Summary: Instead of collapsing in terror of our circumstances, like Daniel, Christ’s ambassadors need to stand firm on the cross and empty tomb as being evidence that not even the gates of hell can stop God and His plans!
THRIVING IN BABYLON
Part 2: HAVING HOPE
Online Sermon: http://www.mckeesfamily.com/?page_id=3567
Source: “Thriving in Babylon: Why Hope, Humility, and Wisdom Matter in a godless Culture” by Larry Osborne
While we usually think of the lion’s den or prophecy when we hear the name “Daniel,” Larry Osborne believes the main theme of the book of Daniel is: “Thriving in Babylon.” For Osborne, he sees the book of Daniel as being a template of how to live and thrive in one of the most godless of all cultures. Last week we talked about how people often falsely attribute the past as being the “good old days” and the present as being the evillest of all times. After having taken a history tour over time we concluded that there have been many epochs of time that were worse then that of the present but no time was or will be as evil as that of the time of the Babylonian empire.
Daniel’s counterintuitive “responses to wicked leaders, evil coworkers, and a godless culture” of hope, humility and wisdom; were the keys to his living a holy life for 70 years in Babylon. Today’s sermon will focus on the first key, Daniel’s hope in God.
There can be many definitions of hope that have little if anything to do with this first key. Hope can mean for some “I hope to have a good vacation,” you know the one where buffets fill entire rooms of endless variety as attendants serve your every need. The pool is always like bathwater and the entertainment is the best you have ever seen or heard. For others hope can mean to find their prince charming. You know that special someone who is kind and soft spoken, rich and yet humble. The soul mate who will listen to your every word and whose goal in life is to make you happy every moment of the day. And yet for others hope can mean to overcome all odds and beat the disease that is ravaging their health. This is the hope that the dark days and dreary nights will give way to a new day in which the sun rises on your restored, healthy body.
In each of this cases the world often tells us that going through the mental gymnastics of positive thinking is the key to visualizing your dream and making it become a reality. Daniel had a “deep-seated confidence in God’s character and sovereignty” (Loc. 868). This was the lens in which Daniel chose to view all circumstances in life that happened to him. Looking back at God’s merciful dealings with Israel and looking forward to Jeremiah’s promise that they would only be exiled for 70 years (29:10-14), Daniel knew God would always do good to those who love Him. Like Daniel, the lens in which we are to view our painful tribulations is one in which points to God’s grace. He sent His Son to die for us wretched sinners and will one-day return and take us home to be with Him! This is how Paul says we as Christians are able to say “No to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:12, NIV). His grace should be the “organizing principle of our lives, influencing our priorities, moral standards, and even our willingness to be persecuted for His name” (Loc 878). Looking at life through the lens of eternity changes our perspective from seeking temporal to seeking kingdom goals in our lives.
Hope is Beyond Doubt
Daniel did not have the kind of hope that is littered with doubt that so many people of this world often experience. Instead, Daniel had the kind of hope that knew beyond any doubt that a sovereign God would always do good by him. This kind of unwavering hope is not acquired overnight. We will all face tribulations in our lives that will throw us into a giant pit of pain and suffering. It is only through experiencing God’s character, power and faithfulness to deliver us from one of these tribulations that our faith begins to grow. Hebrews 11:6 states that if we want to please God we need to believe not only that He exists but that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.
In Daniel’s case his journey of acquiring steadfast hope began with a simple decision to obey God and stick with his kosher diet no matter what the consequences might be (Loc 902). Daniel and his friends politely asked the chief official if they could eat a diet in accordance with the kosher laws. Even though God caused the official “to show favor and compassion to Daniel” (1:9), he refused their request because of fear that their health would fail and the king would take his head (1:10). At this point Daniel and his friends could have seen their predicament as only having two options: starve to death or break God’s laws. Either choice was very depressing! Firmly believing that a sovereign God would not allow Daniel or his friends to be harmed, he chose to approach their personal guard with a rather unusual request. Daniel asked the guard’s permission for him and his friends to eat only vegetables and water for 10 days. After the ten days if Daniel and his friends were as healthy or healthier than before then the guard would grant them permission to continue their special diet. At the end of the ten days Daniel and his friends were healthier than the other young men who ate the royal food and wine (1:15)! Daniel and his friends were authorized to eat this diet for the entire three years of their training. There are countless examples of people who took a leap of faith not knowing what the outcome would be – after all if one knew the outcome beforehand then it would not be faith!