March 16, 2016
In my last post we began exploring the difference that one person can make, especially as it relates to our motivation for serving others. You can read it here if you missed it.
This time around I want to continue on the difference one committed person can make by looking into the life of Daniel, one of the most interesting characters found in the Old Testament. For those who are familiar with the book, it has incredible stories of miraculous interventions by God.
Two that come to mind are Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego in the fiery furnace and Daniel in the lion's den. Couple those stories with it's apocalyptic and prophetic passages and you have one of the Bible's most entertaining and profound books. No wonder it has captured the heart and imagination of readers for centuries. For all that the book offers, I believe one of its greatest treasures lies in the person of Daniel himself.
For centuries the church has portrayed him as a paragon of faith, and rightly so. To imagine his life against the challenges he was faced is surely a demonstration of what faithful living ought to look like. Yes, God favoured and blessed him greatly, but that didn't mean that Daniel had it easy or comfortable.
In fact, for Daniel, there was never a contradiction between the sovereignty of God and a difficult life. He held those two in perfect union without it ever affecting his faith, let alone his outlook. Imagine for a moment if you found yourself in these circumstances?
For most, the injustice of the situation would cause us to either lash out, lay back until we could get payback, or simply do the absolute minimum. Further, we would likely live with a deep sense of loss, hopelessness, and discouragement. Our feeling of victimization would even garner sympathy from those who heard of our plight and actually see justification for our outlook.
As difficult as his life was as a captive in a foreign land, Daniel never resorts to the kind of hopeless futility that others would have. In fact, he not only views his situation through the lens of God's sovereignty, but he serves his captors with an excellence that is recognized by every king that comes to power over the 70 years he was held captive.
For Daniel, his life was an active, daily reflection of the God he claimed to serve. It wasn't his captors who commanded his excellence, they were merely the objects for his service. His real motivation was his belief that God demanded his best, regardless of the circumstances. It doesn't end there either. Though Daniel could have held legitimate hatred and animosity against his captors, he serves them out of a heart that seeks the best for them.
Don't believe me, take time to read Daniel 4:19; 27; 6:21. His faithful service become a hallmark of his life that never went unnoticed and gained him not only a reputation and status, but an audience before some of the most powerful rulers of his time. A case in point is Daniel in the lion's den. Through treachery, King Darius was forced to throw Daniel in the pit.
If Daniel was just another average assistant, it would merely have been an unfortunate turn of events. Instead, we read that Darius was deeply troubled and tried everything to get Daniel freed. Failing that, the king spent the night fasting, refusing his usual entertainment, and losing an entire night of sleep (see Daniel 6:18-21). For Darius, the loss of Daniel was unthinkable. Imagine, a person so trusted and valuable that it would cause a king to spend a night in fitful worry?
This same Daniel, who in many ways would have been justified to never give his best, became an asset to a nation that others saw as enemies. And in turn, was able to give testimony to the God that Daniel served. I've often wondered how many would have simply shrunk under the weight of oppression and exile that Daniel experienced?
How many would have stayed in the shadows and never allowed their lives to be counted? How many are nothing more than footnotes in history, or names that were quickly forgotten the moment their lives came to an end? Beyond all the lessons found in Daniel, none are more poignant, or more human, than the faith of Daniel.
Yes, God is ultimately the hero in the book, but Daniel proved himself a worthy vessel for God to use. I think its the most important characteristic of the entire book, and the part that speaks to me most. Beyond all excuses, beyond all finger-pointing, beyond all doubts of God's goodness, Daniel doesn't waver in his faith. And lets be clear. When we talk of his faith we aren't talking about a belief that allowed him to endure each day under the weight of his exile.
No, it was a belief in the goodness of God, and a belief that his circumstances were based on divine will. From there, Daniel expressed that belief with a life of service that can only be characterized by excellence and compassion for his captors. Some of you will react and remind me that Daniel, along with his three friends, experienced God's miraculous intervention. That may be true, but don't forget that Daniel still had to experience being thrown into the lion's den, and spent the entire evening wondering if the dawn would ever come.
That one situation alone would have been enough for most of us but Daniel's entire life was framed by decisions that honoured God first, while putting him in direct conflict with the culture around him. God didn't remove or keep Daniel from the difficulties, but certainly took him through them.
As a pastor, I appreciate those who bring their very best to the church. Not because they feel obligated, or pressured, or because it satisfies some personal agenda. Their motivation is from a heart that wants to represent the Lord as best as possible. No excuses, no expectations, no recognition, just an unwavering sense of pleasing the Lord through the service they give to others.
We've all experienced the difference a Daniel can make. They show up every so often, in our churches, in our families, in our neighbourhoods, in our work. When they do show up, they're hard to miss. And the difference they make is unmistakable. I asked in my last post what motivated you to serve? The reasons can be long and varied, but unless you are motivated by a genuine desire to please God, they all pale against the example set by Daniel.
His life, exemplified by unparalleled service and authentic care, elevated not only Daniel to levels of status few others achieved, it also elevated the God of Daniel. Which brings me to my last point. Because of Daniel's drive for excellence, he was able to introduce the God of creation to a nation.
Not because he was a profound communicator, but because his service reflected a God who was worthy of being served with all our mind, body, heart, and soul. So, back to the question I posited in my last blog. What motivates you to serve?
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