Dear Faithful – Fearless – Fruitful Seed Sowers,
I pray that each and everyone of you are safe in the grace and love of Jesus! The days we are living through are difficult. I pray that you find comfort in these SEEDS OF FAITH and in the living, enduring WORD OF GOD. I pray that your faith will increase and your fear will decrease. God be with us as we face this pandemic. Amen.
Over the past few weeks, we have learned about Daniel. Daniel and his three good friends: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were taken captive from Israel as teenagers and brought to Babylon. Daniel served under four different Kings of Babylon: Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius and Cyrus. By the time we reach this story in chapter 6, Daniel is in his eighties. He has been serving the kings and interpreting dreams for sixty years. One thing is noteworthy to me: during all of his time in captivity, Daniel remained faithful to his one, true God.
Back to our story, King Darius now appoints Daniel to be the one of three administrators over his kingdom. The king has plans to set old Daniel over his whole kingdom.
Have you ever thought about this? King Darius plans to set Daniel over his whole kingdom?
I have! How does someone get to that place in life where the King wants to put you in charge of his kingdom? I don’t know about you, but I believe it was because of Daniel’s faith and faithful service. In our story, we learn that Daniel that is willing to remain true to his faith even when the new order is placed: “All people should not pray to any other god. All people are to only pray to the king, and if this edict is violated, you will be thrown into the lions’ den.” (Put yourself into THIS story, friends.)
What I glean from this story is that Daniel’s coworkers were jealous and envious of Daniel. They know they will not find any corruption in Daniel so a plan is concocted in order for Daniel to fail. After the edict, Daniel goes home, like he always does, opens his window like he always does, and begins to pray to the God of Jerusalem like he always did. We are told right here in Daniel 6 that three times each day Daniel got down on his knees and prayed to God. Daniel gave thanks to his God. As far as Daniel was concerned, there was no edict for Daniel that could stop him from praying to God.
Even when Daniel learned that the decree had been ordered and published and enacted, he went home to his upstairs room where his windows were opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to God, just as he had done before. Daniel 6:10
I like these words, “just as he had done before.” If we were really in this story, we would know that we could count on one thing: Daniel would go home three times each day and pray. This wasn’t just a pattern with Daniel, this was a lifestyle.
The outside world may have been changing, but God had not changed, and Daniel was not going to allow his relationship to God to change regardless of the shifting circumstances.
What about you? Is your outside world changing? I think we can learn a lot from this story. Despite our changing outside world, we can not allow our relationship with God to be changed regardless of the circumstances. We can learn from Daniel how to be faithful and true.
Are there shifting circumstances in our world? You bet. It’s been a year since the pandemic started and our world has changed. Our circumstances have changed. What about you? Has your God changed, too? Or have you remained faithful to God—no mater whether you go to church or worship from home? What would be your response if the government issued the same sort of decree today? “Everyone must bow down to the golden statue.” (We all have a golden statue. We do. We either resist the temptation to bow down and let it control our lives or we bow down. We have much to learn from Daniel today.)
Daniel knew that, no matter what, his God would be with him. He had heard about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. He knew the stories of deliverance of his people. He knew about their former slavery in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, manna from heaven, the cloud by day and fire at night to guide his ancestors. Daniel knew his history and Daniel knew the truth. His circumstances may have been changing but his God remained the same. “Daniel did what he had always done.” Daniel went home and bowed before the one, true King and, soon after, he was confronted by his enemies: surrender, stop praying to your God and pray to King Darius alone or else.
I came across this illustration the other day and thought of Daniel and the Lion’s Den.
Nadin Khoury was thirteen years old, five foot two, and weighed, soaking wet, probably a hundred pounds. His attackers were teenagers, larger than Nadin, and outnumbered him seven to one.
For thirty minutes they hit, kicked, and beat him. He never stood a chance.
Khoury’s mom had recently moved the family to Philadelphia from Minnesota. She had lost her job as a hotel maid and was looking for work. In 2000 she had escaped war-torn Liberia. Nadin Khoury, then, was the new kid in a rough neighborhood with a mom who was an unemployed immigrant — everything a wolf pack of bullies needed to justify an attack.
The hazing began weeks earlier. They picked on him. They called his mother names. They routinely pushed, shoved, and ambushed him. Then came the all-out assault on that January day. They dragged him through the snow, stuffed him into a tree, and suspended him on a seven-foot wrought-iron fence.
Khoury survived the attack and would have likely faced more attacks except for the folly of one of the bullies. He had filmed the pile-on and posted it on YouTube. A passerby saw the violence and chased away the bullies. Police saw it and got involved. The troublemakers landed in jail, and the story reached the papers.
A staffer at the nationwide morning show The View read the account and invited Khoury to appear on the broadcast. He did. As the video of the assault played on the screen behind him, he tried to appear brave, but his lower lip quivered. “Next time maybe it could be somebody smaller than me,” he said.
Unbeknownst to him the producer had invited some other Philadelphians to appear on the show as well. As the YouTube video ended, the curtain opened, and three huge men walked out, members of the Philadelphia Eagles football team.
Khoury, a rabid fan, turned and smiled. One was All-Pro receiver DeSean Jackson. Jackson took a seat on the couch as close to the boy as possible and promised him, “Anytime you need us, I got two linemen right here.”
Khoury’s eyes widened saucer-like as Jackson signed a football jersey and handed it to him. Then, in full view of every bully in America, he gave the boy his cell phone number. He told Khoury to call him if he needed him. From that day forward, Khoury has been a phone call away from his personal bodyguards. Thugs think twice before they harass the kid who has an NFL football player’s number on speed dial.
Pretty good offer. Who wouldn’t want that type of protection? [i]
(Here is the link to a YouTube video of Nadin and the Philadelphia Eagles https://youtu.be/_O4eipeoh78)
Do you know something? God gives us this very same promise. In fact, the writer of Hebrews quoted them in his epistle:
“For [God] has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper: I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?'” Hebrews 13:5–6 NRSV
In closing, I want to share a story. When my wife and I had just moved to California in 1999, we had to bring our van in for engine work. Being new in town, we asked around and found the shop. (Rochelle is a city of 10,000 people. When we left, there were two stop lights in town. Upland had 77,000 people and was surrounded by a sea of suburbs. Finding a new mechanic, new doctors, new friends–all intimidating tasks when you’re new in town.) Anyway, we dropped our van. As you may recall, we are that family that names their vehicles. This van was 7 years old, and had over 350,000 miles on it. We got her when the kids were still in school. We named our van, FAITHFUL AND TRUE BLUE. She was the car we drove through my seminary years, and through our first two church calls. When we went to pick up our van, there was a homeless guy sitting on the curb by the van. The new California plates read GKG with numbers. Jac, my wife, would always say as we climbed into “faithful and true”, “Let’s go serve the Great Kingdom of God, Dave!” We paid our bill and started to get into our car. Wait, the homeless guy. We talked for a bit. I asked if he was hungry (he was) and walked to the local burger joint next door. Jac stayed with the van and the homeless guy started chatting with her. He told her, “You know, you guys serve the great kingdom of God? Your van is faithful and true–just like you.” I delivered the meal. We drove away. Jac told me what the guy had said and asked me to go back. We’d been gone 3 minutes and the guy was nowhere to be found. You see, we were missing home. We had been exiled to Southern California! Our nearest family was 2,000 away. Everything was so new in this land of Oz. As we drove away, I told Jac that God had reconfirmed a promise from the bible: “I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU OR FORSAKE YOU.”
That’s my prayer for you today that somehow, someway you will know that you know that you know that GOD IS WITH YOU.
It’s the theme of our Lenten journey: GOD WITH US. GOD WITH ME.
By the way, God’s cell phone number is JEREMIAH 33:3–put it on speed dial in your heart:
“Call to me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things.”
A hungry, homeless guy in the middle of our desert? Here’s your “SO WHAT?” homework. It’s simple but not easy:
AM I FAITHFUL AND TRUE?
You see, Daniel was faithful and true. He never stopped praying to God no matter what the circumstances of his life entailed. We can learn a lot from Daniel today.
See you Sunday!
I’m praying for you!
GOD LOVES YOU AND SO DO I!