“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38
Against the Flow, by Randall D. Kittle

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As I was praying recently, I heard the voice of the Lord declare: “I am calling this upcoming generation to be those willing to go against the grain of their culture. Those whose hearts beat with Mine will not only be willing to stand against pressure from peers and the perception of the world, they will swim upstream against the current of the culture in which they live. In this they will find true freedom, bringing glory to My name and fruitfulness to My kingdom.”

God is calling the upcoming generation — those thirteen to twenty-five years old — to go against the grain of their culture. This is not a call to go against the culture of their parents, for even a worldly teen will do that. It is easy, even expected, for a teenager to act and dress differently from their parents. When it comes to music, hairstyles, etc. most young people venture away from their parents' comfort zone to do “their own thing” (which is remarkably like the thing all their friends are doing).

But when you ask one of these young radicals to go against the flow of their culture it is quite a different story. Suddenly, fitting in and being accepted become not only important but imperative. It is as if life itself would cease to exist if they stood out in the crowd.

A High Standard
But this is exactly the standard to which God is calling this young generation. In the case of dress and appearance for example, God is not calling them to dress in some old, frumpy garb — always wearing a white shirt and tie or wearing a dress down to their ankles. But He is calling them to dress with a measure of modesty that honors Him even if it belies the latest fashion trend.

They will not set their sails to catch the winds of acceptability and popularity, even when everyone else is going the other direction. They will not fit in perfectly with their contemporaries. Instead, they will be willing to walk with their faces into the wind of worldly opposition. In the music they listen to, the movies they see, and the television they watch, they choose to honor God — not because of legalism, but because of love. These godly standards will cause objection and opposition, yet these young men and women with sold-out hearts will press on toward their higher calling.

God is calling this upcoming generation to march to the beat of a different drummer. There is a story of a man who went to see his son perform in the marching band at a halftime show of a big, televised football game. During one part of the performance the young man turned north while everyone else turned south. The young man's father turned to the person sitting next to him and inquired “why is everyone else going the wrong direction?” And so it will be with our heavenly Father who will declare His blessing upon those whom society believes are going the wrong way.

While these young men and women will often march against the drumbeat of our society, they are not marching to the beat of rebellion nor merely the rhythm of being counter-cultural. The beat to which they move is the very heartbeat of God, for like John the beloved disciple they are learning to rest their head upon the chest of Jesus and from their intimate time with Him are coming to know His heartbeat and have their hearts beat with His.

The call of God will cause them to go against the current. Like salmon swimming upstream to fulfil their destiny, those called to swim against the flow will know it … for it has been birthed within their hearts by the Holy Spirit. Only those willing to swim against the current of their culture will make it upstream. And just as for salmon, this is the spawning ground, where the life within them is reproduced, and the kingdom of God becomes fruitful.

Standing Against The Current
Many years ago, in a kingdom far, far away, there were three young men who had to decide what their faith was really worth. Would they stand for their God, or go with the flow of their culture? The king who had only recently appointed them to positions of great power and wealth had now decreed that everyone must affirm their allegiance to the system by worshiping in his prescribed manner. It was not as if they had been singled out. Everyone who was anyone had been told what was expected of them if they wished to remain in good favor. I am certain many who cared about these young men and knew of their convictions urged them to comply with the edict. “You can give the appearance of complying without really selling out. You can bow your knee, without bowing your heart.” But they were determined to serve God without compromise regardless of the consequences. And there were major consequences for not going with the flow. Not just a lack of acceptance, ridicule, or rejection — death!

The three men we are speaking about are well known in Biblical history as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego — the Babylonian names given to them while they were in captivity. They had stood with Daniel in forgoing the king's wine and delicacies, and been found to be the most favorable among the wise men of Babylon. They had fasted and prayed with Daniel for the Lord to show him the meaning to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Following the interpretation the king had appointed them administrators over the province of Babylon. All three young men were sold out to serve God, and so far it had resulted in blessings and promotion.

Compromise Or Consequences
All of this changed, however, when the king decided to unite his people by making an idol for everyone to worship.
“King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, ninety feet high and nine feet wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. … Then the herald loudly proclaimed, ‘This is what you are commanded to do, O peoples, nations and men of every language: As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace’” (Daniel 3:1-6).

The king’s command left little room for interpretation. It was either compromise their convictions or suffer the consequences. I would imagine the peer pressure was enormous. “No one’s happy about this, but it’s just the way it is. Everyone else is doing it. What makes you so special that you don’t have to fit in?” But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had already set their hearts a part for God — compromise was not an option. Seemingly, their only hope was that the king would not notice their unwillingness to comply.

Unfortunately, when the world cannot get us to give in, it will turn on us and turn us in. Those who have been our caring supporters and co-laborers suddenly become our accusers.
“At this time some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews. ‘… there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon — Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego — who pay no attention to you, O king. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up’” (Daniel 3:8-12). Going against the flow is never a private thing. It will be seen publicly. It will be noticed, and there will be consequences.

Facing The Fire
The king’s response was not surprising: furious rage and intimidating threats — threats he could easily back up! But these three young men had already counted the cost, and no fiery rage could deter them from taking their stand for God.
“Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up’” (Daniel 3:16-18).

Once the world has seen our true colors, our unswerving conviction to live to God’s standards, we will see theirs.
“Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace” (Daniel 3:18-23). The world’s ultimate reaction to our rejection of their values will be a burning anger. Rebellion against parents' they can accept. But rebelling against the accepted values of our pluralistic society by upholding God’s values and being unwilling to bow our knees to their pressures to compromise and conform will be met with the burning fires of persecution and elimination.

It is at this point that so many in past generations have given in and forged a compromise plan that gave approval to their sordid society and stole the glory from God. It is in the fiery furnace of persecution that those who stand against the call of their wicked culture bring glory to God and fruitfulness to His kingdom. Going against the grain means going all the way! It was because the three young men stood their conviction to the end that the king saw the glory of the Lord in the fire.
“Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, ‘Weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?’ They replied, ‘Certainly, O king. He said, ‘Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods’” (Daniel 3:24-25). Let us never forget that it was in the fire that the king saw the brilliant light from the Lord and saw the Angel of God. When we stand for God, He will stand with us!

As God called these three young men to stand against the onslaught of the wicked king, He is once again calling many young men and women to take a stand to bring Him glory. Society calls them with promises of acceptance and threatens them with jeering condemnation. The crowd offers them flesh and flash and fitting in. Jesus offers them a cross, a walk of faith, and standing out. And they will go against the flow of the crowd and follow the One they love. Their passionate love for God will cause the declaration about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be true for them also:
“They trusted in God and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God” (Daniel 3:28). As the world sees willing hearts and soldout lives, there will be furious opposition. But those who unflinchingly face the opposition will bring glory to God and reveal the glory of God to man, bringing many new lives into the kingdom.


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