Sunday

Bellybutton Stealers and Faith

In Japan, children are encouraged to cover their belly buttons when they hear thunder. 

“If you don’t,” their parents warn, “Raijin, (the god of thunder) will steal them.” I’m not sure how the custom of Raijin the Belly Button Stealer began. One blogger observed that temperatures usually drop after a thunderstorm, and the “cover your belly button” custom may have been an effort to encourage children to cover up to avoid getting chilled.  

Whatever their purpose, customs shape our behavior and give us a default setting for how to respond in certain situations.

Daniel had a custom that almost cost him his life. It also saved it.

Darius the Mede had taken over the Babylonian kingdom and appointed 120 satraps (governors) to rule. Daniel, a Jewish exile, was one of them. At least 80 years old by this time, Daniel had served several kings and distinguished himself by his wisdom, work ethic, and personal integrity.

His evil and jealous colleagues plotted a way to oust Daniel from his position of influence, but found no basis for a complaint—Daniel was squeaky clean. He was a righteous man who loved God. He prayed three times a day facing Jerusalem.

His custom of praying became the basis for the satraps to depose Daniel and exalt themselves. They conned egotistic King Darius into signing a decree requiring everyone to bow down only to him for 30 days. Once Darius signed the edict, they laid in wait to catch Daniel violating the law. 

Daniel had a choice to make--stand for what is right or compromise.

As my Sunday school teacher said, “The law was only in effect for 30 days; I might have been tempted to just lay low, pray silently and privately, and reappear after the edict was over.”

Not Daniel.

Now when Daniel knew that the edict was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days. (Dan. 6:10)

We know the rest of the story. King Darius punished Daniel by throwing him into a den of hungry lions. He emerged with nary a nibble on his kneeling knees. 

How did Daniel have the courage not to compromise, take a stand for God, and be willing to pay the ultimate price for his faith? The clue is in the final phrase of verse ten: “he knelt down on his knees . . . as was his custom since the early days.” Instead of covering his belly button against the god of thunder, Daniel bowed before the God who holds the power of life, death, and thunder in his hands.


Early in his lifetime he established the custom (or perhaps a better word is habit) of prayer The strength, wisdom, and courage he gained during his regular conversations with God carried him through. 

He developed the discipline of prayer long before pagans devastated his homeland and carried him off to Babylon. He prayed regularly long before he rebuked Nebuchadnezzar for his pride. He consistently bowed before the Lord of the universe long before King Belshazzar summoned him to read the writing on the wall during his drunken feast. And he prayed three times a day long before he encountered the ultimate test of his faith in the lion’s den.

When times of trial and testing came, Daniel’s faith stood firm. Not only did he survive his plunge into the pit, his example caused King Darius to declare of God,

He is the living God, and steadfast forever; his kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed, and His dominion shall endure to the end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. (Dan. 6:26-27)

When you encounter the next big trial, will you have the custom of daily prayer already built into your life so you can make it through? 

Don’t wait until the challenges come to seek God. Begin to grow your spiritual muscles now by spending time every day in God’s Word and prayer. If you do, you’ll have the strength to weather the challenge and the privilege of sharing your faith along the way. 

Tweetables:
Customs shape our behavior and give us a default setting for how to respond in certain situations. (Click to Tweet)

Don't wait until the challenges come to seek God. Begin developing your spiritual muscles now. (Click to Tweet)

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