In the last post we were introduced to Daniel and his three friends who faced many challenges and changes. We saw that Daniel decided in advance to honor his God given convictions, secondly when facing many changes and challenges, like Daniel we have to….
2. Depend on your Community of Faith
He knew that as a stranger living in a strange land he needed all the support he could get so he formed one of the first believer small groups with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They would go to school together. They would study and pray together and face decisions together. Listen, you can’t handle the Babylons of life on your own. You will never survive and thrive outside of community. As Christians we need each other. Julius Segal writes,
Few captives suffered more than Vice-Admiral James Stockdale who served 2,714 days as a POW in Vietnam. On one occasion, his captors shackled his legs and arms and left him in glaring sunshine three blistering days while guards beat him repeatedly to keep him from sleeping. After one beating, Stockdale heard a towel snapping out in a code that the POWs had devised, a message he would never forget. It was five letters , G B U J S , “God bless you Jim Stockdale.”
Segel writes that for these POWs the briefest experiences of community, of being connected, became literally a life or death deal. Their devotion and ingenuity to making community happen in spite of unbelievable obstacles defies belief. He says that if one man walked by another cell, he would drag his sandals in code to send a message. Men sent messages to their comrades through the noises they made shaking out their blankets, by belching, snoring, slowing their noses, or with the use of bodily noises that I will not name but are usually mastered by 10-year-old boys. All this goes to show how precious community is to us. In those places where community is difficult, people will move heaven and earth and risk their lives just for a moment of it. So, as our Creator says, “it is not good for man to be alone.” We need other like-minded people to survive the tough times of life!
As the world around us changes drastically, are you in community with a group of Christians? We need the encouragement of others. We their prayers, we need their strength to lighten our burdens and their smiles to magnify our joys.
We need other Christians to survive the Babylons of life. As someone once put it, there are two things you can’t do alone: be married and be a growing Christian. We need community. Join us here at Upwards. We would love to have you as part of our family.
There’s third choice we can make when the world is changing all around us….
3. Draw Upon God’s Favor and Blessing
Daniel trusted God’s blessing and favor. He knew that God always “works for the good and His glory,” even amidst the “Babylon’s” of life. He knew there was purpose in the changes that were happening. And he was right. Our text shows how much God was already at work. Notice the ways God was fulfilling His purposes, even in Daniel’s captivity: Verse 2 says that “GOD delivered Jehoiakim” into Nebuchadnezzar’s hands. Verse 9 says that “GOD caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel.”
God was at work. He caused Ashpenaz to look with favor upon Daniel and his three friends. But that happened after Daniel’s decision, not before. Does God bless those who honor him? Yes he does, but we generally don’t experience God’s blessings until we stand up for what we believe. Eric Liddell’s conviction of honoring the Sabbath Day led him not to race on Sunday in the 1924 Olympics in Paris. A few days later before another race for which he had not prepared but was allowed to compete, a fellow competitor put a note in Eric’s hand: “He who honors me, I will honor.” Eric raced with his convictions in tack. He honored God; and, God honored him. Eric Liddell won the race and the gold medal.
Solomon wrote, “A good man obtains favor from the Lord” Proverbs 12:2 ESV. The Psalmist wrote, “For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield” Psalm 5:12 ESV.
The good physical report we read of in verse 15 was the result of God’s miraculous intervention. He made the 10 day test succeed. Verse 17 says that “GOD gave these four young men knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. GOD gave Daniel the ability to interpret dreams.”
God blessed Daniel and his friends with wisdom and the ability to interpret dreams.
They stood above the rest. They would find themselves in positions of enormous influence. God always rewards those who stand for him. In this case, the reward came quickly.
Often it takes much longer than that. Sometimes it won’t occur until we get to heaven.
It’s important to note the order. First, the decision is made to stand for what they believe. Second, they depend on God and each other for support, Third, they draw upon God’s blessings who gave them wisdom and understanding. They held firm to their convictions and God rewarded them. God protected Daniel when he proposed the test. God prospered Daniel during the test and afterward. God promoted Daniel in the eyes of the king.
So, Daniel believed in God’s power and providence from the very beginning. He was convinced that even the defeat of Judah and the loss of the temple that looked so tragic was not just a random meaningless event. God was not asleep. No, God was up to something in Babylon even in that place of great change. He knew that this time of challenge was the only thing that would turn some of His chosen people back to Him. Plus, as it turned out, hindsight shows that God loved the people of Babylon. He even loved Nebuchadnezzar and was reaching out to them in all of this. To survive and thrive in the Babylons of life we have to know that God loves us, and that He is all-powerful and always at work. We’ve got to know that He’s got it all in control. We’ve got to trust God’s heart. We’ve got to believe He knows what He is doing and that there is purpose in the changes that occur. Daniel and his three friends knew all this, and because they did, instead of being transformed they became transformers themselves. They joined God in His work and He used them to bring great glory to His name even in a pagan land. As we’ll see in our study, their spiritual and political influence was enormous. So, the question we must ask ourselves in our own Babylons is not, “HOW can I get out of this?” but rather, “WHAT can I get out of this? How can God use me, even in this?”
Daniel outlived Nebuchadnezzar, his successors, and even the Babylonian empire. He lived until the days of Cyrus, ruler of the Medes and Persians, and the thing that kept him going all those decades is that he knew that His God was more supreme than any king.
Are committed to living by your God-given convictions? Will you decide to go against the flow if necessary? If you aren’t involved in Christian community, you don’t have a church home, you don’t have believers like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to help you keep this first commitment, if you don’t have a group of believers with whom you are committed, will you decide today to find one, join a local church, get in a Connect group? Have you received Christ, the greatest blessing there is? When we receive Christ we have our sins, forgiven, His presence is with us, we have a purpose and a future home in heaven! That’s the blessing and favor of God that we draw upon in difficult times!
Watch Messages: YouTube-Upwards Church