Demand vs Command


It’s amazing how God works sometimes.  I had been contemplating this very issue and applying its concepts to my life when it was reinforced today through one of my church’s pastors.  This pastor does not normally preach. He might be the youth pastor, not sure (we are new to our church).  But his sermon this morning was spot on confirming what God was telling me in my life.  It had been such a revelation for me, that I thought I would share it with you.

These past few weeks, I have been mulling over the idea of respect, influence and how to live my life. I thought about all the times in my life where I was given much respect, always given the benefit of the doubt, and people admired me.  I thought about all the other times when that was not so.  What was the difference?

In many regards, my treatment was unfair.  The lack of respect, the judgmental attitudes of others, was unwarranted. However, my response to that unfair treatment was also wrong. I went from commanding respect to demanding respect.

to deserve and receive as due

You see, I always work my hardest and give my best. I also try to use my life to point others to Christ (albeit, I do fail at doing so all the time). My work ethic, morals, and steadfastness commanded respect from others.  People saw who I was and what I was about, and they respected me because of it.  I didn’t have to make them respect me, they did it because I deserved it.

to claim as just or due

Yet, there were times in my life when I was treated unfairly and poorly. It was during these times that I responded poorly and did not reflect Christ. In fact, my attitude went from commanding respect to demanding it.  I began to complain that I wasn’t being treated right. I started doing things to spite those that were treating me poorly. I told others how it was “my right” to do this or that.  I became haughty, saying things like “I should be treated better because…” Because many of the things being done against me were not publicly done, all others could see was my poor attitude.  Those that knew what was going on, although they sympathized with me, saw my attitude and didn’t see anything that commanded respect.  They knew I was a good worker, I had morals, and I produced when asked, but they also saw a disgruntled person.  They most definitely did not see Christ in my attitude.

I so wanted to influence people that the lack of respect I was given hurt me.  It also made me angry because I had no reason to not have it. Without respect, I couldn’t influence people. 

Although my reasoning was correct, I should have been treated better, my attitude was not.  Demanding respect does not make people respect you. In fact, it often does the opposite. And once the respect is gone, so is the influence.

This past week, I came to the realization that many times, we are called upon by God to be better than the world.  This does not mean a “holier than thou” attitude. It does mean that we need to stand out. 
We’ve all heard it. “Show Christ by your actions” “Live the life” “Walk the walk” “Be the salt in the world” “be the light” and the list goes on.  Those are good sayings.  But what do they mean, really?
As I was contemplating the situation of many persecuted Christians around the world, as well as when I was reading some books on the subject, I started noticing things.  These Christians were not fighting back.  They were not asking to be rescued.  They were asking for prayers. They wanted the strength and endurance to do the will of God.  They felt blessed that they were found worthy enough to suffer for Christ. But this was not all that I noticed.
These people stood out.  They didn’t necessarily stand out because they were the loudest.  Most were not shouting the gospel from street corners. They stood out because of how they lived. Their very existence stood out. 
Not only did they stand out, but they were influencing others for Christ.  It seemed like they didn’t even have to try. Their persecutors would just come and ask. What an opportunity! Why wasn’t I receiving these opportunities?
I was mulling this over and contemplating what it meant for me when I went to church today.
So today, the sermon was out of Daniel 6, the story of Daniel in the lion’s den.  
Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the
satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him
over the whole kingdom. At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges
against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were
unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was
trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.  Finally
these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this
man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”

The point here is that Daniel distinguished himself.  He set out to be the best he could be.  By doing this, he gained influence with the king (by the way, this was the 4th king he had done this with). Because of this influence, he was given much responsibility.  Well how did he get this influence?  He commanded it because of how he lived life.  His un-worldliness is what made him stand out and gained him the respect and influence of powerful people.

Daniel’s enemies looked for ways to bring him down.  Yet, they found that he was not corrupt, not negligent, and incredibly trustworthy.  So they devised a way to force him to break the law. They convinced the king to make it illegal to seek anyone’s counsel or to pray to anyone other than the king. They did this knowing that Daniel would be found guilty.

When the edict was passed, Daniel continued to pray.  He didn’t change his life, he didn’t need to. He was already communing with the Lord. So nothing extra was needed.  I’m sure his prayers changed as he knew his life was on the line, but he prayed three times a day, just as he had done before.  This is just further evidence of how we are to “walk the walk.” We shouldn’t have to change our relationship with Jesus based on life events.  Our consistent walk with him should just continue as it did with Daniel.

Daniel garnered so much respect for his steadfast relationship with God, that the king was distressed.  He couldn’t save Daniel. But he knew how devoted Daniel was to The Lord, and yearned for Daniel’s deliverance. In fact, he knew how wrong everything was that he fasted and worried all night, knowing that this wasn’t right.  Had it been anyone other than Daniel, the king would not have even thought twice about their death.  But he respected Daniel, and Daniel garnered so much influence that the king was distraught.

So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”
 A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed. Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.
At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When
he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice,
“Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve
continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”

 It didn’t end there.  The Lord rescued Daniel. 

Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.” The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.

 And because of Daniel’s upright living, and the Lord’s miraculous deliverance, the king believed Daniel.  Daniel was able to show King Darius that God was the only true god.  He was able to do so because of his influence with the king that he achieved through earning the respect of the king that was earned by upright, Godly living.

But take note, the whole time, Daniel wasn’t screaming his innocence all the way into the den.  He wasn’t accusing people, demanding justice.  Nor was he thrown in the pit because he was “Bible thumping.” He knew that God would show Himself without doing all that. He waited for the opportunity to speak about God. Throughout this whole episode, the only speech Daniel had about God was two sentences long.  Everything else was other people observing his behavior. 

I realized that this is what was different.  This is what I had been trying to put my finger on.  I had been going through life feeling guilty because I was not an evangelist. But I knew the whole “be a witness through your life” was not enough.  The Bible says as such. You are to tell. Where was the medium ground in all of this?
I found it in Daniel and I found it in my brothers and sisters in Christ being persecuted for their faith. 
Your life should stand out.  You should be so different from everyone else that people can’t help but notice.  These people will either hate you or respect you.  Either way, you will have untold influence on these people because of the way you live.  Because of your dedication to The Lord, because of your work ethic, because of your ability to rise about the injustices done to you and still act Christ-like, because of your actions,… this is why you will have the influence. 
In order for people to listen to you about Christ, they need to know you are authentic and you need to have influence with them. This is gained by being like Daniel. 
And like Daniel, come what may, we are to remain Godly in our actions.  That will allow the glory to be given to God in every situation, good or bad.  And whether God rescues us from the fire or allows us to go through it, He will receive the glory.  Another example from Daniel illustrates this.
“King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But
even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will
not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up

This is how the persecuted church is reaching their captors, their persecutors, and their murderers.  Their lives influence those around them.  Some times, they are able to influence those that are bringing their pain. Much like Paul was able to do the many times he was in prison.

We should live in such a way that people are compelled to ask us why we are the way we are.  Why do we work so hard? Why do we not gossip? Why do we not bad mouth our boss? etc etc.

Our answer should always point to God and His grace. That way, no matter what the circumstance, God will receive glory. Should we be rescued, others will see His power.  Should we suffer (and maybe die), others will see that our God is so wonderful that He warrants our suffering.

So, I put it to you, what is more effective? Demanding respect and influence? or Commanding it?


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