Holiness in Our Actions – Integrity
(Revised Feb. 2002)
Did you know that how we do our work and live our lives speaks volumes about our love for God? It’s true, and more true than you know!
People will judge the sincerity of your faith based on the job you do at work.
Welcome to our fourth installment in our look at the place holiness is to have in our lives.
We have looked at holiness beginning in our heart and mind, and overflowing into our speech. Today, we look at holiness in our actions, specifically in the workplace, where we have the opportunity to affect probably more people on a personal basis than any other arena.
I intend to use Daniel and his friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, to illustrate how holiness in our actions, or to put it another way, integrity, impacts those around us as we go about our lives.
And we are going to see how they used their work situations to impact many people.
These four men have a lot to teach us. And their lives have certain parallels to another Old Testament character.
Like Joseph, they were taken captive, brought to a foreign land, and forced into service for their rulers. And, like Joseph, they were marked by their honor and distinguished service.
I have a feeling that if they did such things back then, we could walk the halls of the palace in Babylon, and see their pictures on the wall as employees of the month.
I think you will be blessed as we see what God was able to do with four men who gave themselves totally to living in Him and for Him.
So turn with me to the book of Daniel in the Old Testament, which is on page ________ of the Bibles in the seats.
I want to look at the three “P’s” in the lives of Daniel and his friends.
And the first of these is…
I. Strong Principles.
First, we see that these fellas carried around a set of strong principles. The first one we will look at is that…
A. They desired to please God above all else.
Please read with me in chapter 1, beginning in verse 8, through 16.
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. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, "I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you."
1:11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 "Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 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." 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
The principle was not, “be a vegetarian and you can be big and strong like us.”
No, the principle had nothing to do with vegetables, but with the fact that the food they were to eat was forbidden by God, and they weren’t about to disobey God, even if it meant death at the hands of their captors. So they asked permission to eat a different diet.
They were driven by their desire to please God at all costs. That was the overriding concern.
Notice another thing: they didn’t demand their diet, they asked. They were polite and reasonable, which probably went a long way to the guard granting the request.
The next principle we want to examine is how…
B. They took opportunities to declare their faith in and allegiance to God.
Allow me to show you three examples:
1. The first example is given in chapter
2, when Daniel interprets the king’s dream for the first time.
The setting is this: the king has had a terrible dream and it has him deeply troubled. This has led him to seek and interpretation.
But not just any run of the mill interpretation. He wanted them to not only interpret the dream, he wanted them to actually tell him what he dreamed.
And he decided that if they could not do it, he would have all the wise men in the kingdom killed.
Needless to say, this caused no small amount of concern among those who were in the profession of being wise men in the kingdom.
Daniel, being one of these wise men, along with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, heard about it and asked the king for time so he might interpret the dream for him.
Stop right there for a second. It was no small thing for anybody to ask the king for anything, much less to go into his presence and ask that he hold off on his decree, especially if you’re a slave.
That in itself says something for Daniel.
But back to the story. God gives Daniel the necessary information, and he goes to the king and appears before him.
Look at verse 26 as I read it:
The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), "Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?"
27 Daniel replied, "No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.
Daniel took opportunity to declare his God.
2. Our next example is found in chapter
three. The king has had a gold statue made and had decreed that everyone was to worship it when the music sounded.
Anyone not worshiping the statue was subject to death in the fiery furnace.
The story is familiar to us, just as the first was, but it bears looking at again to learn the lesson.
You remember what happened – the music sounded, and everyone worshiped. Everyone, that is, except Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
They refused to worship an idol, and they weren’t afraid to show it. They were arrested and even given another chance to save their lives, but they refused again.
Look at verses 13-18:
Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, 14 and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? 15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?"
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."
Well, you know the rest. They were thrown into the furnace, and they came out unharmed.
3. For our third example of how they took opportunities to proclaim their allegiance to God, we turn to chapter 6, and the story of Daniel and the lions’ den.
Once again, the ruler of Babylon has let his ego get in the way. This ruler, Darius, let his aides talk him into decreeing that no would be allowed to pray to anyone but him for a thirty-day period.
This was a trap deliberately set to snare Daniel for reasons we will look at a little later.
Of course, Daniel wasn’t about to defy his God, so he continued his pattern of praying to God three times a day.
Upon being discovered, he was taken to Darius, who, trapped by his own folly, was forced to order Daniel to the lion’s den.
Let’s pick it up at verse 19:
At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. 20 When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?"
21 Daniel answered, "O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king."
Daniel once again acknowledged how it was his God who acted, not luck, or anything else. God moved. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Our God.
Notice something else here. Did Daniel say, “Ha Ha, King Darius, you loser! My God whipped you!”
No. He respectfully replied to the king. Let’s keep that in mind when challenged about our God.
1 Peter 3:25-26 says we are to talk about the hope we have in God with gentleness and respect.
So how do we apply these principles into our lives?
1. Remember the context of the stories.
What do I mean by that? First of all, keep in mind that these guys were basically slaves in Babylon.
But they could not dictate where they worked, they did not let that dictate how they did their work. They did the work assigned to them.
They did not have the option of looking through the Want ads of the palace newspaper to find another job.
They were stuck – and they stuck it out.
If your job situation is not what you would like, do something about it, but while you are looking, don’t complain and grumble.
Be thankful to God you have a job in the first place. You have it because of the grace of God.
God could have allowed our heroes to be killed rather than live and work so close the king, whom they could influence for God.
But God placed them in those jobs.
2. Second, show respect for your
employers. Treat them with the respect they deserve as your boss.
You may not always agree with them, but addressing your concerns with gentleness and respect will go a long way to not only getting your concerns met, but will raise their respect for you as well, which in turn can open the door for Christ as they see your heart for Him.
By the way, if you are an employer, God has words for you as well, to treat your employees with respect.
3. Ask the right questions. When faced
with a dilemma, the wrong question is “Is it legal?” The right question is, “Is it right?”
Put questions of right and wrong ahead of personal gain. Daniel and his friends obeyed God regardless of the consequences.
Daniel was promoted because his trusting obedience to God brought him favor with the kings he served.
However, this is not a promise this will always happen. In fact, many times, the exact opposite can and does happen. People are demoted in places around the world for their devotion to Christ.
But listen to Psalm 91:14-16:
"Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life will I satisfy him
and show him my salvation."
My point here is that you don’t have to throw away your values and convictions to advance in God’s eye.
These guys had strong Principles brought out through a desire to please God and testify about Him.
Next, they had…
II. Strong Production.
In other words, these guys did their jobs well.
A. Daniel and the others distinguished themselves in their work.
Look back at chapter 6, the first 5 verses:
It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, 2 with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. 3 Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. 5 Finally these men said, "We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God."
There’s a whole sermon right there, but don’t worry we’ll move on by noting that did his job and he did it well. So well, in fact, that he was about to be given a position similar to the position Joseph had in Egypt.
Also,after the episode with the fiery furnace, the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as well.
He saw that they were valuable to the kingdom.
Now keep in mind that all these guys were captives, foreigners, and slaves. They weren’t exactly in friendly territory.
You may also want to keep in mind that by the time the lions’ den came around, Daniel was well along in years, possibly in his seventies, or even older. This means that he spent his entire adult life in service to pagan kings who oppressed his people and kept them captive.
The application here is that we need to work at distinguishing ourselves by our work habits.
Give a full day’s work for a full day’s pay, and then some.
Give your bosses more than they are paying for, and I’ll just about guarantee that you will always have a job, and that if the time comes for downsizing, you will be on the list of people to keep around.
Work to bless your employers and customers.
This kind of work honors your boss, and more importantly, honors God.
So, our heroes had strong principles, they had strong production, and they brought…
III. Strong Praise.
Strong principles and strong production will bring the result of strong praise.
The idea here is that not only will you get some positive press, but that ultimately God will be praised because of your integrity.
Let’s read some examples:
1. 2:46-47 - Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. 47 The king said to Daniel, "Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery."
2. 3:28-29 - Then Nebuchadnezzar
said, "Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way."
3. 4:37 - Now I, Nebuchadnezzar,
praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
4. 6:25-27 - Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language throughout the land:
"May you prosper greatly!
26 "I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.
"For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end.
27 He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth.
He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions."
Let your actions bring praise to God!
I hope that although my remarks this morning have centered in the workplace, you have made the connection to other areas of your life.
You see, many people view you in other settings with the same glasses they view you with at work.
Your workplace habits reflect mightily on your personal life. Did you know that? And if your reputation at work is marred, it carries over to other aspects.
Others will find it hard to put their trust in you, and you may find yourself the topic of conversations that go something like this: “I’m sure he’s a nice guy and all, but around here at the job site,…” You fill in the blank.
Actions speak louder than words. In fact, your actions bear out your words – either proving your integrity or exposing your hypocrisy.
Let me read the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:16 –
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
God help us to be men and women of integrity, thereby reflecting His holiness in our lives.