How to Make a Case to Someone in Authority
By Rick Warren
— October 1, 2017
“Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, ‘Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.’ So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days” (Daniel 1:11-14 NIV).
As a believer, you will face some situations when you need to convince someone in authority which direction they should go or when you need to make an appeal for someone to change their mind about a decision.
Here are six things to do when you need to make a case before an authority. You can see all six of these actions in the life of Daniel, particularly in the first chapter of the book bearing his name.
- Develop a reputation for responsibility (Proverbs 22:29) — People with great responsibility notice people who are responsible. The king’s official had great respect for Daniel. That’s why Daniel was able to make his appeal. Christians should have a similar reputation in the marketplace and in their community.
- Be humble and not belligerent (Proverbs 25:6) — You don’t demand your way. Daniel didn’t do that. He asked the king’s official to try something. Threats never work with people in authority. Be humble or you’ll stumble.
- Don’t be deceptive or manipulative (2 Corinthians 4:2) — God does not honor dishonesty. God says you’re on your own if you lie.
- Appeal to their goals and their interests — Start with what they want, not what you want. Daniel told the official, “We have the same goal. We both want me to eat food that makes me healthy. I just want to do it differently. We don’t have a problem with the goal — just how we complete the goal.” You don’t get your way by pressing your own agenda and going to war over it.
- Choose the right place, time, and words (Proverbs 16:21) — What’s the right place? Always privately. You never confront authority in public. It just solidifies their opposition. The right time? Not when the person is frustrated, tired, or hungry. The right words? Be polite and pleasant.
- Trust God if they reject your appeal (Romans 8:28) — The Bible clearly tells us that God works for the good of those who love him. Not everything that happens in your life will be good, but you can trust God to work it for good.
Guess what? You’ll never have to confront authority on your own. Jesus says he’ll never leave you. You have the Holy Spirit. You have God’s promises. You have God’s family — the church — to stand with you.
You’re not alone.
The Bible says, “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4b GW).
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Talk It Over
- How have you confronted people in authority in the past? How did that work out? Would you do it any differently now?
- Of the six steps listed above, which do you think is the hardest? Which is the easiest? Why?
- How have other believers been an important part of your efforts to confront authority?
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