Summary: Part 8 in series Slowing Down, Dave continues examining what it means to restructure life so that God is at the center.
Moving What Matters to the Middle
Slowing Down, part 8
Wildwind Community Church
January 24, 2009
Tonight I want to talk to you about moving what matters to the middle. Remember two weeks ago we were talking about how you and I are, like Daniel in the Bible, stranded in Babylon. How, like him, we each face the challenge of living out God’s values while we are surrounded by a world that has rejected those values as outdated, or maybe even as never even deserving of real attention in the first place. And I’m not talking here just about family values or moral values, I’m talking about all of God’s values. They are listed well in Galatians: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.
Now it’s not that everything in our society is wrong. It’s that nearly everything in our society leads us away from what is best. The Apostle Paul said,
1 Corinthians 6:12 (NIV)
12 "Everything is permissible for me"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"--but I will not be mastered by anything.
It’s not about whether something is necessarily wrong – it’s about whether it’s best, and about what is controlling your life. I will not be mastered by anything. That’s really the question, isn’t it? The question is who, or what, will be our master. Ultimately you will have a master – your allegiance will go somewhere – to someone, or something. Christians are supposed to believe that if that someone is not God, then your world is upside down. Yet many Christians’ highest loyalty is not to God but to softball, or golf, or TV, or food, or the computer.
A couple weeks ago we were looking at Daniel, taken away from his native land of Judah and made to serve in the court of the King of Babylon. We were noting how he refused to follow the king’s diet that was laid out for him. For Jews their diet is a big part of their religious identity, so this is one of the ways Daniel held on to his understanding of himself as someone who belonged not to the king, but to the King of Kings. By sticking to his own diet, he was reminded of his true identity every time that fancy food was stuck in his face and in this way he actually used the culture around him to keep him centered on God. Let’s look at another example Daniel set for us.
Many years after Daniel is brought into Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar is dead, Nebby’s son Belshazzar is dead, and Babylon is being ruled by a Persian king, Darius. Darius digs Daniel because Daniel is bright and a great advisor. But since he’s the best and brightest, and he’s a foreigner, the other advisors are jealous of him so they hatch a plot to get him killed.
Daniel 6:4-11 (MSG)
4 The vice-regents and governors got together to find some old scandal or skeleton in Daniel’s life that they could use against him, but they couldn’t dig up anything. He was totally exemplary and trustworthy. They could find no evidence of negligence or misconduct.
5 So they finally gave up and said, "We’re never going to find anything against this Daniel unless we can cook up something religious."
6 The vice-regents and governors conspired together and then went to the king and said, "King Darius, live forever!
7 We’ve convened your vice-regents, governors, and all your leading officials, and have agreed that the king should issue the following decree: For the next thirty days no one is to pray to any god or mortal except you, O king. Anyone who disobeys will be thrown into the lions’ den.
8 "Issue this decree, O king, and make it unconditional, as if written in stone like all the laws of the Medes and the Persians."
9 King Darius signed the decree.
10 When Daniel learned that the decree had been signed and posted, he continued to pray just as he had always done. His house had windows in the upstairs that opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he knelt there in prayer, thanking and praising his God.
11 The conspirators came and found him praying, asking God for help.
Now what do we see here about the way Daniel structured his life? First of all, prayer was a priority for Daniel. Daniel was known as a praying man. His enemies knew they could get him in trouble by outlawing prayer to anyone but the king. This means 1) they knew Daniel prayed regularly to God; and 2) they knew Daniel wouldn’t stop praying because of this decree. It was a priority.
Second, Daniel had a place for prayer. Right there in front of his window facing Jerusalem – his homeland. That was his prayer place.