Paul studied at the feet of the great Jewish teacher Gamaliel, Moses was “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22), and Daniel studied at the University of Babylon. College or university can be very beneficial – a tremendous way for God to continue to develop your thinking and abilities. On the other hand, David and Amos were shepherds and Peter and John were fisherman. The high priest noted that Peter and John were “uneducated, common men” (Acts 4:13, ESV). They had no letters after their names or diplomas hanging on the wall, but the Lord used them to write almost a quarter of the New Testament. So, while God can use education to develop abilities and minds, it is no substitute for God’s training through Bible study, prayer, assembly meetings and involvement in service for Him.
Molds to Behold
The Apostle Paul wrote to Roman Christians, “Be not conformed to this world” (Rom 12:2). John Phillips paraphrases this as “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold.” Upon arriving in Babylon, Daniel quickly felt the pressure as King Nebuchadnezzar began a three-year program to transform him into a typical Babylonian. Today, Satan, the god of this world, is also scheming to make you a worldling integrated into his society. Like Daniel you must detect and resist the molding methods of the malicious monarch.
Daniel had God-fearing parents who expressed their devotion in the naming of their son. Daniel means “God will judge.” Ashpenaz, knowing the goal of the king, changed Daniel’s name to Belteshazzar, meaning “prince of Bel,” the great Babylonian god. The devil continues to employ this tactic today. If he can work things so people do not identify you as a Christian at your school he will have achieved success. Make it your goal to let everyone know you are a believer, in the first week of class. Then, live Christ before them so they have no doubt as to who you are and what you believe.
The second tactic was when the king gave the order to teach him the “tongue of the Chaldeans” (Dan 1:4). The world today wants you to speak, text, email, Facebook, and tweet just like they do. Even believers can find themselves using slang and symbols that are against the teaching of Scripture (e.g., OMG – see Exodus 20:7). Watch out for words that sound similar and are really just substitutes for vulgar, irreverent, or indecent words. They are subtle attempts to make you sound just like everyone else at school.
The king also ordered him to eat a Babylonian diet. Far beyond having him taste lavash, kebabs, and shirazi salad, the goal was to adjust Daniel’s appetite so he would enjoy the same things the Babylonian young people did. If a young person develops a taste for what others around them find fun and pleasurable, soon there will be little difference between them. So, monitor what you do and what you enjoy. Is there a difference in what you listen to, what you watch, where you go, and what you do in your free time?
Daniel also had to read the literature of Babylon. Why? While Babylonians did not have iPads or Internet, the literature reflected the values and beliefs of their godless society. Textbooks in our schools and universities today reflect the anti-God mind-set and the worldview of our culture. Daniel had to read the literature, but was constantly sifting out anti-Biblical themes, being careful to not let them affect his way of thinking. So, while it may be necessary at times to read a book or textbook, watch a video, watch PowerPoint presentations, etc., the key is to filter out anything that goes against Scripture.
Lastly, they tried to “Babylonyize” Daniel through the lure of luxury. He was offered the high life of the palace. Today, education is seen as a means to a comfortable life with big starting salaries and bountiful benefit packages. In Daniel’s case, the temptation of the Babylonian good life was intended to spoil him for God. Nothing has changed.
Secrets to Survive
Daniel was determined to avoid being pressured into the Babylonian mold. But with the world emperor directing things, how could he keep true to his God?
“Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself” (Dan 1:8). His conviction was Biblical; Leviticus 11 would prohibit him from eating meat from unclean animals and Exodus 34 would prohibit him from eating what was sacrificed to foreign gods. Daniel’s conviction was not based on tradition, emotion, or family pressure, but solely upon the Word of God.
One of Daniel’s first crises came when he was called to interpret the emperor’s dream. All the local seers had failed and now it was up to him. His instinctive reaction was to seek God’s help in prayer (Dan 2:28). More than 60 years later, Daniel is in danger of being thrown to the lions. So, where does he turn? “He went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime” (Dan 6:10). The greatest protection for you, too, is regular communication with God. Classes, projects, homework, and exams may make it tough to establish a daily time of reading and praying with God. However, disciplining yourself into this habit will preserve you and will likely stay with you for the rest of your life.
Daniel took advantage of every opportunity during his university studies to speak to others about his God (Dan 2:28). Usually, the best defense is a good offense. From the beginning of every class, pray for your fellow students and seek to talk to them about the Bible. Evangelism of classmates will be a significant preservative for any student, even if it does produce some mockery and persecution.
“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Prov 13:20). Daniel lived this principle, surrounding himself with others who shared the same interests, convictions, and goals. So, when the first crisis arose, Daniel “went to his house and made the thing known to … his companions that they would desire mercies of the God of heaven” (Dan 2:17-18). He had friends that shared His God, his values and were interested in praying with him and for him.
Your choice of friends will have a great impact on your spiritual survival and success. While students may have to work together on projects and in study groups, a Christian will be benefited greatly by surrounding himself with friends who are not only Christians, but also believers who share the same convictions. These friendships provide healthy accountability one to another and positive Biblical pressure to be Christlike instead of morphing into a typical worldling.
Aims to Claim
Will God open the way for you to go to college just so you can get a good job, and make a lot of money? Daniel saw his time in school as an opportunity for evangelism. He witnessed to King Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 2:28) and later saw the king become converted to God (Dan 5:37). High schools and college campuses continue to be great evangelistic fishing ponds as many young people are seeking answers to questions about life, religion, and God. Please pray that God will help you to “let your light shine before men.”
God also opens doors for believers to study because He wants them to learn skills that He can sanctify and use. Paul, who often preached in synagogues, had learned Hebrew and could quote Greek poets he had studied (Titus 1:12). Moses studied construction (pyramids) and metallurgy in Egypt and God eventually used this knowledge in the construction of the tabernacle. Daniel learned Chaldean and other languages, as he was God’s man to work in the palaces of four different kings. So, whatever God directs you towards, pray that He will help you to discern how you could use the knowledge and skills you have developed for the good of His work and the blessing of His people.