Having grown up as a teenager in the “free love–free drugs” period of the 1960’s and then later having been a teacher of teens and pre-teens, I have heard the phrase, Just say, no! many times. Adults have tried to convince kids for decades that all they have to do is say, no, and then they will be able to abstain from sex or drugs or whatever. Unfortunately, it’s a lot more difficult than that for most of us–even as adults. But the Bible gives us a good model for how and when to just say, no!
Daniel was probably a teenager when he was taken captive to Babylon. There, with some of his friends, he was raised as a Babylonian. Imagine a teenager alone in a strange land with no parents or other relatives to watch over them. Think of how difficult it must have been. They were given a secular education by people who believed very differently than they did. Yet they still managed to hold on to their own beliefs–to the point where Daniel refused to eat the delicacies of the king’s household–yet he was healthier and stronger than those who did eat. We have all heard the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. Jealous leaders of Babylon tricked the King and managed to pass a law that prohibited anyone from petitioning anyone other than the king for 30 days. David, of course, was found praying and supplicating before His God. The penalty was to be cast into the lions’ den. His faith was such that he trusted God to deliver him from the wild beasts–and He did!
But it started much earlier when Daniel began to cultivate the ability to say, no. He learned to follow and trust in God in the little things, so that when the big things came up, he knew where to turn. It would not have been wrong for him to have eaten at the King’s table, he simply decided that this was an area that he would voluntarily give up to God to increase his spiritual strength. Titus 2:11-12 says, The grace of God…teaches us to say no to ungodliness. Paul writes, I discipline my body and keep it under control (1 Cor 9:27). Most of us have at least something that we should or could do without and should or could say, no, to. It might be something truly addictive like alcohol or drugs. It might be something as everyday as coffee or TV. Choose something and practice saying, no. The more you practice, the better you will be able to handle those lions’ den problems later on.
I recently admitted to our home church worship team that I am attempting to lose weight. I told them in order to become accountable to each of them. In the privacy of my own home, no one outside is watching to see if slip up or let my diet slide. Those are the times that it becomes hardest to just say , no! Self-control without God is self-deception and rarely works. But say , yes, to God and it becomes possible to just say, no and mean it. So check back with me in a few weeks to see what God has done.