Integrity - Belief Under Pressure
West Glendale Baptist Church
Pastor Don Jones
The next four weeks we will be looking at the topic of integrity as found in the book of Daniel. Webster’s defines integrity as, "1.firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values: incorruptibility 2 : an unimpaired condition : soundness 3 : the quality or state of being complete or undivided : completeness." It is closely related to the word honesty. I defined it last week as doing what you say, and saying what you do. It is where word and deed are in agreement. It is sticking to your guns no matter what the circumstances. It sounds easy, but it’s not. What do you do when the pressure to change builds in your life?
Cue slide - The Problem - Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Pressure
Daniel found himself in a pressure situation. His life was in turmoil at every level. His emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being was being threatened by world events.
Physically, he had been taken away from his familiar surroundings by the conquering king. Uprooted from Jerusalem he was taken to Babylon as a slave to live out the rest of his life in service to king Nebuchadnezzar. Perhaps he was to be a well treated slave but a slave none the less.
Emotionally, he was in turmoil. I have said that my next move will be when they take my body from my house for burial. That’s how stressful moving is for me and I dare say, for most of us. Daniel was taken forcibly from his home to a foreign land in chains. We cannot imagine how he was feeling. The emotional stress from such an event would be overwhelming.
Spiritually, add to all of this seeing your place of worship sacked and in ruins. His place of worship was destroyed and its valuables taken as spoils back to Babylon. Verse 2 says,
"And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god."
Imagine someone coming into our place of worship this morning and destroying, robbing, and possibly killing. Do you think we would be "stressed out" and our lives in turmoil?
The sin of the people of God had finally taken its’ toll. Judgment had come. After all the warning, God in His time, allowed His people to be conquered. But in the midst of the judgment and turmoil God had a divine plan for Daniel.
Cue slide - The Potential
Daniel was evidently a very talented individual. He had a great many assets in his favor. He had what we would call, potential. Evidently he was intelligent, good looking, and in great shape. Much like your pastor. (wait for laughter to die down) The court official was asked to fill an order for the king. Verse 4 says the court official was to bring the king,
"young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace."
Daniel was chosen for this prestigious position. I was going to be an easier life than an ordinary slave. He was to serve in the king’s court. It was a place of power and influence. What a great opportunity. But there was a snag. Daniel was being asked to fit in. He was to become for all intents and purposes a Babylonian. Verse 4b says,
"He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service."
Daniel was in a difficult, stressful situation that was going to test his faith and principles at a fundamental level. The Israelite was to change into a Babylonian. How was he to meet this challenge?
One way to deal with the pressures to our beliefs is to surrender. He could have sold out. Simply give up and bow to the peer pressure, circumstances, or whatever is compelling you to change your beliefs. Nobody would have blamed him, he was out of town. When in Rome...... I find many believers are willing to give in, compromise, or explain away the Word of God. It would have been easy for Daniel to go along with the program. With his gifts and talents he would have been successful in the kings court but not with the King.
Another way he could have handled it was to lie about what he was doing. Keep the court official and the king in the dark and do everything behind their back. No one would have been the wiser. Just eat and drink what you want in keeping with God’s law but pretend to be obedient. Fake everyone out. Perhaps this would have been a little more complicated but again, the easy way out as well as dishonest. It would not have honored God while trying to honor God. Many are willing to tell a little white lie as long as the circumstances warrant the lie. We like to put sin in order of degrees. Some sins are worse than others in our eyes. It’s ok to break the little ones but not the big ones. God does not desire selective obedience nor does He recognize degrees of sin.
Cue slide: The Proposal
How did Daniel handle it? He stood his ground by offering a solution. Daniel offered a win-win solution to his problem. He found an answer that allowed him to obey the Lord and obey the laws of the king. First, he resolved not to defile himself or disobey God. In verse 8 it says,
"But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way."
The cadet’s prayer is said at every Sunday chapel at West Point.. "Make us choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be contented with half truth when whole truth can be won. Endow us with courage that is born of loyalty to all that is noble and worthy, that scorns to compromise with vice & injustice and knows no fear when right and truth are in jeopardy."
Daniel had precepts in place before the situation arose. Encarta defines a precept as, "a rule, instruction, or principle that guides somebody’s actions, especially one that guides moral behavior". Daniel’s belief system allowed him to respond to the menu with confidence, not because he knew it all, but because God did.
The second thing Daniel did was offer a solution that was a win-win. Test what I say and see if I’m right. Verse 12-13 says,
"Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see."
Mike Richardson tells this story. My friend wanted a boat more than anything. His wife kept refusing, but he bought one anyway. "I’ll tell you what," he told her, "In the spirit of compromise, why don’t you name the boat?" Being a good sport, she accepted. When her husband went to the dock for his maiden voyage, this is the name he saw painted on the side: "For Sale."
Daniel went in with confidence because he knew where he stood and he knew the Lord would honor him if he honored the Lord. I have two questions at this point. The response was that the official agreed. Verse 14 says,
"So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days"
Cue slide: The Performance Outcome
The outcome of the test was that they, Daniel and his friends, were successful. Most in this room knew that before I said it. Verse 18 says,
"At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom."
They looked better and had responded better than anyone else in the entire kingdom. It is an amazing testament to Daniel and his friends. Right? Wrong! Remember, it is not about Daniel but about God. Verse 17 says,
"To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds."
God worked in a powerful way in his life because he was willing to let God work in his life.
I have two questions at this point. My first is to parents. What precept have you taught your children? I am not talking to grandmas and grandpas but to parents. If your child were put in a difficult stressful situation involving peer pressure or circumstances beyond their control, do they have the equipment necessary to meet the challenge? It is not only your responsibility to teach them but to show them by your actions. It is never too late to start but tomorrow may be too late.
And my next question is to everybody, especially the children and youth of our church. What have you been taught, and have you made up your mind ahead of time how you will deal with certain situations that will no doubt come into your life? It is too late if you wait until it happens. You need to make the decision now how you will respond later. Daniel didn’t all of a sudden become dedicated to God. He lived his life to God and he was determined to do so no matter what. Can the same be said of your life?
Chuck Swindoll said, "The swift wind of compromise is a lot more devastating than the sudden jolt of misfortune." It is not too late to begin living a life of integrity. Stop playing at church, worship, obedience to God’s word and begin to match word and deed. I am not saying God will deliver you from your pain and suffering or even your circumstances but he will enable you in to live your life for Him. It says in verse 21,
"And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus."
The Lord did not miraculously free Daniel from slavery, but as we will learn these next few weeks, He used him in a powerful way.
William Barclay in The Apostles Creed for Everyman said, "Jesus did not say discuss me; he said follow me." We do not make terms with Christ; we surrender to Christ. We do not compromise with Christ; we submit to Christ. Christianity does not mean being interested in Jesus Christ; it means taking the same oath as princes take to a king or queen in a coronation ceremony and saying, I am your liege man of life and limb, and faith and truth will I bear to you against all manner of folk. So help me God."
Are you ready to begin today?
Integrity - Beliefs Under Pressure - Outline
Integrity - Belief Under Pressure
To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.
I. The Problem - v. 1-2
Physical Stress - taken away as a slave
Emotional Stress - uprooted from home by war
Spiritual Stress - Temple sacked and ruined
II. The Potential - v. 3-7
Prestigious position - king’s palace
Become Babylonian - change who & what you are
III. The Proposal - v. 8-14
Resolved not to defile himself
Gave official an alternate solution
IV. The Performance Outcome - v. 15-17
Physically looked better