Daniel - Surviving and Thriving in a pagan world
There are many men and women of integrity in the Bible. Any Old Testament list would have to include Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Ruth, David, Nathan, Jehoshaphat, Elijah, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zerubbabel, Haggai and Malachi. These men and women stand like mountains towering over the flatland of unbelief, compromise and idolatry.
But for showing us to survive and thrive in a pagan world, there is no better example than Daniel. He spent almost his whole life serving God in a pagan land under pagan kings in a totally pagan culture. And he never compromised his faith. Not even once.
You can tell a lot about a person by the quality of his enemies. Daniel must have been a good man because he had the right kind of enemies. The people who hated him were no friends of God. They came after his faith because they could find no fault in him, and they had no answer for what he believed.
Before we pick up the story in Daniel 6, remember these 2 facts:
i. Daniel is now a very old man. He came to Babylon as a teenager. All his adult life was spent serving various pagan rulers. He is over 80 years old and may be closer to 90.
ii. He is now serving under King Darius who rules over the Medo-Persian Empire. The names have changed but the spiritual challenge is the same. Will he remain faithful under pressure?
1. The King’s Decree v. 1 - 5
As this chapter opens Daniel is once again about to be promoted to high office. Evidently Darius recognized him as a man of integrity and wanted to make him second in command over the entire kingdom. That’s when the intrigue begins. This is what his enemies discovered when they examined his life:
A. He was faithful in his duties. B. He was faultless in his character. C. He was fervent in his prayers.
These are 3 marks of godliness even unbelievers could see. The people who watch you can tell if you work hard at your job. They know what kind of character you have. If they watch long enough, they will learn whether or not you are a person of prayer. Whatever is in your heart will come out sooner or later, and people who don’t know the Lord will know the truth about you. Even Daniel’s enemies had to admit he had no glaring weakness.
“Fame is a vapour, popularity an accident, riches take wings, those who cheer today may curse tomorrow, only one thing endures - character.” Everything has changed but Daniel! He was one way as a young man. He was the same way as a middle-aged man. He’s the same way as an old man.
Sometimes we act like unbelievers are stupid. They aren’t stupid at all. Unbelievers may have trouble spelling Premillennial and they may have trouble understanding the Trinity (just like the rest of us), but they can spot a hypocrite a mile away. And they know the real thing when they see it. Daniel’s enemies envied him, but they couldn’t deny the reality of his faith.
Doing right is no guarantee of anything. Daniel suffered not because he did wrong but because he did right. He was hated because he was faithful to God. The satraps said, “We’ll never catch Daniel doing something wrong unless it’s in the area of his faith.” Let’s suppose that your enemies decided to check you out the way the satraps came after Daniel. Suppose someone hired private investigators to look into every aspect of your life, public and private, past and present. What would they uncover? Suppose they checked out your . . .High School and University records, Phone calls, Internet usage, Favourite TV programs, Tax returns, Business deals, Behaviour on the job, Vocabulary at home, Treatment of your family, Shopping habits, Financial records, Holiday habits, Past relationships, Your bedroom, Police record, Sexual habits, Jokes, Closest friends. Could any of us survive that kind of scrutiny? Evidently Daniel could because he was “a man of unquestioned integrity.”
Daniel only had one flaw - He was so predictable!Every day he prayed with his windows open. He just kept doing the same things over and over again. No big deal. No attempt to pressure others.
He had an utterly predictable faith and that’s what got him into trouble. The satraps came up with a plan in order to trap him. They convinced King Darius to issue a decree that anyone who prayed to any god or any man except the king himself for 30 days would be thrown into the lion’s den. The king went along with it because he liked the idea of people praying to him.
Meanwhile the satraps are laughing. They knew Daniel would break the law. They knew Daniel would keep on praying just as he had always done. Daniel was a victim of his own integrity. He was predictably faithful to God. His troubles came not from his weakness, but from his strength.
2. Daniel’s Devotion v. 10
So what do you do when you discover that your enemies have passed a law aimed at one person - you? It’s like walking around with a target on your back. How you respond at that point tells a great deal about your character.
“Just as he had done before.” For 80 years Daniel had prayed 3 times a day. Each day was the same. Wherever he was, he stopped to pray. His daily routine revolved around 3 times of prayer. You could set your watch by his prayer times. Daniel just went ahead with his daily routine. No big deal. He went home, knelt down, faced toward Jerusalem and offered his prayers to God. He did it knowing that his enemies would catch him.
He could have closed the windows and the satraps wouldn’t have seen him pray. He could have said, “I’ll pray in my heart, no one will know.” After all, he was being forced to do this against his will. It was only for 30 days. But none of those excuses were needed because long ago Daniel had made up his mind to serve God no matter what. In a sense, his prior obedience made it easy for him. He had no decision to make. He just kept on doing what he had been doing all along.
The Real Lion’s Den
Daniel’s bedroom was the real lion’s den. That’s where the battle was fought and won. By committing himself to continuing in prayer, he won the only battle that mattered. When he won there, the real lions were no problem. We think the miracle was that Daniel survived a night with the lions. That’s a miracle, for sure. But the greater miracle was that he continued to pray when his life was on the line.
So what do you do when they call for the lions? You don’t change a thing. Keep on serving the Lord, keep on doing right, keep on living for Christ and then let the chips fall where they may. Why would a man act like this? One answer - He was not afraid to die. Daniel knew he could die in the lion’s den, but he knew that even if he survived that, he would certainly die eventually.
The fear of death keeps many of us paralyzed in the time of crisis. My life is in God’s hands and all my days are written in his book. I cannot die one second before my appointed time, and I won’t live a second longer either.
Daniel had discovered something worth dying for, which is why he kept on praying when others would have quit. Since he wasn’t afraid to die, he had the courage to live for God in a hostile world.
3. The Lord’s Deliverance v. 23
That night the king didn’t sleep well, but Daniel slept like a baby. The king tossed and turned, paced the floor, refused all offers of entertainment and even refused to eat. Early in the morning he rushed to the lion’s den, hoping against hope that Daniel had somehow survived. It is better to be a child of faith in a lion’s den than to be a king without God in a palace.
For over 80 years Daniel’s faith had rested in the God of Israel. That wasn’t about to change. Daniel simply kept on trusting in God, and as a result, the lions couldn’t touch him.
Darius offers public praise to “the God of Daniel” who is the living God who endures forever. He rescues and he saves, and he is the One who delivered Daniel from the power of the lions. What amazing words coming from the lips of a pagan king. Perhaps he became a believer in the one true God. We won’t know for sure until we get to heaven, but I would not be surprised to see Darius there.
Lessons for Modern-Day Daniels
Let’s wrap up with 3 lessons for modern-day Daniels who find themselves facing the lions every day.
1. It is possible to live a pure life in the midst of a thoroughly pagan world.
Daniel’s story demonstrates that if you make up your mind to serve God, you can do it even in the very centre of pagan government. We complain about the difficulty of being a Christian in a secular environment. Sometimes we tell stories of how we suffer ridicule and humiliation because of our faith. But at some point we have to say to each other: Stop complaining! Stop playing the victim card. Stop talking about how hard you have it.
Working in an office building isn’t like working at a church camp. So be it. We have to face the fact that not everyone shares our faith, and then we have to go on from there. You can live for Christ on the job, in your office, in your classroom or in your neighbourhood. There is always a way to compromise for those who want to compromise and there is always a way to obey God for those who want to obey God.
2. God can use us to touch unlikely people when we are faithful to him.
Notice the powerful effect that Daniel’s personal integrity had on Darius. While it is true that many of his colleagues envied Daniel and plotted to kill him, it’s also true that he made a huge impact for good on the mightiest man in the world.
Not every unbeliever hates Christians. For every satrap out there planning our downfall, there is a Darius keeping an eye on us, hoping that our faith may prove to be genuine. Such people have little or no faith, and deep inside they want what we have. Even though they may never say so, they are cheering for us because they hope that what we believe will turn out to be true.
3. God is able to deliver his people from any danger they face.
If God can deliver Daniel from the lion’s den, he can surely deliver you. Generations of Christians have taken strength from this story because in the end, the hero isn’t Daniel, it’s Daniel’s God. That same God is sovereign over those who plot against you. He is sovereign over the lions who surround you. Take heart and trust in God. He can deliver you from whatever is troubling you this very moment.
Daniel is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ who, though he was innocent, was envied and hated and condemned to die. He too was let down into a pit of death and a stone was rolled across the entrance and an official seal placed across the stone. Just as God sent an angel to Daniel, he also sent angels to the Lord Jesus Christ to testify “He is not here. He is risen just as he said.” From that pit of death came forth the Prince of life who has conquered death forever.
He is Daniel’s God. His name is Jesus. He is our Saviour and our Lord. Be of good cheer! Do not fear your enemies and do not fear what they can do to you. Remember the story of Daniel and pray for the same kind of utterly predictable faith.
Someone is watching you!
Someone else is watching over you!
In the days to come we will all face hostility in one form or another because of our Christian faith. Those who serve the Lord never have an easy road in this world. In Daniel we see both the blessing and the burden of an utterly predictable faith. He got in trouble because of his faith, and he was delivered because of his faith. May God give us that same kind of utter predictability so that even our enemies will know we believe to Jesus.
Prayer - Lord, we do not ask for an easy road but for courage to walk the path you set before us. Thank you that our lives are in your hands and that we have nothing to fear because all our days are appointed by you. Give us the predictable faith of Daniel. May our colours be clear so that everyone will know we belong to you. We do not pray for a den of lions, but we ask for courage to go there if that be your will for us. Above all else, may you be glorified in our lives so that others will see Jesus in us. We pray this in the name of him who is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.