As a follower of Christ do you stand out from the world because of your continual dependence on God? In Daniel 6 we see Daniel stand out and stand firm in his trust of God in spite of the persecution he was receiving. His faithfulness to God caused others to stand amazed at the faithfulness of God.
Jonah & The Whale
Daniel & The Lions' Den
David & Goliath
Male: Mariah, it's story time! A long, long time ago in a land far, far away…
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Gather around kids. Let me tell you about the time that Daniel was thrown into the lions' den to be eaten because he prayed. No, don't worry! He made it out, but then they threw in men, women, and children just like you, and they were eaten before their bodies hit the floor, and then we're going to sleep. That's in the Scripture. I didn't make that up. That's in the story, Daniel and lions' den. Daniel was faithful. What does it mean to be faithful? We want to leave this place. We want to be faithful. You know, "Christians, be faithful." What does that mean?
What does it mean to be faithful? My understanding of faithfulness has evolved over the years; growing up in a small town in the middle of nowhere, attending this very, very small Catholic school. For nine years, I went there, so we had nuns as teachers. They would teach us. You know, I remember, and I remember they had this house, this convent, above the school.
You would go into the principal's office, which was a place I was very familiar with, and there was this flight of stairs that would lead you up to their house. It was very mysterious as a child, that all of these women who wear this weird thing, you know dressed funny, would live up there together. It was just like, "What happens up there in the convent?"
In nine years, I got to go up there twice. I don't remember why, to help with something or to get something, but I got to go up there twice. I remember walking around with just kind of this mysterious awe. You know, "What do these ladies do up here?" I remember walking by a kitchen and thinking, "They eat. You know, this is crazy. These women eat, and you know, they make food together and stuff."
Then I was walking down this narrow hallway, and down this narrow hallway was this little room a little bigger than a walk-in closet, and it had all of these kneelers in it, like these things you'd kneel on and pray. It was this "aha" moment for me, you know, in just kind of understanding. It was like, "That's what they do. They pray. Like, when they're not teaching me math and English, they're up here praying, you know, locked in this room." What happened is that evolved into my understanding of faithfulness. If you are faithful, then that's what you do, you pray all the time.
Like, if I really believe there's a God and I really believe I'm going to go and be with him, why wouldn't I just lock myself in a closet and pray day and night, just asking him, "Hey, God, please let me in heaven after this short life." and maybe take a break for food, go over to the kitchen and eat, and go back into that closet and pray some more? That's what I would do if I really believed in God, and that's what I thought. Like, most of my childhood, that's what I thought. I was like, "This is what faithfulness means. It means you just pray all the time."
We see that Daniel was faithful and that he did pray but that his prayers took him into the world. Like, he would pray before God. Then he would go into the world and influence the people around him. Jesus calls that being salt and light, so that is what we can learn from Daniel about faithfulness, but here's the deal. You're going to die. Everybody here is going die. The death rate is 1:1. You know, the last time I checked everybody born dies.
We're going to stand before God. We as Christians, as people who follow Jesus or know God through his Son, Jesus, want to stand before God, and we want to hear, "Well, done, good and faithful servant." We want to hear, "You have been faithful." I'm asking you this morning if, at the end of your life, God says, "Hey, you've been faithful," what would that look like? I've been faithful. Like, it's one of those kinds of ambiguous words. Like, what does it mean to be faithful?
That's what we're going to look at this morning. Here's the deal. You can't achieve something you can't define. It's really difficult to achieve something that you can't define, so if I want to be faithful, I need to know what faithful means, what faithfulness looks like, so this morning we're going to talk about what it means to be faithful. More specifically, we're going to look at two things that mark the lives of faithful people, how they stand out and how they stand firm.
Then before you leave here this morning, I hope to show you incredible things that can happen to others, in the lives of others around you, if you are faithful. I believe that I'm going to give you an application that will change your life. Skeptical? I hope so. I hope you leave here with something, some understanding of what you can do that will change your life, and I don't think I'm overselling on that.
We're going to be in Daniel 6. It's the story of Daniel and the lions' den; a very, very, very popular story that we read to our children. So to set this up, this happened. It's history. It happened around 600 to 500 BC, about 530 years before Christ. Daniel was a person. He was a real person. We know his tomb.
Many people visit his tomb there in Iran today from all different religions. Some religions actually worship at the tomb of Daniel, so he was a man of great influence. Forget Daniel the boy. He was about 80 years old. He was a politician. He was a man of great influence. He was a ruler of a kingdom, like a prime minister, if you will.
If you have a person or a person of influence, if you own a company or you're a mom or a dad or you lead an organization or you're in an organization (maybe you're a manager of sorts)… If you have influence over anyone; friends, neighbors, whatever that is; this is a great book to learn from, the book of Daniel. It happened in Babylon. Babylon is a kingdom. It is ruled by the Medo-Persian Empire.
Here's what you need to know. It's modern-day Iraq, so where Iraq is on a map, that's where this took place, around there. Then we're just going to see a word that you don't see often, so I'll define it up front. It's satrap. What is a satrap? A satrap is a governor of a province. Think of like a mayor, like the major of Dallas. When you see 120 satraps, think like 120 mayors. Let's dive in. Daniel 6:
"It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, 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. 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."
You see this word exceptional. You're going to see that over and over to define Daniel. He was an exceptional person. He was exceptionally faithful. He stood out among those around him. "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."
You have 120 satraps, 120 mayors, and then these three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. Daniel is one of the three administrators, but Daniel is so good at what he does he's going to get promoted into a new position to be over those administrators. At this, everyone is jealous, and they want to see Daniel get in trouble.
"They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. 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.' So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: 'May King Darius live forever!
The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions' den. Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.'"
Okay, let me say this here, because when you read this and you understand the story of Daniel, you know the king didn't want to throw him in the lions' den, and you're like, "Well, why didn't the king just change the rule?" Well, he can't. What's happening in this government is it's going from a monarchy where one person rules absolutely to this hierarchy that has been built with these 120 satraps and three advisors, so when they create this law, this rule, if you will, that if the king puts it in writing he has to be obedient to it. There are some checks and balances going on, much like our government today.
So he does this. "So King Darius put the decree in writing. Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before." Just as he had done before. "Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help."
Okay, you read that, and a couple of things, a couple of questions, come to mind. One is, "Why did Daniel pray with the windows open?" This was a common practice among the Jews that they would pray facing Jerusalem. This is what they did, so with all the Jews in this land, because there were several of God's people there, when they hear this law that they're going to have to be fed to the lions if they disobey, you can imagine the shutters closing, you know?
Daniel is walking home, and they're like, "Hey, we're not going to pray, or we'll pray in our closet." Daniel knows that attention is on him. He knows he's a man of influence. He's like, "Man, it's business as usual for me. Man, I'm going to do what I've always done in obedience with my God." Which raises another question, because you read this and you're like, "Well, wait a minute. Aren't we supposed to obey the laws of the land?" Like, Romans 13 says we're supposed to be obedient to the laws of the land.
This is not complicated. We obey the laws of the land. We are subject to our governing authorities. We obey them with excellence in an exceptional way that causes us to stand out, unless they contradict with the rules of our God, unless they're asking us to sin. Then we're obedient to God. It's easy, simple, so Daniel is modeling this.
See, I think, some of us would be so up in arms if the government said, "Hey, you can't pray." "What? I can't pray? What? How dare you!" But today, we can pray, and we don't pray. Right? There's an irony there. "Well, if you tell me I can't, I'm going to," but you can today. "If you tell me I can't buy guns, I'm going to get 37 AR-15s now." Right? Wow, it's a gun-owning crowd evidently. I'm a little nervous.
This is not Daniel's story. Daniel was steady in faithfulness. He had a faithfulness that stood out. in fact, that's my first point this morning. What does it mean to be faithful? Faithful people stand out. They stand out, so in a group of people, you stand out. You're like, "Hey, no, this one's faithful." Joseph was faithful. Daniel was faithful. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego…faithful. Abraham…faithful. Faithful people stand out.
Daniel stood out. How did he stand out? He stood out in several things. First, he stood out in excellent work ethic. The way that he worked stood out among others. Daniel stood out in his excellent work ethic. We see this in verse 3. "…Daniel so distinguished himself…by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom." He was getting promoted. His ministry is very public. He has a very public ministry. People know where Daniel stands. They know, "Hey, the only way we're going to get him is if we attack his ministry."
Here's what Daniel does. You see this, that he goes before the Lord and is faithful, and then he goes into the world and is faithful. He goes before the Lord and is faithful and then goes before the world, and the world sees the faithfulness that he draws from his relationship with God. As I told you earlier, Jesus calls this being salt and light in Matthew 5, the Sermon on the Mount.
Titus 2, verse 10 says this. In regard to being subject to a ruling authority, a manager, a boss, he says, "…show that they can be fully trusted…" We see that Daniel was trustworthy. "…show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive." This is how Daniel worked. Daniel also stood out in his excellent character. He stood out in his excellent character. He was blameless. Verse 4 says that they could find no corruption in him because he was trustworthy.
Here's what's crazy about this. This is after 60 years in politics, so they're pulling his file, and they're like looking, and they're like, "Man, we have nothing on this guy." Like, there was no, "Well, I smoked marijuana, but I didn't inhale." Like, there was nothing. Like, they had nothing on him. They couldn't find anything to bring against Daniel, so he was blameless in his character.
You've probably heard it said, "Don't be so heavenly minded that you're no earthly good." Also, Daniel wasn't so earthly minded that he was no heavenly good. In fact, with Daniel, his life modeled that very well, this heavenly mind and earthly influence, heavenly mind, heavenly reality of mind focused on God's kingdom but living in this worldly kingdom he is influencing for the purpose of God. He found this balance well. He's a good example of someone who balanced in that. He prayed faithfully, and he acted faithfully.
Here's why I tell you that. It's because prayer is an act of faith. We talk to God simply because we believe he is. Like, we believe he's there, so we talk to him, but then also that act of faith causes more faith, so it's very cyclical. Follow me here. You have faith, so you pray, and as you pray, you have more faith. Because of that faith, you pray, and because you pray, you have more faith.
It's very cyclical in nature. Faithful people pray. As you pray, your faith grows, and because your faith grows, you pray, and as you pray, your faith grows some more. Like, it's a very cyclical idea. Prayer and faith go hand in hand. Faithful people are people of prayer, and people of prayer are faithful people, so we see this.
He prayed three times a day. What else do you do three times a day? That's right. You eat. That's right. This is a hungry crowd. We eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. As you hear that, you're like, "Man, he prayed three times a day. That's so hard." We know we pray without ceasing, Paul says, but he prayed three times a day.
It's really simple. Like, "God you are my portion." Like, not "Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts… Come, Lord Jesus. Be our guest. Let this food to us be blessed." No, no. "God is good. God is great." No. Here were go. "Father, you are my portion. God, I need you. Lord, like more than I need this food, I need you. God, I'm going to die and be somewhere forever, and I need you. I'm reliant. I'm dependent on you, God." Daniel's life modeled dependence on God, and these habits caused him to stand out. He stood out.
Have you ever seen a nun in the grocery store or somewhere in public, maybe in the mall or something? What makes them stand out? How do you identify them? It's their clothes, what they wear. It's called a habit. That thing they wear. It's called a habit, the gown, the headdress thing. It's called a habit, a nun's habit. Daniel stood out because of his habit. His habit made him stand out, not what he was wearing but what he was doing, what he was practicing, his disciplines. I don't even like that word discipline. It was his relationship.
His relationship with God caused him to stand out among others. Do you see that? Daniel stood out in his obedience to God. Again, Daniel stood out in his obedience to God. Like, he knows that he's going to the lions' den, but it's like he doesn't know what else to do. It seems like he's like, "God, I'm going to pray, and I'll let you worry. I'll pray, and I'll let you worry. You control everything. You control the lions. I'll pray. You worry. All right? My role: I pray. I worship you. Your role: Worry if you want, or do something, or whatever you want to do."
Tozer says we stand out because of our habits. He says it like this. "A genuine Christian should be a walking mystery because he is surely a walking miracle. Through the leading and the power of the Holy Spirit, the Christian is involved in a daily life and habit that cannot be explained." We are a walking mystery because we are surely a walking miracle. We involve ourselves in habits that the world cannot explain. This is the life of Daniel.
It says in verse 5 they can't bring anything against him unless it has something to do with the law of his God. They're like, "Hey, we're going to issue a law that says you can't pray," so Daniel prays for two things we see in the Scripture. Do you know what he prays for? One, he prays prayers of thanksgiving. What was he thanking God for? I would love to know. It is almost like he's being sarcastic. "God, thanks, you know, that I'm going to die by lion tooth. You know, thanks that I'm some lunch for a lion."
What was he thanking God for? Like, I read that, and I'm like, "He prayed a prayer of thanksgiving knowing he's about to be fed to the lions?" "God, thank you for that." What does that even look like? It says he prayed for help, so he was thankful he could trust God, but here's the irony, and don't miss this. He prayed and asked God for help, but if he wouldn't have prayed for help, he wouldn't have needed it. Do you see that? All he had to do was not pray, and he would've been fine, but instead, he prayed.
He did what he supposed to do. He was obedient, and he trusted God with the outcome. All he had to do was, if he would not have prayed, he wouldn't have needed God's help because the thing they were coming after him for was because he was praying. He's like, "God, will you help me because I'm doing that thing they told me not to do by asking you for help, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to go to the lions' den because they're tell me I can't talk to you. Of course, I'm not going to do that."
Like, I don't think Daniel was faithful strategically. I think he just believed in God. Like, I don't think he was like, "Well, now I'm going to pray." I think he was just like, "I don't know what else to do. Like, there's a God. I'm going to talk to him. You know, I'm going to walk faithfully and just live like there's a God who I believe in. What else would I do? Hey, God, they're telling me I can't talk to you. I'm not going to do that, so it seems like I'm going to a lions' den. God, I trust you. Help me."
Let me ask you this before we go any further. What law would they have to make to prosecute you, to convict you? Like what law would they have to come up with? Like, "Well, you know, hey, you can't read your Bible."
"Okay, well then I'm going in."
"You can't pray."
"Okay, I'm going in then. I'm going to the lions' den."
Let me ask you like this because it's a little more practical. Are you ready? Everybody answer this in their minds. Let's just take yesterday, for example. Okay? Let's just look at your life yesterday. I don't know what you did. It was a beautiful day. Right? I don't know. Maybe you went to the park. I don't know. I don't know what you did. Let's think about yesterday, and let's say it was illegal to be a Christian. Would there be enough evidence yesterday to convict you for being a Christian yesterday?
Like, if somebody looked at your life yesterday and were like, "Well, I saw, you know, they were on their knees before God. They were praying, and then they studied the Word, and it seems like they're living according to the teachings of Jesus, being kind and loving others as themselves, so this person is a Christian." If they're trying you, would there be enough evidence to prosecute you yesterday for the way you lived your life yesterday for being a Christian? Would we go down?
The Scripture says we're to stand out from this world, not to be absorbed in this world but to stand out to this world. My brother-in-law is staying with us right now. He's in between homes. He sold a house, and he's purchasing one, so he's staying with us. He went to buy a car in this transition, and he came home and was just telling me this story.
This guy was like, "Hey, man. Let me ask you. Man, there's something different about you. What is it? Like, what's going on with you, man? Like, it's the way you're kind of kind to me and talk to me and the things you're doing. Like, there's just something. Like, you just kind of have a joy about you. Like, what is it?" My brother-in-law who trusted Christ here within the past three years just said, "Well, if you see that in me, it's Jesus Christ. It's Jesus in me that you're seeing, that you're drawn to."
You know that. You've been in a public place and… Maybe I'm the only one, but we see people in public places. Like, I see somebody across the room and see the joy about their lives and the way that they're loving and caring and serving others and trusting, and it's like, "I bet that dude knows Jesus." It seems like I see the Holy Spirit in them. I'm not saying I'm the judge. I'm not the judge. God is the judge, but it seems like (I don't know if you've ever had the experience) that is a brother in Christ right there or a sister in Christ right there.
This is what the Scripture says, that we stand out in a world. Paul says it like this. In Philippians 2:15, he writes, "…become blameless and pure, 'children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.' Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky…" Paul said, "Like, in contrast to a night, like a bright star, that's what you look like in the world. You stand out." He got this from Daniel. In Daniel 12, verse 3, Daniel writes the same thing, something very, very similar, I'll say, that we as followers of the one true God stand out in this world.
Have you ever turned a flashlight on during the day or outside in the sun? If you turn a flashlight on, you can't really tell it's on. You have to like look and say, "Is it on?" You know? It's because the light is absorbed by all the other light. Sometimes I think this is what it's like being a Christian in Dallas where we think everybody's a Christian, so our "Christian‑ness," our Christianity, is kind of absorbed in that Christianity, and it's not really Christianity, but we all walk around like we're Christians. He says, "No, no, no. You stand out."
Have you ever driven by one of those spotlights that beams in the sky? Like, the other day I was diving by downtown Dallas, and there was one of these spotlights in the sky, like they're calling Batman or something. You know, like, it seems like it goes all the way up, and I was just like, "Man, there's something going on downtown." They move it around.
Do you know what it does to me? It makes me curious what's going on down there. "Man, what's going on down there? There's some party down there I didn't get invited to. Somebody's having a good time downtown. They rented their 100,000-lumen spotlight, and they're shining it so all the world can see. They're having fun, and I'm not. I'm driving on this freeway, watching their spotlight." It makes you curious. It stands out, and it makes you curious. I think King Darius was curious of where Daniel's character came from.
Like, I studied this text now, and I'm thinking that King Darius is like, "Daniel, what's up with you?" Todd, the senior pastor here, he calls this kind of the Joseph theory, that Pharaoh never misses his Joseph, that like everywhere Joseph was, it was like, "Man, there's something going on there. Oh, Joseph is there. Why is that excellent? Oh, Joseph is there. Why is excellence over…? Oh, Joseph."
It is the same thing with Daniel. "Why is that excellent? Oh, Daniel is there. Why is that excellent over there, exceptional? Daniel. What's exceptional over there? Oh, Daniel. Hi, Daniel." Where he was, he stood out because of his exceptional qualities, the Scripture says. We want to be that spotlight, causing others to be curious, like standing out, standing apart. Like, "What's going on there?"
Those guys go, and they tell on Daniel. They tell King Darius what he's done, and they say, "Hey, King, you have to execute on this order," even though he didn't want to. King Darius didn't want to because he liked Daniel. He was like, "Oh, no." He stayed up all night worried about Daniel. He was like, "I don't want to throw him into the lions' den." Then in verse 16:
"So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions' den. The king said to Daniel, 'May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!' A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel's situation might not be changed. Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.
At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions' den. 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…'" This is what we see throughout the Scripture. "'…your God, whom you serve continually been able to rescue you from the lions?'
Daniel answered, 'May the king live forever! 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, Your Majesty.'" It's like Daniel is like, "God is the judge. God is in control of the lions. I've been found innocent in his sight."
We learn a lot from this text but a lot really from what it doesn't say, because it doesn't say that Daniel fought back. I'm going to go on record right now and tell you I would do everything I could to avoid the lions' den. Like, it just seems like Daniel is like, "Yeah, it's lions, I guess. You know, God, you're in control of the lions."
Personally, I would be like, "Darius, come here man. Come on, bro. I'm your boy. Man, you know I'm your boy. You see Shadrach over there. He looks a lot like me. I bet, if you throw him to the lions, no one's going to know, you know. I'd be our little secret." I would be scheming at this point. Like, "How do I get out of the lions' den?" Daniel just seemed to trust God. He stood firm. Right? Faithful people stand firm.
That's the second point. Faithful people stand firm. Let me just tell you this. If you stand out, you'd better stand firm because, if you stand out, people are going to come against you. If you stand out, people are going to come against you. Daniel is not faithful in a moment. He's not faithful when they send him to the lions' den.
He's been faithful his whole life, making this decision of the lions' den an easy one. He's been faithful for 80 years. Daniel is over 80 years old here. He's been a faithful, faithful man, so this is business as usual for Daniel, so Daniel stood firm in adversity. Daniel stands firm in adversity. He wasn't liked by his peers. Are you tracking with this?
The people around him, the people he worked with, didn't like him, and they're gathered in a room talking about him. For some of us here this morning, if people are gathered in a room talking about us, that's going to drive us crazy. Like, "I can't stand it. Like, what? They don't like me?" Daniel just seemed like, "Hey, God, it's up to you who likes me. God, I'm just going to trust you."
It's Galatians 1:10 where Paul writes, "Am I now trying to win the approval of God or of men, or am I trying to please men? If I am trying to please men, I would not be a bond servant of Christ." Daniel just says, "Hey, God, I'm just going to trust you. These people, they don't like me. They're talking bad about me behind my back. Do you know what? That's okay. That's okay." Daniel stood firm in his adversity.
Daniel stood firm in persecution. In Matthew 5, in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, where he says, "Be salt and light," he says this, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." I read that, guys, and I'm like, "Why is that in my Bible? Like, I don't need that in my Bible, because I've never really been persecuted."
I'm like, "Nobody's ever really said anything bad about me because of Jesus that I know of. I mean, there was that one tweet, but that's okay, but no one's ever persecuted me. I mean, there was that time my house got wrapped, but they were Christians. You know? I don't know that I've ever endured real persecution. Jesus, why did you preserve in this Scripture, Matthew 5, verse 11, when I'm like, 'I don't know what to do with that'?" I will tell you this. You have stood against adversity, and you have been in situations of uncertainty. Right?
Everyone here has had like uncertainty, and in times of uncertainty, you have two options, faith and fear. See, on the coin of uncertainty, there are two sides, faith and fear. You have those options, so in uncertain times, we can freeze in fear and do nothing, or we can retract and say, "Lions' den? I don't want that," or we can say, "God, I trust you. God, I trust you. I don't know what you're doing, but I'll take a step of faith, and I'll trust you, and I'll walk by faith, not by understanding, not by sight, but I'll trust you."
This is what we do as faithful people who stand firm. We trust God. My boss says it like this. Ninety-nine percent is a beating. One hundred percent is a breeze. Ninety-nine percent is a beating. One hundred percent is a breeze. You're like, "What does that mean?" You write it down because you're going to like this. Ninety-nine percent is a beating. One hundred percent is a breeze.
Here's what it means. If I do something half-heartedly, it's always difficult. It's like this. If I say, "I'm going to cut back on sodas, that I'm going to cut back on drinking sodas." Whenever I stand before the fountain machine, I've always had this decision dilemma. "What am I going to do? Is today the day I can have a soda or not?"
Like, I have to decide, but if I say, "I'm done drinking sodas. For the rest of my life, I'm done drinking sodas," there's no decision. It's actually easier than cutting back drinking sodas because there's no decision to be made. The decision has been made long before I faced the decision. Daniel says, "I'm going to be faithful, so faithful in promotion, faithful in the pit, faithful in persecution. I'm just going to be faithful."
If I say, "I'm going to try to pray more…" "Well, what is it? Do I pray more now? Do I pray more later?" If I say, "I'm going to pray three times day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner," there's no decision to be made. Is it breakfast? Well, I'll pray. Lunch? I'll pray. Dinner? I'll pray. One hundred percent is a breeze. This is what marked the life of Daniel. Daniel stood firm in his trusting God.
Even in verse 21, he stood firm in trusting God. In verse 21, he says, "May the king live forever!""This is crazy! Daniel, he just threw you in the lions' den, bro! What are you talking about saying, 'Live forever, O king'?" He's not looking to blame someone. "Hey, I don't have to blame you. Like, God saved me. What do you want me to do about it?"
Do you know what his name means, Daniel? In the Hebrew, it's three syllables, Dan‑iy‑yel. It literally means God is my judge, and he lived up to that name, God is my judge. He's like, "God is my judge, so I can be kind to others. I can be subject to authority." Like, he shows respect to the king even when he sends him to his death.
He's just like, "God, what are you up to? You're up to something." This is what faithful people ask. God, what are you up to? This is the question that marks our lives, in the midst of adversity, in the midst of persecution, in the midst of trials. God, what are you up to? You control all things. What are you up to?
Daniel is like, "God, that looks like a pit of hungry lions. What are you up to? What are you doing?" Hebrews, chapter 11, verse 1: "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." I love this. In verse 22, God sends his angel to shut the mouths of the lions.
Not an angel but his angel. Personally, I believe that's the preincarnate Christ. Many theologians do. Not everyone agrees on that, but I believe it's the same preincarnate Christ who wrestled with Jacob; the same preincarnate Christ who was in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. We see him show up several times.
God sent his angel. I believe that Jesus was with Daniel in his suffering, in his trial. Can you image if Daniel backed out? It'd be a very different story that we'd read this morning if Daniel backed out. Like, the satraps, they make this law, and Daniel stops praying, and they're like, "Oh, he only does it when it's safe. He only does it when it's safe." It's a very different story.
I told you we're going to define faithfulness. Here's faithfulness. This is what it means. Faithfulness is choosing daily to follow God regardless of your circumstances. Faithfulness is choosing daily to follow God regardless of our circumstances. On good days, we follow God. In promotion, we follow God. On bad days in the pit with hungry lions, we follow God. Regardless of my circumstances, my theology is not changed. I follow God. Verse 23:
"The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. At the king's command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions' den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones." Goodnight!
"Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth: 'May you prosper greatly! 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. 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.' So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian."
My third point is that faithful people cause others to stand amazed at God's faithfulness. Faithful people cause others to stand amazed at God's faithfulness. Faithful people, when we're faithful, others know our God. They stand amazed at the faithfulness of our God. "How did you get through that? Who is your God?"
See, here's the deal. God is about his glory. God is going to bring glory to himself. I promise you today that's going to happen. God will be glorified today. Right now, God will be glorified, so why wouldn't he use those who are about his glory to glorify himself, not those who are about their glory but those who are about his glory. Daniel was about God's glory.
Jesus says it like this in Matthew, chapter 5, verse 16. If you're like, "Wait a minute. This feels like works, like you're telling me to do something. Wait." Let me tell you what Jesus said. These are the words of Jesus, your Savior. "…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."
Didn't Daniel live that very, very well? I think that some of us will never see the real work of God because we'll find ways to get out of the pit. It's very interesting to me, guys, that God did not save Daniel from the pit. He saved Daniel through the pit. He did not save him from the pit. He saved him through the pit. He saw him through the pit. He carried him through the pit.
What happened as a result of Daniel going through the pit? The entire kingdom worshiped his God, the one true God. This is what God is after. This what he's trying to do. Then Daniel, who even trusts God in bringing about justice (it shows this terribly, terribly, terribly but kind of awesome terrible picture of others being fed to the lions)…
Did you know this story is a popular story? It's told in many different cultures, even other religions, but some say that Kind Darius had fed the lions so they weren't hungry, but this shows the opposite, that the lions were so hungry they actually devoured families before they hit the floor of the pit, that they were that hungry. The text goes through details to show you the miracle of what happened.
I'm watching this. I'm reading this story, and I'm like, "How do I teach this to Watermark? Like, let's be honest. There's no lions' den. God, the other thing is, if we talk about trials, like sometimes the lions win." Let me say this to you, just in case you would think something else. Christians have been eaten by lions. Even in this century we live in (true story), Christians have been fed to lions, and the lions win.
I'm like, "God," and I'm in this dialogue with God. This week this happened. I'm like, "God, why didn't Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego become overcome by the flames, so I could say everybody trusted you and then say, 'Hey, sometimes, you're going to be devoured by the flames and then trust God. Sometimes, you're going to be eaten by lions and then trust God'?"
I'm like, "God, why don't you give me a story of someone who was obedient even to the point of death? Oh, oh, Jesus… Oh, Jesus… Oh, you were. Oh, you brought him through the den, but Jesus…" He said Daniel didn't have a wound on him. Jesus had lots of wounds…why? It was for your sins and my sins. And Jesus actually tasted death. That's different than Daniel. Jesus dies, but he's brought through the grave. Will you survive the pit? I don't know. Will you survive the grave? You will if you've trusted.
Can I show you something really awesome? I have the mic, so I'm going to. Okay? Jesus was accused by jealous peers, not the satraps but the Jews. He was interrupted in prayer and taken away just like Daniel. He was tried by a governor who didn't want to prosecute him, not Darius but Pontius Pilate.
He was put in a tomb with a big rock sealed over it, many believe with a signet ring, and his resurrection, like Daniel's, proved his innocence and your innocence. Do you get that? You get to walk innocently. Is it because you're perfect? No, it's because he is, and he died the death you deserved. If he can go through the grave, then you can face anything.
You draw your confidence, your courage, your faithfulness through his faithfulness. This story's not about Daniel's faithfulness. This story's about God's faithfulness. We serve an amazingly faithful God. He's so faithful he comes to our rescue, and if it's not shutting the mouths of lions, it is overcoming death. He is a faithful God.
I don't know. I don't know what's going to happen. I do know that everyone here is going to face troubles. Everyone here is going to face troubles. I don't know if it's cancer, singleness. I don't know if it's something that you put yourself in because you're a believer that's more difficult that doesn't make sense to the world, maybe it's adoption or fostering, maybe it's a stroke or maybe it's the loss of someone you love.
I do know that every single person, regardless of your age, is going to walk through those doors, and you're going to face troubles, and because God has overcome the greatest trouble you can imagine, you can walk confidently and trust him. Here's what I want you to know. Your challenges, your trials, are your greatest opportunities to show the world your faithfulness. Strike that…his faithfulness.
Your challenges are your greatest opportunities to be faithful, but you don't wait until your challenges to be faithful. Be faithful today. You pray three times a day, so when the pit comes, you can use it to point to God. Today, you point to God. Can I just show you some friends who are here who have done this? Will you guys watch this with me?
Female #1: I came to know the Lord when I was 8, so I guess almost 30 years ago.
Female #2: I was raised Catholic, so I've always known God but really started having a relationship with Christ when I came to this country 13 years ago.
Female #3: I feel like, in singleness, as he provided marriage, I thought, "Gosh, he's been so good up to this point, and he'll be so good in marriage." Then, Scott and I all of a sudden find ourselves with an 8-month-old and a breast cancer diagnosis.
Male #1: Life was going along as normal, and then you get a phone call from a doctor who's telling you that your son's been diagnosed with a life-threatening disease.
Male #2: I recently suffered a stroke back in December.
Female #2: My story of separation and then divorce, that time being a very painful time, a time where I was crying on a daily basis…
Male #1: It was like somebody had walked into our home and just a bomb had gone off. Every aspect of my family was radically changed. We were going to be on a long road for several years of daily chemotherapy, and I looked at my little boy, who looked so small in that big bed, and I just thought, "What's going to happen to my son?"
Female #2: Of course, I was facing many decisions, many difficult decisions having a small girl with me. One of the last things during that time that God told me was that I was to stay single, and of course, I did not like that. Usually, I can live with it, but there are days that are harder, but God has shown me that, when I obey, of course, his plans are better than mine.
Female #1: But he'd been so faithful in advance of this season to provide community and provide a knowledge of his Words, and when we came through it, it was like we were already in the ark of protection.
Male #2: Through community, members of the church coming around my wife and family and praying with them and encouraging them, I mean, God in his mercy and grace allowed something that could've been very devastating to come out very well. The next day, I was back to normal, which is a real miracle.
Female #1: Most recently, I've just seen him be faithful through an unexpected journey through keeping kids in foster care. I did not know what I was doing. I had never parented before, but he just provided steps along the way. Like, you really have no choice but just to trust the Lord because you don't know when they're coming and you don't know when they're going. You just have to trust that he knows what's best for me and what's best for those kids.
Male #2: Even if it's a severe sickness, which we've experienced in our family, or death or near-death experiences, just knowing that God promises he's going to be faithful, you know, because he's called us to be holy, to be set apart, and he said he's the one who's going to be faithful to see us through to the end…
Male #1: Five years later, my son has been declared cured of cancer, so what I'd tell people who can't see the picture and they don't know the end, is it's as if the Lord has given them multiple pieces of a puzzle, but they don't know what kind of picture God's creating.
Female #1: I just feel like, through that journey, like I have just seen just people that I didn't expect to be part of our story.
Female #2: I also surrounded myself by the body of Christ, and they were also very important during those times. My small group became my Community Group, and they were very active in the whole process. I submitted myself to their authority and the authority of the Bible, and of course, God used them, too.
Female #3: …and within the next year, facing the reality that future kiddos were really likely off the table for us, as kind of all things feminine for are shut down due to cancer, and just blown away by God's kindness to us, his shock, his surprise as we look back, as Scott calls him the little miracle baby, the one that God provided and we didn't know we needed, but he provided exactly what we needed.
Male #1: The Bible tells when Jesus had just fed the 5,000, and he talks about how he's the bread of life and how, in order for us to have a relationship with the Lord, we have to trust him.
Female #2: You stay in the Word and to be in constant prayer. God is faithful, and he will answer, and he will show the steps that we are to follow one by one, if we're willing to listen.
Male #1: There's another story in Mark 9 where a father's son is sick, and the father takes his son to the disciples, and the disciples are unable to do anything, so eventually, they're exasperated, and they come to Jesus, and the father begs for Jesus, "If you can heal my son…" Jesus responds to him like, "If? I can do that," and the father's response is so classic. He says, "I believe, Jesus. Help my unbelief."
So, when we're going through those dark periods, we find ourselves in that tension sometimes. "I do believe, Lord. I want to believe," and in those times where it's hard for me to believe, "Lord, help me. Help my unbelief," and it's then I think God's Spirit just begins to help you on a daily, moment-by-moment basis of just recognizing that he truly is the one we can trust, even with the sickness of our son. It may not turn out exactly the way we want it to, but that doesn't change the fact that God is good, and he's in control.
[End of video]
He tells that story, and he says, "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief," you know, and there's just something really honest about that, and he's a dear friend and just co-laborer, and he tells that story and just as he finds out his little son has cancer, an aggressive cancer, and he says this. He says, "You don't want to form your theology on the ninth floor of Children's Medical, the hospital where you're finding out your son has cancer." He goes, "No, you want to make sure that foundation is there long before that."
I don't know what's coming your way. I don't know what the challenges are, like even those things we walk into because they're different, like fostering. Like, there's something about me that is just like, "Man, that would be so hard to have a child and then give them up, but wouldn't it be harder to not do that? Like, wouldn't it be harder for them not to have a parent?"
Like, there's something weird about that, where I say, "God, I can't, but with you, I can. Like, you're enough. You're enough to carry me through those challenges. Your faithfulness is enough to carry me through those challenges so that others would see your faithfulness in my trials, and they would stand amazed at my God. God, I pray that the faithful people of this place would stand out in that world, that we would stand firm in those challenges, that others would watch us and would stand amazed."
Here's what I would love for us to do, all of use to do, especially you, all of us, all of us to do this, that we would leave this place… We're 14 days out from Easter, and they say it takes about two weeks to form a habit. Okay? People smarter than I say that, that it takes about two weeks to form a habit, so what if we leave here and breakfast, lunch, and dinner we pray to be faithful? I could say, "Hey, leave here and be faithful," but you can't. It's God. It's God working through us.
What if, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we prayed to be faithful? "God, help me be faithful. Make me faithful, Lord. I can't, but you can. Lord, I can't, but you can. Would you help me be faithful?" Now it's going to take some strategy on your part. Okay? Maybe you have a 4-year-old whom you like to let pray at lunch because she's cute. I do, and so for the next two weeks, I'm just going to say, "Hey, Finley, Daddy's going to pray. You can pray after me, but I'm going to model this, and I'm going to pray that we would be faithful."
Maybe you're going to business lunch with a bunch of colleagues. You have to make that decision. Do I pray in the car? Do I pray silently to myself or do I ask those guys, "Hey, guys, I'm going to pray really quickly for my own faithfulness." You make that decision, but without fail for the next two weeks, breakfast, lunch, and dinner…
I pray we do it for the rest of our lives, but just for the next two weeks, pray…breakfast, lunch, and dinner…that the Lord would make you faithful, and he will. I believe he will, so when those trials come later, we would be faithful in promotion but also faithful in the pit, pointing others to our great and faithful God.
Hey, if we can help you, if you're in a trial we can help with and you want to let us know, please do with that perforated section in the Watermark News. If there's any way we can serve you, we would love to do that. There'll be a team of folks up here who would love the opportunity to pray for you, but the rest of you, have a great week of worship.