting at me” she told him “is part of that answer”.

Then that tough, hardened gang leader began to weep. “Old woman, please – please come with me to talk to all the other gang leaders and tell them too about this Jesus!”

You can never stand firm until you bow low. What is your prayer life like, my friends? Are you bowing low day by day before God?

Do you have a humble relationship with God that leads you to seek his approval more than anything else in life – that leads you to represent Him in everything you do?

This bowing low in humility leads you to never compromise your integrity,, because if you did, you’d dishonor the God who loves you so much.

Hang On

• You can never stand tall unless you stand firm

• You can never stand tall unless you bow low

• And you can never stand tall unless you hang on

Daniel hung on, he persevered. Daniel never gave up in the tough times.

Daniel did not hang on to something, he hung onto Someone.

• A captive in a foreign land, Daniel hung on to God

• Separated from home and family, Daniel hung on

• In the midst of a heathen culture, Daniel hung on

• With his life on the line, Daniel hung on

• Betrayed by work associates, lied about, ridiculed, caught in the midst of jealousy and envy, Daniel hung on.

• Facing his greatest test in his old age, Daniel hung on.

There’s a story about an old woman who was dying of cancer. Over her life, she had memorized hundreds of Bible texts. And one of her favorites was this one.

“I know who I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” 2 Timothy 1:12

This woman’s life was ebbing away. Her strength was gone. Her energy was spent. Her mind was not as clear as before. She could hardly remember a thing. She had repeated this verse over and over throughout the months of her illness. And as her sickness progressed, her mind became increasingly clouded, until she could only remember one phrase “He is able to keep what I have committed to Him.”

Her memory failed further, and on the day before her death, she could only remember three words: “committed to Him.”

On her deathbed, the entire passage faded from memory except one word – “Him”. She kept repeating it over and over. She was hanging on to Him, clinging to Him.

And that’s enough. Hang on to Him! Jesus Christ is enough! When you have nothing left but Him, you find that He is enough!

Throughout his life Daniel stood tall because he stood firm. He would not compromise his integrity.

He stood tall because he bowed low. He realized his spiritual strength came from the God of heaven.

He stood tall because in all circumstances of life he hung on to Him. Every time we see Him in the book of Daniel, he is still standing.

• At the king’s banquet in Daniel chapter 1, he is still standing

• At the University of Babylon in chapter 2, he is still standing

• In Belshazzar’s banquet hall in chapter 5, he is still standing

• Faced with the threat of the lion’s den in chapter 6, he is still standing

• Kingdoms rise and fall, but Daniel is still standing

• Babylon gives way to Medo-Persia and Daniel is still standing

• Kings ascend and descend their thrones, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Cyrus, Darius, but Daniel succeeds them all. He is still standing

• Empires collapse, decades pass, kings die, but Daniel is still standing

Friends, if in these end times you stand firm, bow low and hang on, you too, will be found still standing tall!