The Queen Mary was the largest ship to cross the oceans when it was launched in 1936. Through four decades and a World War she served until she was retired, anchored as a floating hotel and museum in Long Beach, California.
During the conversion, her three massive smokestacks were taken off to be scraped down and repainted. But on the dock they crumbled. Nothing was left of the 3/4 inch steel plate from which the stacks had been formed. All that remained were more than thirty coasts of paint that had been applied over the years. The steel had rusted away.
A rather pompous-looking deacon was endeavoring to impress upon a class of boys the importance of living the Christian life. "Why do people call me a Christian?" the man asked. After a moment's pause, one youngster said, "Maybe it's because they don't know you."
In both of these examples neither the smoke stacks nor the deacon were what they appeared to be.
When non-christians are asked why they do not believe in God the most common reason is that there are too many hypocrites in the church. They expect us to be authentic in our faith and in our lives and make no mistake they are watching. The word “authentic” means: conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features
It should be obvious that God wants us to be authentic in our Christian lives since we are charged to “no longer conform to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” and to “put off the old self” our old way of life and “put on the new self” our new way of life through Jesus Christ. God desires for us to live an authentic Christian life, society expects that we live an authentic Christian life and again, they are watching.
Living the Christian life is not easy. If it were then the Bible would not have to tell us how to live it. This passage illustrates 4 key principles required to practically live an authentic Christian life: Perspective, Persistence, Practice and Praise. Usually when we think of this common passage of Daniel in the Lion’s Den we attempt to focus on what happens inside the den. Equally important is what happens prior to going into the den and what happens on the way out. Daniel had a proper perspective.
This passage is about who Daniel is in relation to his God and to society. That is what perspective is.
a. Christian life is not easy
A common misperception is that the Christian life is easy. I’m not sure where that idea came from but it is not true. Daniel was very aware of that. At this point in the text Daniel is approximately 80 years old. When he was a teenager his hometown of Jerusalem was besieged and conquered by King Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonians. He was taken into exile to Babylon, a foreign land where he was the minority and he was indoctrinated into their culture. As far as we know he was separated from his family and we do not see from the text that he ever saw them again. Life as Daniel knew it ceased to exist and he was now in survival mode. He saw his friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego persecuted for their faith when they would not bow down and worship the idol that King Nebuchadnezzar made. Daniel saw the Babylonian empire go through multiple leadership changes after King Nebuchadnezzar as the king’s family members killed one another in order to sit on the throne. He then saw the Babylonian empire besieged and conquered by Darius the Mede. Through all of this Daniel knew that he was a foreigner in a foreign land. He knew that his life of faith was not easy. And once again in this chapter we see Daniel being persecuted for his faith. King Darius selected 120 Satraps or regional rulers to govern their districts throughout Babylon. Over those Satraps were 3 commissioners one of which was Daniel. Daniel continued to excel and the king planned to set Daniel above all the others. These 120 Satraps were not going to allow that so they conspired with one another to get rid of Daniel, that foreigner that did not belong. More than likely many of these leaders did not like one another but nothing unites people like having a common enemy. They were united and none of them were talking to Daniel about what was going on. Can you just imagine the gossiping and discussions that went on as they tried to figure out a plan to trap Daniel? Daniel knew from experience that a life of faith is not easy.
The same is true for us. For some reason many Christians believe that because they have been forgiven of their sin and have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ that there won’t be any more struggles in life. That is a wrong perspective. All of the apostles were persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ and many if not all faced terrible deaths. Paul was beaten on many occasions and imprisoned. Stephen was stoned to death. The early church was persecuted and the congregations fled to avoid death. Missionaries past and present continue to face life and death situations due to their faith. Marriages are continually under attack. In our personal lives we continue to wrestle with sin in the forms of selfishness, pride, anger, lying, unfaithfulness, etc. We must realize and believe that Jesus Christ gave us the proper perspective that “in this world you will have trouble but take heart I have overcome the world.”
Jesus does not just give us a statement of fact but he provides the proper perspective of who we are in Christ.
b. Perspective with relation to God
Jesus leaves us with hope and assurance that in Him we are victors, we are more than conquerors. He says take heart, be encouraged, do not fear for I have overcome life, death and the grave and together we will overcome, go through, go around or endure every struggle that there is. There will never be an instance when He is not with you because our Heavenly Father tells us that He will never leave us nor forsake us. Are you struggling in your marriage? Take heart, there is nothing you cannot overcome with God. Are you struggling with relationships at work? Take heart. When the towers were attacked on 9/11 the media had people asking where was God? The correct answer: he was in the tower with the mom who was never going to see her children again. He was with the husband who would never see his wife again. He was with the son and daughter who would never see their family or friends again. He was with the firefighters and emergency crews. He was with the family members at home watching the news trying to get any piece of information that they could. Where is God when a Soldier dies? Right there holding him or her. God has authority over every situation and every circumstance and he walks with us through every one of them. Daniel endured all of the trials and struggles that life threw at him because he had a proper perspective of who God is and who he is in relation to God. Daniel never lost his identity. He never bought into the things that society or his peers were telling him that he was inferior because he was a foreigner. For some reason people always have to feel like they are better than somebody else. Our worth or value does not come from what other people think. Our worth and value comes from what Jesus Christ did for us and who God says we are. If you have received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and accepted the work He did for you to pay the penalty for your sins, a penalty that you and I are unable to pay then according to God’s word you are:
Adopted into God’s family,
Child of God
An Heir to the throne
A Temple of God
A Citizen of Heaven
An Ambassador of God
A Soldier of God
A Light in the darkness
More than a Conqueror
Free from sin and condemnation
No longer under the control of sin or Satan.
You can do ALL THINGS through Christ who strengthens you. That means that through Christ you can be the husband and father he wants you to be. Through Christ you can be the wife and mother He wants you to be. Through Christ you can be the child He wants you to be. Through Christ you can be the citizen and Soldier he wants you to be. Through Christ you can restore your marriage. Through Christ you can be His representative to a world that does not know Him but needs to. But we have to have a proper perspective.
We need to have the proper perspective of the Christian life that we will have trouble but that we can take heart in knowing that our God, Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer will always be with us and through Him we are always victorious. But we also need to be persistent in our faith just as Daniel was. Let me tell you how I know that Daniel was persistent in his faith. There was a room full of 120 people sitting around talking about Daniel trying to find just one area of fault in him that they could capitalize on and get him kicked out of office. Verse 4 says:
4 Then s_the presidents and r_the satraps w_sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, x_but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, x_and no error or fault was found in him.
120 people sat around a table and evaluated all of Daniel’s business dealings and they found no ground for complaint or fault, because he was faithful. I have to ask myself if 120 people who were motivated to harm me looked over my life and business dealings with a microscope what would they say? What would someone say about your business dealings? What about your homelife? What about during deployment since we all know that “what happens in Afghanistan or Iraq stays there.”
They could not find grounds to condemn Daniel so they looked at his faith. They knew he was a man of God, that he believed in the one, True God and did not adhere to the multiple man-made Gods of Babylon or Persia. That is where they decided to hit Daniel because they knew he was persistent in his beliefs and would not compromise his faith even if it meant his life. The only problem they had was that there were no laws against what Daniel was doing so they conspired to convince King Darius to institute a decree that if anyone prayed to any god or man other than King Darius in the next 30 days would be thrown into the lion’s den to be killed.
How much are we willing to compromise? What is really important to us? I served in a church outside of Dallas, TX and during football season you could easily tell when the Dallas Cowboys were playing a home game because worship attendance was way down. How important is our relationship with Christ? How important is our relationship with Christ and what level of priority does worshipping and praising him have in our life? How much time do we spend considering spiritual things? What parts of the Word of God are we willing to compromise on? Society is rapidly moving against the concept that marriage is between one man and one woman for life. What about us? What do we believe? What about sexual purity before marriage? We don’t talk about that much anymore. What about giving or tithing? Do we compromise and give back to God what’s left over? We need to be persistent in growing in our relationship with God. We need to be like Daniel and be persistent in prayer, Bible Study and worship. As we grow in our faith then we will be persistent in the practice of our faith.
There are lots of cartoons and drawings and stories, thoughts and ideas portrayed about what went on in the lion’s den while Daniel was in there with the lions. The text doesn’t tell us what happened. I guess AFN or PAO was not there to report for us but I have a pretty good idea I know what happened in that pit. I believe Daniel prayed. I believe Daniel praised God. I believe Daniel worshipped God. I believe Daniel trusted God. I believe God was right there with Daniel. I believe God encouraged Daniel. I believe God protected Daniel and was with Daniel in the pit.
How do I know that and why do I believe that? Because that is what Daniel did all of his life. All his life Daniel was persistent in prayer, worship, praising God, trusting God and being obedient to God. Daniel’s persistence in practicing those spiritual disciplines outside of the pit were training and preparation for the spiritual disciplines that he was going to have to apply when he was in the pit. He didn’t all of a sudden decide to trust God. He had been doing that all of his life and his faith was strong because as he continually trusted God and grew in his relationship with the Father his trust and faith grew as God continually proved himself faithful.
Ephesians 4 tells us to 32 h_Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, i_forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
If we live out the fruit of the Spirit which is_love, joy, peace, patience, g_kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 h_gentleness, i_self-control; many of our relationships and marriages would be transformed.
Remember that since we have a proper perspective we know that there are going to be troubled times in our lives. We are going to encounter some pits. How we respond and react while we are in those pits is directly impacted by how persistent we are in growing in our faith and practicing our faith outside the pit.
Throughout this chapter Daniel never speaks until the end when King Darius calls out to Daniel to see if he has survived. Daniel responds by saying My God y_sent his angel z_and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me. Daniel gives God the credit and the glory. We need to do the same. We need to openly praise God and give him the credit for what he accomplishes through us. When you achieve something you did not do it on your own. God enabled you to achieve whatever it is. Many times we just need to praise Him for the comfort and assurance He gives us.
Margaret is a great example to me of continually praising God. She is always able to see God in any circumstance.
We have a friend, Roxanne who has had severe epilepsy for the majority of her life. She has severe grand-mall seizures that many times leave her body badly bruised. She has been on every medication available and continues to try experimental medications usually to no avail.
Thank you Lord for walking with me through the hard days - so many of those lately - I praise You and pray that You are glorified in my life!
very hard day for me health wise. Having seizures and a possible new diagnosis from my rheumatologist. I am clinging to the goodness and the grace of Almighty God and I am thankful that even when I am at the end of it all He is strong and continues to carry me.
May we all choose to be authentic in our faith by have a proper perspective, be persistent in our faith, practice our faith, and praise God for who He is and what He has already done.