Standing Strong For God

Today we are going to consider the eighth major test God puts us through found in the book of Daniel.  Each time Daniel went through one of these tests he passed with flying colors and God saw that he was promoted to a position of more power and influence.  God always tests us before he blesses us.  At this point Daniel is an old man.  He’s survived three regime changes and now he’s serving under the Persian Emperor.  Daniel was such an amazing man of integrity, such a leader, such a wise man, that each time a new king came into power, they chose to keep Daniel on as an advisor.  Usually when a new king comes to power, they clean house and get rid of all the people who were serving the previous administration.  But not Daniel.  He keeps getting rehired.  We’re going to pick up today where we left off last week.  Daniel has a new boss—Darius the Mede, who is a general to Cyrus the Great, king of the Persians.  This is all documented in extra-Biblical sources.  Darius was the one who actually killed Belshazzar, the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar who was a really, really terrible leader.  Darius saw something in Daniel that made him keep Daniel on to serve the new emperor.  What was it about Daniel that enabled this to happen?  What did people see in him that kept him getting promoted to positions of greater power and influence?  That’s what we’re going to look at today.

FIRST, Daniel kept getting promoted because HIS EXCEPTIONAL QUALITIES MADE HIM STAND OUT.  He was exceptionally gifted.  He was wise beyond all the others.  Why?  Because he was a lifetime learner.  We talked about that last week.  Never stop learning and remember, you can learn something from anyone if you know ask the right questions.  When it comes to wisdom, there is no age limit.  There are some careers that peak when you’re young.  Olympic gymnasts peak at around 17 years old.  NFL football players peak around 28 or 29 years old.  But if you want to be a man or woman who excels in wisdom, there is no age limit to reaching your peak.  It’s something you can get better at with age.  Daniel certainly did and his new boss noticed him for his exceptional qualities.  The Bible says, “Daniel so distinguished himself above all the others, the other governors, and administrators, [and advisors] because of his exceptional qualities that the king planned to put Daniel in charge of the entire kingdom.” (Daniel 6:3)

That’s quite a promotion!  Who doesn’t want to be promoted?  Who doesn’t want to move up the ladder of success to greater effectiveness, greater influence, greater income, greater power?  The secret to success is to let your exceptional qualities make you stand out.  Daniel did that by being a student of God’s Word.  He did that by being a student of people.  He did that by learning all he could from those who came before him.

When Darius the Mede came into power, he reorganized his empire.  He set up 120 provinces over the empire with an administrator over each province.  Then he set up three governors over all the 120 provinces.  He appointed Daniel as one of the three governors.  Now Darius is thinking about putting Daniel in charge of the entire kingdom because of his exceptional qualities.  Something else made Daniel stand out.

The SECOND thing was HIS PERSONAL CHARACTERDaniel was a man of outstanding character.  The king was planning to put him in charge of the entire kingdom, but this didn’t set well with the other administrators. The Bible says, “When the administrators heard the news, they tried to find a reason to undermine Daniel in his work and accuse him of misconduct, but they were unable to do so.  They could not find anything to say against him!  He was honest, reliable, hardworking, and incorruptible.  He was never lazy or negligent in any task.”  (Daniel 6:4)   That, my friends, is why Daniel kept getting promoted.  He was honest, reliable, hardworking, incorruptible and never lazy.  That’s what it means to be a person of outstanding character.

We don’t exactly know why, but the other administrators were not happy about Daniel getting promoted over them.  They may have just been jealous.  Maybe they didn’t like the fact that Daniel was a Jew, an outsider.  So they began to think of a way to take Daniel down and get rid of him.  They conspired together against Daniel so he would not be promoted over them, but they couldn’t come up with anything to say against him.  That’s because Daniel was a man of exceptional qualities and outstanding personal character.  There’s one more reason Daniel stood out.

THIRD, HIS COMMITMENT TO GOD MADE HIM STAND OUT. Daniel refused to hide the fact that he was a Jew.  He was very open about his faith and his love for his God.  Everybody knew Daniel was a loyal believer in the Most High God.  His co-workers were about to use that against him.  The Bible says, “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.’” (Daniel 6:5)  So they put their heads together and came up with a plan, a way to use Daniel’s commitment to his God against him.  The Bible says, “So these administrators went as a group to the king and said, “May King Darius live forever! [they butter him up]. The Royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisors and governors have all agreed [of course not Daniel] 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 you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. …issue the decree and put it in writing so it cannot be altered or appealed… So King Darius put the decree in writing.” (Daniel 6:6-9)  BAM!!  It was now irreversible.  Not even the king could undo a royal edict once it was put into writing.  There was no repeal process.

These jealous co-workers had sealed Daniel’s fate, at least they thought they had.  They had manipulated the king, tapping into his huge EGO, getting him to sign the edict into law and now there was nothing the king could do to stop it.  The Bible says, “When Daniel learned that the new law had been signed, he went home and knelt down to pray as usual in his upstairs room, with his windows open wide toward Jerusalem.” (Daniel 6:10)   He chose to do what he always did—pray to his God with the window open wide toward Jerusalem.

What were Daniel’s options?  Daniel could have decided to hide his praying.  He could have faked that he was praying to King Darius for thirty days and then go back to praying as usual.  That would be to “go with the flow.”  But he didn’t.  He could have protested the law with picket signs and marches, but that wouldn’t accomplish anything because he wasn’t living in a democracy where you have the right to protest what you don’t like.  He didn’t go to the king and privately appeal for the right to pray because not even the king could change the law once he signed it into effect.  So he did what he usually did.  He prayed unafraid to his God. 

When Paul and I sit down to eat in our own home, we always hold hands and pray before we eat.  And if we have company, we invite them to join us in giving God thanks for the food we are about to eat.  But when we go out to eat, we don’t always pray before we eat, partly because we’re distracted, but there’s also a sense of not wanting to draw attention to ourselves.  Maybe we’re a little afraid of what others think.  Daniel had every reason in the world to be afraid of praying where others could see him, but he chose to do it anyway.  He was UNAFRAID!

WHY WAS DANIEL able to be UNAFRAID TO STAND OUT AND STAND UP FOR HIS FAITH?  How could he be so strong when he knew it would mean being thrown into a pit filled with hungry lions?

The FIRST reason is because HE KNEW GOD COULD BE TRUSTEDHe knew God was faithful in the past and he would be faith to him in the present and in the future.  God could be trusted to come through for him.  Remember, Daniel’s already been through all kinds of testing and each time he passes the test because God was with him.  He was unafraid to pray as usual because he was able to trust God as usual.  Every time Daniel stood strong for God, God came through for him.  Over and over God was there for him.  God could be trusted to take care of him now.  That’s the first secret to courage—knowing that God is trustworthy.

The SECOND reason why Daniel was unafraid was because HE TALKED TO GOD DAILY, at least three times a day if not more. That’s what he had done all his life.  He drew strength from those conversations with God.  He maintained an intimate relationship with God.  Nothing could come between him and God, not major change, not peer pressure, not being belittled for his faith, not being asked to do the impossible, not success, and not even the fear of persecution, suffering and death.  The secret to Daniel’s courage was that he trusted God and talked to God daily.  The secret to standing strong is kneeling often. The more we pray the stronger our faith will be.

The THIRD reason why Daniel was unafraid was because HE CHOSE THE GREATER REWARD.   He chose to please God rather than man.  That’s how we choose the greater reward.  The rewards of man are for this life only.  The rewards of God are for eternity.  They are far greater.  It’s the same choice Peter and the other apostles made when they stood before the Sanhedrin and were told to stop speaking about Jesus.  They replied, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)   As America moves further away from our founding fathers and the religious freedom established by them in our Constitution, there will be some laws that we will have to disobey in order to choose the greater reward.  Like Daniel, we will have to choose to between obeying the law of man or the law of God.  Daniel is demonstrating what passive civil disobedience looks like.  The law of God says, “You shall have no other gods before me.  Our number one allegiance is to God.  We are not to put anything before God.  The rewards of doing the right thing in the eyes of God are always greater than the rewards of doing the right thing in the eyes of human beings.  Daniel chose the greater reward and he was unafraid.

There are many benefits to STANDING STRONG FOR GOD. 

The FIRST is this: STANDING STRONG FOR GOD GIVES YOU VICTORY OVER YOUR FEARSEvery time you stand strong for God, at work or at school, in your community or in your own home, with a friend or neighbor, it gives you a victory over fear.  Fear is just a feeling and it cannot last.  At the time you may think it will last forever, but it won’t.  You can push through it by standing strong for God.  Fear is like any negative emotion.  Emotions by their very nature do not last, even the good ones.  Fear goes away but unfortunately we invite it back in the front door over and over.

Fear may be UNCOMFORTABLE but it won’t kill you.  When you’re afraid you start to panic and you feel like you’re going to die.  Your heart starts pounding.  You start to sweat.  You may even get dizzy and in some rare cases even pass out.  You think you’re going to die, but you don’t.  FEAR stands for FALSE EVIDENCE APPEARING REAL. It’s a fabrication in your head.  It can make you uncomfortable, but it won’t last and it won’t kill you.  We may say, “I was scared to death!”  But that’s false because we lived to tell of it.  Fear doesn’t kill anyone.  A bad heart might or a bad person might, but not fear.  You can make fear powerless by standing strong in the midst of it.  Peter prayed, “Lord, you know the threats people make.  So help us as your servants to speak your Word without fear.” (Acts 4:29)  That’s how we need to pray.  Standing strong is always a victory over fear.

The SECOND benefit of STANDING STRONG FOR GOD is It WILL STRENGTHEN YOUR FAITH. Faith is like a muscle; the only way you strengthen it is to use it.  You don’t strengthen your faith by giving into your fears.  You don’t strengthen your faith by never using it.  The only way you build muscle is to put pressure on those muscles.  Put tension on them.  Stress them.  That’s how you make them stronger.  The only way to build your faith is to put tension on it and stress and resistance and pressure.  Every time you stand for God and refuse to shrink away and hide your faith, that’s when it gets stronger.  The Bible says, “You must never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord.  With the strength that God gives you, be ready to suffer if necessary, to share the Good News.” (2nd Timothy 1:8)     That’s how we strengthen our faith—by using it!

The THIRD benefit of standing strong for God is it GIVES GOD AN OPPORTUNITY TO DO A MIRACLE. Most people never see a miracle because the never go out on a limb for God.  Never be afraid to go out on a limb for God; that’s where the fruit is.  You’ll never see a miracle until you step out of your comfort zone and stand strong for God. at work.  Every time you stand strong for God it gives God an opportunity to do a miracle.  If you always play it safe, you’ll never see a miracle.  Daniel saw a miracle because he gave God the opportunity to reveal his power.  The Bible says, “At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the pit filled with lions.  When he got there he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, ‘Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”  Daniel answered, ‘O king!  My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions, and they have not hurt me at all, because God knew I’ve done nothing against him or you, O king!’ The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the pit.  And when Daniel was lifted out, there was not a single scratch on his body because he had trusted God.” (Daniel 6:19-23)

The FOURTH benefit to standing strong for God is IT WILL ENCOURAGE OTHER BELIEVERS to do the same.  You will be an inspiration to others.  Other Christians will be encouraged by your example.  If you’ve ever seen the movie BRAVEHEART, then you saw how brave others became because of how brave Braveheart was.  Other people start to come out in the open with their faith when they see someone standing strong for God.  The apostle Paul testifies, “Because of what I’ve been through, many of the Christians here have gained confidence and have become more bold in telling others about Christ.” (Philippians 1:14)

Not only is it encouragement to other believers, but IT IS A POWERFUL EXAMPLE TO UNBELIEVERS.  That’s the FIFTH benefit to standing strong for God.  When you stand strong for God it causes those who don’t know Christ as their Lord and Savior to take notice.  In fact, it may be your greatest witness to the non-believer, second only to how you handle pain and suffering.  Taking a stand because of your faith, because of your conscience that is informed by your faith, is a powerful example of what it means to be a person of faith to the non-believer.  The Bible says, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)  It can win them over.  God can use it to bring them to faith.  That’s what happened when Daniel stood strong for God.  It led King Darius to believe in Daniel’s God.  The Bible says, “Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth…’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.” (Daniel 6:25-27)

SIXTH, when you stand strong for God IT WILL BE REWARDED IN HEAVEN.  That’s what Jesus promises us.  The Bible says, “Consider yourself blessed if people put you down or throw you out, or speak lies about you because of me.  If that happens, be happy, knowing that you will be rewarded greatly in heaven!” (Matthew 5:11-12a) 

When you are tempted to hide your faith and shrink from standing strong for God, remember these six benefits.  That’s how you finish strong in this life—remember the benefits to standing strong for God.  Keep them ever before you and you will endure whatever challenges to your faith come your way.

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