“Hold your ground, hold your ground! Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day.” Aragon, The Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King
Imagine this. One night, all is dark and quiet. You are lying safe and warm in the comfort of your own bed. You hear the squealing of tyres, followed by the sound of wood smashing as armed soldiers burst into your home. You are taken from your bed, pushed out of your front door onto an anonymous looking truck.
You have no time to pack, you are allowed no phone call. You have no idea what is going on or why. No clue if those you love are safe, or if they have been bundled onto other trucks by these faceless men who speak a language you do not understand.
Several days go by, you are given little to drink and scraps to eat. Nobody cares that you had a full life, a career, that you were well respected and loved. You are a political prisoner, completely at the mercy of others. No one cares about the colour of your life and now this life turns shades of red, grey and black.
The book of Daniel was written by a much loved, well-respected man in exile. All that Daniel loved was lost to him, worse, he found himself hostage to a powerful, ruthless, godless King determined to subdue and conquer Daniel and his nation.
And yet the book of Daniel is not simply the story of a political prisoner, it is a true story of great courage in the face of the most intense circumstances. It is the story of how one man, or perhaps you, can overcome impossible odds. You see nothing is impossible with God.
We all know what it means to have circumstances spin out of our control. To receive the worst kind of phone call, to lose someone we love, to have our health or a marriage die. To be unable to master a habit or to overcome a situation, to be betrayed, to lose a job, or find a job impossible to keep. To be asked to compromise something we know we cannot, or should not. To be lied about, or abused. Those times when our lives turn red, or grey, or black.
So how did Daniel see past his prison bars? How can we thrive when all around seems hell bent on crushing the very life out of us? By looking past the bars, through Hell right into Heaven. Not denying the circumstances we find ourselves in, but holding fast to the truth of what has kept faithful saints from generation to generation. Through every kind of physical and mental oppression - this truth - nothing is impossible with God.
So what does this mean? It is easy enough to say ‘don’t worry, God will help you’, but these words can seem increasingly hollow when your experience whispers that no one can or will ride to your rescue. That you have been abandoned to a godless fate.
Daniel was a young man when he was taken hostage. His life was then saturated with godless teaching, an ongoing attempt to alter his mind and spirit if you will. How much are we immersed in a culture that teaches us self-reliance, self-importance and self-help? Although Daniel accepted his circumstances and refused to malign his captors, he did not passively accept his fate, nor did he allow his mind or spirit to be overcome. Daniel immersed himself in prayer; he disciplined himself to repeat what he knew to be true. He kept the word of God in his heart and did not waver in his faith in God’s goodness, or that God would keep His word.
In a polluted world, Daniel kept his heart pure and even when it seemed all was lost, Daniel refused to give up or give in. Fear can take any heart unless it is well guarded. Fear must have a field day when you are in a prison cell knowing that tomorrow you will be thrown to the lions. Daniel believing God for all those years - only to be thrust into darkness amongst lions that were kept on the point of starvation.
Jesus, whipped, mocked, nailed to a rough wooden cross. God in our place, a prisoner, betrayed, beaten, lied about, abused and abandoned. God in the lion’s den with Daniel. Victory snatched from the lion’s mouth, victory from the jaws of defeat.
“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today...The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still." Exodus 14:13 -14 (excerpt), NIV
You are not alone. You may face a powerful foe and fear may shout that your life is all but over. But should you find yourself a prisoner, do what Daniel did and hold your ground. Don't flail your fists blindly at the wind, but prepare, persist, plan and pray. Because nothing is impossible with God.
He believes in you.
‘For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.’ 2Timothy 1 v7, KJV