Summary: Daniel 1:8-21 gives us three distinguishing marks of a true hero in any age.
The movie "Cinderella Man" tells the true story of boxing legend James J. Braddock, who made an incredible comeback during the Great Depression. Injured and arthritic, Braddock’s promising career was cut short, and he had to go on public assistance when he couldn’t get work at the docks in New Jersey. But when an opportunity came for him to get back in the ring—and provide for his family—he took it, and his world changed.
Now fighting with a purpose, Braddock started winning fight after fight. He inspired the nation with his perseverance in the midst of hardship. As his comeback built steam, he kept remembering the faces of his children and his wife, and how important it was for him to provide for them. Finally, Braddock won his way into a showdown with the World Heavyweight Champion, Max Baer.
Baer was a vicious fighter. In fact, he was notorious for killing two men in the ring! In the days before the fight Baer ridiculed, threatened, and mocked Braddock, and as the world looked on there was great concern for Braddock’s life.
When the big day arrived, Braddock’s wife—who had never attended any of his fights—sneaked into the bowels of the arena to find her husband in the locker room just moments before the fight. The look in her eyes sent everyone else from the room, and she marched straight up to Braddock. With a tender fierceness that could only come from a loyal wife, she locked her husband in her stare for the final words he would hear before the big event.
“So you just remember who you are,” she said. “You’re the Bulldog of Bergen, and the Pride of New Jersey. You’re everybody’s hope, and the kids’ hero. And you are the champion of my heart, James J. Braddock.”
Braddock then went into the ring to fight Max Baer. After a bloody and brutal contest, Braddock won the fight.
Remembering who we are truly makes a difference.
Knowing that he belonged to God made the difference in Daniel’s life. Daniel endured difficult times and encountered tremendous opposition, but he knew that he belonged to God. And that knowledge enabled him to stand alone for God.
So, with that in mind, let us read Daniel 1:8-20, which is the text for today’s sermon titled, “The Making of a Hero”:
"8 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.”
"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.
"17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.
"18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom." (Daniel 1:8-20)
If I were to take a poll of your past and present heroes, who would be on your list? Perhaps you might list a teacher, a professor, a grandparent, Neil Armstrong, John Wayne, Tony Dungy, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, Francis Schaeffer, Jim Elliot, the apostle Paul, the apostle Peter, or even Jesus himself.
I rather suspect that no-one would have the prophet Daniel on his or her list. I hope that this series of sermons will change that.
One common thread that seems to be woven throughout the lives of most real heroes, past or present, is that their heroism did not develop overnight. It wasn’t a sudden creation.