Friday, December 14, 2007

More Than Surviving in the Marketplace

By Rev Wong Fong Yang

Daniel 6 : The sermon raises the issue of Christian faith in the marketplace, which many have pondered but not articulated in the open. Is our Christian faith robust enough to stand up to the rigor of life in the public square? There are Christians who discovered that it is difficult to practice their faith in their professions. This resulted in privatization of faith. Christian faith has no bearing upon public life from Monday till Saturday. It is kept in the private domain, most notably in the church on Sunday.

Is it possible for Christians to rise to prominent positions in political arena, business world or the marketplace without having to compromise their faith? Are there successful models? How does one live out his or her Christian faith in the corporate world? How does one work in an environment, which promotes bribery and corruption? Can we trust God to work through our situations?

Daniel was remarkably consistent in his faith throughout his professional life in politics. Whether he was 16 or 80 years old made no difference. When he had to make a stand for his faith, he would do so without compromise one bit. At the age of 16, he risked the opportunity to serve the greatest king when he resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine (Dan 1:8). At the age of 80, he was close to losing his life at the lions’ den (Dan 6:16-18). In both instances, his faith triumphed and God prospered him. What did it take for Daniel to be so consistent in his faith and professional practice? Why did he succeed why others fail? What is the theological truth that the writer of Daniel wants us to know so that we too can live like Daniel and triumph over difficult situations in life?

The central theme of the book is about the sovereignty of God in international political affairs. The Jewish exiles struggled with the theological truth that their God is sovereign over all nations, when reality negated their understanding. The fall of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Temple and the deportation of the leadership and upper classes of Judah in 586 BC was the most devastating historical and theological event in the Jewish national history. And it evoked a most profound question: Who, indeed is sovereign –Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian and Persian successors, who had brought the catastrophic judgment to pass, or the God of Israel who had either allowed it to happen or was powerless to prevent it?

The book of Daniel makes crystal clear that the LORD God remains absolutely sovereign over human affairs notwithstanding the collapse and fall of both Israel and Judah. Daniel had come to understand the sovereignty of God through the long years since his uprooting from Jerusalem and arrival in Babylon. He saw how God delivered his 3 friends from the fiery furnace. He witnessed the mighty hand of God in bringing king Nebuchadnezzar to his knees (Dan 4). King Belshazzar was slain for his blasphemous act against God (Dan 5). Kings rise and kings fall, kingdoms come and kingdoms go, all according to the dictates of the sovereignty of God. This truth – that Yahweh is Lord over all- was not merely the theological assertion by Daniel, it also finds response in the confessions of Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego (Dan 3:17), and king Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 4:1-3; 34-37), Darius (Dan 6:25-27).

What do we learn from the life of Daniel?
Daniel faces the possibility of death and the end of his illustrious political career. He chose to die for his faith rather than to renounce God, but he was saved eventually.

The fundamental message of Daniel is that through every circumstance of life particularly in the marketplace, it is possible to live a life if faith and victory because God reigns supreme. Therefore God’s people must not be afraid of the evil of the day. Look at Daniel how his colleagues plotted his downfall and death out of professional jealousy. Yet at the end of the day, the noose, which was meant for Daniel, ended on the enemies’ neck. All those who had falsely accused Daniel were thrown into the lions’ den instead. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed their bones. God demonstrated his power and control over every circumstance.

We see the ability of God to intervene at any given point along the way to make his control evident. If he had shut the mouths of the lions, he certainly could shut the mouths of evil people in the marketplace for his people. God calls us to persist in faithfulness in the marketplace in spite of opposition and even the threat of death. He shows himself able to take care of his people in whatever situation. We can run our business with godly values and believe that God is in control of the marketplace and he will work out his plan, as we stay faithful to him.

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