For what reason did the Lord redeem us and bring us into His family? What should be the goal of our lives? What are we trying to do with our three score and ten years? The general answer should be: to bring glory to God through our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. More specifically, we might say it is to worship and serve the Lord, doing His will and praising His Name. A part of that ought to be to live our day-to-day lives as free from sin as possible. And we have been left in this world to be evangelists, sharing the good news of the Word of God. In the back of our minds there might be the thought that one of these days our earthly lives will come to an end, and we shall then begin to spend eternity with the Lord better equipped to do these things.
Of course, many aspects of our current lives have always been out of our control. For example, we were born in North America, rather than Asia or Europe, but we are not Native Americans. This is a part of who we are. We were born male or female, and no amount of surgery, drugs or gender reconditioning can change that. Some of us were born with defects which limit our physical strength. Some are tone deaf and others are deaf deaf. We can overcome a few things, like our poverty, our speech impediment, and our near-sightedness. And we can work toward a good education. But if we were not born with hyperthymesia (perfect memory recall), we have to keep notes and work at remembering things. And if our parents were atheists or humanists, it took hard work and the grace of God to bring us out.
But here we are, saved by the grace of God, and commanded by the Lord to serve and glorify His Name. How do we make the best of the remainder of our time here on earth? In contrast to focusing on our skills and personal resources, as Christians, we need to focus on the Lord, the source of our lives. We need to depend and rely upon Him to make the most of our temporal time.
And what is it to depend on the Lord? How can we do that? To depend is to trust. The key to living the kind of life Christians are meant to live is to do so by faith. We need the knowledge of God’s will, which basically comes through His Word, and then we need to lean on Him, trusting Him to enable us to do and keep what He has given to us. We need to surrender our wills to Him, becoming willing to do what He asks of us.
In this business we have Daniel as an example to follow. This man was an extraordinary saint of God who lived in a very difficult time in human history. If you want to say that ours’ are difficult days, then you need to spend even more time with Daniel.
Daniel shows us that it TAKES FAITH to live a life which DENIES SIN.
Shortly after being taken from his family and shipped to Babylon as a trophy for King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel was ordered to eat the sort of food that Babylonian royalty usually ate. We aren’t specifically told, but it appears to have contained ingredients which were forbidden to Israel by the law which was given to Moses. The Lord had told His people that they were different from the rest of the world, and in several ways they were to demonstrate that difference. One of those means was in the food they ate. So “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat…” Knowing God’s will, he politely told his handler that he would be willing to eat a vegetarian diet rather than risk getting some pork or forbidden sea food delicacy into his evening meal.
Notice the faith and the risk involved here. Daniel put his life in the hand of God even to voice his rejection of the king’s diet. There were plenty of other young men, kidnaped from other nations, who were delighted to eat the King’s cuisine. Daniel might have been cast aside or killed to make room for someone showing a bit more respect. But he believed that God meant what He said about Israel’s diet. “God said it, so I need to do it.” Furthermore he believed that the Lord, who proscribed that diet, would meet his needs by taking a stand which glorified the Lord. To Daniel he was refusing to sin against his God. His faith enabled him to risk his personal life, but even more than that, he sufficiently trusted God to encourage his Hebrew friends to trust the Lord as well. “I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give US pulse to eat, and water to drink.” “I have faith that the Lord will make me and my friends more healthy and robust than those who eat the king’s proscribed food.”
And do you know what? God honored their faith and their dependence on Him. The Lord loves to see us exercise our trust in Him. He wants to see people who trust Him enough to say “no” to sin. God honors and blesses people who hate sin as much as He does.
Obviously, there is more to resisting temptation than strong will power. Yes, Daniel “purposed in his heart” that he would not sin, but he also trusted Jehovah for a good outcome. He teaches us that when temptation comes our way, we must not look to ourselves for resistence, but to look to God by faith. So what if today our personal strength may be victorious, and tomorrow we may avoid some particular sin? What about next week? Our strength and resolve are always limited, but our Saviour is not. He is absolutely limitless. Putting our trust in Him guarantees success, and there is no other guarantee. But while we do that, trusting Him, we have to let Him define the “success.” Your resistence may risk your position, your friends, and perhaps even your life. But in trusting the Lord, the only things you’ll loose are those which God intends for you to loose. We see in Daniel that faith is the victory, and faith can actually mean prosperity.
Daniel also shows us that it TAKES FAITH to SHARE the TRUTH.
Chapter 2 gives us another example of God passing on a little bit of information through a vision. This time Nebuchadnezzar had a nightmarish dream which so disturbed him that he immediately woke up. But once he brought his heart under control, he couldn’t remember what it was he dreamed, so he summoned all his counselors and advisors – his chief “wise men.” He demanded that they not only give him the interpretation of his dream, but that they give him the dream as well. Of course, for natural men this was impossible. So in a fit of pique, the miserable dictator ordered the execution of all the wise men in Babylon.
That included Daniel and his friends, who were recognized to be among the intellectual cream of the crop. However, those four young men were also intellectual rebels, having rejected the normal standards of a well-rounded education, like soothsaying, necromancy and tea leaf reading. If they were here today, they would have condemned the ideas of evolution, the divine right of kings, the social gospel and a host of religious heresies. They were noted for being smart, but they weren’t among the elite – the intelligensia. So they weren’t invited to the King’s bedroom to offer their opinions about the forgotten dream. And yet as “wise men,” they were under the execution edict.
Immediately Daniel’s faith kicked in again. He told his handler, “Do not interpretations belong to God?” Daniel had no doubt that they did. “Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he WOULD shew the king the interpretation.” Daniel had no doubt. But he also didn’t have the king’s answer – as yet. “Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret.”
So the four brethren began to pray. And how did they pray? Did they pray successively or synchronously? Was it silently or vocally? It doesn’t matter. They besought the Lord in faith, expecting God to miraculously reveal the secret dream and its meaning. Were they worried whether or not God would be merciful? I don’t believe they were. They anticipated God’s blessing, just as Daniel had already told Nebuchadnezzar He would. Those were not mere words of Daniel, religious or otherwise. He trusted God for the necessary wisdom. “If any of you lack wisdom let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not.” But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.”
Those four men asked in faith and the Lord replied to their faith. If you want to say that the Lord answered their prayers, I won’t disagree with you. But it was not to the men’s words, their tears, their worries, or to their pleas that God responded. Brethren, it was to their faith. It was to their trust that God replied. And for the next five verses in chapter 2 Daniel praises God for His mercy and grace. “Then Daniel blessed the God of Heaven… Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever; for wisdom and might are his… I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers…” Daniel didn’t take credit for the answer, & he didn’t take credit for the faith which touched the heart of God. Daniel praised the Lord alone, just as he should have done. Would I be too bold to add that people of Biblical faith will always be thankful people and people filled with praise to God?
Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful earthly king, but at this point he was as spiritually lost as a blind skunk. It was here that his heart began to be turned by the Lord. I won’t say that he became a child of God in chapter 2, but here we see some of the first steps. “The king answered unto Daniel, & said, of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, & Lord of Kings…” One of our visitors last Sunday said that she was looking forward to meeting Nebuchadnezzar in heaven. I believe she will have that opportunity.
Again, as I just said, Daniel shows us that it TAKES FAITH to SHARE the TRUTH.
In chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar gives a personal testimony of his foolishness. In another dream, the king saw a great and beautiful tree, which he interpreted to represent himself. He then saw it cut down to a stump, and its heart was changed from that of a man to that of a beast. He heard, “This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the INTENT that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.” Once again Daniel was invited to explain the meaning.
Again, Daniel knew that this was from the Lord, and he immediately knew what it meant. And if I may say, it paralleled the gospel. Verse 19 – “Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonied for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him. The king spake, and said, Belteshazzar, let not the dream, or the interpretation thereof, trouble thee. Belteshazzar answered and said, My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies.”
One of the problems with the gospel, if I can put it that way, is that it begins negatively. No matter how tall, how robust, how regal a person might be, we are all sinners in the sight of God. No matter how tough our bark, every tree is going to be cut down, its leaves are going to be shaken off and its branches are going into the wood chipper. And the God-sent evangelist should be grieved by that fact, nevertheless by faith he will share every part of it. “My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies.”
But there is good news, too, if the tree will listen. “Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity.” “And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule.” Admittedly this isn’t the language of the New Testament, but it does speak of the mercy of God.
Nebuchadnezzar did not take to heart Daniel’s good news, and God’s judgment fell. But it accomplished its intended design. “And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation.” “Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.”
I hope you can see how it was by faith that Daniel presented God’s plan to this needy sinner? He knew the truth about sin, righteousness and judgment, and without any fear he shared it. But he also believed – fully trusted – that what God had said about Nebuchadnezzar’s restoration would come to pass. In the same way, we can share the good news of Jesus Christ with full assurance that whosoever will put their trust in Him will be forgiven of sin and given eternal life.
Daniel shows us that it takes faith to LIVE according to the WORD OF GOD.
Chapter 6 tells us that jealousy arose against saintly Daniel because God’s blessings were upon him. An evil plan was devised which his enemies knew would certainly entrap him. They convinced the new king to sign a decree forbidding anyone from praying to “any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king,” and if anyone disobeyed, the penalty would be – death by the tooth of lions. The world hates true saints of God – true Christians – because it hates Christ and hates Christianity. But real Christians, by faith, will remain true to the Lord no matter what the world threatens to do.
Daniel never gave a second thought to obeying this blasphemous royal edict. As he had under Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, now under Darius the Mede, Daniel opened the window of his apartment which looked out in the direction of Jerusalem, and he prayed to God as he always did. The Bible tells us that he knew about the royal signature on the document which meant his execution. But his faith was such that whatever would happen would be under the control of the Lord. Because the order was specifically designed to entrap Daniel he was watched and was immediately observed praying to Jehovah. Subsequently he was arrested – for worshiping God. There was nothing the foolish king could do but to order Daniel to be thrown into the executioner’s den. But Darius “spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee.” Where did that heathen man get that tiny bit of faith? He was probably only reflecting Daniel’s faith.
As you know Daniel was cast into the lion’s den and the stone door was closed behind him. Then six, or eight, or ten hours later, that stone was removed, and Darius spoke into the blackness. “O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths that they have not hurt me…” I can’t speak with absolute assurance about what Daniel expected the night before. I can’t tell you if he anticipated spending the evening in the pleasant company of angels and lap cats. But I can tell you that by faith Daniel was prepared to receive whatever the Lord intended for him.
It takes faith to live according to the Word God, because we can’t be sure what the world, or the Devil, is going to throw at us tomorrow. We don’t even know for sure what our flesh will try to do against our soul. But it doesn’t really matter what they try. What is important is our faithfulness to the Lord. And in this we see that our faithfulness is directly tied to our faith in Him. Can there be a better illustration of practical faith than the life of Daniel?
Before I quit, there is one more point:
Daniel shows us that by faith we need to look for the fulfilment of God’s promises.
Chapter 9:2 – “In the first year of (Darius’) reign, I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.” Daniel had a copy of much of the Old Testament, including the prophecies of Jeremiah. Jeremiah 27:11 tells us, as it told Daniel, that Judah would be in Babylonian bondage for seventy years, and by faith Daniel believed it. Most of the rest of chapter 9 records Daniel prayer in regard to that prophesy. He mentions Israel’s past sins & her current sins, and that she doesn’t deserve forgiveness or restoration. But throughout his prayer there is an atmosphere of faith. The seventy years were expiring, and this man of faith was expecting God to keep His word.
Our situation is not exactly like Daniel’s, but we, too, have the promise of restoration and blessing, but of a different kind. We are told to live as if the Lord is going to return and eventually to restore the perfections of His creation. I believe He tells us that our seventy years it just about up. He may come today. “And every man that hath this hope in him (through faith) purified himself, as even as he is pure.”
Daniel shows us how to go from day to day trusting the Lord for the necessities of that day. He shows us how to go from problem to problem with faith to trust the Lord for His solutions. And he reminds us to trust the Lord to keep His promises about His Millennial and Eternal kingdoms. “Even so, come Lord Jesus” is a statement of faith and trust in God’s promises.