2014 FFIC Blog
Day 1 of 200
Though the kingdom of Judah fell in the hands of the Babylonians, God's story of redemption continued through His faithful remnant (i.e. Daniel and his 3 friends).
Don't blame the church or the leadership for falling. Instead, resolve to be the faithful remnant that keeps God's story of redemption going.
Day 2 of 200
Daniel was born as a noble in a feeble and scrawny country in one of the most unfortunate times in the history of Israel. Imagine Daniel watching his nation surrounded and oppressed by the Babylonian empire. By age 15, he's probably witnessed the death of many of his family members and friends that were close and dear to his heart. He also saw the temple of God desecrated and in ruins. And yet, he still chose to hope and have faith in God.
Many blame their families, parents or circumstances for their behavior or action. But remember this. A treasure still remains a treasure wherever it may be. In fact, it shines brighter in darkness and despair. Wherever you may be today, choose to hope and shine bright amidst darkness like Daniel.
Day 3 & 4 of 200
Hope you had a great Sabbath! (Day 3)
In Babylon, Daniel was forced to study subjects like astrology, study of animal entrails, rites of purification, sacrifice incantation, exorcism and other forms of divination and magic. Instead of shying away or slacking off in these subjects, Daniel excelled in his studies for God's mission and purpose in Babylonian empire. In academics, language, and culture - Daniel achieved a level of excellence that enabled him to radiantly shine for the glory of God.
Never forget Who you're studying for. Excellence in school and studies equip you to be the light and salt God wants you to be in this world. God uses people that are prepared and ready through diligence and faithfulness.
Daniel drew a line and resolved to keep himself pure. He knew he was called to be set apart, to be holy. Though he was given a Babylonian makeover (with a new name and education) - the one thing Babylonians couldn't touch was his body - the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
There is a reason why people want pure spring water, pure air or even pure cotton briefs. We were created to be pure. The word pure means "clean" "spotless" "free from contamination" "unmixed with any foreign substance". The pure life we're created for is a life free from unclean foods, foul language, filthy thoughts or dirty behavior. Pure attracts people because it's rare or even unheard of in this corrupt world. The world was amazed at Tebow for being a virgin. His purity went "viral" because it was "unbelievable" by the world's standard. And this is how we, like Daniel become a powerful witness. By resolving to not defile ourselves with what the world is constantly defiling itself with.
When Daniel made the resolution to keep himself pure, God didn't just site back and just watch him. He proactively helped Daniel by "causing the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel" (Dan. 1:9). God provided a way for Daniel's steadfast devotion and resolution to be successful.
We often forget that God is far more passion about our faithfulness than we are. When we seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, He promises to add ALL these things (Matt 6:33). ALL things do "work together for the good of those who love God (Rom. 8:28). Next time you're tempted to compromise and take the easy way out - open your eyes to the One who is ready to help you and walk with you and make all things work out for your ultimate good.
When making his request to the official, Daniel was courteous, considerate and polite. His courage for his resolution was accompanied by tact, wisdom and grace to to make a persuasive and winning request.
As christians, we need to be firm and friendly, resolute and reassuring and most importantly courageous and courteous. Truth must always be spoken in love. Law and Grace must kiss each other. This delicate balance, this great romance must be shown in our every interaction with the people in our schools and in our workplaces. *Note - more than half the requests you make to your parents would be granted and approved - if you keep this in mind.
At the age of 15 (when Daniel was taken captive) - Daniel made a decision that would forever alter his destiny. He decided to honor God and be faithful to Him no matter what. Note, this was an intentional decision that was made by Daniel - after he witnessed the fall of his leaders and eventually the fall of Israel. It was also a decision he made on his way to Babylon (a.k.a. New York) where he would be free to chill, party, fit in, and go with the flow. There would no one to tell him otherwise.
It's easy to be faithful when it's the norm and when everybody around you are Adventists. It's another story altogether when you see people you looked up to fall from grace and when you find yourself in an environment where no one knows you and don't really care if you keep the commandments or not. Lasting faith - the kind the goes the distance wherever you are and who you are with- is developed in your teen years. Now is the time for you to develop the kind of faith that will enable and empower you to be a powerful witness for God wherever you may be in college (without your parents) or after you graduate from college (when you're on your own).
Day 9 & 10:
Lesson 9 & 10:
While the official feared king Nebuchadnezzar, "I am afraid of my lord the king" (Dan. 1:10), Daniel feared God. Who you fear pretty much determines how you view life and who your lord is (i.e. who owns you). While the official feared for his life under the lordship of Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel thrived in boldness under the reign of God.
Application 9 & 10:
Who do you fear the most? Your friends and how they think of you? Or God and how He thinks of you? Your fear is often the litmus test of where your faith lies. Next time you're tempted to do something because of your fear - ask yourself where that fear is coming from and where it will take you. And this Sabbath, remember "There is no fear is love, but perfect love drives out fear" (1 John 4:18). Happy Sabbath!
Daniel proposed a 10-Day Test after which their appearances would be examined. And the Bible tells us that they "tested them [for] ten days" (Dan. 1:14). Whether they liked it or not, to earn and build trust, they had to be tested for a designated amount of time. And this test wasn't with their words but with their lives.
We need to remember that we're constantly being tested. The world is watching us to see if we're really different like we say we are. And our words need to be proven with our lives. When was the last time you did something consistent with what you said for 10 days? In the realm of faith, consistency trumps charisma - every time! Why don't you make a decision today and be consistent with your decision for the next 10 days?
How do you think Daniel and his 3 friends spent the 10 days in which they were tested? It's most likely that during this period that they prayed more fervently, studied more diligently and also exercised greater self-control than ever before. The Bible tells us "everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. No they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown." (1 Cor. 9:25)
As we've witnessed yesterday, we see football players who've endured strict discipline and training for a trophy that will eventually rust away. How much more should we persevere in our pursuit of excellence for the golden crown that awaits us in heaven? As those who've gone through a piano, violin and cello recital will testify - rigorous training leads to freedom on the stage. When you have thoroughly mastered the piece you are to play through practice- you enjoy a greater freedom than all the contestants that haven't. Same principle applies in the spiritual realm. The more you master the art of prayer, Bible and temperance - you'll enjoy the greater freedom to perform at a great level in life.
"God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of vision and dreams." (Dan. 1:17) God granted a special ability to Daniel. Why? For a special mission God wanted Daniel to accomplish. This ability was not given to Daniel to use it for himself. Rather, it was given to glorify God and accomplish His great plan for His people.
It is very important for us to remember that we are good at certain things because God wants us to accomplish a special mission for Him. Daniel had no idea how his gift would be used for God's purposes. But He was faithful to develop His gift and waited for God's timing. And when the time came, He was ready and His gift was used to fulfill God's great purpose in the grand narrative of His plan of salvation. Don't take your gift for granted. And when tempted, do not waste your gift on yourself. Instead, faithfully develop it and wait for God's perfect timing to use it. I promise, you won't regret it.
Nebuchadnezzar wanted an exact return on his investment. So "at the end of the time set by the king" (Dan. 1:18) - Daniel and his 3 friends were brought in before the king. And they were once again tested for their knowledge, skill and expertise. This test would determine if they were fit to enter the service of the king for the Babylonian empire.
While God looks at the heart, man looks at the "outward appearance". In order to create a lasting impact and be influential in this world for the glory of God - we need to work on our "outward appearance" as well as our "inner heart". This means there is a need for us to work on both our character and our GPA. This delicate balance between both our inward and outward attractiveness will bring forth synergy that will be a catalyst for bringing glory to God.
"Daniel remained in the royal service until the first year of the reign of King Cyrus." (Dan. 1:21) Cyrus was actually king of Persia who came after Babylon fell. The year Cyrus became king was 67 years after Daniel started his royal service. Why does inspiration include this minor detail? This little bit of information opens our eyes to see that Daniel's faith wasn't just a one time spiritual high when he was 15 years old at a summer camp. But rather, it continued for the rest of his life.
It's one thing to experience a spiritual high in a youth rally, conference, week of prayer, or at a pathfinder camp and commit your life to Jesus. But it's another thing to consistently remain true and loyal to the commitment you made to Jesus for the rest of your life. The Bible tells us "blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit." (Jer. 17:7-8) It is our prayer that this is a picture of your faith - faith that goes the distance.
God prepares a dream for Nebuchadnezzar and sets the stage for Daniel to be at the place God has prepared for him to be. God gave a dream to Nebuchadnezzar where the best magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers in Babylon couldn't retrieve and reveal to the king. It was to be a dream that would only be revealed to Daniel.
God always had, has and will always have a plan for your life. And if you are faithful to your resolution to follow His will for your life - He will bring His plan to pass. It might seem absurd and absolutely impossible in your mind. Kind of like a 15 year-old Israelite captive becoming one of the highest ranking royal officials in the most powerful empire in his time. Something like this has been unheard of. No one could ever imagine something like this happening. But it did. All according to God's plan. That's how it'll work out in your life - if you dare to be faithful.
King Nebuchadnezzar ""had a dream that troubled [him] and [he] wanted to know what it meant." (Dan. 2:3) A pagan king had a dream and desperately wanted to know what it meant. He didn't shrug it off but clung onto it and did everything he could to know what the dream meant and the role he would play in it.
This is usually how God communicates. He reveals a vision or a dream that deeply stirs and troubles our souls. We see the need around us and learn the role we need to play in it. Our calling usually is found by this stirring of the soul. Far too often, we let it pass by and don't bother to know what God might have in store for us through that particular dream that has evoked deep passion and emotion in us. Next time, you experience a divine invasion to your soul in the form of a dream or vision for you church or your community - linger with it and seek to know what it means. And behold the amazing plan God has in store for your life.
The Babylonian astrologers pleaded with the king to tell them what the dream was so that they can tell him its meaning. (Dan. 2:4) But Nebuchadnezzar didn't tell them and requested the impossible. He told them to tell him what the dream was and its meaning. Why did he request such a thing? Again, to fulfill God's purpose in Daniel's life. There was no way these astrologer would let a Babylonian captive become one of the highest ranking officials in the kingdom - unless he was able to do what they couldn't.
God excels in the impossible. Impossible is often God's greatest opportunity to reveal Himself and to fulfill His purpose. Because nothing is impossible with God. (Luke 1:37) And we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. (Phil. 4:13) Next time you run into a impossible situation, start praising God for this amazing opportunity for God to be lifted and glorified. And watch how God does the impossible through you and bring glory to Himself.
"No one on earth can tell the king his dream . . . no one except the gods can tell you your dream" (Dan. 2:10-11) The magicians, sorcerers and astrologers that was once full of pride of knowing and interpreting everything came to their senses. They finally recognized how finite and limited they were.
We need to come to terms that human logic, reason, judgment, sense and rationality is futile and is very limited in what it can know and understand. One of the most foolish things we can do is assume something doesn't exist because we can't see it. Even babies learn something called "object permanence". Which basically states that even though mommy is behind the door and can't be seen - she still exists. Next time you're tempted to assume something about God, reflect and think on the experience of astrologers in Babylon. Admit and surrender that you do not know everything and put your faith in the One who is Omniscient and will lead you into all truth.
The Bible tells us that when Arioch, the commander of the king's guard came to kill Daniel, he "handled the situation with wisdom and discretion." (Dan. 2:14) He didn't lose it, break down, flip out or go bananas. He didn't lose his composure, temper or his mind. Rather he was filled with wisdom and discretion.
Death has no sting on those who have the faith of Jesus in their hearts like Daniel. Even in the face of death, Daniel was able to remain calm, serene and breathe peace and wisdom into the situation. How was this possible? It is because Daniel had fully committed his entire life to God's faithfulness. From the very beginning, he fully resolved to honor God and trusted with all his heart that God will provide and be his judge. Next time you're tempted to fear death and lose it - remember the story of Daniel and God's steadfast love and faithfulness.
When Arioch told Daniel all that had happened (instead of killing him immediately) - Daniel went at once to the king and requested more time and the king granted his request. (Dan. 2:16) How was this possible? When astrologers were stalling for time and made a request to Nebuchadnezzar he lost it and ordered that they be killed immediately. What was so different about Daniel's request that he granted more time as Daniel wished?
Ellen G White writes, "Daniel, taking his life in his hands, ventured into the king's presence and begged that time be granted, that he might petition his God to reveal to him the dream and its interpretation. To this request the monarch acceded." (PK 493) Daniel had built trust and won king's confidence over the course of 3 years he was studying in Babylon. And while the astrologers merely stated that "no one except the gods can tell you your dream" (Dan. 2:11) - Daniel boldly petitioned to the king that he might actually talk to the only God that could reveal this dream and its interpretation. Herein lies our application. It's not enough to know that God exists or know only certain things can be done by God - we still need to go further. We need to boldly approach the throne of God in prayer and ask that He act, intervene and reveal His glory.
If you're following the story of Daniel carefully, you'll notice that one day he's ten times more capable than anyone in the kingdom (Dan 1:20) and acquires a royal position. Then another day, he becomes one of the most wanted fugitive in Babylon for a dream that disturbed the king (Dan 2:14). But regardless of which day it was, Daniel's spiritual position does not waver or change. He is steadfast. He's determined to remain faithful whether it be rain or sunshine.
It's easy to praise God when you're impressing everyone through your God's given talents and are rewarded with recognition, applause and standing ovations. But it's another story when things go sour and you're accused of something you didn't do and have to pay the consequences of someone else's actions. But through the story of Daniel we find that it is possible to remain faithful both on the goods days and the bad days. We need to keep in mind that "All things work together for the good of those who love God" (Romans 8:28). We see this in the story of Daniel. This crisis, this moment of death, led to the most grand and comprehensive revelation of God's plan of redemption for mankind.
The Bible tells us that the first thing Daniel did after the king granted his request more time was to urge his friends to pray. "He urged them to ask the God of heaven to show them His mercy by telling them the secret." (Dan 2:18) When facing death or when given some breathing room - Daniel's repertoire remains the same. He seeks God and urges all his friends to seek Him.
We need to develop and cultivate the habit of seeking God in all circumstances like Daniel. Prayer cannot be our last resort. It needs to be our first and foremost choice - to seek God, His kingdom and His will for our lives. Who or what do you turn to when you're facing trouble or crisis? Next time you're tempted to enter survival mode without God, stop and fall prostrate before His presence to seek Him. You never know, like Daniel - your eyes might open to a secret you've never known and change your life.
When Daniel asked the king for more time and urged his friends to pray with him there was a sense of urgency as well as a spiritual intuition that God was at work. And notice that Daniel didn't pray alone but invited and encouraged his friends to pray with him. The bible tells us, "if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven" (Matt 18:19).
There's something powerful about knowing what to pray for and praying for it together with your family and friends - for prayer isn't often about us getting what we want but God having His way and His will done in us and through us. Through our corporate together as a family or a group - we learn the heart of God. We see where His heart is. And we long to be there together with Him. When our hearts and God's heart comes in sync with one another God's will is revealed. As in the case of Daniel - God revealed His heart to him in a dream. When was the last time you saw and felt the heart of God with your family or your friends? On this Sabbath, take some time to gather together and pray for God's will to be revealed to you in a real and tangible way. Happy Sabbath!
"That night the secret was revealed to Daniel in a vision" (Dan. 2:19). On that very night when they began to pray, God answered and revealed the dream He gave to Nebuchadnezzar. Realize that God had every intention to reveal the dream to Daniel. It was His plan all along. God was the mastermind behind the dream and this crisis they found themselves in. But here's a question to ponder. What if Daniel didn't pray? What if he tried to take care of this by some other means?
We often have no idea as to how much blessing we're missing out in life simply because we don't pray (or half-heartedly pray without any expectation whatsoever). What will shock us the most in heaven is the amount of blessing that we have not claimed through prayer that was available for us all along. Contrary to what many people believe, prayer isn't about persuading God. It's rather prompting God for revelation and action. Next time you're tempted to seek everything else but God - imagine what the consequences might be. Through the story of Daniel, our eyes once again open to God's faithfulness and love for those who simply dare to talk to Him.
"Then, Daniel praised the God of heaven" (Dan. 2:19). Think through this scene for a moment. Daniel is in his late teens or perhaps early in his twenties when God reveals to him the entire scope of human history from his time to the time of the end in a dream. From the age of 15 when he was taken captive to Babylon, Daniel lost everything he had. But as a faithful TLT, he resolves to remain faithful and God blesses him with health, wisdom and favor. Then he wakes up one morning in Babylon enlightened with a panoramic view of the entire human history in his mind. What would you do if you were Daniel? Exactly. Daniel finally gets glimpse of God's ultimate vision and plan for mankind and can't help himself but praise God.
From a human vantage point, it might seem as if God's has lost control and everything is ruined once and for all. You might lose your house, your family, your money and just about everything in between. But there's one thing you can't afford to lose. That is your faith. Faith in the God who has been, is, and will always be in control. Faith in the God who still has a plan far too wonderful for you to comprehend and embrace right now. When tempted to quit, fold or throw in the towel, remember the story of Daniel to see fruit of faithfulness in a faithful God. When God says "I will never leave nor forsake you" know that He means that with all of His heart.
"He has all wisdom and power" (Dan. 2:20). Daniel recognized and knew that God owned and was the source of all wisdom and power. He did not rely or depend on the wisdom of Babylonian scholars or power of king Nebuchadnezzar. In the midst of dazzling pomp and glory of Babylon, it might have been easy to be intimidated and submit to the wisdom and power of Babylon. But Daniel had his laser focus on God, who was his wisdom and his power.
It's easy to get sidetracked by the wisdom and power of men and women all around us. It's also very easy for us to get swayed by a world renown scholar rather than the God who created the world renown scholar. The enemy often uses the wisdom and power of this world to persuade us from the true source of all wisdom and power. Next time you're tempted to listen and believe a teacher or a professor or a super smart friend instead of God who created them - remember the story of Daniel and follow his example to trust in His wisdom and power.
"He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings;" (Dan. 2:21) Unlike the "little horn" we'll encounter in Daniel chapter 7 who will "intend to changes times" (7:25) - God actually changes times, seasons, and kings. They are under His control and rulership. When the psalmist recognized God's sovereignty and His power he cried out "my times are in your hands" (Ps. 31:15).
At times it feels like everything is spinning out of control and God is nowhere to be found. But as Daniel has witnessed in his dream, all throughout the reign of Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome and the kingdoms that came afterwards all the way up to our time here and now - we see that God is in control. He has changed the times, the seasons and the kings over and over again. Our times, our lives, this world and everything in it, is in God's hands. He rules now and will reign forever. He takes all the responsibility for everything in this world and everything we've done. He takes the blame and the praise. And at the end of days, we'll once and for all with all the saints and the heavenly hosts - see that He has been faithful and true. And we'll cry out "Great and marvelous are you deeds, Lord god Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations." (Rev. 15:3)
"He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning" (Dan. 2:21) God grants wisdom to those who are wise enough to know that they need wisdom. He also grants knowledge to the discerning. Which means knowledge is given to only those who hunger and thirst after true knowledge. To those who not only seek information but transformation. There's an interesting verse in the Bible that states "Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them." (Matt 13:12)
Daniel knew that he needed to stay humble and teachable to gain more wisdom and grow in wisdom. Though he excelled and was 10 times smarter than his colleagues, he kept on seeking and learning. He knew that the secret to wisdom and discernment was humility and hunger. There are times in our lives when it's easy for us to think we have arrived for know everything there is to know (this often happens in high school). When you're tempted to think you know better than your parents, teachers and the people who care of about - stop and think about Daniel. Though he was physically and literally 10 times smarter than basically everyone in his kingdom - he still sought counsel, prayed and yearned for God's wisdom.
"He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what lies in darkness." (Dan 2:22) The Psalmist also sings and says "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? . . . if I make my bed in the depths, you are there." (Ps. 139:7,8) If anyone knows that true you, it's God. And get this. He knows the real you and He is still passionately in love with you.
There's an interesting quote by Goethe in which he states "it is easier to perceive error than to find the truth, for error lies on the surface while truth lies in the depths few search." Many people in this world see, settle and judge the all-too-apparent error they see on the surface of our images or identities. But God goes deeper. He searches the heart. He knows the deepest desire of our hearts. This is what Daniel knew and remembered. He sought to be fully known by God and opened his entire life for God to search him and to really know him. And in that context of intimate relationship - God was able to open his eyes, his mind and his soul to the deepest mysteries He had in store for the history of the world. God revealed to Daniel His heart.
"You have made known to me what we asked of You." (Dan. 2:23) All Daniel did was ask. It doesn't get any simpler than that. He simply requested that God show him king Nebuchadnezzar's dream and its interpretation. And guess what God did? He answered and showed Daniel the dream and gave him its interpretation.
There's a song that we sing often which quotes the verse from Matthew 7. "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." (Matt. 7:7) It seems like God wants us to ask, seek and knock. He's ready to unlock dreams, mysteries and history of the world if we do so. Next time you find yourself in a place where you find your life in danger or the world around you spinning out of control - remember to enter into God's presence and ask Him to show to what you need to know. This is one prayer that God will answer every time if you're faithful, consistent and willing to follow His will and His plan for your life.
There is an interesting development in Dan. 2:24, where Arioch, the commander of the king's guard (or the chief executioner) takes Daniel to the king and boldly states "I have found a man" when the verse clearly states that it was Daniel who went to Arioch (Dan 2:24) and found him after he finds out what king's dream was and what it meant. And while Arioch takes all the credit, he refers to Daniel in a rather degrading way, as "a man among the exiles". He doesn't introduce Daniel by his official Babylonian title but as a captive from Judah. This occurs later in our story by Belshazzar (Dan. 5:13) and also by the jealous satraps (Dan. 6:13).
Note their haughty and demeaning attitude is contrasted with Daniel's humble attitude when he states "this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than other living beings . . . " (Dan. 2:30). Keep in mind that Daniel was found 10 times better and smarter "than all the magicians and enchanters in the whole kingdom" (Dan. 1:20). Regardless, Daniel remains humble and isn't bothered by the downplay that he receives from his pagan friends. Instead of lashing out in anger, Daniel remains calm humble and let's God's wisdom and character flow through him.
It's easy for us to get caught in the game of this world and try as hard as we can to somehow prove our superiority and receive the "just recognition" we deserve. But the next time you're tempted to join in the pagan game in downplaying or devaluing others (and thus proving & exalting yourself) - remember the story of Daniel. Remember "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (Prov. 3:34)
"But there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come." (Dan 2:28) Daniel made sure that King Nebuchadnezzar understood that the God in heaven (his God) was in charge and revealed the dream to them. He also emphasized that it was God who "has made known" (shown) what He was about to do in the days to come (in the future). It is very important for us to note that Daniel firmly believed God knew the future and made it known to whom He desired.
We live in uncertain times with a God who is very certain about our future. As the saying goes, we may not know what the future holds, but we do know Who holds the future. The secret to Daniel's faithfulness was in his resolute faith in the God who revealed to him the dream and "what will happen in days to come" (Dan. 2:28). He was not shaken by anything else on earth. He was steadfast in his faith to "the God of heaven who reveals mysteries." One theologian once said, "I have yet to meet a chronic worrier who also enjoys a thriving prayer life." Next time you're temped to worry yourself to death about your uncertain future - remember the story of Daniel and thrive in your prayer life (conversation) with the God who holds your future.
"After you, another kingdom will arise" (Dan 2:39). Neither Nebuchadnezzar or Babylon will be indispensable. They will both perish and be replaced by another. Why? Because God planned it that way. Nebuchadnezzar was able to enjoy all the "dominion, power, might and glory"(Dan 2:37) for a season because God had given it to him. Daniel wanted to make sure that king Nebuchadnezzar understood this truth. Nothing and no one in this world will last forever. The only kingdom and King that will reign forever was God and His kingdom.
It's very important for us to remember that we're only stewards of what we've been given. We're not indispensable. We'll not last forever. By the grace of God, for a season in our lives, we'll be utilized with the talents and gifts God has given us. In humility and in gratitude we're to offer all the glory to Him - the very Source of everything we have and enjoy - including our very own lives. It's often easy for us to carry around a quite a humongous head between our shoulders at times because we delude ourselves into thinking that everything is running the way it is because of us. We go further. If it wasn't for us - nothing would get done. Next time you're tempted to follow this train of thought - remember the story of Daniel and realize that "after you, someone else will rise". You will be replaced. You were simply a steward for a season of life. For that, be grateful and give glory to God.
"Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret." (Dan. 2:47) Daniel just did the unthinkable and impossible by any human standard. He told King Nebuchadnezzar what he dreamed last night and its interpretation. Who does that? No one, except for the people that God is with and blesses. And guess what happens next? King Nebuchadnezzar falls prostrate on his face before Daniel and basically worships him. And with the same breath, he acknowledges that the God Daniel serves is the God of all gods and the Lord of all kings.
Miracles becomes common occurrences and daily experiences for those who are with God and rely totally on God. It's quite ordinary for the impossible to become possible everyday for the man and woman of God who dare to live outside their comfort zones. What would've happened if Daniel acted like the rest of astrologers and magicians? Absolutely nothing. If Daniel would've "followed the crowd" and did what everybody else did - he probably would've gotten killed by Arioch. The glory of God radiantly shines on pagan lands and hearts only when His people take bold risks in His name and for His glory. Next time you're tempted to stay put, do nothing, or take the safe route - remember the story of Daniel and dare to take the leap of faith and pray like you've never prayed before. As one song puts it, "There can be miracles, when you believe" and do something about it.
"At Daniel's request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon." (Dan 2:49) In that legendary encounter with king Nebuchadnezzar - Daniel became the ruler of the most important imperial province in Babylon and also the chief prefect over the wise men that served in the king's courts. And while he received one of the highest promotions (from captive to ruler) in the history of Babylon and the world combined - he did not forget his friends who prayed with him in their hour of need. He made sure that the king knew that it was their corporate effort together as a team (through prayer to their God) - that all of this was possible. Then he proceeded to make a bold request for his friends to also be promoted and they also became high ranking officials and administrators in Babylon.
True friendship requires both the bad times and the good times. True friends pray together in time of need and also share the reward together in times of celebration. We need to keep in mind that Daniel's request sets up the stage for what we're about to witness in Daniel chapter 3. What would've happened if Daniel did not make this request and forgot about his friends? History probably would not have remembered the names Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo. But because of Daniel's loyal and faithful friendship with his 3 friends, we're about the witness how their loyalty and faithfulness to their Forever Faithful Friend plays an important role in bringing glory to God in the Babylonian kingdom. Next time you're tempted to ditch your 'old friends' when you become a 'star' of sorts - think about the story of Daniel and remember to remain faithful to your friends.
One of the first things king Nebuchadnezzar does after he 'remembers' the dream (via Daniel) is to set up a statue. Daniel clearly communicates that "The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed" (Dan. 2:44). But king Nebuchadnezzar is determined to set up for himself a kingdom that will never be destroyed. So while the statue in chapter 2 had a head of gold, the statue in chapter 3 is gold from head to toe. This is an active attempt by Nebuchadnezzar to defiantly change and reshape his dream and therefore his destiny. He doesn't accept his lot in life. Instead, he recklessly pours out all of his resources into rebelling against God's plan for his life and history.
As the wisest man that ever lived noted, "there is a time for everything . . . a time to be born and a time to die." (Eccl. 3:1-2) In humility and in trust we need to remember that God knows best and He knows what He is doing. At times it's very difficult for us to let go and let God. Especially with people and things we have grown fond of and have become dear to our hearts. But the perspective we need to keep in mind is that everything belongs to God and is in His hands. The only thing that will reign forever is His kingdom. With our finite and feeble minds - we cannot understand the reason behind why certain things happen at certain times. Why He acts or doesn't act. But what we can be sure of is that God is fully in control and knows exactly why He's allowing or not allowing certain things to happen. And soon enough, we shall see the big picture and fall prostrate before His presence and cry out "Oh, just and true are your ways Ancient of Days".
"He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had setup." (Dan 3:2) It's interesting to note how satan works. To get everyone to do something, he usually gets the 'prestigious' 'influential' and 'famous' people in the world to do it. So the mindset he's promoting and getting across is "if all of those VIPs are doing it, it must be ok to do it."
The Bible tells us that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom but fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Prov. 1:7). Wisdom is all about listening to God (MIP - Most Important Person) and heeding what He has to say. It's easy to get caught up with doing whatever all the VIPs in this world are doing. If they are buying this and going there and using that - it's tempting to follow them and replicate their lifestyle. But we weren't called to follow the world and do what they are doing. Instead, we were called be "transformed by the renewing of our minds" (Rom 12:2) and be the "light of the world." (Matt. 5:14) Next time you're tempted and swayed to do something that "everyone else is doing" - remember this story in Daniel and dare to swim against the current.
If you take a closer look at the story (Dan 3:1-7) you'll see that the story is full of lists, of officers, musical instruments and even clothes. Satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and provincial officials along with horn, flute, lyre, trigon, harp and bagpipes. And the expression "peoples, nations, and men of every language" (Dan. 3:4,7) is continually repeated to emphasize universality and everyone. The book of Revelation uses the same language to convey worship. It's pretty clear what Nebuchadnezzar (along with satan behind him) wants people to do. He wants them to not only bow down but worship the statue. And of course, if anyone did not obey his command would be put to death. It's worship by coercion. Does this sound familiar?
While God gives us the freedom and the choice to worship Him, satan doesn't. It's ironic because satan has been at the forefront to accuse God for being unfair, unjust and unloving. But when push comes to shove satan reveal his true colors. Jesus, even at the point of death, did not use His power to save himself. But satan, to have his way with people, does not hesitate to use his power to threaten them or kill them. The critical mark of distinction between something that's from God or satan - is to see if you have any choice in the matter. If you find yourself saying, "I have to watch that movie." Or "I have to wear this to go to that party" - it's probably not from God. But if you're given the freedom and choice to read the Bible, pray or help your neighbor - you know it's from God. Next time you're "forced" or find that "you can't help but do something" - pray for God's deliverance. And know that as a child of God - you always have a choice.
"At this time some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews." (Dan 3:8) When the music started playing "all the nations and peoples of every language fell down and worshiped the image" (Dan 3:7) - except Daniel's 3 friends. And it looks like some astrologers who were 'half bent' with eyes wide open caught them standing up. They couldn't be missed because they were the only ones left standing.
Again, in this world - if you aren't following the crowd you can't help but stand out. If you're 'still a virgin', you'll stand out. If you keep the Sabbath, you'll stand out. If you don't drink, you'll stand out. If you don't cheat or lie, you'll stand out. If you don't eat unclean food, you'll stand out. If you're diligent, you'll stand out. If you're faithful, you'll stand out. And here's the question that deserves an honest reflection and answer. When was the last time you stood out? When was the last time you dared to remain standing when everyone else was bowing? When was the last time you were loving when everyone else was hating? Next time you're tempted to go with the flow, hang, chill or take it easy - remember the story of Daniel's 3 friends and live out your calling to stand up for Jesus when everyone is busy worshiping the image.
From Dan. 3:9-12, the Chaldeans accuse Daniel's 3 friends of ingratitude, disloyalty, disrespect and disobedience. Up until this moment, the storyline is clear that Daniel and his 3 friends were clearly the most grateful, loyal, respectful and obedient people in the Babylonian kingdom. But by one grateful, loyal, respectful and obedient faithfulness to the True God, the God of all gods, - they are slandered, accused and misrepresented by the envious idol worshipers.
Being loyal and faithful to God has its consequences. We're constantly surrounded by some jealous, envious and covetous friends or committee members or board members that are looking for a way to accuse, slander and misrepresent us. In this world, even though (or because) you stood up for something right, you'll find some people that are putting words in your mouth and fabricating stories that depict you as a irresponsible, disrespectful and disloyal ingrate. So in John 16:33, Jesus tells us that "In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world." Don't be surprised by trouble or tribulations when you're radically taking a stand for Jesus. Instead, take heart knowing that you're following the steps for your Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
"But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?" (Dan. 3:15) It's interesting to note that Nebuchadnezzar forgot in a matter of moments the "God of all gods" (Dan 2:47) that he personally worshiped in chapter 2 who he confessed has granted and revealed the dream. Through Daniel he had come in contact with the God that did the impossible and would reign forever - but in his pride and his personal agenda for longevity - he completely forgot that there was indeed a God who would rescue these Hebrew boys.
Often, when we're pursuing our own agendas for greatness and when we're busy proving our point and our rightness - we often forget about the God of all gods who is greater than all of our agendas combined. And in the heat of the moment - it's easy for us to forget that the God we have praised and worshiped last weekend at the youth rally or the conference is able to save us right now here in our present circumstances. Next time you're tempted to be self-obsessed and self-aggrandizing - dare to remember the God saved you and is currently being gracious to you right now. Then, bow down and worship Him in humility. You'll be glad you did.
After hearing Nebuchadnezzar's fury and threat - Daniel's 3 friends said "King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter." (Dan. 3:16) They are not going to give excuses or try to find a way out. They do not need to defend themselves. It's almost as if they know and are confident that they have a much better Defender with them than themselves.
Remember to always leave the defending, protecting and saving up to God. That's God's specialty, not ours. Especially in situations when you're facing trouble or calamity due to the decision we have made for God - let God be your Deliverer. Don't second guess your decision. Don't try to back out or compromise. Resolve to stand your ground and see the salvation God has prepared for your in advance. Remember He promised to never leave nor forsake you.
"If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it." (Dan 3:17) What made them so sure? How did they develop this kind of confidence in the God they serve? The answer? There had been other "blazing furnaces" that God has delivered them from. In other words, they had experienced God's deliverance before. And because of this - their first instinct when encountering a "blazing furnace" isn't fear. It's rather trust in God's faithful deliverance.
What is your first instinct when encountering a "blazing furnace"? You see, if you have never trusted God with your life - you'll never experience the life-changing and life-saving experience God has in store for you. The pre-requisite to experiencing a miracle or a deliverance is trust, not fear. Next time you're tempted to fear, run or compromise when facing a "blazing furnace" - remember the story of Daniel's friends and dare to trust God with your life. I promise you, you'll be glad that you did.
"The God we serve is able to deliver us from it" (Dan. 3:17). It was the God they served. Not their parents, teachers or pastor. It was their God that they served. And because it was the God they served they knew that He was able to deliver them from the fiery furnace. There is a deeper level of intimacy that develops when the God of your parents, teachers or pastor - becomes your God. You glean a personal knowledge of what your God is capable of - because you serve Him.
Many times we forfeit this true knowledge of the God that we can serve and get to know because God continues to stay as a God that the people we know have served and known. We settle for a second hand knowledge of an experience with God. But we don't do that with other things in life. We don't want to experience a second-hand kiss. (Oh, you go ahead and kiss her and let me know how it was like.)
Then, when and how does the God of your parents or teachers or your pastor become your God? The moment you trust Him with your life. The moment you step into the furnace trusting that He'll deliver you. You can never get to know God personally until you take the first step with Him and for Him into the fiery furnace. Next time you're tempted to shrink away from that experience of a lifetime to know your God personally, remember the story of Daniel's 3 friends and boldly step into the furnace knowing the you'll encounter Jesus.
"But even if He does not . . ." (Dan. 3:18) They knew. They were confident. They believed that God was able and will deliver them from the fiery furnace. But they also knew that He might not. And it didn't matter.
The truth about who God is and what He is capable of does not change by what He chooses not to do. That's completely up to God. He still reigns. He's still God. He doesn't owe us anything. He doesn't have to save us. But He chooses to anyway - for those who still dare to believe - even if He doesn't.
Conditional faith (that often fails to go the distance) always depends on what God allows or doesn't do for us. The attitude here is 'how could God let that happen to us?' 'How dare He not save us?' This attitude puts us at the center and perceives God as one who does things for us. And if God somehow fails to do His part - we drop Him. We need to remember that God isn't a divine butler or some cosmic genie that is always on stand-by to fulfill our wishes. Rather, He is first and foremost our Father who created us and breathed into us the breath of life. In Him we move and have our being. With this mindset, we come to understand that God may or may not do certain things for us but He is still our Father and our Creator. He has our best interest at heart and will love us in ways we may or may not understand.
As we have seen yesterday, Daniel's 3 friends were more interested in who God is than what He would do for them. Their faith wasn't based on God did for them but on who God consistently was to them. Not on God's doing but He's being. When faith is based on a faulty foundation of what we do or God does - it always has a tragic ending. However, when it's based on who God is and who we become in Him - it's bound to have a happy ending.
Daniel's 3 friends' loyalty to God does not depend on the certainty of deliverance nor on God's respond to their danger. Instead, their loyalty based on principle regardless of consequences. Note, they do not make a deal with God on the spot like we normally do. "If you do this . . . then I'll do . . ." Instead their decision is to remain faithful no matter the outcome. Their decision is motivated by the intrinsic merit of the action, not by its positive or negative pay-off. Thus, their resolve, decision and their story became immortal. Millions of people throughout the ages will remember the names Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo and what the stand for. The faith of "Even if He doesn't".
Another lesson that we're to learn from the story of the fiery furnace is this. Faithfulness to God is always a response to grace already received. God's salvation and deliverance cannot and never will be a condition to our loyalty or faithfulness. It's imperative that we understand even 'our loyalty or faithfulness' is empowered by God's grace. It's not something that we muster up and do.
We're always inspired when we hear and witness stories of loyalty, honor, courage, and faithfulness. So what we do next is - we try to, by our own might, somehow be loyal, honorable, courageous, and faithful. And every time, we deeply disappoint ourselves and those around us when we miserably fail. This is because we try to be faithful on our own - when faithfulness is a natural by-product of a grace-filled life. Again, we bear the fruit of faithfulness when we are filled God's grace and His Spirit. Next time you catch yourself trying to be faithful all on your own, remember the story of Daniel's three friends and seek God's mercy and His grace.
Eventually Nebuchadnezzar loses his temper and sanity and orders the furnace to be heated 7 times its normal heat. Why heat up the furnace when burning in slow fire hurts more? And he also orders the strongest men to tie them and to throw them in the fire? Why the strongest men? Was Nebuchadnezzar sensing that somehow the God that these Hebrew men served might intervene and rescue them?
The lesson we learn from Nebuchadnezzar's rage is two-fold. First, never command or do anything when you have lost your temper and your sanity. Your command or your actions will make no sense whatsoever. Second, the strongest men in this world will never prevail agains the sons & daughters of God. We do not have to be afraid of the strongest men in this world for we have the Son of God walking with us. The human spirit that utterly relies on the Son of God is unconquerable by any earthly power. Remember, the strongest men in Babylonian kingdom dies - while the Hebrew men walks freely in the fire with Jesus.
"Weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?" (Dan. 3:24) There are days when we feel like we're alone and God seems to be a million miles away. For Daniel's 3 friends, this was one of those days. There were about to be thrown into the fiery furnace and God was nowhere to be found - or so they thought for a second. The next thing they knew - they were with Jesus in the fire.
Never for a moment think that God has abandoned you or forsaken you. He is right there with you to enter into whatever it is you are about to enter into. He will not leave you hanging or ditch you last minute like some of your earthly friends. He's not the type to only be your friend when times are good. He's notorious for being a friend in times of great trouble and difficulty. You see, He's the only Person in the history of mankind who have left heaven (paradise) - not only to be with us but to take our place.
"I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire" (Dan. 3:25) Loose and walking. Is that what usually happens when you are under or in the fire? The Message renders the translation "walking freely in the fire". They are neither overwhelmed or consumed by the fire. Instead, they are loose, free, walking and talking. This is what happens when you're with Jesus in the fire. The christian faith doesn't guarantee a fireless existence but does provide a life of freedom in the fire.
The power to keep walking freely in this world comes from our time with Jesus. While sin and the busyness of life often chokes, entangles and eventually burns us out - Jesus sets us free and helps us keep walking. He loosens and releases us from everything that has kept us captive. This is why time with Jesus is critical to the christian life. Your Time Alone with God (TAG) is what sets you free to live the life you were created to live. Next time you find yourself 'in the fire' - remember this story and seek Jesus who is with you and waiting for you to open the door.
"They saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power." (Dan. 3:27) Here's a lesson the remember. The fire in the furnace which was heated seven times more than usual - had no power over the 3 Hebrew young men who had been with Jesus. This is how we can be in the world but not of the world. The Hebrew young men were in the fire but not of the fire because Jesus was with them.
Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) What did he mean by that? What he meant was that we'll have fire all around us in this world. Fires of passion, greed, anger, and deceit will often try to consume us. Everyone around us will be doing something and will often try to get us to do the same thing. The temptation will be real and very challenging. But with Jesus, we can take heart because as He has overcome the world. For the One who has overcome the world - will overcome the world in and through us as well. This is why Jesus invites us to abide in Him and promises to abide in us. Because with Jesus, the fires of this world will have no power over us.
"They trusted in Him and defied the king's command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God." (Dan. 3:28) This is Nebuchadnezzar speaking. Praising God and affirming the 3 Hebrew young men who just came out of the fire unharmed. Daniel's 3 friends, in faith, defied the king's command for the King's command. They saw clearly Who was in charge and Who their allegiance should be for. And because of their faithfulness the king realized who the real King was also.
The most powerful form of witness is our faithful allegiance to God. This testimony "we must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29) was the bedrock foundation for the revival and reformation in the early church. Their firm resolution to remain faithful was the catalyst that gave the momentum to what we now see as an eruption and explosion of the gospel message to the ends of the earth. Here at the end of the times, the call to allegiance, loyalty and faithfulness is before us. God is looking for young men and women who will be forever faithful to Him. As we're counting down to the 2014 Forever Faithful International Camporee - it is our prayer that on this Sabbath, you would take a moment to renew your commitment to be forever faithful to your forever friend, Jesus.
"For no other god can save in this way." (Dan 3:29) A pagan king his officials just witnessed God at work. They beheld God's salvation. And the king declared that no other god can save this way. That's pretty much how it works. All it takes is to witness one saving act of God. It's hard to believe until you witness and experience it.
When was the last time you witnessed or experienced God's salvation? Churches usually grow stale and has much drama if it does not witness or experience God's salvation for souls on a regular basis. Personal faith works in the same way. Faith is strengthened when beholding God at work in your life and the life of others. When you're fully engaged, paying attention and experiencing God save souls through you - your faith grows muscles. When you're not - your faith weakens. Beg God tonight to open your eyes to witness and experience His salvation. I promise you, you'll never be the same again.
Daniel chapter 4 begins what seems like Nebuchadnezzar's 2nd dream. It's actually his personal testimony of his encounter with God. He begins by saying, "To the nations and peoples every language, who live in all the earth." (Dan. 4:1) What he's about to tell - he wants everyone to know.
One of the most clear signs of an authentic encounter with God is your soul's deepest craving and desire to tell everyone about it. You can hardly contain it. You want everyone to know. It's kind of like the encounter the Samaritan woman who had 5 husbands and was co-habitating with another man experienced. After Jesus was done with her, she dropped everything (including her bucket, reputation, guard and mask) and ran to all the people in her village and exclaimed "Come see a man who told me everything I ever did." (John 4:29) If you're still finding that you kind of want to keep faith to yourself - it's time that you prayed for an authentic encounter with God.
In Dan 4:2 - we see how excited and thrilled Nebuchadnezzar is to share all the "miraculous signs and wonders" God has performed on his behalf. Can you sense God's passion for this pagan king? He did not hesitate to unleash His grace along with miracles and wonders to draw Nebuchadnezzar to Himself.
How passionate are you for your 'pagan' friends? Do you see them with the eyes and heart of God? Can you feel God's heartbeat for His 'pagan' children? Whether they be in hollywood or other forms of entertainment industry which we deem as evil - God's heart still goes out to them because they are His children that He died for. It's easy for us to get caught up with Adventism and 'remnantism' and forget that our mission is love passionately with the heart of God - our 'pagan' friends. Why don't you pray for them tonight? Like, right now.
"His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation" (Dan 4:3) This is actually what Nebuchadnezzar remembers and repeats when his sanity is restored after he's lived like an animal for 7 years. What does this mean? Without God's sovereign rule and reign in our lives, all of us are doomed to live like animals and beasts of the field.
Many in this world do not know whether they are eating to live or living to eat. Many go through the motions and are trapped in meaningless cycle of survival not knowing why they exist and what they should do with their lives. The quest and pursuit of meaning is real and they try to find this in almost everything else but God. They try to find it in relationships, possessions, or pleasure. And as king Solomon wrote, many find that all of this is merely "chasing after the wind" and that there is indeed "nothing new under the sun". True meaning is created and found only when we subject ourselves under God's reign and recognize who we are in Christ.
“I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you.” (Dan. 4:9)
Nebuchadnezzar knew that as long as the Spirit of God was in Daniel (and it was very clear He was) - that no mystery would be too difficult for him. That's usually how it it. If God's Spirit is within us - nothing is too difficult. In fact, nothing is impossible when God is living in and through us.
This is why we need to invite God's Spirit into our lives every single day. Every morning and every chance you get throughout the day - invite God's Spirit to come into your heart. Ask Him to fully reign and rule over your life. You'll begin to see and experience that nothing is indeed impossible with God. Happy Sabbath!
"The Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people." (Dan 4:17)
It's critical that we remember everything that we have been given was given by God.
Things get a little awkward and out of hand once we begin to forget where everything came from. Once we forget and misunderstand Who the real Owner, Ruler and Giver is - we deteriorate and degrade down to animal status.
Once any form of greed (for fame, recognition, attention and glory) begin to consume us from the inside out - we lose our sanity and forfeit the image of God. It is that precise moment (as Nebuchadnezzar experienced) we morph into a beast and begin to prowl and rule like the beast of the field consuming everything in sight for our own pleasure and satisfaction. We forget God, others and become obsessed with ourselves. We no longer create and contribute but consume. Wherever you are tonight, ask yourself - who am I living for? Am I a consumer or a contributor?
"... providing food for all, giving shelter to the wild animals, and having nesting places in it branches for the birds - Your Majesty, you are that tree!" (Dan 4:21-22) With God's blessing, Nebuchadnezzar became a tree (or channel) of that blessing to the people around him. He was able to provide food, shelter, and nesting places.
This is how blessing is supposed to work. God designs and expects blessing to continually flow through you to bless others. It isn't something that you keep or hoard for yourself. The perfect illustration comes from two bodies of water in Israel, Sea of Galilee and Dead Sea. While the Sea of Galilee is full of fish, surrounded by lush vegetation and trees, the Dead Sea is well, quite dead. There is nothing green there, no fish, no life, stagnant and dead. The main difference between these two bodies of water is that while the Sea of Galilee continues to overflow and give, the Dead Sea only takes and gives up nothing. And because the Dead Sea only took, it became stagnant and eventually died with everything in it. When Nebuchadnezzar gave, he became a channel of blessing and gave life. But when he stopped and took everything for himself (including the glory that was God's), he became a wild beast of the field that he once provided for.
"Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal" (Dan 4:16) Here's a list of things that are unique to human beings with human minds as opposed to animal minds. Humor, appreciation of beauty, self-consciousness, awareness of death, understanding time, connections between words, meaning of life, a sense of morality, character, capacity for wisdom, desire for worship, and love.
When humans cease to exist with human minds that are capable of things listed above - it acts, behaves and lives like an animal. The Bible tells that "there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty gives them understanding." (Job 32:8) Through God's spirit in the human mind, it is able to understand and discern wisdom. Wisdom empowers the human being to live like . . . well, a human being. When the human mind loses God's spirit and lives apart from His Spirit - it loses understanding and wisdom. It begins to frantically live with animalistic instincts to satisfy its urges and desires. Deterioration rapidly takes place while it is driven only for temporal pleasure and survival. The phrase 'I'm only human' is to be understood as "I'm a beast trapped in a human body." Take a moment to reflect today to see whether you're being guided by God's Spirit or your instincts?
"At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored." (Daniel 4:34) This is usually how it works. The only way to restore our sanity is to turn our eyes from ourselves to heaven. When we're too self-occupied and self-obsessed, we often lose our sanity. We quit being the human we're created to be. But once we set our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith - He restores our sanity.
Life can be demanding, frustrating, meaningless, boring and tiresome . . . all at the same time. So you stay busy, you hustle, you try to enjoy life, experiment with pleasure and seek rest for your restless soul with whatever your hands can find. But at the end of the day, you realize all your effort has been in vain. For you have been seeking the deepest cravings of your soul in all the wrong places. Now is the time to slow down, stop, lift your head toward heaven and see what life was meant to be all about. Then, you'll be reminded again that life isn't about you. Then your sanity will be restored, you will find meaning in all your work, you'll find joy and rest for your soul. This is what the gospel message is all about. That, it's all about Him.
"Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything He does is right and all His ways are just." (Dan. 4:37)
This was the first thing Nebuchadnezzar said after his sanity was restored.
Often when sin and our circumstances drive us insane - we begin to blame God for everything. We begin to think we can do a better job than God if we were God. But when we come to our senses, we see who God really is and what He is all about. Then we begin to praise Him and thank Him for all He has done and is currently doing. Sanity is all about recognizing who we are and who God is in proper perspective. Next time you're tempted to blame and complain, remember the story of Nebuchadnezzar and pray for your sanity.
"And those who walk in pride He is able to humble." (Dan 4:37) As God is able to comfort the afflicted the afflict the comfortable - He can also lift up the humble and humble the prideful.
Nebuchadnezzar received a humbling experience as an antidote for his pride that had gone wrong. As Daniel stated in Dan. 2:21, God both establishes the kings and also removes them. And Paul reminds us that "the authorities that exist have been established by God." (Rom 13:1) No leader is indispensable. Every leader is replaceable. So as leaders, we need to remember that we're only where we are by the grace of God. For leadership is stewardship and we're accountable. And as for the all-too-human leaders that we see and tend to criticize - we need to remember that God established them and is now bearing long with them. Judgment belongs to God. So, instead of judging them, we need to pray for them.
"As they drank wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver . . . " (Dan. 5:4) If you're following the story, Nebuchadnezzar came and went. Then came Belshazzar. God establishes kings and removes them. Nebuchadnezzar learned his lesson but it's obvious that his son didn't. On that fateful night when the kingdom would be handed over to the Medes and Persians- Belshazzar was praising the gods of gold and silver with his nobles in the kingdom.
How would you spend the last day or night of your life on earth? As finite mortals, we have no idea what tomorrow will bring. We assume many things and tend to take life for granted. We sometimes waste much of our time, talent and resources because we think we can do things later. But through this story, we realize that God's right on time with His fulfillment of prophecy. Judgment eventually came to Babylon when Belshazzar and the nation least expected it. Like Babylon, this world will come to an end. Jesus will come and God will judge the living and the dead. The question is, will you be ready or will you be found wanting?
"The fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote" (Dan 5:5) This is the medium God chose to communicate to the intoxicated Babylonian king and his nobles around him. He chose to write. On the wall.
The written Word of God always grants us a glimpse of what He has done, what He is doing and and what He is about to do. In just 4 words, God communicated to Belshazzar what He has been up to and what was about to happen next. And God through His written Word (the Bible) is communicating the same thing to us. It is imperative that we do everything we can to understand the written Word of God. Here we see Daniel - who was so familiar with the Word of God and in tune with God - once again interpreting God's Word to his pagan neighbors. The question is, are you just as ignorant and confused about God's Word as your pagan friends? Or are you like Daniel, who was filled with God's spirit and interpreted God's Word to his pagan friends?
"There is a main in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God" (Dan 5:11) In all his days in Babylon, from start to finish - Daniel was known as in whom dwells the Spirit of the Holy God.
What are you known for? And what do you wish to be known for? When it was all said and done, the Babylonians had to look for Daniel because they knew that the Spirit of the Holy God (the True God) was in him. Guess who the world is looking for today? One in whom the Spirit of the Holy God dwells. One who is not swayed by "purple clothes, chain of gold or any form of title or position in this world" and can boldly interpret God's Word to them. One who doesn't attend their parties past midnight and drink the wine they are drinking. One who is stubbornly holy and radically faithful to the God he or she serves. Because when it's all said and done - what the world needs isn't just another worldling like them (confused, lonely, bored, greedy, narcissistic, and in complicated relationships). What they need is holy men and women of God that are driven by vision and purpose that correctly understands the times they are living in and are able to grant wisdom, direction, and guidance. Where are you tonight? What are you known for?
"Excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and explaining enigmas were found in this Daniel." (Dan 5:12) Here was a list of traits and talents that the pagans have found in Daniel as they've spent time with him. And it begins with an excellent spirit - or better yet, God's Spirit.
What kind of spirit do others find in you? Is it the Holy Spirit? Or is it your carnal, corrupt and sinful spirit? From the Holy Spirit flows excellence, knowledge, understanding, vision, purpose and the ability to solve problem. From our sinful spirit flows selfishness, greed, pride and covetousness. This is the reason why it is imperative we ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit on a daily basis. Daniel remembered 3 times day to ask for God's Spirit to fully and richly dwell in Him. And what happened as a result? The pagans found an Excellent Spirit within him. Wherever you are this afternoon, ask right now for God's Spirit into your heart and your life. You'll be glad you did.
"Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father the king brought from Judah?" (Dan. 5:13) Notice how Daniel, no matter how long he's lived in Babylon or the high position he has acquired, he was still an exile from Judah. That was his identity. That was who he was. He was in Babylon but not of Babylon. He clearly knew who he was and was comfortable letting others know and call him by who he was. He was neither ashamed nor embarrassed by his roots and his heritage.
At times, in the process of assimilation to this world, it's easy for us to let go of our true identity in Christ. In the heat of making a living and making it in this world, some forfeit their spiritual roots and heritage. And this can be one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your life. Some teens grow up wishing they had cooler parents and was born in a different family. Some students graduate from Adventist colleges and never look back. They often drown in a sea of confusion and are lost as to who they are and what they are supposed to do with their lives.
Daniel on the other hand, knew who he was and where he came from. He stayed true to his God-given identity and remained on course to become the person God had created for him to become. He didn't wish for a different life nor did he run away from his calling in Christ. Instead, he remained faithful and was powerfully used by God to fulfill His purpose. Don't waste time wishing for a different life and a different identity. Instead, stay true to what you were given and see God's plan come to fruition.
"The Most High God gave your father . . . sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor." (Dan. 5:18) King Belshazzar just promised him greatness but Daniel respectfully declined. He went on to say that all greatness that his father and he is currently enjoying actually came from God. He also knew that the God who gave it to them was about to take it away.
Here was Daniel's frame of reference. God was the source of everything. All greatness and all splendor came from God and ultimately belonged to God. And one Who gave had the power to also take it away. Daniel was fearless precisely because he only feared God. What others were flaunting, showcasing or abusing - it was all from God. And all of that could be taken away just like that. Daniel wasted no time being timid or being daunted. He was not intimidated by anyone because he knew the Source of all power, all greatness, all majesty and all splendor. So the question tonight is where is your point of reference? What are you intimidated by? Are you plugged into the Source? As we wrap up our first 100 days of the countdown to Oshkosh - please do take the time to deeply ponder and reflect your current vantage point and point of reference in your life. What are you so scared of? And why?
"But you, Belshazzar, his son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this." (Dan. 5:22) Belshazzar didn't learn his lesson. And it led to his downfall.
Belshazzar actually saw Nebuchadnezzar turn into a beast in the field with a mind of an animal due to his pride and arrogance. How could he not learn his lesson? Probably because he was busy criticizing instead of learning his lesson. Nowadays, it's easy for us to shake our heads, point our fingers and criticize our parents or the church leadership for something they are doing wrong. But if we fail to learn our lesson from their failures - we too will repeat their mistake and it will lead to our downfall as well. How we respond to the failures of others will determine our fate and our destiny. You see, Daniel saw the same thing that Belshazzar saw and learned his lesson. He was no longer pre-occupied or obsessed with high positions or titles. Instead, he was busy kneeling, bowing, worshiping and giving glory to God three times a day.
"You did not honor the God who holds in His hand your life and all your ways" (Dan 5:23) Like the song states, He's got the whole world (including your life and all your ways) in His hands. So whether you're graduating or flunking, getting hired or fired, getting married or staying single - He still holds your life in His hands.
Contrary to what many believe, God take full responsibility for your life. He does not delegate that responsibility to anyone else. On the cross Jesus paid full ransom for your life. And on the day of judgment, He'll fully vindicate Himself and show you that He has been righteous and just in all the ways He has dealt with you. By honoring God your guaranteeing His honor upon your life. For He promised, "Those who honor me, I will honor" (1 Sam. 2:30). You can't lose by honoring God and putting Him first in your life. Daniel was bestowed great honor because he first chose to honor God with his life and his body.
Today's blog brings a special edition of Daniel's 4 Keys to Success.
- Conviction - WHY you do what you do
- Character - WHO you are when nobody is looking
- Competence - HOW well you do what you do
- Courage - WHAT you are willing to risk for victory
Everything that Daniel had, Belshazzar lacked. He was 'Tekel' "weighed and found wanting". (Dan. 5:27) It is vital for us to remember that our conviction, our character, our competence and our courage is being weighed and tested on a daily basis. Not only are we being weighed, our days are also numbered by God. (Dan. 5:26) This means we have a certain amount of days on earth in which we're being weighed on a scale to see if God's grace is sufficient in our lives to bring about conviction, character, competence and courage or it is found desperately wanting. Where are you today? Are you once again on the brink of compromising your conviction and your character? Are you diligently and faithfully working to build competence or are you lazily wasting both your time and your talent? Are you courageously moving forward toward your calling in Christ Jesus or are you fearfully shrinking back and blaming others for your lack of courage?
"That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom" (Dan. 5:30-31) The night started with wine and party with many of his nobles and concubines. Belshazzar had no idea what or who was coming. He didn't have the slightest clue that the river Euphrates had 'dried up' and an army was walking up its bed to conquer Babylon. And that he would be slain that very night.
This is usually what happens to those who are busy distracting themselves with pleasure and intoxicating themselves with wine. They do not pay attention, remain clueless, get conquered and get slain. Sadly even today, many men and women get addicted (get conquered) to pleasure and alcohol and thus get slain. What usually happens is many experiment with a little pleasure or a sip of alcohol and eventually they get owned. All it usually takes is that one click or that one sip to help you forget who you are and what you have been created for. This is why Jesus tells us to watch and pray. (Matt 26:41) And to be sober and vigilant. (1 Pet. 5:8) Because there is an enemy who is prowling like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Now do you see why Daniel resolved not to defile himself and also pray three times a day? Wherever you are tonight, I pray that you'll choose to stay sober and vigilant. And to watch and pray.
"Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators . . . that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom" (Dan. 6:3) So, here Daniel does it again with a new king and a new kingdom. He distinguishes himself. He didn't just chill, hang out, or go with the flow. Instead, he set himself apart and distinguished himself. The Aramaic word used here is netsach - which literally means to conquer, excel and distinguish oneself.
It was natural for Daniel to stand out and be singled out because he was so different. This isn't because he tried hard to be different. Everyone else made it easy for him by trying hard to be so much like each other. While everyone else was eating the same food, wearing the same clothes and listening to the same music - Daniel simply preferred to follow God's guidelines for his lifestyle. Daniel knew that he wasn't called to fit in but to shine amidst darkness. If you think it through, it's not that hard to distinguish yourself in this world. By choosing to dress modestly, respect your parents, forgive your enemies, be honest no matter what, wait till' marriage, stay away from alcohol, study on sundays and keep the Sabbath - you'll have officially distinguished yourself as a weirdo by the world's standard. The question is, have you chosen to fit in or have you been distinguishing yourself for the glory of God?
"They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent." (Dan 6:4) Just close your eyes and imagine this scene for a minute. The highest ranking officials in Babylon frantically looking for charges they can make against Daniel but not being able to.
Corruption always begins with a compromise. And it is said that any compromise to hold onto power is also a form of corruption. So you can see how free Daniel was from power addiction. At any given moment of his life, Daniel had absolutely nothing to lose and was completely free in every sense of the word. Everything, including all the power he had, was given by God and he was always ready to relinquish all of it. The only thing that Daniel clung onto was to his trust in God. This enabled him to be corruption-free. The key to his faithfulness was in his freedom from everything else but God. Sin has a tendency to entangle, corrupt, choke and eventually kill. So, the admonition is given by apostle Paul to "throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles (and to) . . . run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (Heb 12:1). Next time you're tempted to compromise, remember Daniel and throw all of it off and keep running the race you were destined to finish.
"Unless it has something to do with the law of His God." (Dan. 6:5) When they couldn't find any charges against Daniel on their own terms and ground, they turned to the laws of God that Daniel kept faithfully.
Persecution only comes to those who are faithful to the laws of God. No harm or charges will be made against those who are constantly compromising with the world. There are moments in life where we need to reflect and think about how comfortable or uncomfortable satan is with us. Often, if he senses no threat, he leaves us alone. But when he feels threatened or jealous, he begins to ferociously attack and reveals his true colors. Where are you in your journey with the great controversy?
"Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room" (Dan 6:10) Notice the first thing Daniel does when the decree (to not pray to any other god or human being other than Darius) was published. He goes up to his upstairs room to talk to God about it.
This is so normal and habitual for Daniel. Whatever crisis or circumstance he finds himself in, his first resort has been always prayer - even if the crisis or circumstance forbade prayer. Prayer is like first instinct and second nature. It's simply what he has turned to and will always turn to no matter what. There's not a single event in his life that he has not talked to God about. Imagine that. How is your prayer life? Is God your first or your last resort? It's one thing to believe in the power of prayer and another to actually pray for power. When was the last time you prayed for God to add His "super" to your "natural"?
"Where the windows opened toward Jerusalem" (Dan 6:10) Daniel made sure he prayed at the windows that opened toward Jerusalem. Why? Especially when he accusers are watching his every move?
It is due to prayer that Solomon prayed when dedicating the temple. "O Lord my God . . . that Your eyes may be open toward this temple . . may You hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. . . when you hear, forgive. (1 King 8:28-30) Imagine turning toward Jerusalem for 70 years and praying for forgiveness for yourself and your people because you were holding onto a promise that said God will hear, forgive and restore their land. This is exactly what Daniel did for all the days of his life, rain or shine, at risk or at peace. When was the last time you claimed God's promise faithfully for 70 years - or better yet 7 days? Daniel tirelessly and fearlessly prayed for God's forgiveness and the healing of the land. He did not give up. He read Jeremiah 29:10 (or heard this directly from Jeremiah) and have ceaselessly prayed and sought after God's grace and His mercy. Next time you're tempted to quit praying, remember Daniel and persevere in prayer. You'll be glad you did.
"Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before." (Dan. 6:10) Habit is a powerful tool you can utilize to change the trajectory of your life. Prayer is the most powerful weapon we have here on earth. Put them together and what do you get? The most potent, compelling and effective spiritual weapon that will guarantee victory for every possible battles you might encounter on earth.
The best resolution Daniel made was to pray three times a day. And it's interesting because what kept Daniel praying wasn't his power but the power God kept giving him while he was praying. In short, God sustained Daniel's prayer life and Daniel kept thanking God for what God was making possible in and through him. And because he has had first-hand experience with the power of prayer and saw how it literally kept him thankful, prayerful, and fruitful - he couldn't stop praying. At the same time, because satan knew that Daniel's wisdom and competence came from his prayer life and his connection with God - he tried everything in his power to get Daniel to stop praying.
"Three times a day he got down on his knees." (Dan. 6:10) He physically got down on his knees 3 times a day. When was the last time you actually got down to your knees and prayed? I don't know about you but if Daniel felt the need to kneel or fall prostrate before God in prayer - how much more we should feel the need to do so on a daily basis.
Prayer and worship isn't something we do - to get something for ourselves. Statements like "I didn't get anything out of the service today" reveals who that person was worshipping - and it obviously wasn't God. We need to remember that through prayer and worship we are giving or rendering praise, thanksgiving and worship to God. By kneeling in prayer and giving thanks, Daniel shows us how prayer and worship is to be done. Next time you're tempted to ask for things or serve yourself during prayer or worship - remember Daniel's posture and example and learn to worship God, not yourself.
"Giving thanks to his God just as he had done before." (Dan 6:10)
Here's the scenario. Jealous Babylonian officials are plotting to kill him by taking away his liberty to pray to his God. And yet, he gives thanks to his God as he has always done before.
His life is in danger and he still dares to give thanks. He has no idea what's going to happen next and yet he gives thanks as he has always done before. Does this make any sense to you? If not, let me let you in on a secret. This makes perfect sense to those who has had a habit of giving thanks to God in all circumstances. This also makes sense to those who have trusted God with their lives. But to those who haven't, this makes no sense whatsoever.
Because for those who have experienced God's faithfulness in the past - thanksgiving is all they can do. And trust becomes their only option. And they remain in perfect peace because of their trust. This is why Isaiah once wrote "You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you." (Isa. 26:3) Now do you get it?
In case you missed it yesterday, we witnessed Daniel thanking & praising God upstairs in his room while there were men plotting to kill him downstairs. This was due to him enjoying the perfect peace that came from trusting in God.
So, the jealous Babylonian officials eventually caught him since he prayed 3 times a day at the same place he's always prayed, nearby the windows upstairs that faced Jerusalem. Daniel's habit of praying was so consistent that you couldn't but see him at the exact same spot every single day. In fact, this habit became so notorious that everyone who knew Daniel and those was trying to find a case against Daniel saw this clearly.
Consistency always trumps charisma. One of the keys to being a effective witness is to be predictably punctual. One of the ways to ruin everything for God is to be consistently inconsistent. There's just something about long obedience in one direction that summons trust and respect. The secret to enduring success is not making big changes overnight, but in making small changes consistently. Big events that stir a momentary spiritual high do not scare satan. In fact, he loves them. But he trembles when one person continues to approach the throne of grace on a daily basis. For lasting change will always be a natural by-product of consistent prayer.
"Found Daniel praying and asking God for help" (Dan 6:11) That's how he was found. Praying and asking God for help. This went onto setup another one of those immortal stories of all time. Daniel in the lion's den. Again, what would've happened if he wasn't found praying? What if he skipped prayer? What if he just compromised and stopped praying?
Miracles are always a natural by-product of a faithful relationship with God. Miracles become common occurrences to only those who dare to be forever faithful. At times we wonder why we do not experience the adventurous and miraculous intervention from God. It's probably because the kind of faith we're exercising does not need God to act on our behalf. Perhaps the prayers we pray and the lives we are living doesn't require a big God who moves mountains and rescues from the lion's den. Just maybe, due of our lack of faith, we might have indeed declawed the Lion of Judah. Next time you're tempted to go with flow or find an easy way out - remember this story and decide to be faithful and setup the stage for God's intervention.
Now that the officials have caught Daniel in the act, they went to the king and told about Daniel, "one of the exiles of Judah", who seemingly "pays no attention" to the king. (Dan. 6:13) Even though Daniel was placed in one of the highest ranking positions in the kingdom, he was still one of the exiles of Judah to the Babylonian officials.
To the world, no matter how much we'd like to be known otherwise, we'll always be strangers, aliens, sojourners and exiles here in this world. In their eyes, we simply do not belong here. This is not our home. We have been rescued. Our citizenship has been transferred. Positionally we're in Christ. And our position in Christ always dictates our behavior. And our behavior doesn't make any sense to the world. They often think that we're out of our minds. We forgive when we should retaliate. We tell the truth instead of lying. We generously give instead of taking selfishly. We pray when it can get us killed. It simply does not make any sense. Is this the story of your life? Is this how you're viewed in this world? Or do the people in the world have a hard time finding any difference when they compare their lives to yours? Are you still an "exile from Judah" or have you completely assimilated to becoming a Babylonian? Where are you today?
Here's a little bit of review. At the age of 18, Daniel prayed then interpreted king Nebuchadnezzar's dream and in the process saved the lives of many Babylonian officials. By this, he was promoted to the 2nd highest place in the kingdom and was given unprecedented authority, honor and wealth. But Daniel, even with the authority, honor and wealth; did not forget where it all came from and continued to pray 3 times a day for God's wisdom and guidance. Even at the risk of his life, he faithfully continued in prayer knowing that his life was in God's hands.
We need to continue to remind ourselves where everything comes from and realize that ultimately, our lives are in God's hands. Like Daniel, whether we're facing death or enjoying God's favor, we need to continue in prayer. Kings bowed before Daniel and as we'll study later this week, did everything in their power to save Daniel, for they knew that the Spirit of God was in him. A life filled with prayer, therefore with God's Spirit, is clearly difference from a prayer-less life. We cannot afford to make the mistake of talking about prayer, studying about prayer, having prayer conferences and not praying regularly on a daily basis. Only in heaven will we come to see how much power we've forfeited by not praying regularly and continually.
"According to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed." (Dan 6:15) This is interesting. Even a man-made law can't be changed. How much more does this apply to God's laws, edicts and decrees?
When God made laws and pronounced them, He meant them. As someone once noted, the 10 commandments are not the 10 suggestions. They are commandments. When God tell us to have no other gods before Him, He means absolutely no other gods, including your iPhone and your girlfriend. When God tells us not to take His name in vain, He means it. When God tells us to keep the Sabbath, the seventh day holy, He means the seventh day not the first day. God did not change His mind. In fact, the Bible tells us that He is same yesterday, today and forevermore. (Heb. 13:8) Last but not least, when God confessed His undying love for you, He meant it literally with His life. You see, His laws are simply an expression of His love for us. It provides us the proper boundaries and guardrails we need to live the very best life He has designed for us to live.
"He was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him." (Dan. 6:14) Imagine that. King Darius desperately doing everything he can think of to save Daniel and finding he can't. Kind of ironic, because the very decree he pronounced was one which set him above all other gods. No one was supposed to pray to any other god, but himself. And yet, he couldn't save nor rescue Daniel out of the predicament that he put him in.
There's a reason why cannot afford to rely and entrust our lives to a finite, mortal, human being. Simply, because no human being on earth can ever save or rescue us from our predicament. No one. Not even the most powerful or the richest person on the planet. The only Person that can save us and rescue us is Jesus. This is why "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) Contrary to what many believe, all roads do not lead to salvation nor heaven. Only through Jesus, "the Way, the Truth, and the Life" we are saved. This isn't christianity trying to be exclusive. It's simply the truth. And in case if you haven't noticed, "in Him, all things hold together". (Col. 1:17) This includes all of our buddhist, muslim, hindu and atheist friends. They breathe, live, exist and believe what they choose to believe - simply because Jesus gives them the freedom to do so. But what would happen if they came to realize that nothing they believe or cling onto can save them from their fate? That's the question we'll deal with on our next lesson.
We live in a world where it's ok to believe in everything else but God. Everything can be tolerated unless it's faith in God. Nowadays, it's tolerated or even celebrated if you come out as gay but not as a christian. If you're a christian, you need to keep that to yourself. There are powers in this world that are bent toward crushing out anything and anyone that swears allegiance to God and God alone. Kind of like Daniel who believed in God versus his jealous Babylonian officials who believed in everything else but God.
In the climax of this particular story, we all know what happens. Daniel, who trust in God alone was saved and rescued. As for those who believed in everything else but God, "before they reached the floors of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones." (Dan. 6:24) Whatever else they believed, it couldn't save them. Not from the lions and not from their fate. So, what happens when they realize that nothing they ever believed in could save them from their fate? It's often too late and they reap what they have sown. Unbelief begets death. Eternal death. I want you to take a moment right now, wherever you are, and lay down before the cross all the 'other gods' you have believed and behold the Lamb of God that took your fate and offers you eternal life instead. Then, thank Him, believe in Him and receive eternal life. Happy Sabbath!
There's a background story we need to know about king Darius. His days as a king were numbered. He was a king in transition. In fact, he was simply a 'puppet' on the throne while his cousin Cyrus (of Persia) was wrapping up the his conquest for the Medo-Persian kingdom. Since his position was insecure he was very conscious of the former officials from the Babylonian empire as well as those who were loyal and paid homage to Cyrus. It was in this vulnerable yet assailable moment that the officials came up with a decree that he could not refuse even though it had the potential to kill his most trusted advisor, Daniel.
Here's a leadership lesson for us to remember. As leaders, we cannot get blinded or sidetracked by our ambition to be recognized and honored. In leadership, important decisions cannot be made by you for yourself. Decrees and commands cannot be made to make yourself look good. This is when leadership usually falls to the ground - when the leader is too self-occupied and obsessed with him and herself. This also puts all his or her followers at risk. It also exposes the leader's selfish ambition and their obsession with themselves. Next time you're tempted to make a decision on impulse for yourself - remember the story of Darius and remember to seek counsel with a spirit of humility.
"The king said to Daniel, 'May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!" (Dan. 6:16) The key word here is continually. The Aramaic word that is used is t?diyra' which in its root means to constantly dwell or endure.
Daniel's faith did not stop with the royal decree to case praying. And it wasn't about to stop at the gate of the lion's den. His faith would continue right through the lion's den. There was nothing in this world that could've stopped Daniel from believing. Daniel constantly pro-actively, in the face of death, chose to believe. He didn't run. He dwelt, endured and hence was rescued. We need to remember that those who run will never experience God's rescue. Only those who stay and endure will experience His powerful right hand lift us up to the heights our minds cannot possibly fathom.
A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den . . . so that Daniel's situation might not be changed. (Dan 6:17) Does this sound familiar? A stone placed over the den? Not only that it was also sealed shut and probably guarded. Kind of like the situation Jesus was in His tomb.
Somehow the enemy senses and somehow knows that the hungry lions isn't quite enough to guarantee Daniel's death. Common sense tells us that when we throw someone into a den that's full of starving lions - he or she is done. But there was nothing quite common about Daniel and his life due to his uncommon faith and connection with God. Therefore, even though they throw him in, they take extra precautions. The den was sealed not only with the king's ring but the rings of his nobles. You see, the enemy doesn't really know how to kill us when we're with God. Because he knows that He's the Resurrection and the Life. The enemy also knows that God will do anything and everything to save, rescue, redeem and resurrect those who are forever faithful to Him!
"the King . . . could not sleep" (Dan 6:18) The king spent the whole night without food or entertainment. Can you possibly imagine what he did the whole night without food, entertainment or sleep? Could it be possible that he prayed - to Daniel's God?
Remember, the last words out of his mouth when he left the den was "may your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you." (Dan 6:16) Could it be possible that this pagan king was hoping against all odds and possibly praying that God would rescue his most trusted advisor? Once again here's the irony. The very king that signed the decree that everyone should pray to him and him only was praying, not to himself, but the very God that Daniel was praying to. "As surely as I live,' says that Lord, every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God." (Romans 14:11) Enough said.
"Has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” (Dan 6:20) This is a million dollar question. But how could a pagan king hope, pray or even expect such a thing? His hope, prayer and the question does not make any sense to the pagans. In the pagan world, no person in their right mind thinks this way. But somehow this pagan king's mind and his heart was changed and transformed by Daniel's faithful and consistent example.
How does a non-believer become a believer? Through a continual and faithful life that bears witness to a living God who saves. It doesn't happen by proving people wrong or by a win on a debate. It happens through everyday life. How does your life bear witness to a living God who saves?
"My God sent His angel, and He shut the mouths of the lions." (Dan. 6:22) God was with Daniel in the den. What was He doing? Shutting the mouths of the lions. And He wasn't alone. He came with His angels.
We serve a God who doesn't bail on us when we're about to be thrown into the lion's den. Instead, He joins us. Enters into the den with us. He is Immanuel, God with us - even in the lion's den. We have nothing to be afraid of. We can always be sure that God will never leave nor forsake us. He keeps us company with His angels. What do you think they talked about that night in the den? We get a glimpse of what could've happened by looking at Daniel chapter 9. In the first year of King Darius, while Daniel was praying and confessing, Gabriel comes and explains to Daniel the 70 week prophecy. He is given insight and understanding as to what God is about to do. Perhaps, more details were given through their conversation in the den. But one thing we'll need to keep in mind is - it is always better to be with God in the den than to be without God out of the den.
"They have not hurt me, because i was found innocent in His sight." (Dan 6:22) Found innocent? In God's sight? How is that possible? Did Daniel never sin? Or did God miss something Daniel did?
Innocence of righteousness has been and will always be a gift. It is imputed, meaning "put on" us by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. By putting our trust in Jesus, we are found innocent, blameless, righteous, holy, without spot or wrinkle. We are a new creation. By being in Christ, God only sees Jesus who has shed His blood which cleanses all of our sins. And notice, lions was not able to hurt Daniel, for he had been found innocent in God's sight. What does this mean? When we're in Christ, God's protection reigns. He becomes personally responsible for our lives.
There's are some interesting verses in Psalms 94 that gives a vivid preview and detail of what just happened to Daniel. "Can a corrupt throne be allied with you - one that brings on misery by its decrees? They band together against the righteous and condemn the innocent to death." (Ps. 94:20-21) Isn't this the exact same picture of the scene that we just saw in the life of Daniel?
We read on and the scripture reads, "But the Lord has become my fortress and my God the rock in whom I take refuge. He will repay them for their sins and destroy them for their wickedness; the Lord our God will destroy them." (Ps. 94:22-23) Could it be possible that Daniel, in his quiet time with God, read this portion of scripture was ready for something like this to happen? There's nothing quite like being armed and prepared with the Word of God in your heart and believe it when God says "Vengeance is mine" (Deut 32:35). As we'll see tomorrow in our lesson, God does avenge and judges for his faithful servant.
"When Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found in him, because he had trusted in his God. (Dan. 6:23) Because he trusted.
Trust will always be the deciding factor for salvation. The question will always be, will you trust God with your life? Or better yet, the life He has entrusted you with? We can either be anxious and live in fear, or trust God and enjoy His salvation. We can either try to survive with our finite knowledge and power or thrive in God's omniscient knowledge and omnipotent power. The choice will always be up to us. All throughout the Bible we see people who stopped trusting in themselves and decided to trust God. And in Daniel's case because he trusted God, God saved him. Faith is as simple as that.
"The men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions' den" (Dan 6:24) What does this picture bring to your mind? It actually alludes to "the accuser of the brethren" who was "hurled down" from heaven. (Rev. 12:10)
Satan has been and till' his last dying breath will be an accuser, a false accuser. He's constantly insinuating that you're not worthy and you can't be forgiven and how you can't change and are utterly hopeless. He goes on accuse you of all the wrong things you have done and how God is going to punish you or abandon you.
And all these are false accusations and lies that he's telling you day after day. And it's up to you to decide to either believe his lies or the trust God. Daniel chose the latter and was saved by God's sufficient grace. Imagine all the lies satan might have whispered in Daniel's ear. Of how he was dead for real this time and how God will not come through for him. But Daniel did not waver. He stood fast. He held on. He trusted God with his dear life. And therefore, he experienced the joy of God's salvation on his behalf. Will this be your story? The choice is yours. Wherever you are tonight, dare to put your trust in God's everlasting and relentless love for you.
"Before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones." (Dan. 6:24) Vengeance belongs to God.
What would've happened if Daniel didn't trust God and wait on God? God wouldn't have had the chance to unleash His vengeance on the false accusers. By allowing God to carry on according to His timetable and His plans, Daniel was able to behold the vengeance of the Lord. There are so many things in this world that does not make any sense. If you've been in Adventism for awhile, you've seen this in the administration, institutions and in our churches. You wonder why God allows certain people still stay at their post, get elected, given other positions of influence and seem to always get their way. But you'll soon see their fate and their destiny if you simply let God do what He does best, like Daniel did.
"I (Darius) issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom, people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel." (Dan. 6:26) Here's the great reversal. Not only can all the people in the kingdom stop praying to Darius, they are now to fear and reverence and perhaps pray to the God of Daniel.
The God of Daniel. How happy and proud do you think God was to be the God of Daniel? Due to Daniel's faithfulness, God was glorified all throughout the Medo-Persian empire. How is God glorified in your home, school or workplace? Or is He? Does your family, friends and colleagues know the God you serve? Are they aware that you serve and fear the living God? Do they have healthy dose of fear and reverence for your God? These are important questions for you to consider as you are called to be a witness just like Daniel. God's plan for your life is very simple. He wants you to be a witness and glorify Him through your faithfulness in your chores, assignments and responsibilities. He also doesn't really care if you become an engineer or a teacher. Although He would like for you to use the gifts and talents He's given you - more than anything else - He just wants you to be faithful with whichever job or career you choose. Same principles applies to marriage. Sorry to break this news but God doesn't really care if you marry Susan or Jessica. He just wants you to be faithful to whomever you marry. By being faithful to the choices you've made, you become a witness to the God you serve and render glory to Him. Which by the way is God's plan for your life. Stop obsessing about finding God's plan for your life. Start being faithful and become a powerful witness to the God you serve where you are right now.
"For He is the living God and He endures forever" (Dan 6:26) First, God lives. Second, He endures forever.
We serve a living God. The tomb is empty. He has risen. He lives. He is sovereign. And He endures, perseveres and reigns forever. He is not going anywhere. He is here to stay. No matter how difficult, challenging, and frustrating the circumstances might be, He's not going to run or bail. Instead, He will forever endure. And not only that, His love for us will endure forever. What part of this do we not understand or believe? We have no reason to fear, doubt or be anxious. For our God is here with us. As He has called us to be Forever Faithful, He first sets an example for us to follow by being Forever Faithful to us. What a mighty and awesome God we serve!
"His Kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed" (Dan 6:26) God's kingdom shall not and can never be destroyed.
Which kingdom do you belong to? The answer to this question has eternal consequences. All too often we get caught up with our own kingdom and our own agendas for our own kingdom. We want to build a better name for ourselves and be recognized, well-known, respected, affluent, powerful etc. Most of us spend most of our lives building a kingdom that will soon be destroyed. Much time and energy is wasted on the altar of performance and achievement. What is tragic is that this happens within Adventism and church. We have some that are obsessed about building a name for themselves and climbing up the "Adventist Ladder'.
Through the life of Daniel, we see that everything he ever did wasn't for his kingdom but for the kingdom of God. It was never his agenda to make a name for himself. He never performed or achieved for his name's sake. It was rather to make God's name renown and to spread His name and His glory to the ends of the earth. And what happened as a result? Kings of the earth praised and glorified God and declared that His kingdom shall reign forever.
This is the life and purpose we're to model. Quit chasing and pursuing your dreams for a better life. Instead, join God as a co-laborer in establishing His kingdom that shall never be destroyed. You'll be glad you did.
"He delivers and rescues" (Dan 6:27) Deliverance is God's prerogative. That's not what is He does, it's also who He is. He's our Deliverer.
As we celebrated the "Independence Day" this weekend here in United States - I hope you remembered your Spiritual Independence Day. Where God delivered you from spiritual slavery and eternal death to freedom and everlasting life. Galatians 5:1 reminds us that "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery." Christ died for our freedom. The most disrespectful and abhorring thing we can do as christians who have been set free- is to "go back to our vomit" (2 Pet 2:22) and chain ourselves to the shackles we were once bound in. If you've somehow found yourself strangely shackled again, take some time to let the power of His blood on the cross set you free once again from your yoke of slavery to sin. Proclaim courageously to your tempter and accuser that Christ has set you free and that you're in Christ and are now the righteousness of God. That's where the power is. In Christ!
"He performs sign and wonders" (Dan 6:27) God has, is and will always be working miracles. He will continue to creating something out of nothing because that's Who He is - Creator!
Ever wonder why we no longer see and witness or experience authentic signs and wonders by God anymore? Could it be because God has yet to find and encounter such faith and faithfulness that inspires His action? "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8) In the life of Jesus we see that wherever there was faith, there was power, life and resurrection. And wherever there wasn't faith, the place was filled with seizures, powerlessness and death. This of course does not mean that God will intervene every time for faith that is expressed (because He's God and we're not) - we see that God loves hanging out with people in places where faith and faithfulness abounds. Do we dare believe that God could potentially cause signs and wonders in our lives? When was the last time you've experienced signs and wonders?
"He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions." (Dan 6:27) We need to keep in mind that God is the Creator and lions are His creatures.
1 Peter 5:8 tells us that "the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour". And we have nothing to fear. Because the same God who rescued Daniel can rescue us. Satan prowls and roars hoping to scare us and to have us become paralyzed with fear. He sometimes uses our friends to laugh at us or make fun of us when we dare to be both courageous and faithful by keeping His commandments. And the roar can get deafening at times and it's easy for us to compromise and give into our fears. But we'll need to remember the story of Daniel and awaken to the realization that the same God who was with Daniel is now with us. Next time you're tempted to give into temptation - remember that God has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.
So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian. (Dan. 6:28) Daniel not only survived but thrived. He flourished and prospered by the grace of God
So, what happened when Daniel decided to remain forever faithful no matter what the cost maybe? He prospered. God saw Daniel's faithfulness through the lion's den and gave him prosperity during the reign of not only Darius but Cyrus as well. The type of prosperity Daniel enjoyed is one that will only be experienced by those who remain forever faithful to God.
The type of 'prosperity' that is achieved by our own personal means is only temporary and will not last forever. But the type of prosperity that is granted by God will be secured by God throughout all eternity. And all of us have a choice to make. Which one will it be?
From Days 171 - 200
This post concludes our group countdown and marks the beginning of your own personal countdown for #2014FFIC.
It has been a great journey to revisit the story of Daniel with you and witness God's great faithfulness for His servant Daniel.
In the final chapter of his life and this book, Daniel asks, “My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?”
Then the Man Clothed in Linen Answers:
“Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand."
In other words, our faithfulness or unfaithfulness decides our eventual outcome, or our destiny.
Through God's grace, if we're indeed faithful, we'll be purified, made spotless and refined.
But if we continue to reject God invitation of mercy - we'll join our ranks with the wicked and will continue to be wicked - then face judgment.
I pray that by God's great mercy that all of us will make the daily choice to be Forever Faithful to our Forever Friend, Jesus Christ!
See you in Oshkosh,
Your brother in Christ,
Pastor Justin Yang