If there’s one thing I can't resist it's a good meal. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Sunday dinner, even fellowship meal at church: I always look forward to food and good company. Just don't expect a lot of conversation as I will be kind of busy. (Just kidding, the conversation often is as good as the food.) And so I can't imagine the strength of conviction it took for Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to resist eating the king's food while living in the castle.
At the time King Nebuchadnezzar was one of the great kings, having conquered a number of nations and lands. With the wealth he had at his disposal I am sure he acquired the best of everything, including the best chefs. His kitchen likely turned out five star quality foods. If it were a restaurant today, reservations would have to be made several months in advance and you had better have a thick wallet or at least a high limit on your gold card. But this was not a restaurant and only those who were invited could eat at the king's table. Even the leftovers were reserved for a select few.
Having certain captives dine on the king's dime was a way of integrating or converting those captives to the ways of the Babylonians. A lot of work likely went into teaching and feeding the captives with the expectation that they might one day serve as good subjects to the king. As a result dinner must have been nothing short of mouth watering. And yet Daniel was not interested.
The Bible does not detail why Daniel refused to eat, other than he felt it would defile him. It could be that the types of food or how it was prepared would have violated Jewish dietary customs. A more likely explanation is that the food from the king's kitchen had been offered up to the king's gods, much like how Christians say grace before a meal. Knowing this Daniel could not, in good conscience, eat nor could his three friends. Whatever the reason, Daniel would rather have eaten pulse than have stood before God as one who had been defiled.
Turning down this food could not have been a spur of the moment decision anymore than one could successfully start a diet on the morning of Thanksgiving. The strength of conviction shown by Daniel had to come from time spent growing in God. As Christians we cannot wait until we are tempted to decide what we stand for. Only when we make time to allow ourselves to be crafted in prayer and in Bible reading will we be able to make the right choice when tempted by the delicacies this world has to offer.
Is the strength of your conviction such that you can say no when saying yes looks/feels so good?