walk in the word
“But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself” Daniel 1:8
Is there really a God? Is He loving? Is He good? Is there a God I can turn to and trust? Am I crazy to believe “yes” to all these things?
When things are going fine in your life, you might not find it hard to believe in a God that is good and who loves you, but if something devastating has recently happened that makes you ask, “How could a loving God allow this?” then you will understand Daniel’s story.
We’re starting a new series on the broadcast this week called, Faith in the Fire, which transports us to Old Testament Daniel’s day. If you need some perspective and hope in your circumstances today, then you need to turn the channel and watch a couple scenes from Daniel’s life. Across all the pages of Scripture that detail his story from teenager to old man, you can write “Sovereignty at Work.” God was directing Daniel’s life—get this—whether Daniel saw it at the time or not.
So now you know where we’re going. Let me give you some context before we travel too far. Way back when He rescued His people from Egypt, God made it clear. “If you guys live the way I tell you to live and obey My commands, you’re gonna get blessed. But if you turn your back on Me and follow other gods, you’re gonna be in for a world of hurt.” Sadly, most people chose the latter and God allowed His own people to be judged. That’s what was happening when Daniel was a teenager. One bright day in Jerusalem, Daniel was captured in his enemy’s net and his world turned upside down.
But Daniel’s captors were working a strategy. They singled out the best young people—the All -American teenagers with the highest SAT scores and the ones voted MVP and Most Likely to Succeed (Daniel included)—and brought them to their capital city near modern-day Kuwait. They said, “We’re gonna brainwash these kids and teach them to lead our program.” So Daniel was given a foreign name, Belteshazzar, and was forced to learn a new language and culture. They even got a new diet.
Here’s where the story turns. Daniel 1:8 says, “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat.”
“But Daniel.” (I love the “buts” in the Bible.) Just when things were headed downhill, God found a person who would stand for Him. Daniel said, “my world just got rocked, but I’m all for God—I won’t do that thing that would dishonor Him.” (Tune in to the message to understand why eating the king’s meat was such a big deal.)
Had Daniel decided what God was like by looking at his circumstances, he would have become a disillusioned, confused, angry young man. Ripped from his homeland, forced into slavery, most likely castrated to become a eunuch in the palace, Daniel still had his eyes on God. Don’t gloss over this like it’s some made-for-TV movie—this story is true in every detail. Imagine the suffering connected with his circumstances. Yet Daniel went through the fire . . . successfully. And you can too.
That said, I’m sure Daniel must have wondered, “God, where are You?” We know the outcome of his life, but at the time, Daniel had no idea what would happen. But notice how God was working. First, He was the very One who allowed that captivity to take place. Next, “God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials” (Daniel 1:9). God also gave Daniel and his three friends superior wisdom and understanding (1:17). The sovereign unfolding of Daniel’s life did not happen by accident. God was at work.
Do you see how foolish we are when we deny God’s hand just because we can’t see Him? In our teeny corner of this little planet in a massive universe that God has made, we stand in our arrogance and say, “Because bad things are happening, there can be no God.” Or “He can’t be loving or powerful or in control.” How small to think that we can somehow eliminate God because we can’t figure out life’s mysteries.
I want to tell those of you who love the Lord with your whole heart and who are committed to His purposes that God is at work in your life and your situation. Sometimes you can see what He’s doing and sometimes you can’t. Sometimes Daniel was aware of God’s presence and sometimes God seemed so far away. But God was and is at work in life’s circumstance—Look for it.
I took some time to think back over my own life this week. Some of these things that seemed catastrophic at the time don’t seem like such a big deal any more. I remember how devastated I was when I didn’t make the college basketball team. How could that happen? When Kathy and I were dating, I remember thinking how awful it was that God would allow her dad to persecute her so mercilessly for her faith. Of course, looking back, I see how strong the Lord was making her. I remember when I quit Bible college for a semester, thinking “Maybe I’ll do something different with my life.” I got a job as a salesman and got fired for sharing my faith. I remember questioning, “How could God allow that to happen?” I could go on and on with examples.
If you’re honest, you can think of some painful, wicked or difficult things that have happened in your past or are hitting you today. You may wonder how a God of love can allow that. Yet so often when we think this, we are not yet full circle. We need faith in the fire. There will be a day when you will look back and see God’s sovereign hand at work in those situations. Truth is, He is in the center of that situation that troubles your heart right now. He’s in the very middle of that thing. Just because you can’t see Him, doesn’t mean He isn’t there. Trust Him—He is at work.
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