Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” 14 So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. 15 At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. 16 So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. – Daniel 1:11-16
When I was in junior high school a friend and I partnered on a science project. We subjected some mice and some pea seeds to various doses of X-ray radiation. We then logged the growth or decline of each against a control group of mice and pea seeds. The results were predictable, but the project was so well received that we were told that we would win a prize if we would present it under one name – mine or my friend’s. While the idea and access to the X-ray was mine, I didn’t want to take the glory for something that my friend also helped with. So we agreed: we would forego the prize and continue to keep it as a joint entry.
I’m not certain how significant that choice was all these years later. But I do know that it was a moment of truth for both of us. And there certainly was an “even if” reality: we would not enter it under one name, even if it would disqualify us for a prize in the regional science fair.
Daniel and his friends were also in an even if situation. It’s not stated explicitly, but implicitly we must gather that if their food experiment didn’t work in their favor there would be a significant price to pay. Heads could roll. In fact Daniel says that if it doesn’t go well, the chief of the eunuchs should deal with them according to his will. So, even though they propose a 10 day test, and it does come out in their favor, there might have been a different outcome. What would happen if it didn’t turn out to their favor?
The answer will be delivered later in the book of Daniel. In a brave and courageous expression of trust in God they will say – quite explicitly – “even if” God does not come to their aid they will remain faithful.
It might be instructive for us to consider our personal response to large and little tests of faithfulness that come our way. Some examples:
- God promises that we will be blessed if we give. Will we give even if we do not see those blessings as quickly as we might wish?
- God tells us that the Kingdom of God belongs to children. Will we become childlike in our trust – even if every sense of God’s outward favor seems to evaporate before our eyes>
- God says that if we pray in faith and unity with others, he will grant our requests. Will we continue to pray if the answer seems to slip farther and farther from our grasp?
- Jesus tells us to forgive our brother or sister seventy times seven. Will we forgive even seventy times six, if we continue to be duped and played-the-fool by our errant brother or sister in Christ?
- God declares that he loves us with an everlasting love. Will we embrace that love even if it looks as though we have been abandoned and forgotten by God?
There may be smaller even if scenarios which we can imagine. It would be a good start to consider those and determine to be faithful here and now in the face of smaller losses, so that when the weightier choices must be made we can stand strong in confidence and hope. The ability to do that is a gift of the Holy Spirit in any case, so our first move should be to our knees, as we repent and believe and ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen our faith!