Make the decision before deciding time.

Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself. – Dan 1:8

Often times we are faced with temptations, and fall into them, because we are not adequately prepared for them when they come. They catch us off guard, and being in the heat of the moment, we give in. Afterwards we regret our decisions, but many people find themselves repeating the same sins over and over again.

I like what Daniel did when he knew he was going to face some tough trials of temptation. Daniel prepared himself ahead of time and made the decision on what he was going to do before the temptation ever hit him. The bible says that he 'purposed in his heart that he was not going to defile himself (i.e. sin).' He was in a strange land with people that believed a lot differently than he did. He knew that there were going to be lots of temptation coming, so he was going to be ready.

The first temptation that came to Daniel and his friends was in something as seemly unimportant as their diet. Jews were forbidden to eat certian things. They couldn't eat pork or shell fish or horses, and some other stuff as well. Non-Jewish nations were very accustomed to eating whatever they wanted. Daniel knew that he was going to be faced with the oppurtunity to disobey God in this area, and that it would be difficult to avoid. He was in a strange land as a slave. He didn't have the liberty to go to the store for himself or go to Burger King so he could have it his way. He was going to be given food and he was going to be expected to eat it. Potentates didn't take kindly to slaves who insisted on their own way.

Now the king had appointed all of the captives to be given choice meat and choice wine from the kings table. This meat was without a doubt unclean and most likely from animals sacrificed to idols. Wine was not forbidden to Jews, however this wine was most likely part of idol worship or may have been something similar to snake wine. But God had given Daniel favor with the cheif of the eunuchs of Babylon. He asked him if he and his friends might be giving vegetables and water instead of the kings food. The cheif eunuch reluctantly agreed to test them for ten days, fearing that the king might notice these slaves being weaker than the others and might cost him his head. After ten days the cheif eunuch found Daniel and his friends to be stronger and healthier looking then the rest of the captives. And then, when their training was complete, the king himself found Daniel and his friends to be ten times better than, not only the rest of the capitives, but also all the magicians and wisemen in the entire realm.

Daniel was victorious! He determined what his answer to temptation was going to be and came out shining.

But here's the question that lingers in my mind: What if the answer had been 'no?' What if the cheif eunuch had refused Daniels request for vegetables? What then? Had Daniel thought of this? I believe that he did. I believe he wouldn't have ate. I don't know if Daniel's friends had thought that far ahead, though. It doesn't say that Daniel's friends had purposed in their hearts not to defile themselves. It only says that Daniel did. Daniel was clearly the leader here. And it maybe that if it wasn't for Daniel's inspiring courage to obey God in the face of death on this instance, that we might never have the awesome firey furnance story in the next couple of chapters.

What about you? What are the temptations that you know you are going to face? If you are man, you most likely know that you are going to face the temptation to lust, to look at pornography, and to commit sexual sins. In this sexually charged culture, such temptation is inevitable. And you women, in the same vein, will be tempted to compromise your morality for the attention of men. You will be tempted to gossip. You both will be tempted to cheat. You will be tempted to over-eat, to over-drink, to be lazy, to subject your eyes and ears to ungodly entertainment, to deny Christ in your school or workplace for comfort's sake, to laugh at a dirty joke, to turn a blind eye to someone in need, to skip church, to listen to someone speak evil of a brother, to listen to someone speak evil of the pastor, and the list goes on. The question is, what temptations are you most likely to succumb to? The next question is, what are you going to do when it comes?

Daniel had a plan. He knew what was coming, so he executed a preemptive strike. With God's help, his plan worked.

God can help you, too. Is there a certian person that tempts you? Plan: walk a different way to class, ask the boss to move your office, wear terrible cologne (just change your shirt when you get home to your wife!). Are you tempted to look at pornography? Plan: get a filter, only use the computer in public places, have grandma look at your browser history on a weekly basis. You get the point. The main idea is to anticipate whats coming and be ready with a plan. You know what normally tempts you, you can be ready for it.

The most important thing to note here is the condition of Daniel's heart. Notice that the bible says that Daniel purposed in his HEART not to defile himself. Daniel had developed a deep love for God and did not want to disappoint Him. He wasn't just this religious guy that knew he had to keep certian rules to get in heaven. NO! Daniel had a habit of praying three times a day. He loved God so much. This is why he didn't want to defile himself. He was going to put up every barrier possible between him and anything that might hinder his relationship with God. His heart was right, his mind was right, his actions were right. If your heart isn't like that, then putting up physical barriers will just be giving more attention to the thing you are trying to avoid. Your desired result will be self-defeating. No, the first step is to get your heart right. Get in your prayer closet. Talk to God. Read His word. Renew your mind. These things, combined with the practical things, will keep you from falling into deep, crippling sin.

I have thought about what it might take for me to fall into a crippling sin. As a minister, commiting certain sins would be even more crippling for me then for your average man. Although one man may lose his family over a crippling sin, I could lose both my family and my job (rendering it very difficult to continue in the same field of work). When thinking about this I noticed that there are layers of barriers, being spiritual, mental, and physcial, that keep me from commiting such a sin. When thinking of such a sin as adultery, I have noted these barriers:

  • my spiritual fervor
  • brothers who keep me accountable
  • the satsifaction of my marriage
  • the control of my thought life
  • the avoidance of women that I may find attractive
  • the rule never to be alone with another woman
  • the plan to run away if found in a heated situation

Most, if not all, of these barriers would have to be destroyed in order for me to fall in to the sin of adultery. Some of these barriers have been damaged or destroyed from time to time. I have, by the grace of God, rebuilt them before any further damage was done. For example, I have had times where my thought life wasn't as it should be. So what did I do? I went to prayer. I went to the word. I've had times where I have found myself around an attractive woman besides my wife. What did I do? I discontinued going to that store. Fortunately I haven't had to run away from a heated situation! If I keep my barriers strong I won't have to.

Have you purposed in your heart not to defile yourself with the things of this world? If not, get with God. Making a habit to pray three times a day is a great idea. When God warms your heart with His love, you will want to do everything possible to prevent anything from messing with that relationship.

Remember that there is always an escape out of every temptation. Ask God to help you find it. He will.

1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.