Daniel in the Lion’s Den (1 of 3)
Series:Fearless: Possessing a Lionhearted Righteousness
Today, we begin a new short series, entitled, Fearless: Possessing a Lionhearted Righteousness. This is a series designed give you a cup of courage. This is a series for people whose courage tank has sprung a leak. I have been asking some of you when and where you need courage. Zane needs courage to live for he lost his mother recently to ovarian cancer. Johnnie needs courage for he is caring for his wife who is dying with Dementia. And Kevin needs courage to do right in a work environment that threatens his job for simply doing right. I think about a high school senior visiting their future university for the first time. Over the course of the next three weeks, I want to look at three profiles of fearless people: Daniel, Esther, and David. We will look at three people from different backgrounds: an elderly man approaching 90 as well as two teenagers. We’ll see bold courage in both women and men. Where does real courage come from? How do you get courage when you need it?
It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; 2 and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”
6 Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! 7 All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. 8 Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 9 Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.”
10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.” (Daniel 6:1-10)
16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17 And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. 18 Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.
19 Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” 23 Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. (Daniel 6:16-23)
This is one of the most enduring and well-known stories in all the Bible and all of literature. Daniel teaches us how to live when you believe in the one true God in a world where the morality compass is broken. For the next few moments, I want you to see how God gives your courage to live out your convictions. Like Daniel, we have been placed in a world of worry and fear. A world very different from the one we grew up in and a world that is evolving quickly.
Gideon’s at Smithfield Middle School
Recently, a senior adult man in our church related a story to me that I want you to hear. In the recent year, he has begun volunteering with Gideon’s, an organization dedicated to handing out Bibles in hotels, school, and in prisons. This retired man stood at Smithfield Middle School just off Davis in our city. He was standing on the sidewalk asking students if they would like a free Bible. When a police officer approached him. Not asking one question, the police officer began to complain about his presence and how they had received complaints about the Gideon’s. Parenthetically, my friend tells me there’s always two reactions to the Gideon’s handing out Bibles at local schools: many people thank them and many people complain they are there. So the police officer continues his complaint about the Gideon’s presence when he eventually recognizes they have a constitutional right to be there. Nevertheless, he eventually asks two questions after his mini-tirade. First, “Do you intend to remain here and hand out these Bibles?” My friend said he did intend to stay there. Second, the officer asked, “How many more of you are there?” When learning there was around three or four more men there surrounding the school, he takes off to share with them what he just said. That’s when the principal of the school intersected his path. The principal loves having the Gideon’s there and has said, “My kids need 3 or 4 Bibles each if you can give it to them.” After a few minutes of discussion between the principal and the officer, the officer throws up his hands and heads back to his car. It just so happened that the path to his police car was near my friend, the retired man who just got an earful from the officer. As the officer approached, this man simply asked him to pause and watch. It was then the Gideon asked two female students, “Would you like a free Bible?” and demonstrated the Gideon’s meant no harm. With this, the officer threw up his hands and walked off.
We live a challenging world. And this series is dedicated to helping you find your courage to live for Christ in a broken world. I want you to see Daniel as a living, breathing example of what Proverbs 28:1 says: “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1). This is a series dedicated to helping you think right about what’s wrong in our world. I want to take you to the soil where bold courage grows.
Fear and Its Friends
The Fundamentals of Courage
The Focus of Faith
1. Fear and Its Friends
The world is a scary place. Whether it is random shootings or the threat of jihad, many of us are scared like never before. There isn’t a follower of Christ who doesn’t at time struggle to reconcile what he knows about God and the challenges he faces. Often when our faith and our culture collide, fear seizes us. While fear is designed by God and it has a wonderful protective benefit for us, it can often lead us astray. Fear can cause us to shrink our where our courage should swell.
Our story begins with the breakdown of administration of the government of the Persian Empire. This was the largest empire in world history at the time. Daniel was chosen and promoted at the expense of others. In today’s story, we see a number of “high officials,” or governmental officials who feared losing control to an outsider, Daniel. Let’s look at what motivated these high officials and satraps for a moment.
1.1 Jealousy & Anger – The Two Friends of Fear
As the enemy will concentrate their fire on the best soldier so did these high officials choose Daniel to concentrate their jealousy. As ants swarm honey after a picnic so Daniel attracted these men’s jealousy.
1.2 Fear Leading to Frustration
Fear travels in packs just a like a wolf. Only these men’s fears might best be described as paranoia. These “high officials” were losing control, and fear motivated them to conspire against him. Here’s something I’ve noticed about me: A cheap substitute for courage is anger and anger is often fueled by fear. I’m angry and frustrated when I cannot control the events in my life. I’m ticked off and I “go off” on a rant. Anger fuels my paranoia. Irony: They thought they were controlling the situation but in essence they were being controlled. Remember this: Evil can never manufacture enough glue to keep itself together. Evil plans have no lasting cohesion and evil plans will always dissolve.
2. The Fundamentals of Courage
Where does real courage come from? How do you get courage when you need it? Some are born with personalities and dispositions that exude self-assurance. Yet, for most of us confidence has to be developed over time. But courage is more than feeling good about ourselves.
Look with me at Daniel’s defiant prayer.
2.1 Daniel’s Spirit
“Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom” (Daniel 6:3). Daniel is approximately 88 years old when he stood before King Darius. Remember than Daniel is a spoil of war. He is a trophy of war in that he was carried off to a strange land and made a salve.
2.1.1 Daniel’s Integrity
“they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him” (Daniel 6:4b). In world where kickbacks were the norm, Daniel was pure and honest. “Then these men said, ‘We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God’” (Daniel 6:5).
2.2 Daniel’s Discipline
I need to call attention to Daniel’s constant and consistent habit of prayer. It would have been an awesome experience to listen outside the doorway of Daniel’s prayer closet. Of all the spiritual disciplines a Christian does, surely prayer is the “lub-dub” beating of the heart. Prayer is a sign of trust – a sign of trust in God who does have the events of my life in His control.
2.3 Daniel’s Defiance
Soon, Darius issues a decree for there to be no prayer for thirty days. Look at Daniel’s Reaction: “When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously” (Daniel 6:10). Daniel prays at the same place, at the hour, in the same position, and in the same spirit as he had done before. There was no alteration in his convictions. Daniel knew that if he were to stop praying as was his habit, it would look like he was complying with the new decree. You need to develop and live life with biblical convictions.
You have three choices for your standards of right and wrong.
1. Internal Choice -Many of us look inside of us to find moral clarity. I can go with the choice that says, “I am going to believe based on what “I choose to be truth.” 2. External Choice- The second choice is what I call external choice. I will believe based on what everybody else is doing. 3. Eternal Choice -The third choice, the choice that I would encourage each us to carefully consider, is what I call the eternal choice: God is Truth. God is absolute. God is universal. God is unchanging.
Note what Daniel didn’t do. Many Christians would rationalize and say, “So what if I pray in secret for the next 30 days.” Daniel didn’t look for a secret place to pray and he didn’t skip his morning, noon, and night devotions. Daniel didn’t pray with his windows shut and he didn’t adjust his prayers according to someone’s convenience. Daniel was a lion of a man for Daniel was a man of conviction.
Friend, do right and leave the consequences up to God. The seductive allure of compromise is like a siren’s call. Do right and leave the consequences to God. I’m not talking about being obnoxious. I’m not talking about being unkind. There is a dastardly wind blowing over many of Christ’s people, where we don’t have the courage of our convictions! We have too many people reflecting the norms of our wicked society and calling themselves Christian. We need Christ-honoring, Bible-saturated people who lead the charge. We have sanitized a culture where no one has convictions. We are strangled by consensus when we don’t have the courage to stand alone in our convictions. He didn’t look for compromise but he went straight-forward in his path of prayer. He would not maintain his position at the expense of his convictions.
3. The Focus of Faith
Certainly, we feel the sleepless night of the king as we rush with him to see if Daniel has been torn apart by lions.
3.1 We All Struggle with Fear
Yes, all of us become fearful, discouraged, and frustrated. But to quote the Duke, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” You see, there was something different about Daniel – he had faith. And we ask here at this last point: where did Daniel get his backbone? What was his secret? Daniel’s courage wasn’t natural; instead, it was supernatural.
3.2. What is Faith?
Courage is always produced by faith. And faith is God-confidence. “He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God…” (Daniel 6:10c). He had faith in God because he personally knew God was alive. Daniel had confidence from above: “and gave thanks before his God…” (Daniel 6:10c).
Remember, “And without faith it is impossible to please him…” (Hebrews 11:6a). Daniel’s faith was from above. He had faith in God for good reason. God never has lost; He remains undefeated. He’s never crashed and He’s never been overloaded.
We need to have our faith focused like a laser. Here are three components you’re going to need to increase your faith.
3.2.1 Your Personal Experience with God
Far too many of you have borrowed faith – God is your father’s God, your pastor’s God, or your wife’s God. What you need is God to be YOUR God. You need to recognize there is a relationship between the strength of your faith & personal experience with God.
3.2.2 The Size of Your God
You need to recognize there is a relationship between the strength of your faith and the size of your God. If you have little faith then your view of God is too small. Faith places the glory, the power, and the presence of God on display for all to see. Faith says, “God will come through.” One of the biggest obstacles to possessing lionhearted righteous boldness is simple: People are too big and God is too small. Fear grows when people are big and God is small. “For, ‘Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him’” (Hebrews 10:37-38). But conversely faith grows when God is big and people are small.
3.2.3 The Eye of Your Faith
You need to shift your eyes from what threatens to destroy you to the One who promises to deliver you. The power of faith isn’t your faith itself. The power of faith is in the One you believe. Focus your faith by putting the crosshairs on Christ. Christ is the power that faith draws its strength from. Faith is sight even when the lights are off.
I find it interesting that the story is from King Darius’ point of view. Even though Daniel wrote the account, the reader is taken inside the king’s bedroom rather than inside the lion’s den. And there’s a real irony here when we compare to two men’s perspectives that night: one man was at peace while the other was in conflict. We are told that the King “cried out in a tone of anguish” from the safety of his kingly palace (Daniel 6:20b). All the while it was discovered that “no kind of harm was found on” Daniel inside the lion’s den. When are working against God, you will not sleep even when you are in a sleep number mattress. But when you are in the will of God, you will sleep on a bed of lions. The king had every thing at his disposal for comfort and rest where Daniel only had the presence of God.