Ted Wilson: Hello, friends. This coming Sabbath, July 24, is a very special day, as it has been designated as "Children's Sabbath." Sponsored by the Children's Ministries department, this day provides a special opportunity to highlight the children in the church, encouraging them to develop a strong relationship with Jesus and to share their faith with others around them. And so, keeping this in mind, my wife Nancy and I would like to especially address our young friends--the children—in today's message.
Nancy Wilson: The theme for this year's Children Sabbath is "CALLED to be Different: where kids are CALLED to follow Jesus." And that reminds me of a story in the Bible where four teenage boys were called to be different--not because they just wanted to be "different," but because they loved God and wanted to do what was right.
TW: These four boys were living with their parents in the city of Jerusalem when the city was attacked by an enemy. The Babylonian army captured these boys, and many other young people, and took them away from their homes and their mothers and fathers to far-away Babylon.
NW: Once they arrived in Babylon, these young people were treated in a special way. The Babylonians wanted to train them so they would become like them and be loyal to their new country. They changed the names of the boys, and wanted to change many other things about them, including what kind of food they ate and what God they worshipped.
TW: Of course, we are talking about Daniel, and his three friends--Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The story of Daniel and the lions' den is famous, and so is the story of his three friends and the fiery furnace. But did you know that before they faced those BIG tests, they first faced what seemed to be just a "little" test.
NW: In Babylon, these boys, along with the others who had been captured, were given very special food to eat--right from the king's table. It was no doubt fancier food than they had ever seen in their lives! But there was a problem--first, this food had been sacrificed to idols, and eating it would be similar to worshipping those idols. Secondly, the food was not what God had said was best for them. Not only that, but as God's children, they knew they must not drink the wine, which had alcohol in it. But what could they do?
TW: The Bible gives us the answer in Daniel 1:8. The Living Bible puts it this way: "But Daniel made up his mind not to eat the food and wine given to them by the king."
And his three friends agreed with him. So, Daniel went to ask special permission for them to just eat simple vegetarian food and drink water, but when the man in charge of them became worried, Daniel said,
"Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink" (Dan. 1:12).
Then, at the end of the ten days there was a test as to who looked healthier--Daniel and his three friends, or the other boys who had been eating the food and drinking the wine from the king's table. And, as the Bible tells us, God blessed Daniel and his three friends, and it was clear they were much healthier than all of the others. And from then on, they were able to eat their simple, healthy vegetarian food and drink water.
NW: And God continued to bless them. The Bible tells us in Daniel 1:17—"As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams."
Of course, I'm sure these boys didn't want to be different from everybody else. It isn't easy to stand out and be thought of as strange, or worse. But these boys loved God and remembered the lessons they had learned at home and decided they would do what was right no matter what. And look how God blessed them! Not only were they healthier, but God continued to bless them in many other ways.
TW: Because they were faithful in something that many people might think of as a "little" thing, God blessed them and gave them greater and greater responsibilities. Daniel's three friends became leaders in that country, and Daniel himself was not only a leader, but a prophet of God, who wrote some of the most important prophecies in all of the Bible.
So, dear young friends, I want to encourage you today to be like Daniel and his three friends--to love God with all of your heart, and to always be faithful to Him--even in the "little" things, because He has wonderful, BIG plans for you!
Let's pray together. Father in heaven, I just pray that you’ll bless every one of these young people. Young boys, young girls who are looking to heaven for the answers and for the direction in their lives. Help them to realize that they need to completely submit to your will, and then, even in the little things they need to do that which is right, allowing you to guide them along the pathway of life, because you have great things in store for them as we come to the end of time. Help us Lord to realize Jesus is coming soon, and you want all of us to say to you: “Yes Lord, I will go. I will be part of your great condition to the world.” Bless these young people, and bless their parents, and all those who are hearing our voices. Lord give each of us a wonderful connection with you, so that we will be faithful in the little things and the big things all through your power as we look forward to Jesus’ coming. Thank you for hearing us. In Jesus’ name we ask it, amen.