Jonathan, my five-year old, absolutely refused to go to children’s church alone. We were in the States and I was the guest preacher who was expected to stand up and be anointed in about five minutes.
In the meantime, all the children quietly vacated the auditorium and settled into their own service, complete with puppets and snacks. They were all doing as expected, except Jonathan. I understood his dilemma. This was not our church. We were guests and he didn’t know anyone in his class. It was a little intimidating for him. He had no idea what evil lurked beyond those sanctuary doors. Fear of the unknown paralyzed him. So, he refused to go, that is, unless James, his seven-year old brother, would go with him. Ah, what a difference big brother makes!
James wanted to stay in the big service and hear me preach. But somehow, I was able to coerce him into going to children’s church. So, Jonathan scooted off into the vast unknown in the safety of big brother’s shadow.
I don’t like to admit it. But, like my five-year old son, I’m often intimidated by unfamiliar situations. All too often, when God challenges me to take a new step of faith, my first reaction is to stay in my comfort zone. Why? Because I might get rejected out there. I don’t know anyone else going that direction. I might fail.
If it wasn’t for leadership in my life, I may have never gotten a passport or a plane ticket to come on that original "one month" outreach to Manila’s University Belt in 1984. Like Jonathan, I silently said: "I’ll only go if Rice goes." Well, Rice went. And so did I. The only difference is that he went back to the States. I stayed. Thank God for big brothers in the faith who constantly provoke us to face our fears and accept new faith challenges.
Daniel was one of those big brother type leaders who had the ability to get people to do things they would never have done if left to themselves. The evil Babylonians captured Daniel and his three buddies. They were hauled off to a pagan land far away from all forms of godliness and out of the sight of parents, prophets and priests. New temptations and opportunities to compromise surrounded them. How did they handle the situation? Notice Daniel’s response: "But Daniel resolved not to defile himself. …(Dan. 1:8). Even before he had the opportunity, Daniel decided not to compromise.
When explaining his stand to the Babylonian officials, Daniel said, "Please test your servants. …Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink" (v.12). We know that Daniel made a resolution not to defile himself. But who are these servants and who is this “us” that Daniel spoke of? It seems that Daniel dragged his three friends along with him. He took them where they probably would not have gone on their own. That’s what leadership is all about. Maybe Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said, "We’ll only go if Daniel goes." Well, Daniel went. And so did they. In the end, they all saw how God blessed their stand.
Next time the three amigos made a bold stand for righteousness, Daniel was nowhere to be found. When they faced crazy King Nebuchadnezzar at the door of the fiery furnace, they were all on their own. This time, they were not following leadership. They were leading. Once again, God met them there in the scary unknown.
Meanwhile, back to the church service. My younger sons made it safely to children’s church. I preached my usual sermon, challenging the church to get serious about world missions. Deborah and William, my oldest son, heard the same sermon for the 10th time. James and Jonathan enjoyed a Christian puppet show, met some new friends, and ate some snacks. And I saw a picture of how desperate we all are for leadership in our lives.
Thank God for those men and women of great faith who, when they get a vision from God, say, "We" and "Us" rather than I.