A retired couple in my congregation told me about the time they attended a high school reunion, and their classmates, now all retired, each took turns sharing what they were doing with their lives. The sharing went all the way around the circle, and not a single person mentioned anything about serving the Lord. Perhaps it could be said that they all assimilated to American culture.
What situations are you being pressured to bow down or assimilated to American culture?
What will it look like for you to pursue total commitment to Jesus?
How will you use your time and resources, especially in retirement years? Spend your life for the kingdom. There is a strong temptation, even in Christian circles, to enjoy the fruits of your labor. As such the American Dream is often guiding us more than the Kingdom of God.
Jesus said, “Where you treasure is, there your heart will be.” If you have possessions, and I am talking about possessions of all kinds, from various properties, vehicles, investments, where your treasure is, there your heart will be. Maybe, in order to avoid assimilation, you might consider meeting with people who clearly live out their retirement years in line with God’s Kingdom.
Next, think about the many choices you must make in life. From the small and seemingly insignificant, such as whether or not you will go to church or sleep in this week, to the large and impactful, such as who you will marry or what job you will pursue. Make those choices in trust and faithfulness to God no matter what.
What are the results? In each story, the leaders who watched Daniel and his friends all had a change of heart. So the faithfulness of the godly impacted the ungodly leaders.
Daniel and his friends are in a position to have no impact. They are foreigners. They are in a position of weakness, extremely vulnerable. Yet because of their faithfulness to God, they make a great impact in the lives of the people around them.
The temptation to assimilate must have been intense. Just do what the Babylonians do, or just pray like the Medes pray, and you will be safe. Or just act like it on the outside. They won’t know what is truly in your heart. Pretend to be a Babylonian, a Mede. To that kind of thinking, Daniel and his friends said, “No way.” They did not eat the defiled food, they did not bow to the idol, and Daniel kept right on praying to God out in the open for all to see. They refused to assimilate if assimilation meant turning their backs on God. Yeah, it was risky. Yeah, they got close to losing their lives. But God was at work, he came through, and the result was kingdom impact.
This is not saying that God promises to make every situation work out perfectly all the time. At the Columbine tragedy, the shooters stuck a gun in a girl’s face and said, “Are you a Christian?” She said, “Yes,” and they shot her and she died. (Though read this article for clarification on the story.) And through the centuries, and in many places still today, Christians are persecuted and die for their faith.
Choose faithfulness to God no matter the circumstance, no matter the opportunity. Refuse to be assimilated. Most of us will never have a person shove a gun in our face, asking us to deny Jesus or they will shoot us. Most of us will never have to fear that following Jesus could get us thrown into a fiery furnace or lions’ den. But all of us do have to make big and little choices every single day about how we will live our lives in a culture that is not in line with Jesus. While American culture gives us the freedom to follow Jesus, which is wonderful, that same freedom also gives us the opportunity not to follow Jesus. How will you choose?
I say this to every generation, just as I say it to myself. Whether you are in elementary school, middle school or high school, whether you are in college, young adulthood, young married, married with kids, middle age, retired, grandparenting, or older adults, there are pressures for every single generation in America to buy into ideas of our culture, which are not in line with the way of Jesus. Particularly the ideas of using your time, your money and your abilities for yourself, for your comfort, and for your pleasure. Instead, the way of Jesus is to sacrifice yourself for others, for the mission of God’s Kingdom, for his purposes.
Start 2020 with a new commitment to pursue Jesus. Refuse to be assimilated.