I used to live for summertime. Truth be told, I was never really a great student as a kid, and so the thought of a 90-day “homework-release program” suited me just fine. I was free – and not only from book reports and algebra tests, but also from the other pressures that often follow us throughout so much of our growing years. Like a lot of young people, I was not only anything but a grade A student, but I was also never the star athlete, never first chair in band, never class president. I did, however, make the dean’s list once (ok, not the good one.) And, like so many kids trying to find their place, what I lacked in scholastic or athletic ability, I certainly did not lack in the desire to find a way to become popular…to be considered special. For young people, there is such a danger in the temptation to compromise character in the pursuit of popularity.
Thankfully those years eventually pass into memory, and in time we become comfortable in our own skins. But still, I have to say that I really don’t envy kids today. As often as any time in history (if not more), young people have a desire to find and to be that which is authentic and real. By contrast, and so similar to our own experience (if not much more), they are pounded with peer-pressure to conform. What can a young man or woman do to survive with their integrity intact?
In the Old Testament book of Daniel (chapter 3), we meet three young men who were teenagers when they were carried off as captives to a foreign land called Babylon. God had blessed them with health and wisdom, and consequently they were offered places of prominence as servants of that nation’s king. However, in time, circumstances (and the king’s heart) changed and these three friends found themselves in a situation that tested what they were truly made of. They were literally confronted with an ultimatum to get with the program (conform)…or die by being thrown into a fiery furnace. Talk about a “peer-pressure-cooker!”
Now, considering their circumstances, why not give in – and fit in? After all, who would know? And besides, “What happens in Babylon stays in Babylon,” right? But “fitting in” meant casting off their character and, most importantly, denying the Lord Who had been faithful to them in so many ways. While they clearly saw the high cost of non-conformity, they also recognized the much higher cost of compromise, and so they refused to give in…and were thrown into the furnace. But amazingly (albeit, not surprisingly,) the Lord stood with them in that place, and rewarded their commitment by delivering them.
It’s been said that integrity is best expressed by being the same person when nobody’s watching as you are when everybody’s watching. That’s a pretty good definition, but it can still be hard to live out. The good news is that God is always watching – He can’t take His eyes off of you, and He wants to help you walk in integrity. In many respects times may have changed, but the God Who stood with these young men of old has not – and He’ll stand with you…today!