We are in the fourth week of our sermon series on Daniel, one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament. God put Daniel through a series of tests and each time Daniel was unshakable. He teaches us how to thrive no matter what is happening to us or around us. So far in our series we’ve seen Daniel go through the test of major change, the test of peer pressure and the test of being belittled for his beliefs. Each time Daniel was tested he remained steady and faithful to God. Therefore, God blessed him with even greater power and influence. God always tests us before he blesses us. He tests us with stress before he blesses us with success.
Today we’re going to look at the FOURTH TEST God put Daniel through: the test of BEING ASKED TO DO THE IMPOSSIBLE. We read about it in chapter two of the book of Daniel. It says, “In the second year of King Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, he had a recurring dream that frightened him so badly he couldn’t sleep. So he called in all of his magicians and psychics and fortune tellers and astrologers, and demanded that they tell him what he had dreamed.” (Daniel 2:1-2) You see, the king didn’t just ask his advisors to interpret his dream, he demanded that they tell him the details of his recurring dream first, and then it’s meaning. Maybe they thought the king misspoke or they didn’t hear what he said quite right, so they asked the king to tell them the dream so they could interpret it. But the king is not going to budge. He says, “This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble.” (Daniel 2:5) Again they pleaded with the king, “Just tell us the dream so we can interpret it.” But the king refuses, and he accuses them all of being a bunch of fakes with no real power or wisdom. They answer the king, “There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks! …What the king asks is impossible.” (Daniel 2:10-11) Again the king tells them how worthless they all are, and he issues a decree to have every one of his royal advisors executed, including Daniel and his three friends. Daniel found himself in a real crisis for he was being asked to do the impossible. All the king’s astrologers were in a real crisis for they were being asked to do the impossible.
Before I go on to tell you about how Daniel handled this test, I want to say a few things about astrologers and mediums and psychics and séances and anyone who claims to be able to tell the future.
FIRST, NO ONE KNOWS THE FUTURE EXCEPT GOD. No psychic, no fortune teller, no medium, no astrologer, no one knows the future, except God. Anybody who tells you they know the future is lying. The Bible says, “No one can tell the future!” (Ecclesiastes 8:7) It says, “Fools claim to know the future and love to tell anybody who listens. But no one knows what’s going to happen.” (Ecclesiastes 10:14) If you want to argue about that, please understand that you are arguing with God. No one knows future except God.
SECOND, ALL PSYCHICS AND MEDIUMS ARE FRAUDS. They are all fakes. Not just some of them, but all of them. They are just conning you, tricking you, misleading you into thinking they can tell the future. Just like Nebuchadnezzar’s psychics, they will ask you for information and then they will surmise a likely scenario. Psychics and fortunetellers are frauds. God says, “I am the Lord, the Maker of all things… I make fools of psychics and fortunetellers and I frustrate the predictions of astrologers, for their ‘wisdom’ is nonsense.” (Isaiah 44:24b-25) There are so many verses in the Bible that warn us about them. Here’s another one, “Do not rely on mediums and psychics, for you will be defiled by them.” (Leviticus 19:31)
God doesn’t want us to turn to anyone other than him for an understanding of the future. Don’t go near psychics and mediums. They are deceptive liars and under the influence of the Father of all deception and lies, Satan himself. This is so serious that God warns us over and over in the Bible. He says, “I, the Lord, am against anyone who goes to mediums or fortunetellers for advice, because that person is being unfaithful to me. So I will cut him off.” (Leviticus 20:6) If you’re involved in any of that stuff, you need to stop it. You need to realize how offensive it is to God.
The THIRD thing God says about psychics and mediums is this: THE TEST OF A TRUE PROPHET OF GOD IS 100% ACCURACY. The prophet of God is right every time, not just some of the time. The Bible says, “If you want to know if a prophet or his message is really from God, here’s how to test him: If any part is false or does or does not come true, then he and his message are fake, and you should pay him no attention, nor fear him.” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22) Not only that, but a true prophet is also 100% consistent with what God has already spoken in his Word. We are to test what they say with the Bible. “‘Check their predictions against my Word,’ says the Lord. ‘If their predictions are different from mine, it is because there is no light or truth in them.’” (Isaiah 8:20)
Now let’s look at how Daniel handled things. What can we learn from him about HOW TO RESPONDED WHEN ASKED TO DO THE IMPOSSIBLE?
FIRST, DON’T PANIC; DON’T BE AFRAID. Daniel had every reason to panic and be afraid, but he managed to stay calm. The Bible says, “When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, came to kill them, Daniel handled the situation with wisdom and discretion.” (Daniel 2:14) Do you know that when you freak out, your IQ drops as many as 50 points. Now, I don’t know about you, but I need all the IQ points I have. I can’t afford to lose any points. Daniel kept himself from panicking and he refused to be afraid. He used all his IQ points to respond with wisdom and discretion. He passes the test. That’s what you call a stress test. The most powerful man on the planet has ordered his assassination and Daniel refuses to panic or be afraid.
What stress test are you facing this morning. What are you facing that strikes fear into your heart? A health problem? A financial situation? A relationship conflict? What has you stressed out? Follow Daniel’s example and DON’T PANIC OR BE AFRAID.
SECOND, ASK FOR THE DETAILS; LEARN THE FACTS. When someone asks you to do the impossible, you need to find out why. You need to get all the details and learn all the facts. What’s behind it all? The Bible says, “Daniel asked Arioch, the captain of the guard, ‘Why has the king issued such a harsh decree?’ So Arioch told him all that had happened.” (Daniel 2:15) Daniel was seeking to understand why the king was so furious. The Bible says, “Get the facts at any price.” (Proverbs 23:23) Don’t do anything until you get facts and understand what’s really going on. Don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t assume you know what’s really going on. Ask for the details and gather all the facts before reacting.
Turns out the king wasn’t just furious; he was really terrified by the nightmare he kept having. Over and over, the same frightening dream. He knew something really bad was about to happen and he didn’t want any speculating from his advisors about what it could mean. There was too much at stake. So the king set up this test to see if any of them could really see hidden things. “Tell me what I keep dreaming,” he said “because I’m not listening to anyone who can’t do what I’m asking.”
Daniel had to ask himself, “What do I need to know before I can decide what I need to do? Get all the details, learn all the facts so you can respond with wisdom and discretion.
THIRD, ASK FOR TIME TO COME UP WITH A SOLUTION. When you’re asked to do the impossible, immediately go to the source of the pressure, the one making the demand, and ask for more time. That’s what Daniel did. The Bible says, “Daniel went at once to see the king and requested more time so he could tell the king what the dream [was and what it] meant.” (Daniel 2:16) The worst thing you can do is react without thinking it through when a crisis first hits or the moment bad news comes to you. You have to ask the right questions to get all the facts and you have to ask for time to think about what to do. If you react without thinking, you’ll come to regret it. It will almost always be the wrong solution. So take some time to step back, take a deep breath, calm down and talk to God. Reacting without thinking is the worst thing you can do. As we’ll see, Daniel needed time to sleep on it. He needed time to pray about it and to ask his friends to pray about it.
The second worst thing you can do is procrastinate going to the source of your stress or pain. What are you putting off that you know you need to do? What are you pretending isn’t a problem when it’s really about to kill you? Who are you avoiding because you know it’s not going to be easy to confront them? Procrastination only makes problems worse. Procrastinating never solves a problem. You’ve heard the saying, “Time heals all wounds.” That’s crazy. If you had cancer, time is not going to make you better. You need to go get treated as fast as you can. If time healed everything then all you’d have to do is go sit in the doctor’s office and you’d be healed. I’ve had a few doctors who must have believed that because they made me sit for hours to see them. But at the end of all that time I was still sick. In addition to my original illness, I was now sick of waiting. Time does not heal all things. Don’t let your fear hold you back. Push through your fear. You get rid of fear by doing the very thing you fear most. Daniel had no time to waste.
FOURTH, ENLIST PRAYER SUPPORT FROM YOUR FRIENDS. That’s what Daniel did. The Bible says, “Then Daniel went home and told his three friends …what had happened. Then he said, ‘Pray that the God who rules from heaven will be merciful and explain this mystery, so that we and the other advisors won’t be put to death.” (Daniel 2:17-18) When you are asked to do the impossible, when you are facing a crisis, who would be the three friends you would call on to pray? That’s really something you should have in place before the crisis hits—friends you know would pray with you and for you at a moment’s notice, and keep praying until God showed his mercy. We all need a personal prayer team, people we know love us and love God, who will pray without ceasing until the crisis is resolved. Do you have friends like that? If not, you need to get them in place before the bad times come, because they will inevitably come. That phone call in the middle of the night that changes your life forever. That bad news you get from the doctor. That terrible accident that a family member gets in. That life altering, life threatening situation you need prayer for. Who can you call that you know will pray with you and for you? Get them in place before hand.
I think it’s really significant that Daniel asks his friends to pray for all the king’s advisors, not just them. He says, “Pray that …we and the other advisors won’t be put to death.” Daniel isn’t just concerned for his own skin. He’s worried about his coworkers. He’s worried about them being killed too. They’re a bunch of sorcerers and astrologers who make fun of Daniel for his faith. And yet Daniel cares about them and asks his friends to pray for them too.
So Daniel and his friends begin to pray. They pray in a very special way. That’s the FIFTH thing Daniel teaches us: to PRAY EXPECTING GOD TO GIVE YOU SUPERNATURAL HELP. When you’re facing an impossible situation that is humanly impossible to resolve or solve, you need to pray expecting God to give you supernatural help, that goes beyond human ability or understanding. Pray for that miracle you need! Pray for the strength and wisdom you need that goes beyond your ability to something only God can give. The Bible says, “Call to me and I will answer you and I will show you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own!” (Jeremiah 33:3) That’s what they were praying for: the understanding of the king’s dream that only God could reveal. The advisors would guess for a thousand years and never figure out the king’s dream. Pray for God to show you things you could never figure out on your own.
When we pray, we have to expect God’s supernatural help. We have to believe that God is both able and will do what we ask. The Bible says, “If you need wisdom, ask God, and he will gladly give it to you. He won’t resent you asking. But when you ask him, be sure that you expect him to answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is tossed by the wind. People like that should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” (James 1:5-7) God is more than happy to answer our prayers, but we need to pray believing he can and will give us his supernatural help.
The SIXTH thing Daniel teaches us is: GET READY TO GIVE GOD THE PRAISE! When we pray, expecting God to pour out his supernatural power and aid, he’s going to do it! And you need to get ready to worship. The Bible says, “During the night God revealed the mystery of the dream to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven….” (Daniel 2:19) That is the proper response when God answers our prayers. We are to give him the praise. That’s what Daniel did. And we can learn a lot by Daniel’s prayer. In the FIRST part of his prayer Daniel PRAISES GOD FOR WHO HE IS. He praises God for being the eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful God of heaven. In the SECOND part of his prayer Daniel PRAISES GOD FOR WHAT HE DOES. “He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals the deep and hidden things.” (Daniel 2:21b-22a) In the THIRD part of his prayer Daniel offers PRAISE AND THANKS TO GOD FOR HIS HELP. “I thank and praise you, God of my ancestor: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king.” (Daniel 2:23) When we pray, we would be wise to praise God for who he is, praise him for what he does, and thank him for giving us the help we asked for.
SIXTH, Daniel teaches by example to USE WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR YOU TO HELP OTHERS. That’s what he did. The Bible says, “Then Daniel rushed to see Arioch, who had been ordered to execute all the king’s advisors. He said, ‘Call off the execution, and take me to the king and I will explain the dream and its meaning.” (Daniel 2:24) The lesson here is clear: if you have knowledge that saves, SHARE IT. If you have a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, don’t keep it to yourself. Share it so others can be saved too. God doesn’t just want you to save yourself. He wants you to save others: your family, your neighbors, your friends, even your enemies. He wants you to save them by sharing what Christ has done for us. He wants you to share the mysteries of our faith with others so they too can be saved.
The last thing Daniel teaches us is to POINT PEOPLE TO GOD. That’s what Daniel did. He says to the king, “No wise man or psychic or fortune teller or astrologer can explain the mystery of our dream. BUT there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries and he has chosen to show you what will happen in the future… He has revealed this mystery to me, not because I am smarter than everybody else, but for your benefit, so you, O king, may understand it.” (Daniel 2:27-30) It is God who blesses us so we can be a blessing to others. We need to always give God the credit. We need to point people to God and not to ourselves.