Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Story of God: Daniel

There is a story called "If You Give a Pig a Pancake."  I used to read it to my kids.  The premise is pretty simple.  If you give a pig a pancake, he'll want syrup.  This means he will get sticky and then need a bath.  If he takes a bath he will see the rubber duck in the tub and it will remind of life on the farm.  Then...well you get it.

If you pick up the story in the end and you see a house destroyed by a pig, you won't realize that it all began with a pancake.

Daniel was a young man when the Jewish people were taken away and exiled to Babylon.  Daniel lived his life as an outsider.  He lived in a place that did not recognize, much less worship his God.  This strange place did not honor his heritage or even speak his language.  But read this:

So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.  Daniel 6:28

Daniel had personal success in a time of collective disappointment.  The entire nation of Israel mourned its loss of identity.  Many gave up hope.  But Daniel thrived.

So maybe I should ask the question, "What’s my excuse?"  I may have all kinds of reasons that I'm not successful right now.  But when I look at Daniel's situation, it seems that my reasons are really just excuses.

In fact, Daniel became such an influential person that after one miraculous experience, the king actually turned his nation to God.

Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth: “May you prosper greatly! 26 “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.  Daniel 6:25-26

Daniel changed a nation by being himself!  He simply took advantage of the opportunities in front of him and made a difference.  Could there possibly be areas of influence in my life that I'm neglecting?  I may be waiting to be crowned king but God is waiting on me to honor the influential moments He has already given me.  I don't have to be king to shake the kingdom.

So what happened that allowed Daniel to have this moment?

Daniel was given a choice. He could bow to His God or he could bow to the king.  A law had been issued that outlawed prayer to the God of Israel.  If anyone bowed to anyone or anything other than the king, he would be thrown into a pit filled with hungry lions.

Daniel chose faithfulness to God.  He was thrown into the pit.  But God was with him.  The morning after he was given over to the lions, the king looked into the pit and saw that Daniel was alive!  The king said, "What happened?"  Daniel responded.

"My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”  Daniel 6:22

Daniel experienced miracles because of his faithfulness.  It makes me wonder where I have given up. In what area of my life have I thrown in the towel.  The truth is that everything is possible.  There are no lost causes.  Maybe I will see a miracle if I can muster the strength to believe and to stand.

But how is this possible?  How does someone find the will to walk with God in the face of opposition like that?  It's not normal.  What was the secret to Daniel's success?

Daniel's "pancake" moment was at the beginning.  Back at the start, Daniel set things in motion.  He set himself up for success with a simple decision.  Back when the banning of prayer was first announced.

Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.   Daniel 6:10

The key is in the phrase "just as he had done before."  Daniel disciplined himself to pray and depend on God long before there was opposition or trouble.  He did not wait until the storm came to develop his shelter.  Strength is not developed on stage.  Strength is developed in the quiet private moments that no one else sees.  It is forged in small decisions to honor God and chase faithfulness.

My strength for tomorrow is being determined by the decisions I am making today.

Everybody gets religious in the lion’s den.  But if I wait until then to strengthen my faith, I miss the beauty of Daniel's story.  It all began on a boring Tuesday morning (perhaps) when he made the simple choice to fall on his face before God.  Not because of impending doom.  Not because his life was on the line.  But out of obedience and a desire to know God.

The result was that he changed the world.

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