Friday, January 25, 2013


Sermon preparation always seems to be the means by which my brain gets a jumpstart.  It forces me to dig into Scripture a little bit deeper and my imagination can generally go wild as I think through the many applications to my life and life in general.  It also amazes me how God seems to lead the leadership of our church to the right place in Scripture from which to preach in order to have the maximum impact.  Maybe I am being presumptuous, but the maximum impact that I am assuming is assumed because that’s the kind of impact that it generally has on me.

We have been in the book of Daniel since the beginning of the New Year.  The name of the series has been appropriately called, “Uncompromising Faith.”  As you read through the journey of Daniel and his friends, it’s hard not to hear and see the uncompromising nature of their faith.  Last week, we were in Daniel 3 and the verse that really stuck out to me was verse 18 where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego say that even if God does not save them from the furnace, they will still continue to worship Him alone.

It’s my turn to preach this week and I am preaching from Daniel 6.  Daniel is older and established in his faith as well as his role as the third highest ruler in the land.  He has made enemies, which is bound to happen whenever we hold to our convictions, and those enemies come together as a group to plan and plot against Daniel.  What exactly motivates them to do so is uncertain, but I am sure that we can fill in the blanks as we think about possible motivating factors: jealousy, rebellion, frustration, their own lack of conviction, and countless other possibilities.

Having just celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. day, I began to dig around a little bit to get more information on MLK.  I have had one of his biographies on my shelf by David Garrow called “Bearing the Cross” that I have not read.  I stumbled upon it as I was reading Philip Yancey’s “Soul Survivor” and he made reference to it.  Between those two books, I discovered that MLK had sort of accidentally fallen into the civil rights movement in the beginning.  He was the new pastor in town in Montgomery, Alabama right when Rosa Parks famously held her bus seat after a long and tiresome day.  The African American leadership within the city needed a leader and they compromisingly chose this young, new pastor.  The rest is history.

It didn’t take long for King to gain enemies, much like Daniel.  He received all kinds of threats and legitimately worried about his well-being as well as the well-being of his family.  While his family slept, he sat at his kitchen table, contemplating whether or not he should back down, he recounted in a sermon, “And I discovered then that religion had to become real to me, and I had to know God for myself.”  He felt that God was calling him to stand for righteousness, justice, and truth and that he would never be left on his own, God would always be with him by his side.

Years later, Martin Luther King’s life was stripped from him at the age of 39 while standing on the balcony of a Memphis hotel.  While certainly not perfect, King stood for his convictions despite the inherent risks involved.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor.  He was a student of Karl Barth and was influential in the Confessing Church movement in Germany.  Bonhoeffer’s career seemed to parallel the conflict taking place in his home country of Germany.  He had opportunities to teach in London and the United States in the mid 1930s.  While in the safety of the United States, he was convinced that he should leave that safety and travel back to Germany to take a stand against the Nazi regime.  He wrote:

"I have come to the conclusion that I made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period in our national history with the people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people... Christians in Germany will have to face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose but I cannot make that choice from security."

Bonhoeffer went back to Germany and joined a movement to assassinate Hitler.  He was caught, arrested, tried, and executed at Flossenbürg concentration camp just 2 weeks prior to the United States liberation of that camp.    

Martin Luther King, Jr., Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Daniel and his friends all chose conviction over safety.  They chose to stand up for what they believed in rather than stay safe.  While Daniel and his friends remained safe and untouched in the midst of trying and dangerous situations, King and Bonhoeffer lost their lives.

Among those who led the Confessional Church movement in Germany was Martin Niemöller who is famous for his quote, “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Socialist.  Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.  Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Jew.  Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.”

At some point in our lives, we will be faced with a situation in which we will need to stand up for convictions that we hold.  The cost for standing up for those convictions will most likely be high, but will it be worth it to us?  What happens when we remain silent in the midst of conviction?  Do those convictions really count?  It’s becoming harder and harder to stand firm with convictions, especially when those convictions seem to be counter-cultural.  At some point, we might feel that the words spoken by Niemöller hit very close to home, especially if we remain silent in the midst of conviction.

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