This is the last message in the Daniel Dilemma series where we've been exploring how Daniel serves us as an example of how to stand strong and love well in a culture of compromise.
In Daniel 1-4 we have already learned how Daniel and his friends were faithful and reliable, extremely courageous and humble. Today, we will take a look at another one of Daniel’s exemplary qualities: consistency.
In a world where fame can happen instantaneously (think of TV shows like The Voice or America’s Got Talent) the emphasis is shifting towards special qualities. But what gets under emphasized is the fact that talent always requires hard work and devotion to fully develop.
I believe that the greatest contribution you and I can make to the Church and the world around you is not in any special quality or talent, but by day in, day out, year after year serving and leading with a reliable and loyal heart.
Daniel 6:1-5 (NLT) Darius the Mede decided to divide the kingdom into 120 provinces, and he appointed a high officer to rule over each province. The king also chose Daniel and two others as administrators to supervise the high officers and protect the king’s interests. Daniel soon proved himself more capable than all the other administrators and high officers. Because of Daniel’s great ability, the king made plans to place him over the entire empire. Then the other administrators and high officers began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling government affairs, but they couldn’t find anything to criticize or condemn. He was faithful, always responsible, and completely trustworthy. So they concluded, “Our only chance of finding grounds for accusing Daniel will be in connection with the rules of his religion.”
Daniel stood out, even as a Hebrew captive under a new rule, he distinguished himself as very reliable. More literal translations say that Daniel stood out because of his “great spirit”, where the NLT translated “great ability”. It weren’t his special qualities such as dream interpretation that made him stand out. He stood out because of his character.
Daniel’s consistent character
In this book, we get to know Daniel as an interpreter of dreams (Daniel 2, 4 and 5). Daniel had a reputation for his special ability, certainly with one of the previous kings of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. But aside from those qualities, He really stands out in the way that he presents himself, speaks to others and serves. And he has done so from when he was a young man brought into the palace of Nebuchadnezzar until his old age and under the rule of yet another foreign king.
Daniel stood out and had influence because of who he was, more than because of what he did. I pray that the world around us may know you and I this way as well. Let me tell you that, you can only truly “make it” in life when you live a stand-up life like Daniel did.
Your skill will only take you as far as your character can carry.
This is a picture of Roger Federer as a 20-year old man. He was considered a super-talent, but had a reputation of quick-tempered brat. It is only when he got his head fully in the game, after a tragic loss of a good friend, that he became the best player of all time and the calm and collected guy you see on the court now.
Daniel 6:6-13 (NLT) So the administrators and high officers went to the king and said, “Long live King Darius! We are all in agreement—we administrators, officials, high officers, advisers, and governors—that the king should make a law that will be strictly enforced. Give orders that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions. And now, Your Majesty, issue and sign this law so it cannot be changed, an official law of the Medes and Persians that cannot be revoked.” So King Darius signed the law.
But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God. Then the officials went together to Daniel’s house and found him praying and asking for God’s help. So they went straight to the king and reminded him about his law. “Did you not sign a law that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions?”
“Yes,” the king replied, “that decision stands; it is an official law of the Medes and Persians that cannot be revoked.” Then they told the king, “That man Daniel, one of the captives from Judah, is ignoring you and your law. He still prays to his God three times a day.”Hearing this, the king was deeply troubled, and he tried to think of a way to save Daniel. He spent the rest of the day looking for a way to get Daniel out of this predicament.
The King signs the law – being completely blind for the consequences it might have – because of a combination of his pride, ignorance and wanting to be a people pleaser.
The consequences for Daniel though, were that, again, he is challenged to compromise his faith. He is forced to give up on the very thing that has made him stand out – his relationship with God.
Daniel had learned reliability from praying three times a day and he learned humility from doing it kneeling down.
Daniel’s consistent spiritual life
This is another area where Daniel may serve us as a great example. He sought the Lord day-after-day on his knees in prayer. This is what developed his reliable character.
You and I need to daily seek God in prayer and reading the Bible. This is how we develop and nurture our personal relationship with God. His door is always open, He is waiting for us to meet with Him every day – but I regret to say that I, and this may count for you as well – don’t answer this invitation as often as I know I should.
Here’s what I’ve learned: You cannot replace prayer and reading the Bible with anything. I love reading Christian books, I regularly listen to worship music and to sermons and podcasts and all that – they are great additions, but they cannot replace your personal prayers and reading because it is second hand. Other people’s experiences and ideas may help you, but your relationship with God cannot rely on it.
Daniel 6:15-24 (NLT)
In the evening the men went together to the king and said, “Your Majesty, you know that according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, no law that the king signs can be changed.” So at last the king gave orders for Daniel to be arrested and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to him, “May your God, whom you serve so faithfully, rescue you.”
A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den. The king sealed the stone with his own royal seal and the seals of his nobles, so that no one could rescue Daniel. Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night fasting. He refused his usual entertainment and couldn’t sleep at all that night.
Very early the next morning, the king got up and hurried out to the lions’ den. When he got there, he called out in anguish, “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God, whom you serve so faithfully, able to rescue you from the lions?”
Daniel answered, “Long live the king! My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.”
The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God. Then the king gave orders to arrest the men who had maliciously accused Daniel. He had them thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. The lions leaped on them and tore them apart before they even hit the floor of the den.
God saves Daniel from a certain death – so that his accusers would know that He is God.
God’s got your back. Daniel held on to God, where he could’ve held on to safety, security, his high position or his influence – but he held on to God because ultimately that’s where we find our safety and security. Daniel relied on the only One that is reliable.
I pray that the story of Daniel, and his example of faith, may be an encouragement to you and an inspiration to how you live your life. That you will have the faith that stands firm, whatever may happen. And that you will see the world around you as a place to have influence on, rather than to run away from it.
How to live consistently
1) Take on habits that are consistent with your desire for God
We know that we need God more than anything in this world. So let’s adopt healthy habits – like taking time for prayer daily.
The first thing we can take from Daniel 6, is that it is fruitful to make prayer a daily habit. It is the best way to start and end your day. It is the best thing to do for your children, it is the best thing to do for your spouse, for your friends. Through prayer we get to hear the heartbeat of God – so that we will know how to live.
Through prayer – especially done on your knees like Daniel – we realize and recognize that it all depends on God. We cannot do it in our strength, but only in His strength.
2) Focus on character first and qualities second
Daniel was a man with many skills – but what made him stand out and what was his biggest influence as an ambassador of the Kingdom of God, was his character.
I know that it may be difficult, and it could possibly hurt – but regularly consider: “how do others experience me?”
I love this little exercise: how will people talk about me at my funeral? What will they say? What will they remember about me?
3) Live consistently with your new nature
Jesus died so that our sin and shame would be taken away, and He was raised to life so that we could experience a new life as well.
Romans 6:5-7, 11 (NLT) Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. (…) So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.
We have received a new nature. The old is gone, the new has come. We don’t have to get stuck in the old ways – new rules apply! And so Paul says – live consistently with who you are now in Christ Jesus. You are not slaves to sin, but slaves to righteousness.
Too many Christians only think that they died to sin, but are not made alive in Christ yet. By focusing on not-sinning, you are still focusing on sin. And you are continually confronted with your inadequacy to be ‘good enough’. Paul says, don’t focus on that, focus on Christ. Start living the new life you have received, because something in you has changed since you accepted Jesus – your natural focus is not sin any more, but righteousness. So live consistently with this new nature!