Integrity Resists Intimidation

“Then the herald loudly proclaimed: ‘To you the command is given, O peoples, nations and men of every language, that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe, and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up. But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.’ Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe, and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up” (Daniel 3:4-7).

The choices you make reveal the convictions you embrace.

After King Nebuchadnezzar had gathered all his leaders to the dedication of his golden image, he issued a proclamation that at the sound of his orchestra they were to fall down and worship the image. Those leaders were the most influential and respected people in Babylon, so you might expect them to be people of strong convictions and personal integrity. Sadly, that was not the case, and with only three exceptions they all lacked the courage to say no.

Granted, punishment for disobeying the king’s decree would be severe indeed. But even the threat of a fiery death could not intimidate Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Instead, it simply revealed the depth of their commitment to God. That’s what makes them such remarkable role models. As young men barely twenty years old, they demonstrated tremendous courage and conviction.

Each day Christians face considerable pressure to compromise spiritual integrity and to adopt standards of thought and behavior that are displeasing to the Lord. Young people especially are vulnerable to negative peer pressure and intimidation. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego show us that young people can be spiritual leaders who are strong in their faith and exemplary in their obedience. May that be true of you as well, regardless of your age.

Suggestions for Prayer

Remember to pray often for the young people in your church, and do what you can to encourage them in their walk with the Lord.

For Further Study

Read Joshua 1:1-9. How did God encourage Joshua as he faced the intimidating task of leading the nation of Israel?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Integrity Worships The True God

“Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits and its width six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent word to assemble the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Then the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces were assembled for the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up” (Daniel 3:1-3).

People are incurably religious and will worship either the true God or a false substitute.

Scripture teaches that a double-minded man is “unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8). That certainly was true of King Nebuchadnezzar, who shortly after declaring that Daniel’s God “is a God of gods and a Lord of kings” (Dan. 2:47), erected a huge image of himself and assembled all his leaders for its dedication.

The image was ninety feet tall and was probably constructed of wood overlaid with gold. Because the plain of Dura was flat, the statue would have been visible for a great distance. The gold idol was a magnificent sight as it reflected the bright sunlight of that region.

The king’s plan was to have all his leaders bow down to the image, thereby bringing glory to himself, verifying their loyalty, and unifying the nation under one religion. But he was soon to learn that three young men with spiritual integrity would never abandon worship of the true God, regardless of the consequences.

Worshiping the true God or a false substitute is the choice that everyone must make. Sadly, millions of people who wouldn’t think of bowing to a tangible image nevertheless worship useless gods of their own imaginations. Even Christians can be lured into self-love and covetousness, which are forms of idolatry (Col. 3:5). That’s why you must always guard your heart diligently.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for the privilege of knowing and worshiping the true God.

For Further Study

According to Romans 1:18-32, what are the spiritual and moral consequences of idolatry?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Integrity Results In Fruitful Ministry

“And Daniel continued until the first year of Cyrus the king” (Daniel 1:21).

People of integrity are people of significant spiritual influence.

When King Nebuchadnezzar took Daniel as one of his personal servants, it was just the beginning of a ministry that would last for seventy years. Daniel 2:48 records that soon afterward “the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts, and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.” At Daniel’s request, the king also appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego to positions of authority, thereby providing an even stronger voice for righteousness in Babylon.

Years later, Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Belshazzar, “clothed Daniel 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). Following Belshazzar’s death and the fall of Babylon to the Medes and Persians, Darius the Mede appointed Daniel as one of only three men in the kingdom to have oversight over all his governors (Dan. 6:1-2). As the Lord continued to bless Daniel, and as he distinguished himself among Darius’ leaders, the king appointed him as prime minister over the entire kingdom. Daniel therefore “enjoyed success in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian” (Dan. 6:28). 

Daniel’s life was one of enormous influence, which began when he was a youth who chose commitment over compromise. He was faithful with little, and the Lord gave him much. Perhaps few Christians will have the breadth of influence Daniel enjoyed, but every Christian should have his commitment. Remember, the choices you make for Christ today directly impact the influence you will have for Him tomorrow. So live each day to hear the Lord’s “Well done, good and faithful [servant]; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:23).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to guard your integrity, so that your influence for Him will be strong and ever-increasing.

For Further Study

Read the prayer of Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:10.

  • What did Jabez request of God?
  • What was God’s response?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Integrity Proves God’s Faithfulness

“Then at the end of the days which the king had specified for presenting them, the commander of the officials presented them before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king talked with them, and out of them all not one was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s personal service. And as for every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers who were in all his realm” (Daniel 1:18-20).

God always equips you for the tasks He requires of you.

Daniel and the other young men deported in 606 B.C. received three years of intense training under the watchful eye of the commander of King Nebuchadnezzar’s officials. At the conclusion of their training, they were presented to the king for his personal evaluation. The results were impressive indeed. Of all those who were trained, none compared to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Beyond that, they were found to be ten times better than all the wise men in the entire kingdom of Babylon! Consequently, at the age of only seventeen or eighteen, they were made the king’s personal servants.

Why were these young men so superior to their peers? It wasn’t simply their training, because each man had received the same education. The difference was their character and the faithful provisions of their God, who granted them special knowledge, intelligence, and wisdom (v. 17). They were so righteous and wise that even those who did not believe in their God were compelled to acknowledge the quality of their lives. That’s the impact every believer should have on those around them!

God wants you to live the kind of life that silences those who would seek to malign you or your God (1 Peter 2:15), and He has provided every spiritual resource for you to do so (2 Peter 1:3). Therefore, when you live with integrity, you prove to others that God really does accomplish His work in those who love Him.

Suggestions for Prayer

Make a list of spiritual resources that are yours in Christ, then praise Him for each of them.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 119:97-104.

  • What are the psalmist’s attitudes toward God’s Word (His “law”)?
  • What steps did he take to ensure that godliness would be evident in his life?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Integrity Reflects Godly Wisdom

“As for [Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego], God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams” (Daniel 1:17).

Godly wisdom guards against the influences of a godless society.

From the beginning of human history Satan has tried to confuse and confound God’s purposes by corrupting man’s thinking. In the Garden of Eden he succeeded by calling God’s character into question and convincing Eve that her disobedience would have no consequences. To this day he continues to deceive entire civilizations by blinding “the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4).

Daniel and his friends were captives of a pagan king who wanted to dilute their allegiance to God by reprogramming their thinking. However, unlike Eve, they were determined not to be overcome by the evil influences around them. God honored their integrity and taught them everything they needed to know to be productive in Babylonian society and to influence it for righteousness.

Babylon was the center of learning in its day, boasting of advanced sciences, sophisticated libraries, and great scholars. God gave these young men the ability to learn and retain that level of knowledge, and the wisdom to apply it to their lives. Furthermore, He gave Daniel the ability to interpret dreams and receive visions—gifts that would prove crucial later in his life as God elevated him to a position of prominence in Babylon and revealed the plan of history to him (see chapters 7—12).

Surely Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego didn’t understand all that God had in store for them or why He would allow them to be tested so severely at such a young age. But when they chose to love and trust Him despite their circumstances, they demonstrated the kind of wisdom that protects God’s children from the influences of a godless society. As we do the same, God uses us in significant ways. Also, we find that God never calls us to a challenge that He won’t equip us to handle.

Suggestions for Prayer

King David prayed, “Teach us to number our days, that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12). Make that your prayer as well.

For Further Study

Read Colossians 1:9-12. What are the results of being filled with “spiritual wisdom and understanding”?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Integrity Passes The Test

“So [the king’s overseer] listened to [Daniel and his friends] in this matter and tested them for ten days. And at the end of ten days their appearance seemed better and they were fatter than all the youths who had been eating the king’s choice food. So the overseer continued to withhold their choice food and the wine they were to drink, and kept giving them vegetables” (Daniel 1:14-16).

All spiritual commitment will be tested.

When God wants to prove the quality of one’s commitment, He tests it. The test may come directly from Him, as with Abraham when God asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac (Gen. 22:1-2), or it may come through difficult circumstances, as with the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings (Deut. 8:16), or it may even come from Satan himself, as God permitted with Job (Job 1:12; 2:6). Regardless of its source, every test is designed by God to produce greater spiritual fruit in His children (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego’s tests came at the hands of their Babylonian captors. Separation from family, friends, and homeland must have been an extremely difficult test for them, but through it all their commitment to the Lord remained unshakable. Now they faced a test to determine whether or not they could remain undefiled. For ten days they would eat only vegetables and drink only water, while their fellow captives ate the king’s special diet.

Normally such a brief period of time would make no noticeable change in one’s physiology, but God must have intervened because at the conclusion of just ten days, these four young men were clearly healthier and more vigorous than their peers. The results were so convincing that their overseer allowed them to remain on a vegetarian diet throughout their entire three-year training period. God honored their uncompromising spirit.

When you are tested, remember that God is working on your spiritual maturity and that He will never test you beyond what you are able to endure and will always provide a means of victory (1 Cor. 10:13).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for wisdom and strength to meet each test in your life with courage and victory.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 26:1-3.

  • What did King David request of God?
  • How does he describe a person of integrity?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Integrity Conquers Fear

“The commander of the officials said to Daniel, ‘I am afraid of my lord the king, who has appointed your food and your drink; for why should he see your faces looking more haggard than the youths who are your own age? Then you would make me forfeit my head to the king.’ But Daniel said to the overseer whom the commander of the officials had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, ‘Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance be observed in your presence, and the appearance of the youths who are eating the king’s choice food; and deal with your servants according to what you see.’ So he listened to them in this matter and tested them for ten days” (Daniel 1:10-14).

People of biblical integrity tend also to be people with unashamed boldness.

I love to read the biographies of great missionaries and other godly people whose lives reflect an uncommon commitment to Christ and whose boldness in the face of difficulties sets them apart from their peers. Daniel was such a man. From his youth he delighted in doing God’s will and proclaiming God’s Word with boldness. He shared David’s perspective in Psalm 40:89, “I delight to do Thy will, O my God; Thy Law is within my heart. I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation; behold, I will not restrain my lips, O Lord.”

In stark contrast to Daniel’s boldness was Ashpenaz’s fear. Although he thought kindly of Daniel, Ashpenaz feared for his life if Daniel and his friends were to appear pale and malnourished after he granted them exemption from the king’s special diet. So with characteristic wisdom and boldness, Daniel suggested a simple test designed to relieve Ashpenaz’s fears and prove God’s faithfulness. Tomorrow we will see the results of that test (v. 15). But for today I pray that you will have the boldness of Daniel as you take every opportunity to proclaim God’s Word.

Suggestions for Prayer

Like Daniel you may be facing a situation that requires a special measure of boldness. If so, ask the Lord to strengthen you as you set your heart on doing His will.

For Further Study

Read Ephesians 6:19-20; Philippians 1:19-20. What was the source of Paul’s boldness?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Integrity Enjoys God’s Favor

“Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials” (Daniel 1:9).

God’s favor is the rich reward of obedience.

God delights in granting special grace and favor to those whose hearts are set on pleasing Him. For example, “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” and was spared the ravages of the Flood (Gen. 6:8). Joseph found favor in His sight and was elevated to prominence in Egypt (Gen. 39—41). God granted Moses and the children of Israel favor in the sight of the Egyptians, and they were able to plunder Egypt in the Exodus (Ex. 11:3; 12:36).

When Daniel chose to obey God by not defiling himself with the king’s special diet (Dan. 1:8), he demonstrated great courage and integrity. God responded by granting him favor and compassion in the sight of Ashpenaz, the commander of the king’s officials. The Hebrew word translated “favor” speaks of goodness or kindness. It can also include a strong affection from deep within. “Compassion” means a tender, unfailing love. Together these words tell us that God established a special relationship between Ashpenaz and Daniel that not only protected Daniel from harm in this instance, but also helped prepare him for his future role as a man of enormous influence in Babylon.

Today God’s favor is the special grace He grants His children in times of need. It is especially evident when their obedience brings persecution. The apostle Peter wrote, “This finds favor [grace], if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. . . . If when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor [grace] with God” (1 Peter 2:19-20).

Daniel knew that refusing the king’s special diet could lead to serious consequences, but he was more interested in obeying God’s Word than avoiding man’s punishment. He had the right priorities, and God honored his obedience, just as He will honor yours.

Suggestions for Prayer

Let the prayer of Moses be yours today: “Let me know Thy ways, that I may know Thee, so that I may find favor in Thy sight” (Ex. 33:13).

For Further Study

Read Genesis 39. What were the results of God’s favor upon Joseph?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Integrity Stands On Principle

“And the king appointed for them a daily ration from the king’s choice food and from the wine which he drank, and appointed that they should be educated three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king’s personal service. . . . But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself” (Daniel 1:5,8).

Godly integrity is built upon the foundation of biblical authority.

From the world’s perspective, King Nebuchadnezzar had much to offer his Hebrew captives: the best food, the best education, and high positions in his kingdom. But Daniel’s perspective was quite different. He did not object to receiving a pagan education because God had given no direct prohibition against that, and a Babylonian education had much to offer in the areas of architecture and science. But as with anyone receiving a secular education, Daniel would have to exercise discernment in sorting out the true from the false and the good from the bad.

It was when Daniel was asked to violate a direct command from God that he drew the line and took his stand on biblical principle. That’s the character of godly integrity. It bases decisions on the principles from God’s Word, not on mere preference, intimidation, or peer pressure. Seemingly Daniel had every reason to compromise: he was young, away from home, and facing severe consequences if he defied the king’s order. Yet he was unwavering in his obedience to God.

Although Daniel couldn’t obey the king’s order, he handled the situation in a wise and respectful manner by seeking permission to abstain from eating what God had forbidden. From his example we learn that standing on principle will sometimes put us at odds with those in authority over us, but even then we can love and respect them.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Pray for those in authority over you who may want you to do things that would displease the Lord.
  • Pray for wisdom and grace to maintain a loving attitude toward them while still standing on biblical principles.

For Further Study

Read Acts 5:17-29. How did the apostles respond to the authorities who commanded them to stop preaching the gospel?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Integrity Triumphs Over Personal Loss

“Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. Then the commander of the officials assigned new names to them; and to Daniel he assigned the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah Shadrach, to Mishael Meshach, and to Azariah Abed-nego” (Daniel 1:6-7).

You can’t always prevent personal loss, but you can respond to it in ways that glorify God.

It was a quiet January morning in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California until suddenly and without warning the earth shook with such a violent force that many department stores, apartment houses, homes, and freeway overpasses crumbled under the strain. Within minutes the 1994 Northridge earthquake left scars upon lives and land that in some cases may never heal. Such catastrophic events remind us of just how difficult dealing with personal loss can be.

Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah understood personal loss. Perhaps in our day only those who have suffered as prisoners of war or as refugees from war’s ravages can fully appreciate the deep sense of loss those men must have felt after being cut off from family, friends, and homeland.

Their loss included even their own names. When taken captive, each of them had a Hebrew name that reflected his godly upbringing. But in an apparent effort to remove that influence and to exalt the pagan deities of Bel (or Baal) and Aku, Nebuchadnezzar’s commander changed their names from Daniel (which means “God is judge”) to Belteshazzar (“Bel provides” or “Bel’s prince”), from Hananiah (“the Lord is gracious”) to Shadrach (“under the command of Aku”), from Mishael (“Who is what the Lord is?”) to Meshach (“Who is what Aku is?”), and from Azariah (“the Lord is my helper”) to Abed-nego (“the servant of Nebo [the son of Baal]”).

Daniel and his friends couldn’t prevent their losses, but they could trust God and refuse to let those losses lead to despair or compromise. That’s an example you can follow when you face loss.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask the Lord for the wisdom to see your losses through His loving eyes, and for the grace to respond appropriately.
  • Pray for those whom you know who have suffered loss recently.

For Further Study

Read Job 1:13-22.

  • How did Job respond to his losses?
  • What can you learn from his example?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Integrity Triumphs Over Pride

“Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles, youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding, and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king’s court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. . . . Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah” (Daniel 1:3-4, 6).

Man values physical beauty and superior human capabilities, whereas God values spiritual character.

As King Nebuchadnezzar was besieging Jerusalem, he received word that his father had died. So he returned to Babylon, leaving Jehoiakim, king of Judah, in power. To ensure the king’s loyalty, Nebuchadnezzar instructed Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to take some hostages from among the royal families of Israel. Among those selected were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.

Nebuchadnezzar’s plan was to train these young hostages in the ways of the Babylonians (Chaldeans), then press them into service as his representatives among the Jews. There were an estimated fifty to seventy-five hostages, each of whom was young (probably in his early teens), handsome, and without physical defect. In addition, each had superior intellect, education, wisdom, and social graces.

Being among such a select group of people could have led to pride in Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. But self-glorification meant nothing to them. Their priority was to serve their God with humility, integrity, and fidelity. Nebuchadnezzar could look on them favorably, train them in the ways of the Chaldeans, and offer them power and influence in his kingdom, but he could never incite their pride or diminish their allegiance to the Lord.

Like Babylon, our society is enamored with physical beauty and human capabilities. However, let your focus be on spiritual character and using for God’s glory the talents and abilities He has given you.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank the Lord for the special gifts He has given you.
  • Prayerfully guard your heart against subtle pride, which undermines spiritual character.

For Further Study

Read Daniel 4:28-36.

  • How did God deal with King Nebuchadnezzar’s pride?
  • What was the king’s response (see v. 37)?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Integrity Triumphs Over Adversity

“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the vessels of the house of God; and he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god” (Daniel 1:1-2).

Integrity shines brightest against the backdrop of adversity.

Our passage today tells of the tragic time in Israel’s history when God chastened her severely by allowing King Nebuchadnezzar and the wicked nation of Babylon to march against her and take her captive. God never coddles His people, nor does He wink at their sin. Israel’s chastening illustrates the principle that “judgment [begins] with the household of God” (1 Peter 4:17). But as severe as His discipline can be, it is always aimed at producing greater righteousness and godly integrity in His children (Heb. 12:5-11).

The Babylonian captivity set the stage for a truly uncommon display of integrity from Daniel and his three Hebrew friends. In the days ahead we will examine their character in some depth. For now, however, be encouraged that adversity of any kind—even chastening for sin—is God’s way of providing the rich soil for nourishing and strengthening the spiritual fruit of integrity. Without the adversities of Babylon, Daniel’s integrity and that of his friends would not have shone as brightly as it did and would not have had the significant impact it had on King Nebuchadnezzar and his entire kingdom.

Perhaps you are currently experiencing adversities that are especially challenging, and you may not yet understand what God is accomplishing through them. But like Daniel and his friends, you can pray for the wisdom to understand His will and the faith to trust Him through the process. And you can be assured He will never fail you.

Suggestions for Prayer

Each day your integrity is tested in many ways. Ask the Lord to help you be aware of those times and to make choices that honor Him.

For Further Study

Read 1 Kings 9:3-5.

  • What kind of integrity did God require of Solomon?
  • What promises did He make if Solomon obeyed?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Integrity Means No Compromise!

“O Lord, who may abide in Thy tent? Who may dwell on Thy holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart” (Psalm 15:1-2).

To love Christ and to be characterized by ever-increasing fidelity to biblical truth is the heart of true integrity.

Christian integrity has been defined as the absence of compromise and the presence of biblical convictions. In the words of the psalmist, it is to work righteousness and to speak truth from the heart (Ps. 15:2).

Many people in Scripture demonstrate exemplary integrity. For example, Jesus spoke of Nathanael as an Israelite “in whom is no guile” (John 1:47). To be without guile is to be truthful and unpretentious, which is another way of saying Nathanael had integrity. What a wonderful commendation!

Like Nathanael, Daniel was a man of uncompromising integrity, and in our studies this month Daniel’s example will demonstrate the power, characteristics, and blessings of biblical integrity. You will also see how God uses even the most difficult circumstances to test and refine your integrity.

This is an especially timely topic for our day because the spirit of compromise is flourishing all around us: in politics, in sports, in business, and sadly, even in the church. But Scripture calls us to an uncompromising standard that reflects the integrity of Christ Himself. As the Apostle John said, “The one who says he abides in [Christ] ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6).

This month you will see some of the challenges that await those who refuse to compromise their biblical convictions, as well as the blessings that come to them. As you do, I pray that the Lord will strengthen and encourage you, and that you will be one who truly “walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart.”

Suggestions for Prayer

Make King David’s prayer yours today: “Guard my soul and deliver me; do not let me be ashamed, for I take refuge in Thee. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for Thee” (Psalm 25:20-21).

For Further Study

Read Daniel 1, 3, and 6 in preparation for our studies this month. Make a list of the character traits you see in Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego that are worthy of imitation.



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997. 

Our Ultimate Example

“And while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23).

Jesus Christ, as the sinless sufferer, is the only model we need as we endure life’s trials.

Prior to his death in 1555, the English Reformer and martyr Hugh Latimer expressed his convictions this way: “Die once we must; how and where, we know not. . . . Here is not our home; let us therefore accordingly consider things, having always before our eyes that heavenly Jerusalem, and the way thereto in persecution.” Latimer knew much about how to face suffering, but he knew that Jesus Himself was the final model regarding how to deal with suffering and death.

That model is summarized in today’s verse, which is a quote from the Suffering Servant passage in Isaiah 53. All the horrible physical and verbal abuse Christ endured just prior to the cross, along with the evil tearing down of His perfectly virtuous character, was unjustified, and yet He did not strike back. As the Son of God, Jesus had perfect control of His feelings and powers.

Jesus found the strength to endure such an abusive final trial when He “kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” Literally, Jesus kept handing Himself and all His circumstances, climaxing with His death on Calvary (Luke 23:46), over to the Father. The Son had complete trust in God, the just and fair Judge of the entire earth (see Gen. 18:25).

We can follow His example and endure persecution and unjust suffering without answering back, whether it be in the workplace, among relatives, or in any social setting. The key is simply entrusting our lives, by faith, to a righteous God who will make everything right and bring us safely into His glory (1 Peter 5:6-10).

Stephen and Paul are notable role models for how we can triumph over life’s persecutions and hardships, even death. But those great men were themselves merely “fixing [their] eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Heb. 12:2). We must do the same.

Suggestions for Prayer

As you daily experience life’s normal difficulties and challenges, ask God to help you better remember the perfect example Jesus set in facing the worst of pain and suffering.

For Further Study

Read Hebrews 1:1-2 and 4:14-16.

  • Compare and contrast what these passages tell us about Christ’s deity and humanity.
  • What do they reveal about the superiority of His example?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Endurance: Look To The Future

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

It is far easier to endure trials when we value the future over the present.

A few years ago the popular Back to the Future movies dealt rather whimsically with the possibility of time travel, which always involved entering the future. The recurring theme was that with all the complications of tampering with the future, it was better to live in the present. Viewers could infer that, ultimately, it is not worth it to dwell a lot on the future.

That is just the opposite of the apostle Paul’s attitude about the future. He dealt with the profound certainties of what awaits all believers in the life to come. For Paul, the value of the future was another important reason he could endure life’s sufferings and trials. The temporal pain for him and us is inconsequential compared to what awaits us in Heaven (Rom. 8:18).

Trials are inevitable, and the pain associated with them can be very intense, but when compared to what we will enjoy in the future, they hardly matter. Paul saw them as light afflictions, or literally “weightless trifles.” He knew that their real significance is only in how they contribute to our eternal glory.

That contribution is anything but trivial. Rather, it produces “an eternal weight of glory.” Concerning this expression, it’s as if Paul envisioned an old-fashioned two-sided scale that was being tipped in favor of the future by the cumulative mass (“eternal weight of glory”) of his individual sufferings. Paul could endure the pain of present trials when he was certain that they contributed positively to his life in Heaven.

The amount of trials and suffering you and I endure now is also directly linked to our eternal rewards. Those rewards are not external bonuses such as fancier crowns, better robes, or bigger heavenly mansions. Instead they refer to our increased capacity to praise, serve, and glorify God. That fulfilled Paul’s greatest desire and enabled him to joyfully persevere in trials, and it should do the same for us.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to give you a perspective that sees every trial as trivial in light of eternal rewards.

For Further Study

Read Romans 8:18-25.

  • How far do the effects of sin and suffering extend?
  • What does Paul say about hope in this passage?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Endurance: The Value Of The Spiritual

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Believers are far more blessed when they concentrate on the spiritual rather than physical aspects of life.

Concerning endurance, Paul is again our role model. One reason he was able to endure pain and trials was that he knew the physical was far less important and lasting than the spiritual. He realized that our physical bodies are naturally aging and therefore not permanent. He was probably aware of this more than most people because his rigorous ministry with its travel demands hastened his own aging process. And surely he also aged more rapidly than others because of all the physical and emotional persecution he endured from his enemies.

Paul was able to accept physical suffering and aging because he knew his inner man (his spiritual self, his new creation) was being renewed daily (2 Cor. 4:16). It’s not easy for us to follow Paul’s example; yet he urges believers to “set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2). Many of the trials and sufferings the Lord brings to us compel us to obey Paul’s words, look away from ourselves, and experience the spiritual growth that is so directly the result of suffering (see 1 Peter 5:10).

God’s Word assures us that He will provide all the strength we need to endure. In closing, consider the prophet’s words:

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.

—Isaiah 40:28-31

Suggestions for Prayer

As you go through this day, pray that the Lord would help you focus on the spiritual rather than the physical.

For Further Study

Read Hebrews 11:1-16. What common ingredient allowed those in this passage to look beyond the physical toward the spiritual?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Joy In Spite Of Death

“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

In addition to Scripture, God has given us more than adequate spiritual resources to meet suffering and death.

Wall Street, the name synonymous with the American stock market and financial investing, is a place where confidence can rise and fall with great force and unpredictability, right along with the rising or sinking level of stock prices. Prices always seem to even out, but who can be certain about how they will behave in the future?

The apostle Paul’s spiritual confidence was not based on the changeableness of financial markets but on truths that are stable and reliable. Yesterday we saw his confidence in God’s Word, and today we’ll look at three more reasons Paul could confront death confidently.

First, Paul had confidence in the prayers of other believers. But it was not a presumptuous confidence because he believed in asking others to pray (see Rom. 15:30). Paul was convinced that “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16).

Second, Paul was confident that the Holy Spirit would supply all necessary resources to sustain him through any suffering, even death. All Christians can have that same confidence: “The Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26).

Third, Paul had the utmost confidence in Christ’s promises. The apostle was sure that God had called him to a specific ministry (Acts 26:16) and that if he was faithful, he would never suffer shame (Mark 8:38). Jesus never abandons His sheep, no matter how bleak and frustrating their circumstances seem (John 10:27-28).

Our verse from Philippians summarizes Paul’s confidence and joy in spite of possible death. As long as he was serving Jesus Christ, he’d just as soon die because death frees the believer from the burdens of earth and lets him glorify Christ in eternity. We can rely on the same promises and provisions as Paul did and have his kind of joy. Jesus “is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Confess any ways in which you have a misplaced confidence.
  • Ask the Lord to reinforce in your heart a Pauline confidence that rejoices no matter what.

For Further Study

Read Romans 8, and list as many spiritual resources and reasons for rejoicing as you can from the chapter.



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Confidence In The Face Of Death

“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

We can count on Scripture to give us confidence in the face of death.

A few years ago my radio ministry heard from a listener who was exhibiting exactly the right attitude in the face of a terminal illness. A teenager from the Midwest sent a prayer request concerning her recently diagnosed Lou Gehrig’s disease. That Christian young woman, who by now is probably with the Lord, accepted her condition with grace and optimism. Here is part of what she wrote to us: “I love the Lord very much and feel the Lord is using my condition to work in different peoples’ lives. Please pray with me that He would continue to use me no matter what the outcome.”

Her sentiments were right in step with Philippians 1:21, in which the apostle Paul proclaims his joy and confidence at the possibility of death. What enabled him to rejoice was his complete confidence in the Word of God.

Earlier Paul had articulated his trust in God’s promises when he wrote these familiar words in Romans 8:28, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Now he shared verbatim with the Philippians from Job 13:16, “For I know that this shall turn out for my deliverance” (Phil. 1:19). That too was a trustworthy promise from the Word, and it made Paul confident that his current trials would have a positive outcome.

Whether suffering was of long or short duration, Paul knew that the righteous would be delivered from their temporal trials. That was certainly borne out when God restored Job from his difficult, lengthy ordeal of testing.

Knowing all this, and realizing that all of God’s written Word is available to us, we can certainly have Paul’s type of confidence as we consider the inevitability of death. And we can “keep on rejoicing” (1 Peter 4:13), even if it’s the Lord’s will that we experience an early departure from this life.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the provision of His Word, which is such an infallible guide as you deal with the uncertainties of death.
  • Pray for someone you know at your church or in your neighborhood who may be facing death right now.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 34:17, 19; 37:39-40; 91:3; 97:10. What theme runs through these verses that would help you deal as you ought with trials and sufferings?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Paul: Joy In Spite Of Trouble

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

The apostle Paul was a model believer who did not let his troubles steal His joy in the Lord.

According to today’s verse, believers should never let a negative outlook replace our joy, no matter how bad life seems to be. The apostle Paul set an example that was far different. He wrote to the Philippians that in spite of being imprisoned in Rome, he was still rejoicing. Even though Paul was restricted under trying and harsh conditions, he was glad because the gospel message was being declared, even among the prison guards. Paul was not so concerned about his own hardships but that others hear the saving good news of Jesus Christ (see 1 Cor. 9:16).

Paul saw himself as a prisoner for the sake of Christ and the gospel. Therefore, he never gave in to any temptation to indulge in self-pity but rather focused on his duty of telling others about his Lord and Savior. Some of Paul’s other letters also mention his imprisonment (see Eph. 3:1; Col. 4:10) but always positively, because the apostle never forgot that being a prisoner was merely part of the role he was called to as an ambassador for God’s kingdom.

Paul’s Roman imprisonment resulted in his joyful attitude extending out in evangelism: “My imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well-known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else” (Phil. 1:13). However, Paul’s ultimate impact on the guards and others was not just from his outward expressions of happiness. Rather, those who heard him were changed because they saw an attitude of joy and a message of truth deeply fixed in a man experiencing great trials and afflictions.

What a profound example Paul is for you and me today. For instance, we can make difficult witnessing opportunities easier by exhibiting Christlikeness and godly joy no matter how events are pressing us down. Such attitudes, so different from what people naturally expect, will give us many chances to testify of God’s grace (see 1 Peter 3:15).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to help you look above and beyond your problems and focus on what He has done for you.

For Further Study

A very striking example of Paul’s rejoicing in the midst of suffering happened at the Philippian dungeon. Read Acts 16:22-34. What did he and Silas do to make the best of that trial?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Paul: Joy In Spite Of Trouble

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

The apostle Paul was a model believer who did not let his troubles steal His joy in the Lord.

According to today’s verse, believers should never let a negative outlook replace our joy, no matter how bad life seems to be. The apostle Paul set an example that was far different. He wrote to the Philippians that in spite of being imprisoned in Rome, he was still rejoicing. Even though Paul was restricted under trying and harsh conditions, he was glad because the gospel message was being declared, even among the prison guards. Paul was not so concerned about his own hardships but that others hear the saving good news of Jesus Christ (see 1 Cor. 9:16).

Paul saw himself as a prisoner for the sake of Christ and the gospel. Therefore, he never gave in to any temptation to indulge in self-pity but rather focused on his duty of telling others about his Lord and Savior. Some of Paul’s other letters also mention his imprisonment (see Eph. 3:1; Col. 4:10) but always positively, because the apostle never forgot that being a prisoner was merely part of the role he was called to as an ambassador for God’s kingdom.

Paul’s Roman imprisonment resulted in his joyful attitude extending out in evangelism: “My imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well-known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else” (Phil. 1:13). However, Paul’s ultimate impact on the guards and others was not just from his outward expressions of happiness. Rather, those who heard him were changed because they saw an attitude of joy and a message of truth deeply fixed in a man experiencing great trials and afflictions.

What a profound example Paul is for you and me today. For instance, we can make difficult witnessing opportunities easier by exhibiting Christlikeness and godly joy no matter how events are pressing us down. Such attitudes, so different from what people naturally expect, will give us many chances to testify of God’s grace (see 1 Peter 3:15).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to help you look above and beyond your problems and focus on what He has done for you.

For Further Study

A very striking example of Paul’s rejoicing in the midst of suffering happened at the Philippian dungeon. Read Acts 16:22-34. What did he and Silas do to make the best of that trial?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.