In the book of Daniel, we see the beginning of the movement from Babylon to Jerusalem - symbolically, from corrupt, compromising Christendom to God's new covenant church. It began with one upright, uncompromising man, who was concerned about God's purposes and who fasted and prayed for their fulfilment.
Daniel never knew when he started out being faithful as a young man, what a tremendous ministry he was going to have. He just remained faithful to God in little things and big, and God accomplished a great ministry through him. He was probably around 17 years old when the book begins, and about 90 years old by the time the book ends. He lived through the entire 70 years of captivity, and he was faithful all the way through. That was why God could use him to begin this movement from Babylon to Jerusalem.
The building of a pure church for God in any place always begins with one man who has a burden of prayer, and who carries that burden before God frequently saying, "Lord, I want a pure church in this place for You, and I am willing to pay any price for it." You must be willing to carry that burden before God again and again in prayer. You may have to carry it for a long time. I had to carry that burden for about ten years before I saw the beginnings of a new covenant church. God will test your faithfulness. Just like a mother carries a baby in her womb, we have to carry this burden in our hearts. That was how Daniel carried this burden in his heart. This resulted in others also beginning to share his burden in later years - Haggai, Zerubbabel, Joshua, Zechariah, Ezra, Nehemiah and others. God Himself will add others to you who share your burden, and together with them you will be able to build God's new covenant church. Daniel was too old to go back to Jerusalem at the age of 90, to build the temple. But he stood behind the scenes and prayed and started the ball rolling.
Daniel lived in a heathen land. And so he is especially an example for us, as to how we can stand for God in a non-Christian land without compromising our Christian principles. He could gather only three wholehearted people, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (who are better known by their Babylonian names -Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego). But those young men were a powerful witness for God right in the middle of Babylon, the capital city of the world's superpower - a small church of four people. Those four people influenced that country more than all the other hundreds and thousands of Jews who were in Babylon because of one reason: While the others compromised, these four did not.
Don't think that you can influence a village or a country by large numbers of Christians. Four people who stood for God influenced the most powerful country in the world and its rulers. The message that comes through that is, "It is not by numbers, nor by human might, but by His Spirit that God does His work." God is looking for men who are upright and who will never compromise.
We read one important phrase in Daniel 1:8 "Daniel made up his mind not to defile himself." After Daniel made up his mind to keep himself undefiled, his first test came in relation to food. The first test that came to Adam and Eve was also in relation to food. And the first test that came to Jesus in the wilderness was in relation to food too. What will your attitude be to tasty food, if that involves compromise of God's principles? Esau lost his birthright because of food. Isaac lost his spiritual vision because of his love for the tasty food that Esau could bring him. But Daniel's attitude was, "God has said in His Word that this type of food must not be eaten and so I will not eat it." Daniel had studied the Scriptures as a young man and he knew that the law of Moses forbade the eating of certain meats and that the book of Proverbs forbade the drinking of alcoholic wine. He decided to obey God, whatever it may cost him.
In the beginning he had to stand alone, while all the other Jews compromised. But when Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah saw one young man taking a stand for God, they got the courage to join him (Dan. 1:11). If Daniel had not taken a stand for the Lord, we might never have heard about Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.
I believe that there are a number of people like Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah who want to take a stand for God, for a pure testimony for the Lord in their locality, but who don't have the courage to stand on their own. They are looking for a Daniel to be their leader. And when a Daniel comes into that village or that town, then these Christians will come and join him. But if a Daniel never comes to their place, these people will live and die without ever being a testimony for the Lord.
So the great need today is for Daniels. God is looking for Daniels who will determine in their heart never to defile themselves. And when these Daniels take a stand for the Lord, they will automatically draw the Hananiahs, the Mishaels and the Azariahs to them. I have seen this happen in so many places. God looks for a Daniel first. If He cannot find a Daniel, then nothing will happen. God is looking for men who will not seek their own, who are not interested in anything for themselves and who are willing to lose their lives for Him if necessary. Daniel was only 17 years old. Even today, God can choose a 17-year old youth and make him a prophet and empower him to take a stand for Him. The other three men may have been older than Daniel. But they submitted to him, because they recognized him as a God-appointed leader.
We need disciples of such boldness and integrity today. Daniel was like that himself, and he taught Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to be like that. It was better to have 4 people like that in Babylon than 400 compromisers who ate what the king gave them, bowed down to his idols, and also claimed to believe in Jehovah. The sad situation today is that we have a multitude of Christians who are such compromisers. God is looking for Daniels, Shadrachs, Meshachs and Abednegos who will stand for Him without compromise in this day of compromise.