Most of us would agree - God’s best is not found in relationships that don’t work, marriages that don’t last, fears that control us, loneliness that haunts us, addictions that imprison us, jobs that bore us, debt that consumes us, guilt that depresses us, futures that discourage us. Many Christians aren’t experiencing God’s best - and it’s not because God doesn’t want to give it.
So How Do We Get God’s Best? There are certain factors that will seduce your soul and will infect your belief system with lies. These lies will make you think you’re on the right path. But in the end, it will absolutely destroy you and your relationships. But there is another pathway that God offers. That path will seem very hard to start with but if you follow it by his power and by his grace, you’ll receive the best that he has to give you.
1. Daniel’s Journey Reveals How to Get God’s Best For Our Lives in a Hostile Environment.
Historical Setting - 605 BC - Babylon is the most powerful empire in the world - powerful King – Nebuchadnezzar - moving across the world like a wave, just conquering kingdom after kingdom. Babylon is the home of the mystery religions. They have magicians and sorcerers – arrogant – immorality - idols everywhere. Spiritual Climate – Wickedness.
God’s people are in Jerusalem. But they have not been following God. God gave them this promise and warning - Deuteronomy 28 - 30 and many other places. “If you will walk with me, I will be your God and you’ll be my people. I love you. I care for you. I want you to get the best. But if you turn away from me, if you worship idols, if you will not fear me – then I will bring judgment. I will scatter you to the corners of the earth.”
Daniel 1: 1, 2 - Who caused the bad guys to win the battle? God. Why? Judgment. When we do things that are on the wrong path, eventually judgment will come. God is patient and he will warn you about what’s coming because he loves you. He’ll bring pressure to your health, to your finances, in your relationships. He loves you so much that when He see you heading for the cliff, He will start putting barriers up. He’ll bring all kind of things to bear to get you to think.
v. 3 – 5 You can read and discover all that they were going to be taught. v. 8, 9 - Daniel says, “This really violates everything we believe, everything that we are. Can you give us a different diet? Give us just vegetables and water.” Official says, “I can’t do that. I’ll get killed. If you and your friends aren’t looking fit, they’ll kill me.” Daniel’s response -“How about a 10 day test?”
v. 15 – 21 - Daniel and his friends got God’s best. From a teenager until the time he is a very old man, he’s put in positions and has God’s blessing upon his life. He gets God’s highest and best. He does some things that most people are unwilling to do.
I want to point out a few things - not in your notes. 1. We are not at the mercy of a pagan culture. If a 15 year old can do it God’s way in Babylon, I think we can. 2. The future of our world will be determined by who captures the next generation. A lot of people are talking about our children and economic issues. Think about the spiritual and moral issues. I’m going to show you the game plan of God and the game plan of the world. If you’re a parent, I’d really listen up. 3. Protection of our children from our culture is impossible. But preparation of them is imperative. You can prepare them to be a Daniel in their world. I think a lot of us have given up. We blame the educational system, the government and Hollywood. It’s all the terrible things out there. The responsibility for change starts first with me in my life, then my family and my close friends. When that happens in my life, and it’s happening in your life and in our r12 groups, change happens.
We have everything we need. God’s power, His word, His community and we can experience God’s best. We’re trying to hang on and create little bubbles in the midst of this crazy world, where somehow my life can be okay. God wants your life to be more than okay. God wants to use us regular people to bring about transformation where we live and in the world that we live in.
A. The Babylonian (World’s) Gameplan to Seduce Daniel’s Soul – (v. 3 – 7)
3 pronged strategy. They wanted to change his thinking, his worship and his lifestyle. Get information into his head that would cause him to forget his roots. The most important decision you make as a parent, is what you allow into your kid’s head. Biblical principle - as a man thinks in his heart, so you are. If you kill people for hours with your thumbs on a video game, why are we surprised when 11 year olds kill 6 year olds? We have more depression, more anxiety, more violence. You are what you eat, physically, and you are what you eat spiritually and intellectually.
Daniel’s name meant “God is my judge.” So they gave him a new name that referred to one of their gods. They changed his name to try and change his identity and allegiance. They did that for each of the boys. Who are the stars in our culture? When I was young, we were taught – lawyers, teachers, doctors, firemen, policemen, nurses were the people we looked up to. The values were about caring and loving. So who are heroes now? You know your heroes by who you pay the most. Our heroes are 19 and 23 year olds who make millions for catching, throwing, kicking or hitting a ball. Someone who makes it big on Idols. The Michael Jacksons, Whitney Houstons, Amy Winehouses of this world. Your children are living in this Babylonian world. You’re living in it. It’s all around you and me. You will be what you think. So they tried to change their thinking, their worship and their lifestyles.
B. God’s Gameplan to Transform Babylon (The World) – (v. 8 – 21)
The game plan then is the same as the game plan now. God wants to prepare the next generation to change the world. The reason these 15 year old boys in Babylon’s wicked, immoral, sexual culture were pure - they had parents who taught them what is true and what is false. “This is the true God. These are temptations and false Gods. This will allow you to experience grace and the good life and blessing of God, and this will bring destruction. This will be really attractive at first but it will bring death. This will be hard at first but it will bring life. Choose this day who you’ll serve.”
That only happens intentionally - by modelling it - by saying, “I’m going to care about what’s going into my mind and the minds of my children.” The greatest parenting advice I can give you is be a great, godly person. Walk with Jesus Christ.
God positions godly people in places of influence. They were right in the middle of the pagan culture of their day. They ended up at the top. Why? Because they’re getting God’s best. Why? Because the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Daniel would have said, “It’s really hard. It’s upstream. But I know what’s true and I’m going to do life God’s way.” So God has placed you in positions of influence. He doesn’t want to take you out of the culture. He wants you there. The only way we’re going to change the view of Christians is for Christians to live like Christians every day. They don’t expect you to be perfect. They know you’re not and they know I’m not. What they’re looking for is for you to be real.
God prospers those who follow his ways over the ways of the world. God gives favour to Daniel and his friends. v. 21 - for a very long time, a very godly man got all of God’s best and he changed his world. How does that play out for us?
2. Daniel’s Confidence in God’s Promises and God’s Character were the Secret to His Convictions and Courage.
The world has a truth proposition. If you look like this, then you’ll be successful and happy. If you can get enough of this and enough zeros in your salary and enough power, then you’ll be successful. You can create a Facebook page and have a world around you that adores you. We’re creating worlds where we’re the star of our own show. The Bible calls it the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.
You can choose a different truth proposition. God has come in the person of Jesus. He lived a perfect life. He died upon a cross for me to demonstrate his love. He rose from the dead. He said, “I love you and I have your best interest at heart. Take up your cross and follow me and I’ll put my blessing upon your life, your relationships and your finances.” That’s radically different.
It will be hard. But you’ll be the kind of Daniel that perseveres in your marriage when life falls apart. People will say “I’m not sure what’s going on, but your children? They actually seem to like you. How did they turn out like that?” You say “I believe in the character of God. He is good, just and holy. I believe His promises are the key to the fear of God and walking in a path that produces the outcomes that He promised.” The key is people of conviction and people of courage - people who make God’s word and the character of God the core of their life.
A. Conviction is refusing to compromise in spite of the cost.
It could have cost him his life, but Daniel didn’t compromise. His 3 friends in the fiery furnace didn’t compromise. When he is 80 years old and it’s illegal to pray, he opens his window 3 times a day and prays - ends up in a lion’s den. It doesn’t mean it won’t be hard and difficult and painful.
Convictions are more caught than taught. You rub up against people that have them. Proverbs 13: 20 “He who dwells with wise men will be wise. But the companion of a fool will suffer harm.” Your children catch convictions from you. Single people, who you hang around with will determine your convictions. Show me your friends, I’ll show you your future. You decide what kind of person you want to be, then hang around with those people.
Convictions only come by personal discovery. It comes when your nose is in this book and you’re reading it little by little and saying, “God, please speak to me. I’m not earning points. I just want to know you.” Psalms “If Your Word had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.” This is your diet. Transformation doesn’t come by religious activities or trying harder. Transformation comes when the Word of God by the Spirit of God gives birth in your soul to some convictions that you will stand on and live by.
We’re talking about God wanting you to get the best. There’s a pathway to get His best, and it involves His Word, His character, His truth and the community of God’s people. But it requires convictions, not just beliefs. But Daniel also had courage.
B. Courage is refusing to conform, even when you’re afraid.
Courage grows out of convictions. Daniel was afraid. I’ve never met anyone who’s taken a stand, who’s confronted their boss, who’s confronted someone in a relationship that wasn’t afraid. It’s scary. “You know what? I love you. You love me. But we’ve got to do this God’s way. I know there are economic issues, but we can’t keep living together. Let’s spend some time apart. Let’s go through some counselling and then let’s get married.”
You’ve got to get real with yourself. So many Christians live in defeat and guilt. It breaks God’s heart. “I know I’m not what I’m supposed to be. I’ve got these unresolved anger issues. I know I shouldn’t be doing this - I’ve got this - I’ve got that.” God says “Repent!” Have a change of mind. “I’m on the wrong road. I’m going to get off at the next exit. I’m going to do a U-turn. God, I’m really afraid but I want to be on your road. I really want your best.” Courage is doing what you know is right even when you’re afraid. It grows out of conviction.
Courage is sustained by comrades. Proverbs 27: 17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” That’s why we have small groups. Without a support system you wouldn’t make it. “I need your help and your prayers.” That’s the beginning of change.
3. Daniel’s Life Reveals that Getting God’s Best is a “No/Yes” Proposition.
I will no longer be conformed to this present world system. I will allow myself to be transformed by the renewing of my mind. Do you do that so that you can end up religious and weird? So you can never have any fun anymore? “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12: 2 Plug into relationships that are good, pleasing and perfect. Finances that are good, pleasing and perfect. A future that’s good, pleasing and perfect. That’s God’s will. Jesus says it’s not about trying hard. It’s embracing truth, and you can’t do it alone, you need people to help you. You’ll know the truth and the truth will set you free.
Question: How Do You Get God’s Best for Your Life?
1. What / Who do you need to “say no” to that is squeezing you into the world’s mould?
The Spirit of God keeps saying, “You need to let go of that. You need to make that step.” What is it? If you could see Jesus right now, His open arms -“Please. What I have for you is so much better.” Means you’ll maybe have to let go of some people or some issues. What or who is that for you?
Opportunity to dry out spiritually. Consider a media fast.
2. What do you need to “say yes” to in order to renew your mind and experience God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will?
“I’m going to take this little bookmark and use it. For 20 minutes I am going to read my Bible.” Just pray “God, please speak to me.” Start in the Book of Mark or the Book of John. Then read the paragraph quickly – that’s the preview. Then read it slowly and out loud. It’s real simple. (Bookmark)
It’s a very important day for some people. Some of you in this room will look back at this day as the day you made a U-turn. You broke an addiction. You said no to a relationship. You said yes to God. Your life will never, ever be the same. I’m not telling you it’s easy, and I’m not telling you there’s not a wrestling match.
Even if you drive that stake in today, you can’t do it by yourself.
The people that sit around you today, they just look okay. They’re not. There’s nobody here that doesn’t have stuff in their life that isn’t broken. So choose for yourself this day who you’ll serve. The path that leads to life, or the path that leads to death?
“Lord, I thank you so much. I have an overwhelming sense of how much you love the people in this room. Just waves of your heart hurting for people that are stuck in situations and feel guilty and want out. They’re afraid, and you understand. Lord, I pray you would give them the beginning of convictions and the start of courage today. Lord, I pray you’d bind the evil one, and the lies and the fears in Jesus name and allow us to choose life today.
In Jesus name. Amen.”