Welcome to Calvary Albuquerque.
We pursue the God who is passionately pursuing a lost world. We do this with one another through worship by the word to the world.
Will you turn in your Bibles to Daniel Chapter 6 verses 1 through 17-- Daniel Chapter 6 verses 1 through 17? We're going to cover more of the text tonight than just 17 verses, but we're going to start with those first 17 for a message that I have titled "Lessons From a Lion Tamer." You know, I don't think it would be any stretch of the imagination to say that we live in a fallen world. Can I get an amen to that, we live in a fallen world?
It's kind of like a bummer, actually. You know, it seems like every year the boundaries get pushed further. And the crimes become more shocking. The headlines become more depressing. And the moral line becomes more and more blurred. And all you have to do is look at the media to see how two things drive our economy. Two things drive our world economy-- sex and lust and hatred and violence. It seems like those two things drive the economy, drive the world today.
I took a look at some of the top Billboard songs of the past five years. And I found that a good majority of them had one of those themes tied into them. Robin Thicke wrote a song called "Blurred Lines." And it says, "I hate these blurred lines. I know you want it. I know you want it. I know you want it, but you're a good girl. The way you grab me, you must want to get nasty. Go ahead and get at me." Those are the lyrics for a song that was very popular-- as a matter of fact, lyrics for a song that somehow ended up on Kidz. Bop
You know, can I just say how stupid that is, Kidz Bop? Like, hey, let's take terrible songs and change the lyrics a little bit so they're not as bad and get kids to sing them so they're like, oh yeah, this is great. Like, what a bad idea. It was not a parent who decided on that one. Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" says, "We're all night till the sun. We're up all night to get some. We're up all night for good fun. We're up all night to get lucky."
Miley Cyrus's "We Can't Stop" says, "Red cups and sweaty bodies everywhere, hands in the air like we don't care because we came to have so much fun now. I bet somebody here might get some now. To my home girls here with the big butt, shaking it like we at a strip club." Man, this was Hannah Montana 10 years ago on the Disney Channel, all sweet and innocent, claiming to be a Christian.
Florida Georgia Line's song "Cruise" says, "Yeah, when I first saw that bikini top on her, she's popping right out of the Georgia water. I thought, oh, good Lord, she had them long, tan legs. I couldn't help myself." And, of course, Bruno Mars' song "Locked Out of Heaven"-- which, come on, can we pick a more accurate song? I mean, he really is locked out of heaven with lyrics like this. He says, "I'm born again every time you spend the night because your sex takes me to paradise."
The age-old adage sex sells has never been more true than today. You want to wash your hair and have millions of women hunt you like an animal? Well, then get Axe Body Spray-- how dirty boys get clean. Want to eat a hamburger? Why not eat the one with the half-clothed model, which is disgusting by the way. Want to buy a website? Buy it from the company that, again, has naked models.
Time Magazine says, "When the sexual freedoms of the '70s were challenged by a rising moral militancy in the '80s," Time noted, "the sexual revolution has not been rebuffed, merely absorbed into the culture." I found some interesting statistics on sex. Adults aged 20 to 59 have an average of five to six sexual partners during their lifetime. Two out of three college students have been in or are in a friends-with-benefit relationship. The average male loses his virginity at 16. The average female loses her virginity at 17. So parents, if you think it's too young to have the sex talk with your kids, think again because they're probably already having it with their friends
I read one article online that was titled, "Young Adults Struggle With Morality." And it said, "A nationwide survey by the Barna Group indicates that Americans have redefined what it means to do the right thing in their own lives." The article continued and said, "Researchers asked adults which, if any of eight behaviors, they had engaged in during the past week." And here's the findings of their poll. 65% admitted to using profanity in public. 38% had engaged in sex outside of marriage. 37% had lied. 33% admitted to intentional exposure to pornography. And 25% had gotten drunk.
There's no doubt that we live in a fallen world. But my question for you is, when we live in a fallen world, is there any hope for Christians? When we live in a fallen world, what sets us apart from the world? When we live in a fallen world, how do we stand up? Or do we just fall down?
Tonight we're going to look at one of the most famous Bible stories, Daniel in the Lion's Den-- a child's story so familiar that we could easily dismiss it and miss the vital truths. In this story, we find parallels and practical principles for our lives today. We find how a child of God-- how a Christian, a believer-- should deal with difficulty and adversity. We find how a believer can stand up in a fallen world when the pervasive rules of society tell the Christian to bow down, when society tells the Christian that they can't be who God has called them to be, when the society tells the Christian that they're wrong, that they're bigots for believing what they believe.
You know, it's worth noting that God didn't deliver Daniel out of the lion's den but rather he helped him in it. And we kind of covered this the first week. But often we want to be delivered or airlifted out of our dilemmas, right? Be honest. If you could have a choice-- even though you know that you learn something in the trials-- be honest. If you could be airlifted out of them, would you take that golden opportunity, that ticket?
I know I would. If I'm being honest, I'd be like, yeah. I know I can learn something from this, but it'd be way better to not have to learn that lesson. You know, we just want to be delivered from our trials, from our tribulations. But that dilemma, that trial, that tribulation might be just what we need to deepen our walk and our dependence on God.
And in this story we also find a man who laid his faith on the line, a man who believed his God. He stood up in a world that was fallen. And as we look at his life, we discover the qualities that can give us that same strength that Daniel had when he was in the lion's den. And we all have those. That's why I started out and why I felt that song was so perfect and that God was just orchestrating this moment because we all have those lion's dens.
We all have those pits that we find ourselves in, those moments when we don't feel whole, those moments when we doubt, those moments when we're unsure of the path that we're on, we're unsure of the God that we serve, where we question, where we doubt. We all have those moments. And chances are a lot of you in here are in one of those moments right now or you have been in one recently or you will be in one pretty soon. We all have those moments. We all have those times.
But I want to encourage you, believer. There is hope in those times. There is hope in the trials. There is hope through the temptations. There is hope for those of you who are at odds with your spouse. There is hope for those of you who find your kid straining and walking away from the Lord. There is hope for those of you who don't have a job and haven't had one for the past six months, and you're wondering how you're going to pay your bills.
There is hope for those of you who have this sin hanging on your shoulder, and you feel like you can't get away from it no matter where you go. There is hope for you. And just like that song says, God is here. He is here. And, Christian, in His presence we are made whole. In His presence we find that hope we've been searching for.
So let's read Daniel Chapter 6 verse 1 through 17 and see where Daniel got his hope. Daniel Chapter 6, starting in verse 1. If you don't have a Bible, by the way, there's Bibles underneath all the chairs. You can pull one out and you can follow along with us. It's a Bible study. And if you're not studying the Bible, then it's just kind of like an inspirational talk. So we've got to study the Bible. It's important to read the word.
Daniel Chapter 6 verse 1, "It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 170 satraps to be over the whole kingdom and over these three governors, of whom Daniel was one, that the satraps might give account to them so that the king would suffer no loss. Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and the satraps because--" I want you to catch this. We're going come back to it. "He distinguished himself because an excellent spirit was in him."
--"toward Jerusalem. He knelt down on his knees three times that day and prayed and gave thanks before his God as was his custom since early days. Then these men assembled and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God. And they went before they king and spoke concerning the king's decree. Have you not signed a decree that every man who petitions any God or man within 30 days except you, oh King, shall be cast into the den of lions? And the King answered and said, the thing is true according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which does not alter.
So they answered and said before the king, that Daniel who is one of the captives from Judah does not show due regard for you, oh King, for the decree that you have signed but makes his petition three times a day. And the king, when he heard these words, was greatly displeased with himself and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him. And he labored till the going down of the sun to deliver him. Then these men approached the king and said to him, know, oh King, that it is the law of the Medes and the Persians that no decree or statue which the King establishes may be changed. So the king gave the command and they brought Daniel and cast him into the den of the lions.
But the king spoke, saying to Daniel, your God whom you serve continually, He will deliver you. Then a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den. And the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signet rings of his lords. Then the purpose concerning Daniel might not be changed." Let's stop there.
As our story begins, we find Daniel. And we all know the story of Daniel, and we all know this story of Daniel. We find Daniel to be one of the three governors over the entire kingdom. Now Darius, the king, not only esteemed and prized Daniel as one of his governors-- one of his chief rulers-- but he so valued this man and saw the integrity of this man who had boldly spoken God's word to Nebuchadnezzar and then to Belshazzar as he told him that he had been weighed in the divine balances and found lacking. He so esteemed this man who was a part of two different regimes before him that, with the conquering of Babylon, Darius the Medo-Persian forces took control. And Daniel is once again put in a position of great influence and power.
And this is incredible to me. Talk about the legacy of a man, the legacy of a Jewish captive who outlives and survives three different regimes and finds himself in a place of power within each one. Think about how incredible that is, that while the kings fell Daniel didn't. While the kings melted, Daniel made it. Daniel somehow found the key to rising when others fell.
And what was the key? What was it that made him so special to the king that the king was about to make him the prime minister of the entire kingdom, the most powerful man in the kingdom next to Darius himself? Well, he had something that we see in Verse 3 that the Bible says was "an excellent spirit that was in him." This brings up something important. Daniel lived in such a way that, through the course of three different empires, he was consistently promoted. And this thing that set him apart, this thing that gave him favor before the Lord and before kings was that he had an excellent spirit.
Why was he promoted to such great responsibility? Why is he remembered as a great man of faith? What qualities did he possess that you and I can learn from and, hopefully, glean from and become like ourselves? Quite simply, it says "an excellent spirit." He had an excellent spirit.
What is an excellent spirit? Well, we're going to see tonight I believe that an excellent spirit is two things. Daniel did two things that gave him an excellent spirit. Number one, he lived purely. And number two, he lived purposefully. I believe those two things gave Daniel an excellent spirit. And those two things-- if you and I live purely and live purposefully, then we will have that same spirit that Daniel had, an excellent spirit, a spirit that God honors and a spirit that, when men see, they will honor as well regardless of whether or not they hold your beliefs.
When it says that he had an excellent spirit-- "an excellent spirit was in him"-- it literally means that this spirit predominated his life. It predominated his life. It was so apparent, so visible that everyone around him saw it. The king saw it and he elevated him. The satraps, the governors, the rulers saw it and envied him. And, man, even the lions saw it and wouldn't touch him.
For Daniel, his spiritual life wasn't just an afterthought. I want you to write that down. For Daniel, his spiritual life wasn't just an afterthought. It wasn't just something that he did when he found the time in his busy schedule. It wasn't just something that he got around to if he didn't have any sports games to go to or if he got out of work at the right time or if he had caught up on his Zs. His spiritual life was something that predominated everything else in his life. As he lived purely, it gave him an excellent spirit.
You know, when we hear today that someone is spiritual, what do we think of? We think, oh man. That person's really out of touch with reality. You know, they're just so spiritual that they're no good here. All they're doing is thinking about spiritual things. And they're just a little weird. Anytime you get around them, they just like look around like they're seeing angels or something. And it becomes something that's almost a negative in our day and age, someone who's living with their head in the cloud.
Not only is this completely unscriptural, it is unspiritual to think that way. To be filled with the spirit means to be controlled by the Spirit. You know, it's the same word, being filled with the Spirit. It's the same word that the Greeks spoke of when wind would fill a sail. See, the boat couldn't move without the wind in the sails. A boat without wind is pretty much useless. A Christian without the Holy Spirit is pretty much useless.
If you're a Christian who has said a prayer and accepted God into your life and yet you're not Spirit filled, you're just like a boat sitting in the middle of the ocean with no wind to fill its sails, nowhere to go nothing to achieve, nothing to accomplish-- just a lost vessel. The Christian, in order to accomplish all that God wants them to do and to be, must be a spiritual person. So a question for you, are you a spiritual person? Well, no. I mean, I go to church once or twice a week. I read my Bible when I have time. But I wouldn't consider myself a spiritual person. I'd consider myself a religious person.
And be careful because we, as believers, are called to be spiritual people. That doesn't mean we're weird or kooky or we walk around with like little ghost-hunting devices trying to find where the spirits are. It simply means that we are spirit-filled, spirit-controlled believers who are allowing the excellent spirit to predominate our lives, to infiltrate every area of our life. 2 Timothy 1:7 says it like this. "But God has not given us the spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound, well-balanced, disciplined mind."
So you want to know what that excellent spirit is? Love, sound, well-balanced, disciplined mind controlled by the scriptures, judging our life by the scriptures-- not living an undisciplined life doing whatever we want, going wherever we want but living a disciplined life that's rooted in sound, well-balanced scripture, a spirit of love, and yet a spirit that's God breathed and filled with power.
You know, I want to add this because we look at that and say, Daniel, you know, it was just different back then. It was just different. You didn't have MTV, Daniel. You didn't have, you know, movies that you could go to that had all kinds of terrible things in them. You didn't have such easy access to alcohol and to drugs. You didn't have Las Vegas, Daniel. It was easier for you.
Oh, it was not easier for Daniel. Daniel did all of this in the most ungodly environment that you could ever imagine. What kind of environment was this that Daniel lived in? Well, it was the lap of luxury. Daniel literally had access to everything the king had access to-- concubines, alcohol, food, whatever he wanted. He had access to riches, to anything that he could possibly desire. Think, like Joseph, he had been given rulership over a large portion of the land, a place of rampant idolatry, a place of incredible cruelty.
The Babylonians were known for the cruelty with which they would destroy their enemies, a place of rampant sexual immorality far more widespread than even our own day and age. Yet in spite of all of this, Daniel remained a righteous man. Not only did he remain, but he flourished. He grew. He expanded his spiritual life.
You know, sometimes we think that the only place that we can flourish spiritually, the only place that we can grow in our walk with God is in the midst of Christians. And so parents have this idea that, man, if I want my kid to love God, I have to send them to a Christian school. If I want to be a strong Christian, I have to work in a Christian workplace. If I want to be a good Christian, I can't have any secular friends because they'll pollute me. It's like, if you get too close to them, it's like leprosy. They just get on you. And that'll make me a bad person.
Now, although it can be true at times for certain people that they need to segregate themselves and they know their own inclinations, they know who they are, and they know that, if they get around certain things, is going to cause them to fall. Although that can be true at times, it's not always the case. Often the most unfavorable circumstances can be the most favorable ground for spiritual growth, the most favorable ground for becoming more like Jesus. In an environment where believers surround you, it's easy to go into spiritual cruise control. It's easy to sit back and relax.
Have you guys heard of Tesla's autopilot? If you're keeping up on the news, you should know about it. Well, Tesla created the car of the future. It doesn't need gas, and it drives you around. Literally, this auto pilot has sensors all around it so that, unlike cruise control, you can turn auto pilot on in the freeway and you don't have to touch the steering wheel, the brake, or the gas. You can sit back, and the car drives itself.
It sounds fantastic until you're watching Harry Potter and a car pulls out in front of you and you die. That's literally what happened. This guy was driving on autopilot and he was watching Harry Potter on the highway going 65 miles per hour when a tractor pulled out in front of him. His car veered off to the side of the road and he hit a pole, and he was killed instantly.
Man, Christians can do the same thing. They can get into this place in life where they turn on autopilot and they think, man, you know, I'm around all these other Christians. I'm in a safe environment. Everything's OK, autopilot. And they just cruise on autopilot like that guy watching Harry Potter in the Tesla. And then, when Satan brings something that they weren't expecting and it veers out in the middle of the road, they don't know how to handle it. They don't know what to do, and they veer off the side of the road. And Satan uses that as an opportunity to scrape them off the pavement.
But when a Christian finds himself in a secular environment, it often forces us to go one of two ways. It often forces us to dig our heels in the ground-- to make a decision, make a determination, live our lives purposefully. Remember, live your life purely. Number two, live your life purposefully. When we hit a crossroads where we have to choose which way we're going to go, we have to make that determination. We have to purpose in our hearts who we are, who we're going to become, to either blend into the woodwork and do our best not to rock the boat or to take a stand and be counted as a Christian.
Look at Verse 4 through 5 of Daniel Chapter 6. "So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom, but they could find no charge or fault because he was faithful. Nor was there any error or fault found in him. Then these men said, we shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God."
It says they sought to find a charge against him. They wanted to target him. They wanted to trap him. His enemies scrutinized him looking for a weakness, looking for some scandal, some hypocrisy, something that they could say to the king. Hey King, Daniels stealing money from you. Hey King, Daniel's doing this tricky thing underneath the table, and you've got to keep your eye on him. Hey King, Daniel's showed up to work five minutes late, and he's done it for like three weeks in a row. I mean, I know he's a Christian and all but that's just wrong.
They were motivated by envy and jealousy. And they wanted to destroy him. James tells us in James 3:16, "Wherever you find jealousy and rivalry, you find disharmony and all kinds of evil."
You know, I want to point out Darius didn't promote Daniel because of his belief alone. He wasn't like, oh hey, Daniel, you believe in something different than I believe? Awesome, I'm going to elevate you to be really powerful. No, what happened is his belief-- Daniel's belief-- caused him to act a certain way, which caused Darius to look at his life and say, I want guys like you on my team. As a nonbeliever, he saw how Daniel's belief made him work harder, made him become more trustworthy and act as a man of integrity. Daniel didn't rely on his beliefs to get promoted but, because of his beliefs, he worked so hard that he was promoted.
Church, the world doesn't need lazy Christians. Realize that your work ethic reflects your faith. And if you are living purely, if you are living righteously you're going to be the best worker at your job. You're going to be a worker such that the boss will look at your life and say, man, what's different about your life? Why are you always on time? Why do you always do the best work? Why do you always work so hard and do it with such joy? Why do all the customers always like you and love their interaction with you?
And there's a good chance that all the other coworkers will look at you with envy and jealousy and say, why is he so good? Why does he always show up on time? Why does he always get his work done before me and with such excellence? Your belief in God-- living purely will give you an excellent spirit that the world, regardless of whether or not their beliefs match yours or not, will look at your life and say, there's something different about him. He's better. He works harder. She works harder. They're more kind. They're more forgiving. What's different about them?
Romans 12:11 says "Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically." Maybe that's the part of the message that some of us needed to hear tonight. I know there's times in my life when I need to hear that message. I know there's times in my life when I need to be reminded, hey Nate, although you're tired, although you're worn out you're serving the most high God. You're serving the most high King.
And all the work that you do, whether you feel like it does or not, it reflects the God that you serve. Realize that-- whether it's at a church or not, whether it's in a Christian workplace or not-- your work life represents your spiritual life. And so, if you tell all your friends at work that you're a Christian but you always show up late, you get bad reviews, you don't work your hardest-- realize that that's a reflection of your spiritual life and your relationship with God.
Look at Verse 6. "So these governors and satraps thronged before the king and said to him, oh King Darius, live forever." It says that they thronged to him. This word means that they assembled so quickly that the king didn't have time to think it out. They were there. And they immediately-- the first thing they say, they flatter him. "Oh King Darius, live forever." Man, you want to know how to charm your boss? That's the way to do. It's not the right way to do it, but just butter him up. And then ask him whatever they want.
It's like when my kids come to me and say, hey, Dad? Yeah? I love you so much. [SIGHING DRAMATICALLY] Can I have fruit snacks? They know the way to get to me. They know exactly how to get what they want simply by charming me and buttering me up. And it doesn't make it any less cute. It's still awesome. I still love my kids when they do that. But they've figured out how to get what they want. And that's what the satraps do.
And the King clearly admires Daniel, so they have to throw up a smokescreen. They have to appeal to his pride to pull this off. In Verse 7 they say, all the governors of the kingdom, the administrators and the satraps, the councilors and the advisors-- we've all consulted together with one notable exception. Daniel wasn't at that meeting, was he? Now, all the governers-- well, there was only three and one of them wasn't there. So you already started off on the wrong foot. This was a lie.
Well, the King ends up passing a law forbidding prayer to any God but him, no prayer allowed by the order of the government. You know, it's been said that a nation cuts itself off at the knees when such a decree is passed. When the nation starts to illegalize faith in Christ, starts to mandate things that are unspiritual, starts to mandate that people don't do things that are spiritual, the government cuts itself off at the knees. You know, it's so heartbreaking to see that our government is on a path in that same direction-- mandating sin, calling what is wrong right, legalizing sin, telling the world that they need to accept sin otherwise they're wrong and they could be held accountable and be put in jail. When the government starts to pull Christianity, starts to pull faith in Christ out of its system and replace it with a pervasive world-minded government, the nation cuts itself off at the knees.
And here we see this lead us to a second quality in Daniel's life that was at the foundation of his excellent spirit. And that is that he was a man of prayer and this really relates to what we said before. He was a man of purpose. Daniel had long ago purposed in his heart who he was going to be. He had long ago decided, when he first got brought to Babylon, this is who I am and nobody-- king, satrap, no one-- is going to change who I am.
He purposed in his heart. He decided he was going to live purely before God. And he purposed in his heart who he was and that nothing was going to change that. And here we see this in his prayer life. He was a man of prayer. Nothing stands out more clearly than this fact. Look at Verse 10. It says, "He knelt down on his knees and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days."
You know, it's ironic that the king signs a decree saying, hey, anyone who prays to any God but me is going to be killed. And what does it say? As soon as Daniel heard this, what did he do? He prayed. The lion roared, and Daniel roared louder. Daniel roared louder.
He said, look, I've decided who I'm going to be. I decided it long ago. I decided what my faith in Christ was going to cause me to do, the path it was going to lead me down. And there is nobody that can get me to stray away from my relationship with God. It says "as this was his custom since early days." Daniel had a habit of prayer from the time that he was a young man till now in his 80s. That's round about how old he was at this time.
So we think of like a young Daniel, right? All the pictures that you always see in kid's storybooks have like a 20-something Daniel hanging out with lions. We're talking about an old dude-- close to his 80s, somewhere in his 80s-- always taking time to pray. It was a repeated habit in his lifestyle since when he was young. Daniel didn't complain. He didn't feel sorry for himself. He continued to live as he always had. And here we see that Daniel was not only a man of prayer, he was a man of purpose.
You know, earlier in Chapter 1 we read how the king brought Daniel and his friends into his court and tested their loyalty to their God by offering them some of Babylon's delicacies. Now, this was the first crucial test for Daniel. We talked about this a bit last week because these delicacies were first dedicated to some pagan God in sacrifice. So to share in such food was an act of worship to the God that it was offered to. This was a test allowed by God to try their commitment.
Remember what we said last week, a stand in the seemingly small area can prepare us for a far more difficult test in the future. We saw this with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And now we see this with Daniel. The little decisions you make now determine your resolve to make bigger decisions later. If Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego failed here, they would have never made it to the fiery furnace. If Daniel would have failed here, he never would have made it to the lion's den.
Daniel 1:8 says that Daniel "purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's table." And it was this purpose made as a young man that gave Daniel the strength and resolve that he needed on this day as an old man. Because he stood strong at the beginning, he was strong and victorious throughout his entire life.
You know, I hear people today say all the time, well, I"ll live for God when I'm older. Right now I'm young. Right now I want to live my life. I want to experience things. I know that sex is wrong, but I'm young and I want to have more sexual partners. I know drugs are wrong, but I just want to try it. I know that this lifestyle is wrong, but I'm a young. And when I'm older, then I'll start walking with God.
What makes you think that you'll all of a sudden start making the right decisions when you're creating a pattern in your life of making the wrong ones? When you create a pattern in your life of constantly making the wrong decisions, what makes you think that one day you're going to wake up and say, all right, I'm ready to make the right decisions? Well, you've made a pattern in your life. And it's hard to break a habit. It's hard to break up a pattern. It can be done, but it requires way, way, way more work than just doing the right thing from the beginning.
And all you'll do is put yourself into a pattern where you inoculate yourself to the truth, where you harden yourself to conviction, where each time you hear the altar call, each time you hear the message, you get a little harder. And you say, next time, next time. Or you hear the truth and, at first, you know that what you're doing is wrong. But over time you just start to accept it. And like the world system of today, you just start to say, well who is God that He can judge me? Who is God that He can tell me how to live?
1 John 5:10 says, "He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself. He who does not believe God has made him a liar because he has not believed the record that God has given His son." And how does this happen? It's not an overnight process. It takes time. It takes a continued lifestyle, a continued choice and action, by continued exposure to the truth of God and a refusal to obey and respond to it. You know it's true, you accept it intellectually, and yet you don't respond.
You become hardened by the very truth that used to soften you, the very truth that maybe at one time you even accepted. Maybe at one time you even went down and said a prayer to accept Christ. But you became so accustomed to making the wrong decisions, to defiling yourself with the king's delicacies, to bowing down before idols, to refusing to pray. You made the wrong decisions, and now you find yourself at a place where you come to church still because it's what you've always done. It's another one of the habits you've created.
But you come to church. And after that habit's done, you go back to your habit of your lifestyle of doing the wrong thing and hearing the right thing. You inoculate yourself. Without purpose and direction in your life, you throw it all away. Drifting in and out of relationships with people, drifting in and out from church to church, drifting in and out of jobs, drifting in and out of your major in college-- you go from one thing to the next.
You just drift. You never make decisions. You never have purpose in your life. You never have directions in your life. You're just always trying to discover who you are. You know, that's like the most millennial thing to say. I'm just trying to figure out who I am. Let me tell you who you are. If you're a Christian, you are bought and secured by the blood of Jesus Christ. You're a child of the most high King.
You have a purpose. You have a direction. And that direction and purpose is to follow God. It is to glorify God and make Him known. That is who you are. You don't need to discover who you are. God's told you who you are. The question is, are you going to accept who you are? Are you going to be empowered by who you are? Are you going to live the life that God wants you to live?
Ephesians 2:2 addresses this lifestyle when it says, "You who were dead in transgression and sins in which you used to live when you followed"-- the word followed literally means meandered-- "the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts like the rest who were, by nature, objects of wrath."
A guy named Robert D. Abrahams said this. "Some men die by shrapnel. Some go down in flames. But most men perish inch by inch playing little games." And that's so true of so many in the church today. They go down inch by inch, playing a game with God. It's a game you're going to lose if you do.
Purpose is vital. It's an anchor in the storm, a base in the battle, a finish line in the race. Purpose sets our course and keeps us on it. When Barnabas came to any Antioch, he exhorted the believers there that, with purpose of heart, they should continue with the Lord. Paul said to Timothy, "You have fully known my purpose. My determined purpose is to know Him."
Prayer was as important to Daniel's soul as food was to his body. Again, he was a man in which his spirit predominated his lifestyle. He had an excellent spirit, a spirit that could not be hidden even if he wanted to. It was just who he was. Do you have an excellent spirit? Is your faith, your belief, your love for Jesus Christ who you are and can't be hidden no matter what you try to do? It's just who you are? It's evident, it's visible? It can't be hidden?
No doubt, when Daniel bowed before the Lord and prayed on his knees, he received the fearless courage that he needed to stand up to the satraps. Look, if you kneel before God, you can stand before any man. You can stand before any man, anything the world has to bring your way, anything you have to face in the world. If you have first, before you have come to that encounter, been on your knees before God, then you can stand before man. It could have been-- amen.
I want you to think that it could have been a really big temptation for Daniel to just shut the door. That's all he had to do, just shut the door and shut the windows. The privacy of his own home, the satraps aren't going to be coming knocking down the door. They're probably just waiting to see what he always does, pray with the door open and the windows open. He could have just shut the door, closed the shades. He could have just prayed silently to God with his eyes open, looking around, making sure no one was watching.
But he knew in his heart that would be a compromise. His sense of purpose would not allow him to do that which he knew was wrong in his heart. He could have reasoned and said, well, the law said just 30 days. And I'm all prayed up, man. I've been praying three times a day for the past 70 years. I'm good for 30 days. I'll just hold out for 30 days. God will understand. I'll just sit there. You don't have to kneel or close your eyes to talk to God. You can just sit there and do it silently. I'll just pray in my heart.
Look, we're going to face similar challenges, though not always so dramatic. When you're with your family in a restaurant, do you pray before you eat? I know it sounds so silly and so simple, but people notice. How do I know they notice? Because I've had people come to me and say, thank you for praying publicly in the restaurant. That means a lot. When you pray publicly, people notice.
When you're at a family gathering like Thanksgiving and you have non-believing family who is there and you know they're hostile towards your faith in God, do you open up the meal with a word of prayer? Don't deny Him. Do you realize that sometimes to not confess Him when the occasion arises is to deny Him? When someone says, hey, why do you live the way you do? Where do you get your value system? Why are you so happy all the time?
What's your response to questions like that? Well, it's just because I was brought up well. My parents raised me right. Or I just am, it's just my way. It's just who I am. You can choose to live differently. We all have our own path in life. It doesn't matter. You choose your way, I'll choose mine.
Daniel didn't change a thing when he was attacked for his faith, and nor should we. Persecution should not drive us from the Lord, but it should draw us closer to the Lord. Persecution should not drive us from the Lord, but it should draw us to the Lord. It should draw us to search the scripture that we might have answers to those skeptics that bombard us with doubts and questions. When the lions of life roared, Daniel wasn't scared because he had heard the lions roar, and he roared a lot louder. When the lions reared their teeth and roared, it didn't shut him up. He just roared louder.
Let me ask you a question. What would it take to shut you up? How loud do the lions have to roar to stop you in your tracks? My dad discussed this concept in his book Defying Normal. He said, what would it take to persuade you to fall away from following God? What would it take to convince you to stop trusting Jesus? The death of a child, would that do it for you? A lingering disease, the loss of a job, disappointment or betrayal from your friends, the hypocrisy of the church or other believers?
Church, don't let the roars of the world scare you away from following the true lion, the Lion of the tribe of Judah. There is strength in the pack. And although it's scary hearing the roars of the other packs, don't let them trick you into straying away. Stick with Mufasa.
He is the biggest, baddest one of the pack. And as long as you're with Mufasa, the hyenas can't do anything to you.
You know, people attack us as Christians. They call us Bible-thumping bigots. Because we believe that God created men for women and women for men, we're homophobic and intolerant. Because we believe the words of Jesus when He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life and no one"-- no one-- "comes to the Father but through me," we're narrow minded. Because we believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, we are simple-minded fools for believing fairy tales.
What do we do when these things are said about us? Keep on doing what we're doing. Don't stop and don't waste time trying to argue that, no, that's not who I am. Do what Daniel did. Instead of trying to argue with them, just do what you've been doing. Just keep doing it. Just keep following. Just keep praying. Just keep pursuing. Just live purely and live with purpose. God will deal with them, you don't have to.
Keep on doing what you're doing. Keep on praying. Keep on preaching. Keep on living the Christian life. In my dad's book, he says, "It doesn't take a lot of people to change a culture. It just takes the right people." Church, I challenge us. Let's be the right people. As we said last week, just a few people can affect the moral climate around them-- people who don't let the heat melt them, people who are determined to make it, people who view their interruptions as opportunities.
Verse 10, look at it with me. It says, "He knelt down on his knees three times that day and prayed and gave thanks." What could he possibly give thanks for? 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, "In everything give thanks for this is the will of God and Christ Jesus for you." What's the will of God for you? To give thanks. Philippians 4:6 says, "Be anxious for nothing. But in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." Be anxious for what? But in everything do what?
Why did Daniel give thanks? Because he was supposed to. Here's the point. When Daniel faced the heat of the persecution, instead of giving God attitude, he gave God his gratitude. Come on, somebody. That's good.
[LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE]
When Daniel experienced the heat of persecution, he didn't give God attitude. God, why would you let this happen? I've been faithful. I've been righteous. He didn't give God attitude, he gave God his gratitude. He said, thank you, Lord, for being with me. Thank you, Lord, for strengthening me. Thank you, Lord, for promising to never leave me or forsake me. Thank you, Lord, for bringing this my way. Instead of fearing the trial, he gave thanks for it. Instead of melting in the heat, he determined that he would make it. Instead of complaining to God about the interruption, he gave thanks to God for the opportunity.
I shared a message last year called "All to You." And I said that life is full of interruptions. Life's full of interruptions. Just like Daniel, something comes your way. Someone tells you what you should do or what you shouldn't do, an interruption to your plan. But remember I said our interruptions are His opportunities.
When Elijah was confronted with the prophets of Baal, it was an interruption. But to God it was an opportunity. When Moses led the people to a dead end at the Red Sea, it was an interruption. But to God it was an opportunity. When Jesus Christ was taken captive, beaten, and crucified, it was an interruption to the disciples. But to God it was an opportunity. Your interruptions are God's opportunities. Your objections are God's qualification. So it's time to stop doubting the interruptions and start trusting the opportunities. It's time to stop giving God attitude and give Him a little gratitude.
Stop looking at your problems through the lens of interruption. Start looking at your problems through the lens of opportunities so that you can say, like Joseph, "What you meant for evil against me, God meant for good."
Let's look at how God turned this interruption into an opportunity. Look at verse 11 through 18 as we wind down to a close. "Then these men assembled and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God. And they went before the King and spoke concerning the king's decree, have you not signed a decree that every man who petitions any God or man within 30 days except you, oh King, shall be cast into the den of lions? And the King answered, the thing you say is true according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which does not alter.
And so they answered and said before the king, that Daniel who is one of the captives from Judah does not show regard to you, oh King, or for the decree which you have signed. But he makes his petition three times a day." Daniel's still praying, King. He doesn't like you. "And the king, when he heard these words"-- what does it say? Was he greatly displeased with Daniel? No, he was greatly displeased with himself. "And he set his heart on Daniel to deliver him. And he labored till the going down of the sun to deliver him," trying to find a way. There's some way out of this! I've got to figure it out.
And then these men approached the king and said to him, "Know, oh King, that this is the law of the Medes and the Persians that no decree or statute which the King establishes may be changed. And so the King gave the command, and they brought Daniel and cast him into the den of the lions. But the King spoke, saying to Daniel, your God whom you serve continually will deliver you. Then a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den. And the King sealed it with his own signet ring and the signets of his lords. And the purpose concerning Daniel might not be changed."
Verse 18, "Now the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting. And no musicians were brought before him. Also, his sleep went from him." Hey, do you think, if he really believed what he told Daniel, he would have had a tough time sleeping? No. He says, hey Daniel, you're going to be OK! God's going to take care of you. And then he went home and said, oh my gosh. My best governor's dead. He's Meow Mix. The lions are chomping on him.
It says in that passage "and the king, when he heard these words, was greatly displeased." Look, it's easy to look at this and say, here's the king. Can't he just free Daniel? See, the pagans had laws that their king was a God and, thus, his decision was irrevocable even by the king himself because it was the decree of a God, and you couldn't go against the gods.
It appeared that all was lost, that Daniel was going to spend his last night on earth. But God was at work. God was doing something. An angel of the Lord was there to deliver him. The king spent a sleepless night despite the comforts of his palace. Meanwhile, Daniel slept like a baby cuddling some kitty cats. Check it out. It's much better to even be in a lion's den with God than to be anywhere else without him.
When the king came to the mouth of the den in the early morning, he found out the secret to Daniel's deliverance. Look at Verse 20 with me. Verse 18 through 19, he comes to the mouth of the pit. He opens the pit. He cries out to Daniel. Daniel responds in Verse 20. "And when he came to the den, he cried out with a lamenting voice to Daniel. The king spoke saying to Daniel, Daniel! Servant of the living God, has your God whom you serve continually been able to deliver you from the lions?"
"Has your God whom you serve continually"-- again, look at his life and excellent spirit. He lived pure. He lived purposefully. He served God continually. Many of us serve God sporadically at best. We serve God when we have a problem or a crisis. But Daniel served his God continually-- in times of affliction and adversity as well as in times of prosperity and plenty, in times of persecution as well as in times of peace, in times of sickness and helplessness as well as in times of health, in times of pain and poverty as well as times of success and blessing. Daniel viewed his relationship with God like wedding vows. Meanwhile, many of us are lucky if we treat our wedding vows like wedding vows.
Daniel honored God. He didn't stray from God. And how did God honor that? Look at Verse 22. Verse 22, Daniel gives the response to Darius of what happened. And he says, "My God--" I love it. "My God sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths." Man, when the lion roars sometimes we've just got to say, shut your mouth. When the lion rears its teeth, we've just got to look at God and say, God, can you shut that lion's mouth? Can you keep that lion quiet? Can you deliver me from this situation?
God used this blatant attack from the enemy to show His glory. Satan thought he had finally silenced Daniel, but he forgot who Daniel spoke for. Satan thought the lions would rip him apart, but he forgot who controlled the lions. Satan reared his ugly teeth. But he was quickly reminded that, although he is a lion seeking whom he may devour, God is a lion tamer, and He carries a really big whip. And God cracked that whip and said, Satan, you shut your mouth. He shut those lions' mouths. Daniel was not kept from the lion's den, but he was kept in the lion's den.
Look, Church. Jesus didn't promise that He would keep us from trials. But He did promise that He would never leave us or forsake us in trials. God didn't promise you that bad things wouldn't happen. All He said is that I'm going to be there with you when they do. And if our trials look anything like Daniel's, that's pretty comforting. He gave Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego a guided tour of the fiery furnace. He gave Peter two get-out-of-jail-free cards. And here he gives Daniel a night that Siegfried and Roy could only dream of.
I want you to look at Verse 24 as we come to a close. It's a fascinating passage. "And the King gave the command. And they brought those men who had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions-- them, their children, and their wives." Keep in mind this was the king. It wasn't Daniel who did this. "And the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces before they ever came to the bottom of the den.
Then King Darius wrote to all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth, peace be multiplied to you. I make a decree that, in every dominion of my kingdom, men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel for He is the living God. And steadfast forever His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed. And His dominion shall endure to the end. He delivers and rescues, and He works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions." Man, that's gospel. Come on, somebody.
That was a good message. I needed to hear that. Notice how those who laid their trap for Daniel fell into it themselves. Psalm 76:10 says, "Surely the wrath of man shall praise you." Don't you love it when God turns the devil's plans onto himself? The devil thought he was really sneaky finding a way to get Daniel killed. But God ended up using it to cause Darius to believe in the one true God and send a decree to his entire kingdom. Hey, people, you'd better believe in God because He's the one true God. Satan wanted to shut Daniel up, but all he did was give Daniel a microphone and a megaphone.
The devil thought he got Paul to stop preaching by putting him in prison, but all he did was put Paul in Rome where God wanted him so the gospel could spread to the world. Good job, Satan. The devil thought he finally won when Jesus died on the cross. But he forgot that God holds the keys to life and death. And all he did was seal his own faith.
Are you in a lion's den right now? Do you feel like Satan's put you there-- a family or workplace hostile to the gospel? You feel misunderstood, misrepresented. Christian, take heart. Stand firm. Remember, Satan is like a lion seeking whom he may devour. But God is a lion tamer. So when the lion roars, Daniel went into his room and he roared louder. When the lions of your life roar, I encourage you, roar louder.
As we close, we remind ourselves that, if we want to be like Daniel-- if we want to have an excellent spirit, a spirit that people notice-- we need to live purely and we need to live purposefully. Amen. Lord, we thank you for your word. We thank you that it does not return void. We thank you that you have an answer for everything in life, Lord. And even when we feel like we're in a pit surrounded by lions, you've got an answer for that.
And, God. I pray for each person here in this room, Lord, who's going through their own set of trials, their own set of temptations, their own set of difficulties, some people who feel like they're in the pit of life. Lord, I pray that you would help them to have an excellent spirit. Lord, help them to live purely help them to live purposefully. And Lord, I pray that, as they do that, Lord, that you will honor them-- that not just you will honor them, Lord, but those around them will honor them as they have that excellent spirit, Lord, that they'll get job promotions, that they'll get encouragement, that they'll have strong relationships with their spouse, with their kids.
Lord, give them an excellent spirit. Help them to make a difference. Help them to take a stand like Daniel did. Lord, help us to learn these "Lessons From a Lion Tamer." In Jesus' name we pray, amen.
What binds us together is devotion to worshipping our Heavenly Father, dedication to studying His word, and determination to proclaim our eternal hope in Jesus Christ.
For more teachings from Calvary Albuquerque and Skip Heitzig, visit calvaryabq.org.