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Summary: How to start the New Year - 2016

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The New Year is Aglow with Opportunities

Daniel 1:1-7: 3:1-18; 6:1-22

We have now completed one month in the year 2016 and we are faced with many challenges and opportunities. As a Christian we are rowing upstream against a society that is basically anti-Christian. We are also living in a period where many churches are turning liberal in their theology and where commitment and dedication are hard to find qualities and where a faithful and dedicated Christian is a dying breed. In addition we have developed a " tourist mindset" in our practice of our christianity. We hop to see the latest christian personality (with the " anointing") or investigate the latest "blessings". Tourists want only the high points and they want entertainment. A christian cannot come to maturity this way.

Many things about the future are both exciting and fearful. No matter what we face in the unpredictable 2016, as cultural, political and spiritual changes approach us a high speed, few of us will experience the intense, painful opportunities that a man named Daniel faced. Though this story is 2,500 years old, the message is as contemporary as today’s headlines. In every crisis and trauma Daniel faced God used him for good in the world.

What do we know about Daniel?

A contemporary of Jeremiah and his fellow exile Ezekiel, Daniel (lit. ―God is my Judge‖) is unquestionably the author of the book which bears his name. Ezekiel refers to Daniel (cf. Ezek 14:14, 20; 28:3.)

Daniel and his three compatriots, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, were forced into exile in 605 B.C. when Nebuchadnezzar descended for the first time upon Jehoiakim‘s kingdom of Judah. Daniel was of the royal seed.

We can see that Daniel was a well-rounded young man. He not only was smart he was healthy and physically fit. We also can see that Daniel and his friends had godly parents who gave them a good grounding in the Word of God.

Also Daniel had a high social standing. He was a relative of the king of Judah, raised with all the privileges and status of royalty: wealth, power and education. He probably had close connections with dignitaries throughout the Eastern Mediterranean world. With all his wealth and charm Daniel was every mother-in-law’s dream.

Yet with his privileges Daniel was not proud or arrogant. He was a young man of character. He was not lazy or self-indulgent. He was absolutely committed to God and refused to compromise himself in any area.

Daniel was also was a young man with a future. He would have been voted the most likely to succeed in his class.

But Daniel was caught in a system and culture that forgot God. The exile did not come overnight. It was due to a long period of rebellion against God's revealed will for Israel. Daniel was caught in a culture that ignored God. When a nation forgets God, everyone suffers : the righteous along with the unrighteous.

God repeatedly sent prophets to warn the people of Israel but they continued to rebel and live in sin. In 605BC God allowed the superpower of that day, Nebuchadnezaar and his Babylonian armies to attack Jerusalem and take over the city.

Before returning to Babylon, Nebuchadnezar set up a puppet government in Jerusalem and as an insurance policy against further rebellion he took members of the royal family back to Babylon as captives. Daniel was one of the youngest hostages selected. Nebuchadnezzar’s plans called for Daniel and his friends to be rigorously trained and indoctrinated for three years. Then they would enter the King’s service.

For a moment put yourself in Daniel’s sandals. This wasn’t something he had planned for his life. In a short period of time his life was turned upside down. From a carefree teenagers to a servant of a foreign king. He was taken from family and would never see his homeland again. He would never worship in the temple in Jerusalem or see his family again. He lost his spiritual mentors and taken to a land where the God of Israel was mocked, and where values and standards based on the scriptures were ignored.

Daniel faced adversity with a true Christian character. I’m sure he had some doubts and concerns. He may have asked, "Why did this happen to me?"

Yet even in adversity things can work for good to all that love the Lord. The Apostle Paul could say in Romans 8:28: "All things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose."

Joseph could say to his brothers who sold him to an Egyptian official. "What you meant for evil God meant for good to save your lives and the lives of our people."

At the time Daniel probably didn’t see the hand at God at work as he traveled the 800 miles walking, riding a horse or in a wagon -traveling from Jerusalem to Babylon. But God’s ultimate plan was for Daniel to influence the highest leaders of power in the ancient world. God was at work behind the scenes preparing a young man who was yielded to Him to play a key role in the preservation and restoration of His people and also to be a witness for the Lord in a strange land.

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