Daniel – Man of Integrity and Faith

Most of us know the stories of Daniel.  We heard them when we were small.  The captivity, the fiery furnace, the lion’s den.  But just in case, let me give you a quick recap.
About 2600 years ago, 600 years before Christ was born, the nation of Israel, the chosen of God, was attacked and taken over by the Babylonian Empire, which had it’s capital city in the current country of Iraq.  When the Babylonians invaded they took most of the people of Israel and Judah captives including Daniel and his friends, Hannaiah, Mishael and Abednego.
Daniel quickly rose in favor with those in authority and within three years he was a chief in the King’s counsel and remained as such until he died at the age of more than 90 years. 
When Daniel arrived in Babylon he was young, probably in his late teens or early twenties.  But as young as he was, Daniel was strong in his faith.  A young man as a captive in a strange land, yet the first thing he did was go directly against the king’s order.  His primary goal even at the risk of his life was to glorify God.  Even in their eating Daniel and his friends were faithful to God.  Some have thought that they were vegetarians, but as I read the book of Daniel this time I noticed his words in verse 1:8
Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.
Daniel didn’t want to defile himself – he didn’t want to make himself unclean.  It sounds as if the meat that came from the king’s table was either sacrificed to idols or still had the blood in it which was directly against the law of God.  Daniel and his friends chose to be faithful to the covenant God had long ago made with his people rather than conform to the mandate of the king.  Daniel chose to honor God even in his eating.
But what about us?  Can God count on us to be obedient and faithful to him even in something as small as eating and drinking?  Maybe you’re thinking that this doesn’t apply today, but the Bible talks about the evil of gluttony and the need for moderation.  And Jesus himself said:
Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much
We want God to trust us with BIG things.  We want Him to give us more and more and more, but have we learned how to be faithful with the small things He asks of us? 
Because when we finally show that we can be obedient and faithful in even the small things, God will indeed trust us with the bigger things.  He did with Daniel and his friends.  Because he was faithful with his eating, Daniel was elevated to the post of wiseman in the Kingdom and before he was thirty, Daniel was given the ability to interpret the King’s dream and put in charge of all the wisemen in the nation and his friends, now called Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, were promoted to high places in the Kingdom. 
And, of course, these three have their own story to tell about how faithfulness to God is rewarded.  Not long after they were faithful in the small things, they were presented with a much tougher test.  The king pronounced a decree that no one could bow down and worship any but this huge statue that he erected in his honor.  But the penalty of a fiery furnace couldn’t convince Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to bow down to this idol.  They had promised to only worship the God of Heaven and Earth and even when faced with being thrown in the furnace they wouldn’t serve anyone else.  Listen to what they said in Daniel 3 starting in verse 16:
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. [17] 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. [18] 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.”
They trusted God and wouldn’t follow the ways of the world, not even to save their lives.  And do you remember what happened?  Even though the king was so mad that he heated the furnace seven times hotter than normal.  Even though they were tied up and thrown in, when the king looked into the flames he saw Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego walking around in the flames and a fourth man who looked like a “son of the gods.”  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were kept alive during this ordeal.  They believed God could and promised to be faithful even if He didn’t.
But what about you and I?  What has the world set up for us to worship?  Don’t imagine for a moment that there are no golden idols in our lives.  All over the world people call themselves Christians but give honor to things other than God.  Football, movie and music stars, presidents, kings and politicians, children, parents and family.  Sporting events, family picnics, yard work, employment, sleeping in and more.  There are any number of things that act like the king’s image of gold and demand our worship instead of God.  We don’t have any fiery furnace facing us if we choose God over these worldly things, yet for some reason we do. For some reason we let these things of the world distract us from reading the Bible, praying, worshipping and spending time with our creator.   
Now, let’s jump ahead 60 some years.  Daniel is nearly 90 now.  He has proven time and time again that he’s a man of God.  In fact his integrity is so well known that in chapter 6 verses 3-5 we read:
[3] Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. [4] At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. [5] Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”
The only possible way to get rid of Daniel was to hold his faith against him.  Wouldn’t you love to have someone say that about you?  The governors devised a plan.  They convinced King Darius to create a decree that all people to pray only to him for thirty days or risk being thrown in with the lions.  But look at what Daniel did.  Jump down to verse 10: 
DA 6:10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.
Not only did he keep on praying and giving thanks to God, he did it with the windows open and three times a day.  He didn’t hide his faith, he boldly practiced it. 
But what about us?  Do we boldly worship regardless of what everyone else might think?  Do we have so much integrity, are we so faithful to God that the only way to trap us is by making a law against our faith?
Stop and think about that for a moment.  Daniel’s words couldn’t be twisted.  There was nothing he’d ever said that could be used against him.  He never allowed himself to get in a compromising situation.  Everyone knew.  There was no question that Daniel was a man of God.  Would the people who know you and I be able to say the same thing?
We all know what happened to Daniel when they found him praying, right?  The other governors got their way and Daniel was thrown into the lion’s pit overnight.  By all rights, Daniel should have been eaten.  Those lions were hungry as they proved a little later in the story.  But when the king found him alive, Daniel told him in verse 22:
My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king.”
Daniel was saved because of his faithfulness to God and his righteousness.
Today we wonder why God doesn’t intervene more.  We think that God doesn’t do as much in the 21st Century as He did in the Old Testament or during the 1st Century.  I’m not saying that all bad things happen because we are unfaithful or even that the only reason bad things happen is because we aren’t faithful enough.   Even the disciples and Jeremiah suffered in the hands of the enemies of God.   Evil will come. 
But I wonder, are we giving God the space He needs to work His miracles?  Are we living a life of integrity?  Are we obedient in the small things?  Not just good, not just helping others, but really being obedient to the things God is calling us to.  Does our faithfulness, courage and witness merit seeing God work the way that Daniel and his friends were privileged to see?  If our life is mediocre, is it because our faith is mediocre? 
I challenge you to make a list this week of all the things you do on a daily basis that would convince the people who know you that you are faithful to Jesus Christ.  You can’t include anything that good non-Christian people do.  Giving to the poor and helping your neighbor don’t count.  Good people everywhere are doing those things.  What do you do that is entirely Christ centered?  Where do you serve simply because you are being obedient to Christ?
I challenge you to search deep within yourself and discover what it is that is stopping you from experiencing all that God has for you.  What is it that is keeping you from being 100% obedient?  Why don’t we worship every moment of every day?  Is it fear?  Let me tell you the two things that stop me the most.  They are the two things that I mention on the couple of times I’ve introduced myself at Celebrate Recovery.  Co-Dependency and pride stop me more than anything else.  I worry about what others especially those closest to me think, and I over commit myself to good causes.  Then I say I don’t have time.  I’m often prideful and to be perfectly honest with you, it takes a humble heart to truly serve God in full obedience.  Whatever it is that stops us is our excuse, it’s our hang up, it’s damaging our relationship with Jesus Christ.  We can make believe that we really have a good reason.  But if threat of a fiery furnace and a lion’s den aren’t good reasons, I’m pretty sure our excuses won’t qualify. 
There is evil in this world.  Bad things will happen.  But what can we do, what can we change, to give God the space to work?  What are missing out on because we’re not completed sold out to being faithful and obedient to Jesus Christ?  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss out on any of Christ’s marvelous works.  So, let’s decide today to be like Joshua
But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served, or the gods of those whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.

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