Set For Life!

Bible Book: Daniel  1
Subject: Commitment; Courage; Revival
Series: Living Right When Life Seems Wrong
Introduction

This is a message about overcoming the odds against us in life. Based upon Daniel's circumstances, it appeared that Daniel had very little chance of experiencing a useful and successful life. Daniel grew up in a time of moral, spiritual and religious decline in Judah. King Jehoakim was a wicked man who had ascended to the throne following the godly reign of his father Josiah. In only three years of Jehoakim’s reign, the nation had declined so greatly that Babylon came and overran Judah. Many people from Judah were then carried away into exile in Babylon.

It is interesting to see how people view the possibility of failure or success in life. Many poor people who are born into families living in difficult or dangerous areas in America are raised to believe they the world is against them. They start out with a sense of defeat and seem to go down hill from there. How sad this is, and how unnecessary. You see, God has a good plan for each life, and what is required is for each person to put God's will and way first every decision. I think of Ben Carson, a black man who was raised by a single mother. Everything seemed to be lined up against Ben being a success in life, especially because he struggled in school and had an explosive temper.  Ben's mother simply did not accept the fact that her son was doomed to failure, so she required him to read two books every week and to write book reports which he was share with her. She looked at the book reports and underlined each one with check marks. Ben was an adult before he learned that his mother was not able read the book reports he had written. Learning to read well changed Ben's life and he went on to graduate from high school with honors, and then attended Yale University. After graduating from Yale, he went to medical school and specialized in brain surgery. As a doctor, he became the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital at age 33. Not only did Ben have a mother who turned off the television and forced her two sons to read, but she continued to point them to the Bible as the Book needed for one to succeed in life. Ben recounts that overcoming his temper only happened when he read the Bible and learned God's way of dealing with struggles and disappointments in life.

No one is doomed to failure, not if they turn to God and act in a disciplined Christian/Biblical fashion. Daniel was a man who did just that, even in the worst of times. We can only imagine how terrible the circumstances were for Daniel and the people of Judah. Just think for a moment how you would feel if a nation like Iran captured America and carried some of our finest young people to Iran and placed them in encampments there. Think about teenagers being taken by force and made into slaves, which is exactly what happened to Daniel and others from Judah.

Once they arrived in Babylon, the King ordered some of the finest of the captives to be placed in an indoctrination process whereby they would be educated in the language, religion, teachings and laws of Babylon. Those chosen were to become special servants of the king. Among those chosen was the young man named Daniel and three of his friends. These teenagers, all of whom were probably about 17 to 18 years of age, were placed in the indoctrination process by the evil ruler of Babylon.

The first thing they did to Daniel was change his name to Belteshazzar and then he was told that his diet was to be that of the young men of Babylon. He was to eat the food of the king and drink the wine of the king each day. I want you to see the process which followed and to note the results brought about by one young man who had the courage to take a stand for the Lord, even under the most difficult possible circumstances. If you and I will practice the principles followed by Daniel, we will be Set For Life.

Now let me say before I get to the core of this message that we are living in a time when parents think that a child is Set For Life if he has good health, a decent education and the prospects of a profitable career. This is sad, indeed! Daniel was a slave, and because of this he had no money, no clothes or home of his own. He had been educated mostly in the Word of God. Once he was taken as a slave, he had no human influence with which to better his lot in life. He looked like a sure failure, but he succeeded. How? That is what we are about to see. I especially want teenagers and parents to listen to me today, but I also want every adult to listen very carefully, because you and I have an important role to play in creating an atmosphere where more people like Daniel can emerge.

I. The Problem For Daniel

Life can throw a lot of problems at us, and they can confuse us as to the purpose of God. Some problems can cause us to wonder if God really loves us, or if He is interested in us at all. Daniel was a teenager who was thrust into a 'world of hurt'. He had to confront several problems, all of which were dangerous and difficult.

A. He had a Social Problem

He was placed in a context where 'not to go along' with the prevailing expectations meant he would likely 'not get along' well in the future. He was under tremendous pressure to eat the food which the king’s servants put before him. We think of peer pressure today as very important to our young people, and it is. In Daniel’s case, it was not just peer pressure but the pressure of a vile government threatening him. What would he do?

B. He had a Spiritual Problem

Let’s face is, it appears in the story before us that God had let Daniel down. When our plans fall apart, we have a tendency to feel that we no longer owe any allegiance to God; after all, if He doesn't care for us why should we care about His will? We live in a day when God is looked upon by many as a holy bellhop, a heavenly tooth fairy or a glorified Santa Claus. We tell Him what to do and He is supposed to do it for us. If He doesn’t, we sit and cry and wonder why! Friends, we must never think of God in this way. We are to be responsible and dedicated to Him under all circumstances. In fact, the circumstances may just be exactly those God has chosen for us and can turn out to be the way in which the Lord's will is accomplished.

C. He had a Scriptural Problem

Daniel knew very well that the Word of God forbade him to eat food sacrificed to idol gods and to refrain from eating food not prepared as God had directed His people. Yet, Daniel was being told by authorities that he was required to eat food directed by the King of Babylon. This was a violation of His biblical and spiritual understanding and placed him in a tight spot, to say the least.

Daniel had to face the 'circumstances' around him. He was a captive far from home.

Daniel had to face the 'conformity' before him. Most of the Jews conformed immediately.

Daniel had to face the 'consequences' to him. His life stood in the balance.

Yet, in all of this, Daniel remained true. How did he do this

II. The Purpose Of Daniel

Daniel purposed in his heart to do what God told Him to do regardless of what might happen to him. It did not matter to him what the results were going to be - all that mattered to Daniel was obedience to God! This is easy for us to say in the comfort of the church this morning, but it was not easy for Daniel. For Daniel, this was a difficult decision. Yet, he had his heart committed and his mind made up and nothing was going to keep him for doing exactly what he knew God wanted him to do

Let me tell you three things Daniel did that made the difference in his life. In fact, it is these three things that made him a young man Set For Life.

A. He Renewed His Convictions

Daniel renounced the world and he would relied upon the Word of God. He had convictions in a world that seemed to have lost all conviction concerning what was right and what was wrong. Are we not living in that kind of society today? Indeed, we are! Only those who have deep convictions will stand for the Lord in a day when anything goes and everything is considered acceptable in society!

B. He Roused His Courage

It took great courage for Daniel to do what he did. He had to have a bold heart and a firm backbone to stand up for the Lord. Daniel refused to eat the king's food and it is likely that Daniel expected tortuous treatment for this decision. To demand that he be allowed to eat something besides the king’s food took tremendous fortitude and courage.

Now, please note that Daniel was very respectful of those over him during this process. He did not fly in their faces with an an attitude of arrogance and pride; he simply prayed to God and then asked to try a different way. Daniel trusted God to accomplish something wonderful through his obedient decision. Living in faith and obedience to God does not mean that we are to act as if we are 'better' than everyone else. We are to project humility mixed with courage and that is exactly what Daniel did in this case.

C. He Revealed His Confidence

Daniel’s confidence was not in himself, nor was it in the food he asked the Babylonians to allow him to eat. His confidence was in his God and the Word of God by which he lived his life.

Do you really trust God? Really? In your heart many of you are nodding your head to say, "Yes," but you don't even tithe. Do you know why you don't tithe? It is not because you fail to believe it is the right thing to do. You don't do it because you don't trust God to meet your needs if you obey Him in the matter. You don't trust God with your finances. Many of us don't witness to anyone because we don't have the faith to believe that God can use our meager testimony to touch another's life. God told us to go into all the world and share His message but we are afraid to do it! We can read this story from scripture and applaud Daniel, and somehow that makes us feel good about ourselves, but we don't have the courage to do the small things, much less face down an idol worshipping king. If we are to stand true in a false world, we must have confidence in God’s truth and God’s power! Daniel had a conviction and the courage to act upon it. I don't think we have any idea of how much God can do through our lives if only we had a deep conviction, full trust and bold courage to act in like manner.

A little boy was asked by his teacher in school one day if he could describe salt. He said, “Salt is what ruins mashed potatoes when it is left out.” That was not a very good scientific description of salt, but he made a good point. And let me add that if you leave out conviction, courage or confidence, it will ruin the possibilities of all that God has for you.

III. The Promotion of Daniel

God honored the commitment of Daniel and promoted him in the eyes of his keepers and finally in the eyes of the king. Does this remind you of Joseph? He, too, was cast down, imprisoned and appeared to be defeated; yet, he was set for life. Why? He became a success because he practiced the same biblical principles we see in Daniel’s life. God promotes those who permit Him to have His way!

Let's look at the victory Daniel won and note two important things.

A. What he was Allowed to See

He saw God touch the heart of an old, evil, pagan king. God so moved the king that he gave favor to Daniel, mere teenage Jewish slave. Daniel was allowed to see God's hand at work though his own life. Nothing is more wonderful for a Christian than to know and see that he or she is being used by God. Daniel obeyed God and got to see the impossible become possible. We can do that same thing, if we will act out of conviction in the face of demonic opposition.

When Moses was called by God to go to Egypt and face the pharaoh, he complained of his weakness and lack of notoriety. Finally, he relented and obeyed God, and he was able to see the Hebrew people free from their awful slavery.

Gideon did not want to face the Midianites, but we reached down inside and found the faith and courage to obey God. He saw God use him, the least of his tribe, to rout the enemy and restore the honor of the Lord.

Again and again in scripture we discover those who were called upon to stand for the Lord in difficult and dangerous times. Each time, when a child of God obeyed, he or she was allowed to see the hand and power of God at work. What is your fear in serving God? If you are only doing that which is easy for you, it is likely you are not doing enough. To serve God faithfully will always require one to step out in faith! In Hebrews we are reminded that without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith is not just what we feel about God, but it is rather what we are willing to do as a result of our belief in Him. Oh, that God's people might rise up in this day and stand for the Lord Jesus Christ in spite of the fear of being called a 'goodie-two-shoes,' or a 'Bible-thumper,' or a 'nut-case.' Seriously, there are those who are silent when issues arise at work or among friends because you want to be liked. Daniel did not worry about whether he was popular in Babylon because he was more concerned with being faithful to the Lord. We cannot see what God can do if we will not do what He asks us to do!

B. What he was Allowed to Do

Daniel was eventually raised up to a position of unprecedented prominence in Babylon, and that was a direct result of his obedience to God. He was used by God to write the Book that bears his name, which is still being read all over the world to this day. He was allowed to prophesy about events leading up to the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ! He was given great opportunities, beyond his wildest expectations, because he simply trusted greatly in God and acted upon that trust.

Conclusion

There is one important point here which we must not overlook. When Daniel was a young man, he and some of his friends experienced something wonderful. They had witnessed and been part of a real, true, heaven-sent revival. It happened when Josiah found the Word of God. The Word was read to the people and they experienced a glorious blessing from heaven. I think it is not outside the realm of possibility that Daniel's convictions and his actions based on those convictions were a direct result of his having experienced that revival. Listen to me, every adult and all of our youth need to see a real revival in our land during these days. These are wicked days. This is a time when truth is considered fluid and unfixed. The only hope for this generation, and for our churches, is for us to come to God with renewed faith and to plead with Him for a heaven-sent revival. When I was twelve years of age, we had a series of revival services in the community church that my family attended. God came down on that meeting in an usual way. My life was changed that week and I have never gotten over it. The revival was so powerful that my parents never got over it either. Till my father died, he talked about what God did during those days of worship, repentance and renewal. My mother told me a few weeks before she died that the revival of 1957 in Shelby, North Carolina was the greatest meeting she had ever attended. I believe that a movement of God can leave a mark on the life of a Christian for a lifetime. How we need that today! Oh, how I pray that God will do a work in us that will give our youth, our families and our leaders a spark that sends us out into a dark world to be shinning lights! We cannot go forth as Daniels in this world if we don't have a renewal that ignites a fire from heaven within us.

The revival that occurred in Daniel's youth, caused the people to repent and brought renewal to faith. Listen carefully to me, we will never have revival as long as we think we are so good that we don't need it. I love you, but I can tell you that you're not nearly as good as you think you are. Let me tell how I know, because I am not as good as I think I am. When real revival comes, when God shows up in power among us, we will all fall on our faces. I know this because I've been there before. I have fallen before the Lord on my face and felt as if I needed to find a place to hide from His glory! Can you see our need for that today? I'm convinced that Daniel had courage because he had experienced conviction.

Of course, many of us who have accepted Christ face challenges all along the way. The question today is whether we face those challenges with total confidence in the Lord and in His promises. Come now, let us bow down before Him. Let each of us seek Him and ask Him to renew us. Come now, let us seek forgiveness for our apathy in the face of a world that needs Jesus more than anything else.

Let me add, if you do not know Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are not set for life! He died on the cross for you and rose to give you the assurance of eternal life. Turn from you sin and accept Him today.

 

Additional Illustrations:

 

THE FEARFUL RESULTS OF "ALMOST"

In one of his great sermons, Dr. William Evans made these pointed comments: "Have you ever noticed the danger of standing on the borderline? Some who became the greatest enemies of the Gospel were once so close to accepting the Lord that it's a wonder they still were lost. Consider Aaron Burr, who was accused of treason and bartering America for his own gain. Earlier in life, he attended a stirring revival meeting at Yale University. When the invitation was addressed to sinners, Burr was deeply moved to become a Christian. He started forward to seek counseling, but as he walked down the aisle, someone whispered derisively, "Look at Aaron Burr. He's going into the inquiry room!" Embarrassed by these words, he decided not to humble himself, but came back saying to the critic, "Don't get excited! I was only fooling.'"

 

HEY, THAT'S ME!

An Alabama 5-year-old was recently reunited with his mother after recognizing himself on a TV show about missing children. Because of complex family problems, the boy had come to believe that he was where he was supposed to be. But when he saw himself on a television special about missing persons, he realized that he was separated from the one to whom he belonged. He told his baby-sitter, who then called authorities. Before long, he was in the arms of his mother.

This is similar to what happened to King Josiah in 2 Kings 22. He had assumed that he and his nation were spiritually where they were supposed to be. But one day Hilkiah the priest found the long-lost law of God and read it to Josiah. The king suddenly saw that he and his people had been separated from their God by their sins. He tore his clothes as a token of his own personal repentance and concern for his people. As a result, the nation repented and returned to the God to whom they belonged. It all came about because Josiah saw himself and his people in the words of the Scriptures.

 

GROUCHY GRANDPA

A young girl became a Christian in an exciting revival at her church and was baptized the closing Sunday morning. That afternoon she ran through the house singing and dancing.

Her sour grandfather rebuked her with these words, "You ought to be ashamed of yourself! Just joined the church and singing and dancing on the Lord's Day!"

Crushed by her grandfather's attitude, the little girl went out to the barn, climbed up on the corral fence, and observed an old mule standing there with a sad, droopy face and bleary eyes.

As she reached over and patted the mule sympathetically, she said, "Don't cry, ole mule. I guess you've just got the same kind of religion that grandpa has!"

 

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:

Daniel was in the public eye during the reign of four kings and three different kingdoms. He was in the public gaze, yet there is not one blemish stated against his character. He is like Joseph in this regard.

The people of Israel, God’s people, were divided into two parts after the death of Solomon. Israel was the northern nation and Judah was the southern nation. The northern kingdom fell under the judgment of God and was overrun by the Assyrians. The southern kingdom, Judah, lasted for another 150 years, but they were corrupt and disobeyed God and His judgment eventually fell upon the southern kingdom also. In 486 B. C., Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, came into Judah, killed their king and carried many of their people away into Babylonian captivity. Among those taken was a teenager named Daniel. It is believed that Daniel was probably between the age of 18 and 25. Even though he was young, he was one of the most interesting and inspiring people in all the Word of God. In order to see how Daniel’s life is such an example to us in our day, let’s look at some critical points.

Warnings of judgment were given far in advance of the captivity. Yet, the people would not listen and went on their sin. Then the judgment came. Note, that the judgment came when Jehoakim, the King, led the people wickedly. Jehoakim took a pen knife and cut the Word of God. Jehoakim had many blessings. He had Josiah for a father. Josiah was a godly king. He had Jeremiah for a preacher. He had a preacher with a heart for God. Jehoakim would not listen. Jehoakim had some godly advisors, but he would not hear them. Jehoakim cut the Word of God because he did not want hear the truth of the Word of God. Friend, you don’t have to take a knife to the Word of God in order to violate its principles and teachings. God raised up Nebuchadnezzar to overtake the people. In fact, three times Nebuchadnezzar is called by God, My servant. The Bible clearly shows us that God gave the people over to a wicked king! Just because we stamp In God We Trust on our coins, it does not follow that God will protect us when we give way to evil. Remember, that before Israel fell into the enemies hands, prophets cried out but the people did not want to hear it. If you had taken a poll in the days of Jehoakim concerning his favorable leadership, probably 80% of the people would have favored him. The prophets were not popular. In fact, they were stoned, they were criticized, they were rejected. Do you know why? The people were doing well financially. They people were enjoying life. The people were doing their own thing and seemed to be getting by just fine. Then judgment fell.

They rejected and rebelled against the Word of God. For four hundred and ninety years the children of God did not follow the law of the sabbatical year. They were supposed to let the land lie idle one year each seven years. Since they did not obey, they had in essence committed seventy years of sin. It is very interesting that when God judged them, he did so by placing them in captivity for seventy years!

They also had worshipped idols. God sent them to the capitol of idolatry. Babylon was the capitol of idols. God’s people were made to live in that capitol. Friend, for seventy years they learned to loathe what they had loved.

A revival came just before these children were carried into captivity. What a great thing this revival was. This happened when King Josiah was leader in the land. It involved the Word of God. They submitted to it and they were changed. This revival as short-lived, but it did have an effect upon some of these young people. I am encouraged by what I see happening among our youth. I believe there are some of them right here in this church that would stand faithfully even if our nation turned its back on God. When need the preaching of a Jeremiah. He preached without apology. He offended people, but he pleased God. He offended people, but the ones who heard him were truly changed. Our world today is looking for preachers who will soft-pedal on sin and be popular. To change our world, we must have some straight talk about iniquity and make committed decisions about serving our Lord faithfully.