Throughout my life I have made it a practice to count among my close friends several men who were some years my senior. I have gleaned much from their experience and wisdom. Most of them have moved on to their eternal rewards as the years have passed by. One of these men who I didn’t get to know until his dying days was Jack Evans. This successful CEO of a major corporation and former mayor of Dallas, Texas, lifted me up each time I was with him. Jack coined a saying that still hangs on wall plaques in the offices of many business leaders in Dallas as well as my own. His often-repeated expression is, “You have what you tolerate.”
I thought about Jack Evans when I sat down to write about the old and familiar story of the three Hebrew young men who stood true to their personal convictions yet ended up in a burning fiery furnace because they refused to tolerate their culture’s pressure to worship a false god.
What you tolerate
“You have what you tolerate” is true in every area of life. Parents who tolerate their kids talking back to them and disobeying eventually reap young adults who have little respect for authority. It is true in the classroom: teachers who tolerate sloppy work and missing assignments end up with students who cannot pass the final exam. It is also too obvious in sports: coaches who tolerate undisciplined practices see the results when game day rolls around. And in business, those companies that tolerate mediocrity and are content to be reactive instead of proactive will lose productivity in the long run. Yes, Jack Evans had it right: you have what you tolerate!
Our culture has tolerated things for so long that Jack Evans’s words have proved all too true: we are simply experiencing today the consequences of what we tolerated yesterday. Tolerance is the buzzword and the new law of the land, and it has a different definition than it did just a few years ago. Tolerance used to mean that we recognized and respected other people’s beliefs and value systems without agreeing with them or sharing them. Today tolerance means everyone’s values, belief systems and lifestyles should be accepted. Tolerance shouts that all truth claims are valued and equal. In fact, in our current culture, the worst thing that can be said of someone is that he or she is intolerant. Our culture continues to slowly and surely try to form all of us into its mold of being completely tolerant of everything — and we will end up having what we tolerate.
Our Intolerant Lord
Cable news outlets are a phenomenon of our contemporary culture. A myriad of television talk shows is available 24 hours a day on multiple channels. While watching an aggressive debate on one such show recently, I thought, What if the Lord Jesus were interviewed by one of these talk-show hosts? If Jesus were to say on a cable talk show today what He said in the Gospels, He would be attacked, ridiculed and called an intolerant bigot right to His face.
For example, if Jesus were asked about the current breakdown in the American home, what do you think would happen if He gave an answer as He gave to the woman at the well? Speaking to her about her lifestyle, Jesus said, “Go call your husband, and come here.” When she replied she didn’t have a husband, He responded, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband” (John 4:15–18). The immediate reply of the talk-show host would be, “Who do You think You are? You are completely intolerant.”
Like our Lord, we are not to tolerate sin in our lives or sin as a culturally acceptable trait. Yet we are living in a culture that is increasingly hostile to Christianity. Moral values and religious liberties held sacred since our nation’s founding are being trampled on. We have today what we tolerated yesterday. And some things should simply not be tolerated. How tolerant do you believe your Muslim neighbors would be in a culture that spoke of Mohammed as the American culture speaks of Jesus today? Not only do we have today what we tolerated yesterday, but we will have tomorrow what we are tolerating today. Why? Jack Evans said it best: you have what you tolerate! And that is a chilling thought.
Standing up to Intolerance
In a world screaming at the top of its lungs for tolerance, we will be tested. The decisions we will make this week will be governed by one of two things: inner principle or outer pressure. That is, either by the Word of God or by the world’s way of thinking. If we allow God’s Word to shape our inner principles, we will respond to life’s fiery furnaces with faith that God will ultimately deliver us. But if we allow the world’s way of thinking to pressure our decision-making, we will react in fear resulting in ultimate defeat. In Daniel 3, we see Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego standing on an inner principle of personal convictions shaped by their God. The people around them were governed only by external pressure to confirm, and ultimately… they got what they tolerated.
As we seek to find our way through a culture that is losing its way, Daniel has called us to never give in, never give up and never give out. Let’s learn from these three Hebrew young men and listen to their wise counsel. After all, Jack Evans’s words have never rung more true than in our present day: you have what you tolerate!”
Taken from The Daniel Code by O.S. Hawkins. Copyright © 2016 by Dr. O.S. Hawkins. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. O. S. Hawkins has served pastorates, including the First Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, for more than 25 years. A native of Fort Worth, Texas, he has a BBA from Texas Christian University and his MDiv and Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. For almost a quarter of a century, he served as president of GuideStone Financial Resources, with assets under management of $20 billion, serving 250,000 pastors, church staff members, missionaries, doctors, university professors, and other workers in various Christian organizations with their investment, retirement and benefit service needs. He is the author of more than 40 books, and regularly speaks to business groups and churches all across the nation. All of the author’s royalties and proceeds from the entire Code series go to support Mission:Dignity. You can learn more about Mission:Dignity by visiting MissionDignity.org.
Read more articles by Dr. O.S. Hawkins at: https://www.goodnewsfl.org/author/o-s-hawkins/