THINK: The world is full of followers-people who tend to go with the flow and conform to the culture around them. Even those who think they're dancing to their own tune are typically swayed by their society as they simply follow the trends and take their cues from popular opinion. This is particularly common among youth, many who are self-conscious and simply looking to fit in. And yet most students want to make a positive difference in the world. But how can you make a real difference? It starts by daring to be different - not necessarily in an odd way - but in a bold and positively distinct way. Daniel is a great example of what God can do through a young person who is surrendered to God and determined to follow His ways rather than the world's ways.
RESPOND: What happened to Jerusalem, and to Daniel, at the beginning of the book (1:1-2)? (See 1:1 note.) What role did the Babylonians intend for Daniel and his friends (1:3-5)? (See 1:4 note.) Why were they given different names? (See 1:6 note.) How do you think being in Daniel's situation might have affected your faith in God? What do you think it means that "Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine" (v. 8), and why? (See 1:8 note.) How did God honor the young men for their devotion to Him (1:17-19)? (See 1:17 note.) How did Daniel's capabilities compare with the king's advisors (1:20)? (See 1:20 note.) How did the king test his advisors regarding his dream (2:5-9)? (See 2:5 note.) Why did Daniel ask for time before interpreting the dream (2:16-18)? (See 2:16 note.) How is Daniel's immediate response to God's answer an example for us (2:19-23)? (See 2:19-23 note.) Whom did Daniel credit for interpreting the dream (2:26-28)? How did Daniel's actions affect the king's view of God (2:47- 48)? How should Christians be different, and how can these differences influence people positively?
PRAY: Ask God for strength and discipline not to corrupt yourself with worldly ways. Praise and thank God for His timely help and insight. Pray that you'll have a positive, God-honoring influence on those around you.
ACT: What could God do through you if you dared to be different in a positive way? Don't diminish your influence by engaging in activities that may be common among your peers but questionable or inappropriate for Jesus' followers. Instead, dare to do things that give God opportunity to reveal His power and purpose through you.
THINK: What do you do when the heat is on and your faith comes under fire? When people challenge your beliefs or attack your values, does your commitment to God collapse, or do you stand strong? Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego already had success, but they wouldn't compromise their faith to preserve their position. With their lives on the line, they entrusted themselves to God and had the kind of influence many of us only dream about. Boldly serving God in an ungodly society will test your faith, bringing pressure to abandon your relationship with God. By refusing to give in, you gain strength and influence. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are prime examples of how uncompromising devotion can result in miraculous help from God and extraordinary impact on the world.
RESPOND: Why did Nebuchadnezzar set up the gold statute, and what did he expect people to do? (See 3:1 note.) Why did Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refuse to bow to the image? (See 3:12 note.) What "idols" must we resist today? How did the young men express faith in God when confronted by the king, and why do you think they responded this way (3:16-17)? (See 3:17-18 note.) In what situations might you be tested like these guys, and how can you gain strength to stand under pressure? What were some miraculous aspects of the young men's rescue from the fire? What influence did their actions have (3:28-29)? How can Christian friends exert positive peer pressure on each other? What did the king recognize about Daniel that set him apart from other advisors (4:9)? (See 4:9 note.) What did the king need to learn through his dream (4:17)? (See 4:17 note.) Why and how did God humble Nebuchadnezzar? (See 4:16 and 4:27 notes.) Why does it often take such experiences to change people? What did the king do before his sanity was restored, and what did he understand about God after that? (See 4:34-37 note.)
PRAY: Pray that you'll recognize potential "idols" and resist the temptation to bow to them. Pray for bold faith in the face of negative peer pressure. Ask God to give you good friends who will inspire you to stand strong for Christ.
ACT: Are you conforming to culture and bowing to it's "idols"? Pull away from these things and determine to get closer to God. Hang around with friends who will inspire you to grow spiritually and to exert positive pressure and influence for Christ on your culture.