Main Theme: Christian Living
For People Who: Are Christians wondering how to respond to a fast-changing culture.
Thriving In Babylon, and thus this recap, is written specifically for Christians. As morality becomes more and more relative in our culture and the caricature of Christianity becomes that of a bigoted, anti-science, ignorant Republican, I find Larry Osborne’s challenges to Christian living to be quite timely and helpful. As some Christians lose hope because of political decisions being made that are changing the fabric of our society, they would do well to remember that our circumstances are not unique. We are not the first to live in a culture that is either disinterested in God or is simply walking away from Him. The question for the Christian becomes: Is there someone in scripture that dealt with a similar situation? Larry Osborne would say yes, and his name was Daniel.
[Daniel] found a way, in a culture far more wicked than anything we face, to glorify and serve God with such integrity and power that kings, peasants, and an entire nation turned to acknowledge the splendor of the living God. Which raises the question: How did he do it? –Thriving In Babylon, pg. 27
- Unfortunately, the days in which Christendom held great power did not mean the Church wielded that power well. Now that our culture is shifting away from Judeo-Christian values, is it any wonder there is little sympathy for Christians?
- Christians can earn the right to be heard through hope, humility, and wisdom.
- Daniel didn’t just survive in Babylon, he thrived. And he thrived because he was deeply concerned about the welfare of the pagan leaders he served. He didn’t secretly hope they would fail.
- Daniel knew which fights were worth fighting (continuing to pray when commanded not to) and which ones could be compromised (changing of his name). Not every fight is worth dying for, and we need the wisdom to know the difference.
- Unbelievers are not the enemy of Christians and we would do well to remember that in our speech and actions.
Section One: Daniel’s Story
It’s so easy for Christians to read the story of Daniel and his friends and think, “Oh! If I just serve God faithfully then God will deliver me from persecution and hardship!” But while God may have delivered Daniel from the lion’s den, Hebrews 11 reminds us there are plenty of “others” that didn’t fair so well. What we find from Daniel is an incredible example of how to thrive in a pagan culture.
Though Daniel was caught up in the midst of the Babylonian exile of the Kingdom of Judah, in the very first verse of his writings he shares his perspective: “And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into [Nebuchadnezzar’s] hand…” Ultimately it wasn’t Nebuchadnezzar’s victory, it was God’s will and it was God who was in control, not the king. Daniel was able to keep his perspective on who was in control when things seemed out of control. Osborne remarks: “It’s the first thing [Daniel] wants us to know before he dives into the rest of his story.” And the rest of his story certainly wasn’t an easy one. Forced from his home, Daniel is forced to study a godless religious and educational system (astrology and the occult), he is forced to change his name, forced to probably be castrated to become a eunuch, and forced to serve a wicked, self-centered king. Wow! It has never been easy to serve God, so don’t think our circumstances are unique and think fondly of “the good ol’ days.” In fact, it’s usually in the “good ol’ days” when Christianity has become fat and lazy.
When it came to staying kosher, he won. But when it came to his name, the things he had to study, and the wicked king he had to serve, he lost. –Thriving In Babylon, pg. 41
Section Two: Prepared for Battle
It’s easy to be a Dallas Cowboys fan when the team is winning! But introduce a bit of hardship and a few losses and the fair-weather fans start running for the hills. The same is true in Christianity. Osborne says, “God uses hardships and trials to reveal the genuineness or the fraudulent nature of our faith. And just as a hot fire is necessary to burn off the dross that refines gold, so too our fiery trials are necessary to burn off the spiritual dross and refine that which is genuine.” (pg. 61) For many Christians, spiritual fruit that comes from life in the Spirit has been regulated to “extra-credit status.”
When things go south, our theology often goes out the window. When the path of obedience doesn’t make sense, appears too costly, or doesn’t seem to be working, we’re quick to blaze our own trail. It’s easy to obey God when we agree with Him. But that’s not really obedience. –Thriving In Babylon, pg. 81
Osborne lays out five qualities all Christians require if they are thrive, much less survive, in our culture:
(There’s a five week teaching series right there!)
Section Three | Hope: Where Courage Is Birthed
Sometimes in conversation about definitions someone will say, “Well that’s just semantics.” My response is usually, “So?” It cannot be overstated how important the meaning of words are when we use them. When I was a kid people said, “That’s so bad!” and what they meant was, “That’s so awesome and good!” Semantics are important when we think about words like ‘hope.’ Usually it’s meant as wishful thinking, but biblical hope rests upon our “deep-seated confidence in God’s character and sovereignty.” (pg 94)
If our sins are forgiven and our destiny assured, if we are joint heirs with Jesus and certain He’s coming back to set all wrongs right, then despair and panic over the latest court decision, or even the steady erosion of morality in our culture, hardly seems like appropriate responses. –Thriving In Babylon, pg. 102
Daniel’s hope was based on what he knew to be true, not on what he blindly wished to be true. He knew God was in control, he knew God would restore His people and judge the Babylonians in His own time – therefore He could embrace his role with a heart full of hope. Osborne speaks of the dangers of placing our hope in any other place such as politics: “I’m simply stating that it’s a tragic miscalculation to place our hope in political solutions. At the end of the day, no matter how many elections we might win or how many laws we might pass, political power is fleeting.” (pg. 137) God’s ‘Plan A’ has and always will be the Church. Period. It carries the message that is the hope of the world. With three children of my own, I am challenged to raise them to be modern-day Daniels: living with hope, humility and wisdom.
Section Four | Humility: How Credibility Is Earned
Daniel’s hope gave him courage. But it was his remarkable humility that gave him favor in the eyes of his captors. In order to thrive in Babylon, he needed a strong dose of both. –Thriving In Babylon, pg. 145
In defining humility, here is what Osborne says humility is not:
- It’s not low self-esteem: We’re not to think too highly or too lowly of ourselves
- It’s not a lack of ambition: Daniel and his friends were very ambitious, graduating the top of their class
- It’s not downplaying our accomplishments: The only reason we have the book of Daniel is because Daniel took the time to write it down for us!
What humility is, is serving others.
If we want to significantly influence our modern-day Babylon, we’ll have to change our tactics. Instead of avoiding or attacking the godless leaders of our day, we’ll need to begin to engage them in the same way Daniel did, humbly serving whomever God chooses to temporarily place into positions of authority. –Thriving In Babylon, pg. 151
Daniel was respectful, humble and genuinely cared for his pagan leaders. He is remorseful that God’s vision of destruction was for Nebuchadnezzar and not the king’s enemy (Daniel 4:19). This is a big contrast from the angry, spiteful, disdainful rhetoric used by some Christians who speak against leaders with whom they disagree. How can we expect to gain credibility when we use the same weapons as the world? Christians must remember that unbelievers are not the enemy. We should seek to serve and persuade and that with respect. When Peter commands we be prepared to give a defense, or a reason, for the hope we have, he says to do so “with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1 Peter 15b-16)
Section Five | Wisdom – The Power of Perspective
Having knowledge and information does not equate to having wisdom. Wisdom is the correct application of that knowledge. Christians who know God is in control, but live as though He is not, lack wisdom. “When they choose earthly treasures we can’t keep over heavenly treasures we can’t lose or judge God’s goodness by today’s problems instead of Good Friday’s sacrifice or respond to sinners with knee-jerk repulsion rather than the pursuing heart of Jesus, they’re stuck in spiritual immaturity. And it breaks God’s heart.” (pg. 170)
In the past, the Christianity held great power and influence. Unfortunately it did not always wield that power and influence with humility for the service of others. As Christianity grew in power centuries ago, many flocked to join it, not because they wanted to follow Christ, but because they wanted to gain power and influence. Now that the influence of Christianity has wained in the west, is it any wonder that we need to earn the right to be heard? We must even work extra hard to make up for the damage that is done in the name of Christ by people who protest soldier funerals and the like.
The wisdom to pick his battles prudently was one of the most important keys to Daniel’s success and eventual influence in Babylon. -Thriving In Babylon, pg. 176
Daniel allowed his name to be changed and even studied astrology and the occult to graduate at the top of his class (many Christians would have shouted at him then like they shout at mega-church pastors today and assume his thriving was due to compromising the commands of God), he compromised on those issues because they weren’t battles worth fighting. But when it came to a kosher diet or praying to anyone other than God…He was willing to fight and even die.
In situations where God spoke clearly, Daniel did what God said. In those areas where it was less clear, he did what seemed best. Thriving In Babylon, pg. 187
This is a wonderfully written book that is engaging and also challenging for Christians. In everyday living it is easy beyond belief for us to take our eyes off of heavenly things and look only at what is below. But we must remember that our citizenship is in heaven, that we are followers of Christ first and foremost, and that we have a wonderful example of not only surviving in a pagan culture but thriving in the person of Daniel. May we embrace hope with confidence in God’s sovereign will and character. May we take hold of humility and walk the paths of service and seek the benefit of those in our culture who are slaves to sin. And may we allow wisdom to guide us to choose the battles worth fighting as we see from a greater perspective.
Pick this book up because it will be an immensely helpful read.
- Title: Thriving In Babylon: Why Hope, Humility, and Wisdom Matter In a Godless Culture
- Author: Larry Osborne
- Published: 2015
- Pages: 341
Personal Ratings (1-10)
- Applicability: 10
- Readability: 10
- Originality: 10
- Recommendation: Yes!