Discerning False Prophets: The Character Test

“‘You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit’” (Matthew 7:16–17).

One’s basic character—attitudes, inner motives, loyalties, standards—eventually manifests itself in his or her life. Christians produce good fruit in their attitudes and actions. But unbelievers, especially false prophets, will eventually manifest bad fruit.

False teachers can hide their true fruit for a time behind ecclesiastical trappings, evangelical vocabulary, and false fellowship. But how they behave when not around Christians will soon enough reveal their true loyalties and convictions. Unless they exhibit “moral excellence . . . knowledge . . . self-control . . . perseverance . . . godliness” and so forth (see 2 Peter 1:5–8), we can be sure God has not sent them and they do not belong to Jesus Christ. Another crucial indicator of character that we can look for, as summarized by Christ Himself, is this: “He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but Hhe who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him” (John 7:18).

The teacher who emulates Christ and wants to glorify Him is a genuine servant of the Lord. But the false one, no matter how clever, can’t hide for long his corrupt character—and the discerning believer will recognize this. As John Calvin wrote, “Nothing is more difficult to counterfeit than virtue.”

Ask Yourself

How does this teaching coexist with the “judge not” command from earlier in Jesus’ sermon? What happens when character judgments are treated as taboo by the people of God? How have you witnessed this occurring?



From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008.

False Prophets Are Deceptive

“‘Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves’” (Matthew 7:15).

False prophets are most dangerous because of their deceptive nature. We can easily recognize and defend against an enemy that poses for what it is. But when that enemy appears as a friend, it is much harder to defend against.

Heretics and apostates make no claim to biblical truth and are recognizable. But deceivers disguise themselves as true shepherds. They give the appearance of orthodoxy and claim to teach the truth, but their intent is to deceive and destroy God’s people.

Paul explains this phenomenon: “Such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds” (2 Cor. 11:13–15; cf. 2 Tim. 3:13). Such false prophets are demonically deceived, convinced that their perverted, distorted views are correct. They are so steeped in falsehood that darkness seems to be light, blackness white, and error truth.

This calls for genuine discernment. But how is this best done? It’s by realizing that such men show themselves by what they do not say—they seldom affirm the great doctrines of the faith, but rather ignore them. In our day of confusion and indifference, we need to pray and vigilantly “test the spirits to see whether they are from God. . . . Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (1 John 4:1, 2).

Ask Yourself

What constitutes false teaching today? Why do such philosophies continue to find room to work in hearts and minds, even of believers? What can we do to keep them away from our churches?



From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008

Jesus Warns Of False Prophets

“‘Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves’” (Matthew 7:15).

False prophets are not simply wrong teachers, propagating a different philosophy or alternative theology. They are spiritually dangerous and we should not expose our souls and minds to their perverse, poisonous influence. These purveyors of error and heresy are spiritual beasts and far more deadly than any physical ones. Peter warns that they are “like unreasoning animals. . . . reveling in their deceptions . . . enticing unstable souls” (2 Peter 2:12, 13, 14; cf. Jude 10). Therefore, perfectly understanding all this, Jesus’ admonition to “beware of the false prophets” is not merely a mention of something but a warning to be on guard against and keep our minds away from what is spiritually harmful.

For the benefit of His listeners, it was natural for Jesus to compare false prophets with wolves. In Palestine, wolves roamed the landscape seeking to prey upon stray or lagging sheep. When a wolf found a defenseless sheep, it attacked quickly and tore the sheep to pieces. Just like those merciless and ferocious animals, false teachers are always seeking new victims.

Jude’s letter warns against false prophets and tells how we can safeguard ourselves against them: “Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life” (v. 21). Our first priority is to be right with the Lord, living in a place of divine fellowship and sound teaching. Then we can warn others of false prophets and carefully rescue them from the damning influences (Jude 22–23).

Ask Yourself

Are there any spiritual half-truths that have worked on you in the past? How did they prove to be wolf-like after tricking their way into your thinking?



From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008.

Integrity Brings True Success

“So this Daniel enjoyed success in the reign of Darius [even] in the reign of Cyrus the Persian” (Daniel 6:28).

True success is more a matter of character than of circumstances.

By anyone’s standards Daniel was a remarkably successful man. After entering Babylon as one of King Nebuchadnezzar’s young Hebrew hostages, he quickly distinguished himself as a person of unusual character, wisdom, and devotion to his God. Within a few years Nebuchadnezzar had made him ruler over the province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men. Many years later Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Belshazzar, promoted him to third ruler in his kingdom, and later King Darius made him prime minister over the entire Medo-Persian Empire.

As successful as Daniel was, being successful in the world’s eyes was never his goal. He wanted only to be faithful to God. And because he was faithful, God honored and exalted him in Babylon. But God’s plans for Daniel extended far beyond Babylon. Daniel’s presence in Babylon opened the door for the Hebrew people to return to Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-3), and it also paved the way for the Magi’s visit to Bethlehem centuries later (Matt. 2:1-12). Those wise men heard of the Jewish Messiah through Daniel’s prophecies (Daniel 9).

God used Daniel in marvelous ways, but Daniel was just one part of a much bigger picture. Similarly, God will use you and every faithful believer in marvelous ways as He continues to paint the picture of His redemptive grace. As He does, He may exalt you in ways unimaginable, or He may use you in humble ways. In either case, you are truly successful if you remain faithful to Him and use every opportunity to its fullest for His glory.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego and for the principles we have learned this month from their lives. Pray daily that your life, like theirs, will be characterized by godly integrity and that God will use you each day for His glory.

For Further Study

Memorize Joshua 1:8 and 1 Corinthians 4:1-2.

  • What key to success did God give Joshua?
  • How does the apostle Paul describe a successful servant of Christ?
  • Would your friends and relatives characterize you as a truly successful person?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Integrity Draws Men To God

“Then Darius the king wrote to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language who were living in all the land: ‘May your peace abound! I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel; for He is the living God and enduring forever, and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed, and His dominion will be forever. He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, who has also delivered Daniel from the power of the lions’” (Daniel 6:25-27).

It doesn’t take a lot of people to make an impact for Christ; it merely takes the right kind.

Today’s passage proclaims the sovereignty and majesty of the living God and calls on everyone throughout the nation to fear and tremble before Him. Those verses could have been written by King David or one of the other psalmists, but they were written by a pagan king to a pagan nation. His remarkable tribute to God’s glory was the fruit of Daniel’s influence on his life.

God doesn’t really need a lot of people to accomplish His work; He needs the right kind of people. And Daniel shows us the impact one person can have when he or she is sold out to God. That’s how it is throughout Scripture. For example, Noah was God’s man during the Flood, Joseph was God’s man in Egypt, Moses was God’s man in the Exodus, and Esther was God’s woman in the days of King Ahasuerus. So it continues right down to the present. When God puts His people in the right place, His message gets through.

As a Christian, you are God’s person in your family, school, or place of employment. He has placed you there as His ambassador to influence others for Christ. That’s a wonderful privilege and an awesome responsibility.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for His marvelous grace in your life and for the opportunities He gives you each day to share His love with others.

For Further Study

The key to Daniel’s fruitfulness, and to yours as well, is given in Psalm 1. Memorize that psalm, and recite it often as a reminder of God’s promises to those who live with biblical integrity.



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Integrity Will Be Vindicated

“Then Daniel spoke to the king, ‘O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, inasmuch as I was found innocent before Him; and also toward you, O king, I have committed no crime.’ Then the king was very pleased and gave orders for Daniel to be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no injury whatever was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. The king then gave orders, and they brought those men who had maliciously accused Daniel, and they cast them, their children, and their wives into the lions’ den; and they had not reached the bottom of the den before the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones” (Daniel 6:21-24). 

God will always vindicate His people.

One of the challenges of the Christian life is to react properly when being unjustly accused. Our natural inclination is to defend ourselves, which is appropriate at times. But there are other times when we must remain silent and trust the Lord to defend us.

Apparently Daniel said nothing in his own defense when he was charged with disregarding the king’s decree to stop praying. Of course the charge itself was true, but his motives were righteous, and he knew he was innocent before God. Therefore, like Jesus Himself before His accusers, Daniel chose to remain silent and entrust himself to God, who “judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:22-23).

Vindication doesn’t always come quickly, but in Daniel’s case it did. God affirmed his innocence by protecting him from the hungry lions. King Darius affirmed his innocence by putting his accusers to death. That was swift and decisive judgment.

Never lose heart or feel that God has abandoned you when evil people seem to prevail. The day will come when God will vindicate you. When He does, His judgment will also be swift and decisive.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for a loving attitude toward those who unjustly accuse you.

For Further Study

Read James 5:7-11.

  • What encouragement does James give to those who suffer at the hands of evil people?
  • Who does he use as an example of someone who suffered with patience?
  • At what point in time will God’s people be vindicated?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Integrity Accepts God’s Will

“Then the king went off to his palace and spent the night fasting, and no entertainment was brought before him; and his sleep fled from him. Then the king arose with the dawn, at the break of day, and went in haste to the lions’ den. And when he had come near the den to Daniel, he cried out with a troubled voice. The king spoke and said to Daniel, ‘Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?’ Then Daniel spoke to the king, ‘O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me’” (Daniel 6:18-22a).

When circumstances seem darkest, we can see God’s hand most clearly.

It is obvious that King Darius cared deeply for Daniel and that he had some degree of faith in Daniel’s God. Although he believed that God could deliver Daniel (v. 16), he spent a distressing and sleepless night anxiously awaiting dawn, so he could see if his belief was true. At the crack of dawn he hurried to the lions’ den and called out to Daniel. Imagine his relief to hear Daniel’s voice and to learn about how the angel had shut the lions’ mouths.

Why did Darius think God would deliver Daniel? I’m sure he learned of God from Daniel himself. Surely Daniel talked about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego’s deliverance from the fiery furnace and about other marvelous things God had done for His people. The king’s response shows that Daniel’s testimony was effective and that his integrity had lent credibility to his witness.

But suppose God hadn’t delivered Daniel from the lions. Would He have failed? No. Isaiah also believed God, but he was sawn in half. Stephen believed God but was stoned to death. Paul believed God but was beheaded. Trusting God means accepting His will, whether for life or death. And for Christians, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for those Christian leaders today who influence kings and presidents throughout the world. Ask the Lord to give them boldness and blameless integrity.

For Further Study

How does God view the death of His children (see Ps. 116:15 and John 21:18-19)?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Integrity Enjoys Divine Resources

“Then they approached and spoke before the king about the king’s injunction, ‘Did you not sign an injunction that any man who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, is to be cast into the lions’ den?’ The king answered and said, ‘The statement is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked.’ Then they answered and spoke before the king, ‘Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the injunction which you signed, but keeps making his petition three times a day.’ Then, as soon as the king heard this statement, he was deeply distressed and set his mind on delivering Daniel; and even until sunset he kept exerting himself to rescue him. Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, ‘Recognize, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or statute which the king establishes may be changed.’ Then the king gave orders, and Daniel was brought in and cast into the lions’ den. The king spoke and said to Daniel, ‘Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you.’ And a stone was brought and laid over the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signet rings of his nobles, so that nothing might be changed in regard to Daniel” (Daniel 6:12-17).

When human resources have been exhausted, God has only begun to work.

The ink had barely dried on Darius’ decree when Daniel’s enemies reappeared to accuse him of disregarding the order. Only then did Darius realize the grave consequences of his actions.

In his deep distress the king exhausted every legal effort to save Daniel, but to no avail. Even he could not revoke the death sentence he had unwittingly placed on his loyal and trusted servant. In his grief and humility he confessed that God Himself would deliver Daniel. He was right!

Suggestions for Prayer

What are you praying for that only God can do, so that when He does it, He alone will get the glory?

For Further Study

Read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. What was the apostle Paul’s attitude toward his own weaknesses?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Integrity Is Devoted To Prayer

“Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously. Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God” (Daniel 6:10-11).

There is a direct link between prayer and integrity.

It is no coincidence that those whom God uses most effectively are those who are most fervent in prayer. David, for example, called upon the Lord in the morning, at noon, and at night, and the Lord heard his prayers (Ps. 55:17). Daniel followed the same pattern, praying three times a day from his roof chamber, where he could look out above the rooftops of Babylon toward Jerusalem.

Houses in Babylon often had latticework over their windows to allow ventilation, and Daniel would be visible through that latticework as he faced Jerusalem, prayed for its restoration, and gave thanks to God. He knew that Darius had issued a decree making it illegal to pray and that violating the decree would give his enemies opportunity to accuse him, but he would not forsake prayer or compromise his convictions. He would continue to call upon the Lord and leave any consequences to Him.

That was a bold decision for Daniel to make, especially in light of the punishment he would face. Would you be as bold if you knew that your prayers would lead to persecution and possible death? Perhaps more important, are you that committed to prayer even when you aren’t facing persecution? I trust that you are. The seriousness of the spiritual battles you face requires faithfulness in prayer. That’s why Paul said, “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2).

Suggestions for Prayer

Are you devoted to prayer? If not, begin today to set aside a specific time daily to commune with the Lord and meditate on His Word. You might try keeping a written record of your prayer requests, noting the specific ways God answers them.

For Further Study

What was our Lord’s pattern of prayer, and how did He instruct His disciples to pray (see Luke 5:16; 6:12; Matt. 6:5-13)?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Integrity Triumphs Over Deception

“Then these commissioners and satraps came by agreement to the king and spoke to him as follows: ‘King Darius, live forever! All the commissioners of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the high officials and the governors have consulted together that the king should establish a statute and enforce an injunction that anyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, shall be cast into the lions’ den. Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document so that it may not be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked.’ Therefore King Darius signed the document, that is, the injunction” (Daniel 6:6-9).

Integrity is more precious than flattery.

King David once prayed:

O Lord, lead me in Thy righteousness because of my foes; make Thy way straight before me. There is nothing reliable in what they say; their inward part is destruction itself; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. Hold them guilty, O God . . . for they are rebellious against Thee. But let all who take refuge in Thee be glad, let them ever sing for joy; and mayest Thou shelter them, that those who love Thy name may exult in Thee. For it is Thou who dost bless the righteous man, O LORD, Thou dost surround him with favor as with a shield.

—PSALM 5:8-12

That could have been Daniel’s prayer as well, being surrounded by men who were rebellious against God who and flattered Darius so they could have Daniel put to death. By their own devices they would fall, but not before Daniel’s integrity was tested.

Darius yielded to deceitful flattery, decreeing that he alone could grant petitions. (His ego is reminiscent of Nebuchadnezzar’s [Dan. 3:12].) Daniel, on the other hand, was unyielding in his convictions, and God literally surrounded him with favor as with a shield.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that when your faith is tested, you will stand firm and have the assurance that God is surrounding you with His favor.

For Further Study

Psalm 5:12 says that God blesses the righteous man. According to Psalm 64:10 and Psalm 92:12-15, what are some of those blessings?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Integrity Promotes A Righteous Person

“Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him. Then these men said, ‘We shall not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God’” (Daniel 6:4-5).

Live so as to silence your critics.

Whenever God exalts a righteous person, there will be those who are jealous and who criticize. Sometimes, as in Daniel’s case, the jealousy turns to bitter opposition. But Daniel’s accusers had a problem: try as they may, they could find no ground of accusation against him. He was blameless and above reproach in his character and political dealings. Their only option was to somehow indict him for being totally committed to God. What a wonderful testimony to his faithfulness!

When an individual has served in office as long as Daniel had and his enemies can bring no charges of wrongdoing against him, he or she must be a person of great integrity and personal purity. That was the strength of Daniel’s character, and God wants you to have that kind of character as well.

There will always be those who want to discredit you. Even if they aren’t jealous of your position, they’ll resent your Christian faith and will scrutinize your attitudes and actions in an attempt to tarnish your reputation. How will your character hold up under that kind of scrutiny?

The apostle Peter wrote, “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12). That means you must live the kind of life that silences your critics and refutes their accusations. When you do, some of them might even come to Christ.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to guard your testimony and to minister saving grace to anyone who might seek to discredit you.

For Further Study

Read Philippians 1:12-18. What was the apostle Paul’s perspective on those who were envious of him? Do you share his perspective?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Integrity Is Consistent

“It seemed good to Darius to appoint 120 satraps over the kingdom, that they should be in charge of the whole kingdom, and over them three commissioners (of whom Daniel was one), that these satraps might be accountable to them, and that the king might not suffer loss. Then this Daniel began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and satraps because he possessed an extraordinary spirit, and the king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom” (Daniel 6:1-3).

Nations come and go, but God’s plans continue through people of biblical integrity.

As we come to Daniel 6, King Nebuchadnezzar is gone; Belshazzar, his son and successor to the throne, has been slain; the great Babylonian Empire has fallen to the Medo-Persians; and a king identified only as “Darius” (probably another name for Cyrus) is ruling the Medo-Persian Empire. But amidst all those changes, two things remain constant: Daniel distinguishes himself among his peers, and God exalts him.

Daniel served in Babylon for seventy years under three kings, each of whom recognized him as a man of unique wisdom and integrity. King Nebuchadnezzar “made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon” (Dan. 2:48). King Belshazzar “clothed [him] with purple and put a necklace of gold around his neck, and issued a proclamation concerning him that he now had authority as the third ruler in the kingdom” (Dan. 5:29).

Now King Darius is about to appoint Daniel as prime minister over the entire kingdom, and within a year the king will issue a decree for the Jews to return to Judah, thereby ending the seventy-year Babylonian captivity (Ezra 1:1-3). I believe Cyrus made that decree because of Daniel’s wisdom and influence.

Through Daniel’s faithfulness we learn that God is sovereign and will accomplish His plans regardless of human authorities. So despite any political, social, or economic changes that may come, remain faithful to Christ and He will use you in ways that are exceeding abundantly beyond all you ask or think (Eph. 3:20).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that true Christianity will flourish in America and that our nation’s leaders will come to love the Lord and govern with biblical wisdom.

For Further Study

According to Isaiah 40:7-8, 15-17, how does God view the nations?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Integrity Glorifies God

“Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore, I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.’ Then the king caused Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego to prosper in the province of Babylon” (Daniel 3:28-30).

God is honored when you are faithful.

When a well-known National Football League coach was asked why he always had a Christian minister on the sideline with his team, he explained, “I’m not even sure if I believe in God, but in case there is one, I want Him on my side.” King Nebuchadnezzar seems to have had a similar attitude when he blessed the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and decreed that anyone speaking an offense against Him would be torn to pieces and have their homes reduced to rubbish.

Nebuchadnezzar believed that certain peoples or nations had their own gods, and even though he didn’t believe that the God of the Hebrews was the one true God, he had just witnessed dramatic proof that He was more powerful than the gods of Babylon. Therefore, he acknowledged Him as the supreme God and took steps to ensure that no one would offend Him. No doubt he also reasoned that having a God like that on his side would be a definite advantage.

Regardless of Nebuchadnezzar’s motives, his decree glorified God by exalting Him over Babylon’s false gods. More important, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s integrity glorified God by demonstrating the power and influence of an uncompromising life. When the king caused them to prosper in Babylon, the name of the Lord prospered with them.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray daily to live as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego lived and to be used as they were used.

For Further Study

According to Ephesians 3:20, what is God able to accomplish through you when you live with integrity? Are you trusting Him to do so?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Integrity Is A Powerful Witness

“Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!’ Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire. And the satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king’s high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them” (Daniel 3:26-27).

A righteous life attracts people to God.

When Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven” (Matt. 5:16; compare v. 14), He was teaching that what we believe as Christians must be evident in the way we live. When it is, others will be drawn to God and honor Him.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were powerful witnesses for God because they lived according to their convictions. Nebuchadnezzar had done everything he could to intimidate them into compromise, and when that failed he called for their death. But God’s protection of them was so thorough that the intense flames didn’t even singe their hair or scorch their clothing. In fact, they emerged from the furnace without so much as the smell of smoke on them.

So powerful was the integrity of these young men and the hand of God upon their lives that within just a few short verses Nebuchadnezzar went from defying God to exulting Him as “the Most High God.” That phrase doesn’t mean he had abandoned his traditional worship of many gods (apparently that comes in Daniel 4), but he was placing the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego at the top of the list.

So it is when your life impacts others for Christ. They may not yet fully believe, but God uses your faithfulness as a foundation for His future work in their lives.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to use you to witness to someone today.

For Further Study

We have seen the impact of a consistently godly life, but according to Romans 2:17-24, what is the impact of a hypocritical life?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Integrity Never Stands Alone

“Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he responded and said to his high officials, ‘Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?’ They answered and said to the king, ‘Certainly, O king.’ He answered and said, ‘Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!’” (Daniel 3:24-25). 

God will never leave His children alone.

King Nebuchadnezzar was livid with rage when he had Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego bound and cast into the fiery furnace. But his rage quickly turned to astonishment when he saw four men loosed and walking around unharmed by the flames. Clearly something supernatural and beyond his control was occurring.

Although he described the fourth person as being “like a son of the gods,” he did not have the Son of God in mind. As a pagan he would not have understood an Old Testament appearance of Christ, such as occurred to Abraham in Genesis 18. But he understood enough to believe that God had “sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him” (v. 28).

I believe Nebuchadnezzar was correct. God sent an angelic messenger to comfort those young men and to explain that they would not be harmed by the fire. God would turn their darkest hour into their greatest triumph. Others in Scripture have been similarly encouraged by special angels from the Lord. God honored Elijah, for example, by having angels personally serve him food at an especially discouraging time in his life (1 Kings 19:4-7).

If you are a Christian, God has promised never to leave you or forsake you (Heb. 13:5). He will be with you in every circumstance. When necessary, He will dispatch His angels to minister to you in special ways (Heb. 1:14). Let that truth encourage you today, especially if you are undergoing a trial.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise the Lord for the protection and encouragement He has given you in the past and for His promise of similar blessings in the future.

For Further Study

According to 1 Peter 2:18-23 and 4:12-16, how should Christians respond to persecution?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Integrity Triumphs Under Fire

“Then [Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego] were tied up in their trousers, their coats, their caps and their other clothes, and were cast into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire. For this reason, because the king’s command was urgent and the furnace had been made extremely hot, the flame of the fire slew those men who carried up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. But these three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, fell into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire still tied up” (Daniel 3:21-23). 

When God doesn’t deliver you from a trial, He refines you through the trial.

When facing excommunication at the Diet of Worms, Martin Luther wrote to the Elector Frederick, “You ask me what I shall do if I am called by the emperor. I will go down if I am too sick to stand on my feet. If Caesar calls me, God calls me. If violence is used, as well it may be, I commend my cause to God. He lives and reigns who saved the three youths from the fiery furnace of the king of Babylon, and if He will not save me, my head is worth nothing compared with Christ. This is no time to think of safety. I must take care that the gospel is not brought into contempt by our fear to confess and seal our teaching with our blood.”

Luther was willing to risk even death for the sake of Christ. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego before him, he valued integrity above his own life, and in his loneliest hour drew encouragement from their experience.

Often we pray to avoid trials when God wants to use them for our greater good. But trials test the genuineness of our faith and purge us of sin and shallowness like a refiner’s fire purges gold. The process may be painful, but the result is more precious than the purest gold (1 Peter 1:7). 

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that you might face each trial with wisdom, patience, and a clear sense of the Lord’s presence.

For Further Study

Read Acts 20:22-24.

  • What was the apostle Paul’s perspective on the persecution that awaited him in Jerusalem?
  • What was his ultimate goal?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Integrity Incurs The World’s Wrath

“Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath, and his facial expression was altered toward Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. He answered by giving orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. And he commanded certain valiant warriors who were in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, in order to cast them into the furnace of blazing fire” (Daniel 3:19-20).

Persecution is the world’s futile attempt to silence the voice of godly integrity.

King Nebuchadnezzar was a brilliant and powerful man who had built an enormous empire by bringing entire nations under his control. Yet when three youths refused to compromise their devotion to God, he lost rational control and flew into such an intense rage that his face became visibly distorted.

Wanting to vent his wrath upon Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, Nebuchadnezzar ordered that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual. You might expect him to have turned the fire down, thereby punishing them more severely by prolonging their pain. But the king was reacting emotionally, not logically, which often is the case when sinful people are confronted by righteousness.

We see the same pattern throughout Scripture. For example, King Herod’s wife hated John the Baptist and had him beheaded for confronting her sinful marriage to the king (Mark 6:19 ff.). Those who couldn’t cope with the wisdom and spirit of Stephen stirred up the Jews against him, which eventually led to his death by stoning (Acts 6:9 ff.). The Old Testament prophets and the Lord Himself were killed by those who were hostile to God. Similarly, the Thessalonian and Judean Christians endured angry persecution from their own countrymen (1 Thess. 2:14-15).

The opposition we face today may be more subtle, but it all has its source in Satan, who “was a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). So don’t be surprised if subtle opposition suddenly erupts into murderous wrath. But be encouraged, knowing that even when it does, it can never thwart God’s plans or overcome His sustaining grace.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for boldness to speak the truth in love and never to fear the world’s reaction.

For Further Study

Read 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10.

  • Why does God allow Christians to suffer persecution?
  • When and how will God deal with those who persecute His children?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Integrity Trusts God Unconditionally

“Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up’” (Daniel 3:16-18).

Unconditional obedience is the trademark of mature faith.

In Matthew 13 Jesus speaks of people who hear the gospel and initially respond with joy, only to turn away when persecution arises. Tragically, that’s a common occurrence today that is caused by preachers who promise health, wealth, prosperity, and special miracles to all who believe. People who embrace such error are not prepared for the cost of discipleship (cf. Matt. 16:24; John 15:20).

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego understood what it meant to serve God unconditionally. They knew He could move in their defense if it pleased Him to do so, but their faith was not dependent on miracles or any other special benefits they might receive from Him. They stood on convictions and deferred to His will even when doing so brought the threat of a fiery death. Their attitude was that of Christ Himself as He faced the agony of the cross and prayed, “Father . . . not as I will, but as Thou wilt’” (Matt. 26:39).

Their response to King Nebuchadnezzar’s ultimatum may sound arrogant or disrespectful, but they were simply acknowledging that they had nothing to say in their own defense. They had served him faithfully as far as they could, but serving his gods and bowing down to his image was out of the question. God forbids any form of idolatry, and they would not be coerced or intimidated into disobeying Him.

Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, your faith in God isn’t measured by whether or not He rescues you from a difficult situation, but by your willingness to trust and obey Him unconditionally.

Suggestions for Prayer

Express your love to the Lord and your desire to serve Him faithfully despite the circumstances.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 13:1-23. What response does each soil represent?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Integrity Walks In Humility

“Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; then these men were brought before the king. Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, ‘Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, and bagpipe, and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you will not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?’” (Daniel 3:13-15).

God humbles the proud but gives grace to the humble.

When King Nebuchadnezzar asked Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego “What god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?” he showed the extent to which a person can be blinded by sinful pride and arrogance. It is sheer folly to pit one’s power against God’s, but that’s precisely what he did.

Nebuchadnezzar’s attitude reflects that of Satan himself, who boasted that he would ascend into Heaven and make himself like the Most High God (Isa. 14:13-14). God is quick to correct such foolish notions. Later in his life Nebuchadnezzar learned that “everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; assuredly, he will not be unpunished” (Prov. 16:5). After being severely chastened by God, the king came to his senses and proclaimed, “I Nebuchadnezzar praise, exalt, and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride” (Dan. 4:37).

Although they may not be as openly defiant as Nebuchadnezzar was, everyone who willfully disobeys God’s Word is following his example by exalting their own will over God’s and challenging His authority in their lives.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to keep you humble and to forgive any subtle pride you may be harboring in your heart.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 31:23-24 and James 4:13-16.

  • How does the psalmist encourage the humble?
  • What is James’s caution to those who live as if they are not accountable to God?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Integrity Endures Criticism

“For this reason at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and brought charges against the Jews. . . . ‘There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up’” (Daniel 3:8-12).

Expect spiritual opposition.

Have you noticed that whenever you take a public stand for righteousness you feel the reaction of the world more strongly? Even something as noble as doing your work with integrity and diligence can bring ridicule, rejection, or even open hostility. But that shouldn’t surprise you. 
Jesus said, “‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). The apostle Paul warns that “indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were well-acquainted with spiritual opposition, and in today’s passage they are targets of envious Chaldeans who want to see them put to death. The accusations brought against them were not entirely true because they had not disregarded the king. On the contrary, they were model citizens and exemplary leaders. They had attended the king’s ceremony and fulfilled all their other civil duties insofar as those duties did not violate their responsibility to God.

Their accusers weren’t motivated by loyalty to the king or by their personal allegiance to his religious views. They were jealous and resentful because they hated having Jewish captives ruling over them (see Dan. 2:49).

Sometimes Christians today will do their work excellently and be promoted over their peers, only to incur the displeasure of jealous workmates who criticize or bring false and discrediting accusations against them. If ever you are in that situation, you need to be especially diligent to do your work as unto the Lord (Col. 3:23), to guard your own attitude, and to let the Lord be your defender.

Suggestions for Prayer

In obedience to the Lord, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28).

For Further Study

Read Daniel 6.

  • What parallels do you see between Daniel’s situation and our current passage?
  • How did God prove Himself faithful in each?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.