A Different Kind of Faithfulness

Steve Viars September 26, 2016 Daniel 6:

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Jealousy is the tribute that mediocrity pays to genius.

3 principles to strengthen and sustain us in the lion dens of life

I. God Can Help You Develop a Lifetime of Faithfulness

A. Daniel stood out because of his character – v. 3

Daniel 6:3 - Then this Daniel began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and satraps…

B. He had an excellent spirit – v. 3

Daniel 6:3 - Then this Daniel began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and satraps because he possessed an extraordinary spirit…

C. He lived in a way that was blameless – v. 4

Daniel 6:4 - Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him.

D. He had a firm belief in God’s Word – v. 10

Daniel 6:10 - Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem)…

E. He was faithful in prayer

Daniel 6:10 - Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.

II. Even Long-Term Faithfulness May Result in Great Trial

A. There is a limited sense in which faithfulness to God makes for an easier life because living for sin always has significant consequences

Proverbs 13:15 - Good understanding produces favor, but the way of the treacherous is hard.

Proverbs 28:13 - He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.

Galatians 6:7 - Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.

B. We each have to get to the place of recognizing that God’s primary purpose for us is not to make our lives trial-free, but to conform us to the image of His Son

2 Corinthians 3:18 - But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

III. God Can Help You Handle These Trials Successfully

A. Daniel wasn’t in the lion’s den -- these lions were in God’s den!

B. I wonder what Daniel and his new friends did that night

Manuscript

Did you face any lions this week? I'm not asking you if you went to the zoo, I'm asking you did you have any difficulties in the last seven days? Of course, we all did. We all did. Maybe I ought to ask the question this way, what lions did you face this week? Some of you are in a job situation right now where there is just incredible pressure. Your boss is making unreasonable demands, or the competition is really fierce. Every day you go into work, you can almost hear the growling. You can almost see the sharp teeth that are set to give you a good chomp. It's like you're in the lion's den when you go to work.

Some are in a terrible scheduling jam. Back in August it sounded like such a great idea, let's take nineteen credit hours this fall. It's not feeling so good right now, huh? Maybe you thought, I can handle just one more responsibility on my plate this fall, but now things are just coming apart. Every time you look at that calendar program on your smart phone it growls at you. I realize you might say, "Smart phone? I lost that several weeks ago. I think the lion ate it."

Some are facing a sinful habit that's ready to pounce. You remember what God said to Cain? He said, "Sin is crouching at your door ready to devour you." You want to have victory, you want to get to a better place, but the power of sin, and the power of your own lust and the power of our adversary is incredibly strong. It's like that lion wants to eat you up, and some day you may feel like the lion's winning.

For others it's more of a period of suffering, maybe with a loved one who's health is getting worse and worse and worse and there's very little that you can do about it. Maybe even for yourself. We have some dear people in our church family right now who are facing great trial with their own health. It's very serious. Maybe for you it's a family situation that is deteriorating. Your spouse is cold and indifferent, or maybe threatening and violent, or your child is rebelling and breaking your heart. We've all seen those cartoons where there's a person who's actually inside a lion's mouth and all you see is their feet kicking like this, and then they pop out unharmed. That's the way you might feel this morning. It's not just that you're in the lion's den, you're in the lion's mouth. What lions are you facing?

And I realize you might say, "Why are you asking such unusual and borderline silly questions?" Many of you already know. The good news is there's somebody who's in the business of providing hope in the lion's den. There's someone who's in the business of providing answers in the lion's den. There's someone who's in the business of providing strength in the lion's den. That, my friends, that is really good news.

With that you might open your bible now to Daniel chapter six. Daniel, chapter six. That's on page three hundred and ... I'm sorry, six hundred and thirty-three of the front section of the bible, under the chair in front of you. Daniel, chapter six, or page six hundred and thirty-three of the front section of the bible under the chair in front of you. This fall we've been studying the book of Daniel verse by verse, chapter by chapter and we're having a great time, huh? Don't you love the word of God and don't you love the freedom that we have to gather together, east side of town, west side of town, wherever God has brought us today and to be able to open his word and freely study it together.

We're calling this loving our world by choosing to be different. That's what Daniel was doing. This morning it brings us to another fascinating story where we learn about having a different kind of faithfulness, having a different kind of faithfulness. Now, if you're brand new this morning, or just recently started coming, let me thread this story up for you. I'm glad for people who are new. I just met some folks already this morning who were here for the very first time. If that's your situation, we're so delighted that God has brought you here.

Even if you've been attending every Sunday, I realize you might have been thinking about a few other things throughout the week other than Daniel, like great football victories, or some of those kinds of things. That's all right, but now it's Sunday, right? Now, let's face and focus on Daniel, who at the beginning of this book was a Jewish teenager who was deported to the country of Babylon along with several other choice young people by King Nebuchadnezzar around 605 BC. This book is all about how Daniel and his friends were able to live faithfully for God even though they were in a pagan culture, even though they were far away from home, even though they were away from any kind of parental authority or influence. It's amazing. God allowed them to be faithful.

By the time we get to Daniel, chapter six Daniel's actually approaching the end of this life and his ministry. Seventy years have now transpired. Daniel served several different kings. Last week Pastor Aucoin walked us through chapter five where Darius the Mede came in and conquered Babylon for the Medes and the Persians. That is very significant for several reasons. One, it shows the incredible accuracy of the word of God. You remember the dream that God gave King Nebuchadnezzar back in chapter two about the four kingdoms. Already we're seeing the transition from the kingdom of Babylon, the head of gold to the kingdom of Medo-Persia, the breasts and arms of silver.

Nebuchadnezzar would have never believed that that would happen. It's already happened. It's also significant because it means that the people of Israel who had been undergoing the Babylonian captivity which God prophesied in advance would last how long? Seventy years. Now they're being allowed to return to the homeland of Jerusalem. If you're in the habit of writing in your bible, you might want to write next to Daniel, chapter six, make this note, "See Ezra, chapters one and six." That's the story of God's people beginning to go to their homeland to rebuild the temple and rebuild the city. Which again, that is a direct fulfillment of the word of God.

It's also significant because it leads us, I think, to a question, what's going to happen to Daniel? The guy's been serving God faithfully for over seventy years. He's now an eighty plus year old gentleman. Surely now he's going to have a life of ease, right? He's going to face all the challenges already. Now, I bet chapter six is about the retirement home he gets on the lake. How he just hangs around fishing a little bit, or sitting on the porch dreaming about the way things used to be, huh, huh? Well, let's see.

Daniel six, beginning in verse one. "It seemed good to Darius to appoint a hundred and twenty satraps over the kingdom, that they would be in charge of the whole kingdom and over them three commissioners of whom Daniel was one. That these satraps might be accountable to them, and that the king might not suffer loss." Let me just stop there for a minute. You've got these hundred and twenty satraps, those are government officials whose job it was to collect taxes. Don't they just sound like a satrap? My apologies to anybody that works for the IRS, I'm sure you're a wonderful person. Those other ones, those satraps.

They're collecting taxes, and they're keeping a semblance of order in the kingdom. You saw over them was three commissioners. Interesting, three commissioners. Verse two points out that the reason you needed the three commissioners was that it was assumed that the satraps would be dishonest and they would keep money for themselves, so the commissioners watched the satraps so that the king would not suffer significant loss. Let's see how that's going to go over.

Verse three. "Then as Daniel began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and the satraps, because ... " Fascinating. " ... because he possessed an extraordinary spirit." You can say that again. "The king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom." That's a problem. "Then the commissioners and the satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs, but they could find not ground of accusation, or evidence of corruption in as much as he was ... " What? " ... he was faithful. No negligence or corruption was to be found." Don't you love that?

Then these men said, "We'll not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him within regard to the law of his god." Let's just stop there just to be sure we understand. Daniel's cramping the style of these other men because he was honest. Their greed and their corruption and their gravy train living was threatened. They had to decide what to do. They could have changed their ways and been like Daniel, huh? They could have tried that, but like many individuals in that day and this, they began attacking Daniel and plotting ways to discredit Daniel. It was all a matter of jealousy and greed. Someone has said that jealousy is the tribute that mediocrity pays to genius. A lot of truth there, huh?

I wonder how this is going to go, verse six. "Then these commissioners and satraps came by agreement ..." That is, they agreed among themselves " ... to the king and spoke to him as follows. "King Darius live forever! All the commissioners of the kingdom, the [inaudible 00:10:50] the satraps, the high officials, the governors have consulted together that the king should establish a statute and enforce an injunction that anyone who makes a petition to any god or man, besides you, O King, for thirty days shall be cast into the lion's den." Now, O King established the injunction and signed the document so that it may not be changed according to the law of the Medes and the Persians." As if that's the highest law here, which it may not be revoked, therefore King Darius signed the document that is the injunction.

"Now, when Daniel knew that the document was signed he entered his house." Now, in his roof chamber he had windows opened towards Jerusalem. Don't miss that little detail. "He continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his god as he had been doing previously." Did you get that? It's not like he started praying. He had been praying all along, as he had been doing, beautiful, beautiful. Then these men, frankly they're little men. You know that? Boys. "These men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and supplication before his god. Then they approached and spoke before the king about the king's injunction. "Did you not sign an injunction that any man that makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O King, for thirty days is to be cast into the lion's den?" The king replied, "The statement is true according to the law of the Medes and the Persians which may not be revoked."

Then they answered and spoke before the king, "Daniel ... "  It's almost like insert whiny voice. " ... who's one of the exiles from Judah pays no attention to you, O King, to keep the injunction which you signed. He keeps making his petition three times a day." Then as soon as the king heard this statement he was deeply distressed. He realized he had been tricked. He set his mind on delivering Daniel." That's fascinating. "Even until sunset he kept exerting himself to rescue him. Then these men came by agreement and said to the king, "Recognize, O King, it's the law of the Medes and the Persians that no injunction or statute which the king established may be changed." Then the king gave orders." Are you picturing this? I hope you're not doubting this, by the way after seeing God's word specifically fulfilled throughout this book. You say, "Do you believe this actually happened?" Absolutely I do. I hope you do, too.

"Then the king gave orders and Daniel was brought in and cast into the lion's den. The king spoke and said to Daniel, "Your god whom you constantly serve will himself deliver you." That's fascinating. Fascinating. "A stone was brought and laid over the mouth of the den and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signet rings of his nobles so that nothing would be changed in regard to Daniel. Then the king ... " This is funny. " ... went off to his palace and spent the night fasting and no entertainment was brought before him and sleep fled from him." He's going to have a really bad night. "Then the king arose at dawn, at break of day and went in haste to the lion's den. When he'd come near the den to Daniel he cried with a troubled voice, the king spoke and said to Daniel, "Daniel, servant of the living, god has your god, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?"

Then Daniel spoke to the king, "O King, relax. Dude, relax." No he didn't say ... He was more respectful than undoubtedly I would have been. "O King, live forever. My God sent his angel and shut the lion's mouth." Don't you love that? Lions, they're pussy cats in here. Kind of hungry, too. "Shut the lion's mouth and they've not harmed me. As much as I was found innocent before him and also towards you, O King, I've committed no crime." Then the king was very pleased and gave orders for Daniel to be taken up out of the den. Daniel was taken up out of the den and no injury ever was found on him." Remember Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? They didn't even smell like smoke. "No injury, whatever, was found on him because he had trusted in his god."

Now, I realize that the sum of that history may have flown by if you're brand new to studying the bible, but the main points of the story are ones that every one of us can understand and every one of us can apply to where we're living today. Clearly, Daniel was loving his world by having a different kind of faithfulness. We'll spend the rest of our time looking for three principles to strengthen and sustain us in the lion's dens of life. I hope you're already thinking about where you are and where Daniel was in chapter six and making a comparison and then thinking about how do I get from where I am to where God allowed him to be.

Three principles to sustain and strengthen us in the lion dens of life. Here's the first one, it's believing that God can help you develop a lifetime of faithfulness.

I. God Can Help You Develop a Lifetime of Faithfulness

See, one of the thrusts in this text is that Daniel's faith has stood the test of time, right? He's not a flash in the pan. This wasn't somebody who ran hard for a short period of time and then quit. Daniel was a whole lot like the Energizer Bunny. He just kept going, and going, and going, and going. You see that being emphasized here in all sorts of ways like in verse three, Daniel stood out because of his character. "Then this Daniel began distinguishing himself among all these commissioners and satraps."

It doesn't take much to stand out from the crowd. That's one of the great things about living in a culture that's spinning out of control. If you're all worried about how bad things are becoming in our culture, at least one of the positive aspects of that is frankly just a little bit of honesty will go a long way. A little bit of kindness will go a long way. A little bit of consistency. A little bit of dependability goes a long way. "He distinguished himself." The passage also says he has an excellent spirit. "Daniel began distinguishing himself among these commissioners and satraps, but because he possessed an extraordinary spirit ... "

What that means is it wasn't just that his work was of an excellent quality. Also, the attitude he brought to his work and to his relationships were delightful as well. Of course we're using the word spirit with a small S, that's the way it's used in this particular part of the text. It's clear that the holy spirit had been at work in and through Daniel all along. In fact, we've even seen in this book people who did not know the Lord, have taken to say of Daniel he has the spirit of God in him. He has the spirit of God in him. He lived in such a way that the people around him would have cause to say, "What an excellent spirit."

I hope, by the way, you're letting the word of God already impact you. Like, when you go to work the attitude that you take in, the first thirty minutes of the day, "Wow, what an excellent spirit that person has." When you get up in the morning and start navigating around. Would your kiddies have reason to say or your hunny have reason to say, "What an excellent spirit."? If you're a young person here, would your parent say, "What an excellent spirit that sweet son or daughter has this morning as they came down the stairs, praising God and thankful for all the opportunities of the day. What an excellent spirit."?

The text goes on to say, "Lived in a way that was blameless." It says, "Even when these enemies got together and were scrutinizing his life ... " Don't you love this? He didn't give them any evidence at all. Verse four, "Then the commissioners and the satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs, but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption in as much as he was faithful." Don't you love that? He was faithful. No negligence or corruption was to be found in him. What an amazing report. They couldn't find a charge. They couldn't find a fault because he was faithful.

Don't miss this, he had a firm belief in God's word. Did you notice that little detail? When Daniel prayed, what direction did he face? The passage says, "When Daniel knew that the document was signed he entered his house. Now, in his roof chamber he had windows opened." Toward where? Toward Jerusalem. He knew that the promises that God had made to his chosen people seventy years before were true. I'm not talking about seventy minutes. I'm not talking about seventy days. Even though they had gone through this period of judgment and purification for seventy years, Daniel never questioned, never, whether God would keep his word. Obviously he was faithful in prayer.

"When Daniel knew that the document was signed he entered his house's roof chamber. He had windows opened toward Jerus- ...  He continued kneeling." Do you see that? Not he started. "Man things are getting hard, better pray." No. "He continued kneeling on his knees, praying and giving thanks." Not whining. Even now he's giving thanks as he had been doing previously. These guys knew that if they were going to get Daniel on something it would have to be in relationship to his god, not because he flaunted his ... Don't think that. It's not because he flaunted his religion. It's not because he rubbed it all over everybody inappropriately. Look, it just came out. His love for God, his desire to serve God, his allegiance to God, his passion for God it just came out. It was a natural, and a regular part of who he ... It just squirted out. In fact, you could be asking yourself right now, what squirts out of you? What squirted out of Daniel was his faithful love for God.

My predecessor Pastor Goode, he used to love this place down in Indianapolis, it's called Nick's Chili. Not in the nicest place in Indy by the way, but it was right by the VA hospital. It's amazing how any time we were to visit somebody at the VA hospital he just planned it so it would be right before or right after lunch. Whichever pastoral staff member was with him on that trip we would be treated to Nick's Chili. I'd come back to the office after, I'd brush the fire out of my teeth. Brush them over, and over and over all afternoon long. As soon as I would walk into my house and give my wife, Kris, a hug she'd say, "You guys have been to Nick's haven't you? You've been to Nick's again." I'd say, "How in the world would you know that?" She says, "It comes out of your skin." In fact, she believed that it actually would for several days later, she believed it'd actually come right out of my pores! That was some good chili. That was some good chili.

Listen, Daniel's faith was like that. It was just a regular part of who he was. It was a regular part of what he did. It squirted out. That's what I'm saying. It squirted out in the way he did business. Squirted out in the way he served authority even when the authority was pagan. Squirted out in the way he believed and practiced God's word. It squirted out in the faithful way he prayed. It just squirted out. Are you letting the word of God evaluate? What squirts out of you? What squirted out of you on Tuesday morning? What squirted out of you on Thursday night? What squirts out?

The amazing thing about all this is it didn't just start happening yesterday, huh? Daniel had been living this way for over seventy years. A godly man who had stood the test of trial. A godly man who had stood the test of time. You understand, don't miss the point, ultimately this is not about Daniel. Ultimately this is about the god of Daniel who could take a frail human being and help that person become a faithful trophy of grace. Can I ask you this morning, is it the desire of your heart that you would be a man or a woman of faithfulness? I'm not talking about this just getting by Christianity. God deliver us from that, or "McChurch," or the person who starts fast and burns out quickly. I'm talking about is it the desire of your heart that you would have Daniel kind of faith that stands the test of time?

I realize that you might say, "Steve, here's my problem with that, I have already messed up my past, or I've already messed up my reputation, or I've messed up a portion of my life, or maybe even a significant portion of my life, therefore I could never be like Daniel." Friend, listen. God is the god of the second chance. Ultimately this book is pointing us to a messiah.

In fact, I can't wait till next Sunday because I have the privilege of speaking from Daniel seven and because of my travel schedule I have been doing some preparation already on that and here's how cray, cray I get. As I'm working at Daniel seven I'm thinking, "Man, I want to preach on that chapter this week." It's like, "Steve, six comes before seven." Six today, and I'm having a blast in six, but seven is coming and it is breathtaking when it points us to our lord and savior Jesus Christ. Ultimately that's who this book is all about because ultimately that's who the bible is all about. We're talking about a messiah and a savior who faithful died on the cross so our sin could be forgiven and put behind us. God is a god of mercy and grace.

I understand, some people they come to Christ at an early age and they live faithfully for God all of their days and other people just mess up their lives big time, and maybe for an extended time and then come to Christ and live faithfully for the Lord the rest of their days. Listen, the Lord can be equally glorified by men and women in each category. What I'm saying is that there's nothing that you could lay on the table that would cause God to shake his head at you and say, "There's no hope for you to ever be like a Daniel." If it's the desire of your heart to be like Daniel and you're willing to put effort in cooperation with the holy spirit of God, we're about to talk about that. He can and he will help you develop a lifetime of faithfulness.

You might say this, "What are some of the steps on that road?" I hope right now you're saying, "Look, I want to be like Daniel in Daniel six." I hope that's what you're saying and I hope you're also saying, "Lord, there are some ways I'm not." How do I get there? Let's talk about some of the steps. It begins by knowing for sure that you have a personal relationship with Christ.

I'm really glad and thankful about the fact that this fall we're seeing more people come to this church than ever before in our history. Isn't God good? He promised he was going to build his church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. He's really good at keeping his word, you know that? Don't fuss when you're in the parking lots of having to wait, or you're saying, "Man, I feel like I'm about to get trampled in the foyer." You won't. We've never lost a person in that foyer. A few broken bones but, it gets crazy over there at Faith West, but you'll be fine. Do you realize that's evidence of God keeping his word? Do you realize that? Building his church.

The corollary to that in my mind is how many persons might be attending our church right now who don't yet have a personal relationship with Christ and actually might hear a message like this and wrongly conclude, "Well, what Steve is saying is I have to pull myself up by my own spiritual bootstraps. I have to find some way of living faithfully in my own strength and then I earn merit before God and that's how I have a real- ... " No, no, no, no, no. Christianity is coming to a place of admitting I can't be the kind of person God wants me to be in and of myself. Then to humble myself and acknowledge that I have a sinful nature.

You might say, "I don't like you saying that." God's word is really clear about it, so wise is the person who believes it. "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God and our sin separates us from God." Which means we all desperately need a savior. A savior who is powerful enough and holy enough to die on the cross in our place and also merciful and gracious and loving enough to actually be willing to do it.

That comes a point of decision, a point of decision, you're not born into the family of God. I know your grandma may have told you that. I love your grandma, but she was wrong about that. You're not born into the family of God, you're born on the wrong side of the tracks. There has to be a decision that is made at a point in time to acknowledge your sin and then place your faith and trust in Christ, the savior Lord. Friends, it will be impossible to have this kind of faithful life without first making the decision to trust Christ. Without faith it's impossible to please him. A few would say, "You know, I've never made that decision." Can I just urge you to make it right now? You can pray in the quietness of this moment.

Father, I know that I'm a sinner. I know that I can't save myself. I know I can't be reconciled to you on my own merit. I want to place my faith and trust in what Christ did on the cross as my only hope of eternity. You can make that decision right now and we would urge you to do that. If you'd say, "I've got some questions. I need some things answered before I make that decision, but yeah, the passage is working on my heart. I'm more interested than ever." Would you please do this? Send us an email.

I think sometimes people think, "The pastors are busy, they wouldn't want to hear from me." Seriously, we work one day a week and we take half of that day off. I mean, it's a racket. It's an absolute racket. We would love to talk with you. Listen, you could pick the time, you could pick the place. You could pick the place, we'll meet you wherever. If you'd say, "Are there any nice people to talk to?" Yeah, we got nice people, ladies, you pick. Listen, don't miss the opportunity of the holy spirit working in your heart and life. That's the only way you can ever achieve faithfulness, Daniel six kind of faithfulness. I'm just asking this morning, do you know that you know, that you know that you're on your way to heaven, Christian friend?

Then it becomes a matter of cultivating your relationship with Christ. It's like any other relationship. You have to put effort into it. That's why Paul said in that great passage in first Timothy four-seven, "You have to exercise yourself to godliness. You want to be faithful, you have to work at it." Exercise. Greek word, [gymnodso 00:31:22]. Anybody want to guess what English word we get from the Greek word gymnodso? Yah, gymnasium. When you go in the gymnasium, what do you do? Please tell me you work out. All right? You don't lay in the corner and hope some muscles are going to grow, right? See, I tried that, it didn't work. I know, I know. You have to work at it and that's exactly what we're talking about here. Let's just face it, many people who call themselves Christians are not particularly faithful because they're not working at it. They're not putting the kind of effort into growing that God desires. A chapter like Daniel six can be both challenging and convicting. If that's what needs to happen in your heart and life this morning, let God's word have that effect.

Around here, let's make this real practical. We have all sorts of resources to help God's people grow in faithfulness because we do not believe in talking about the what without providing resources for the how to. What does that look like? We like to think about discipleship, growing in faithfulness like a funnel on its side. What we mean by that is the widest part of the funnel, that's where it starts with the largest groups. I would challenge you to say before the Lord this fall and ongoing, "I'm going to be faithful to the worship services at our church where I can surround myself with people who love God and I can come and sing great songs together and I can have the word of God open and be challenged by it."

I realize for some of you saying, "I just started coming to church. I never went before and for the last three months I have been in church one Sunday a month. It's amazing. I feel incredibly holy. I feel like a missionary one Sunday a month." God bless you. God bless you if you're just getting started, but I would encourage you to ramp up that faithfulness if you want to be like a Daniel. Then there's small groups at both of our campuses, adult bible fellowships at Faith East. See, going further in the funnel now. Smaller groups and a lot of spiritual business gets done right there because so much of growing and faithfulness, it occurs in the crucible of relationships. That's where spiritual gifts are identified. That's where service opportunities are communicated. I would just challenge you if you're not in one of those smaller groups to choose to become part of one. Your service pastors would be happy to help you with that.

Then, to go further in the funnel we have programs like Men of Faith and Women of Faith. Again, smaller and smaller groups. Point man groups, lady's bible studies. We even have individual or family counsel. There's all sorts of resources to help you become a person who is faithful. We could talk to you about your personal time in the word. Your personal time of prayer. The bottom line is God delights in helping men and women develop a lifestyle of faithfulness. The question is, is that really the kind of person you want to be? Are you taking concrete specific steps to cooperate with the work the spirit of God wants to do in you? I'll just tell you, as a pastor as I watch all of this unfold the great news is there's a lot of people who could honestly answer that question with a yes. To watch God's people grow in faith, it's a marvelous thing. To watch God do that work of grace. I'm thankful for the work that Pastor Aucoin does in overseeing all of our soul care at all of our campuses. It's marvelous to watch persons really want to grow in faithfulness.

You might say this, "Listen Steven, if I let god do this work of grace in me, does that mean that the latter years of my life are going to be trouble free?" Is that the way it works? Would that be the purpose of growing in faithfulness so that we eventually, in this life, have it easy? No. That brings us to our second important principle, even long term faithfulness may result and great trial, huh?

II. Even Long-Term Faithfulness May Result in Great Trial

I mean, that's clearly what's happening in this chapter. In fact, do you realize humanly speaking it was Daniel's faithfulness that got him in trouble? You could take away from this message, "I'll tell you right now, I'm going to keep my head down spiritually. I'm not going to be faithful. I'm not going to let any of it squirt out, then I won't get in any trouble for it." Probably not a good application of the text.

I probably need to throw some balance on this, too. There is a limited sense in which faithfulness to God makes for an easier life. How's that true? Then you don't have to deal with the consequences of living disobediently. Proverbs thirteen-fifteen, "The way of the transgressor is hard." Don't transgress and don't have to face the hardness. Proverbs twenty-eight-thirteen, "He who covers his sin will not prosper." Don't cover it. Confess it and forsake it as the text goes on to say. Galatians six-seven, "Don't be deceived, God's not mocked. Whatever a man sows that will he also reaps."

Yes, by choosing to live for God there are all sorts of natural consequences for sin that can be avoided. We would be misrepresenting the scripture this morning if we gave the impression that if you seek to live a faithful consistent life, then God is obligated to keep your latter years trial free. Obviously the exact opposite is what happened here. Even after Daniel faithfully served God. Even after he had developed these years of habits of consistency. Even after he had handled significant trial and tasked in his younger years. The Lord allows him to face his toughest test when he's in his eighties. In fact, you could make the argument that Daniel rightfully handling trial early in life was simply preparing him to handle more significant trial later in life. Which means, let's be honest, we each have to get to the place of recognizing that God's primary purpose for us is not to make our lives trial free. Can I get a mm-hmm (affirmative) on that? To conform us to the image of his son.

Paul said it this way in second Corinthians three-eighteen, "We all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed." Sometimes via blessing and sometimes via trial at the merciful hand of our sovereign god. The sooner we get on board with that plan and program, the better, friends. Even after all these years of faithfulness Daniel is plotted against by his enemies and wickedly thrown in a den of lions. Long term faithfulness may result in great trial.

Listen, we're not going to get smug about this. I mean, I realize you've got real life experience that illustrates what we're talking about right now. We're not going to get smug about it, and we're not going to get stoical about it, but there is a sense in which maturity sounds like this. If trial is what is needed to draw me closer to Christ or to put me in a position where I can better magnify him, then what? Then bring it on. Bring it on.

III. God Can Help You Handle These Trials Successfully

Here's the last principle from the text that puts that all in balance. God can help you handle his trials successfully, huh? I want to ask you to open your eyes of faith this morning and think about what this would have been like. First, Daniel wasn't in the lion's den, these lions were in God's den. These satraps and these governors and all the rest of them thought when they threw Daniel in the pit that was the end of Daniel. Mark it down, that wasn't going to be the end of Daniel until God said it was going to be the end of Daniel.

By the way, you might say, "Hey, what if the lions had eaten Daniel up? Would that have meant that God was powerless in such a situation?" What's the answer to that? Absolutely not. The king seemed to be sure that God was going to protect Daniel in a miraculous way, but Daniel made no such claim. He was very similar to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego earlier in the book when they said to Nebuchadnezzar, "Look, God can deliver us from the fiery furnace if he wants to but let it be known, king, even if he doesn't choose to deliver us in this particular situation, we're not bowing down to your gods." Biblical faith is not believing that God will. Biblical faith is believing that God can and then trusting him with whatever he decides to do that is in your best spiritual interest.

I wonder what Daniel and his new friends did that night. You ever thought about that? I asked you earlier to just think about the lions that you're facing in your life, line them up right now. Line them up right now in the den of you mind, and then be encouraged by this, if God is for us, who can be against us, huh? Including all those lions. Nothing can separate you from the love of God, nothing, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

I would have loved to watch this scene unfold. Where lion number one starts to let out this big roar, and all that comes out is this little meow. He gets all embarrassed and turns red in his liony face. Then, lion number two sticks out his sharp claws and all he's got is these big soft paws like a stuffed Winnie the Pooh. Another one tries to show his fangs and he's toothless and powerless like a hundred-year-old man. I wonder what Daniel did? I wonder what Daniel did? I imagine as such a godly man he probably had a time of prayer, right? Gather round here, lions, let's pray. I imagine he had a time of praise. I wonder if he sang some of David's Psalms? Can you imagine what Psalm twenty-three would have sounded like in this context? "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death." Hear that boys? "I will fear no evil."

Daniel's probably not as ornery as I am. Hopefully I would have had a little bit of that spiritual time going on, but I would have just had some fun with the boys, right? We're going to hang out together, let's have a little fun. Tying their tails together. Would have had to do a little bit of that. Box a few of them in the ears, swinging them around by the tails, twipping them in their noses or their "hoommers" as my son Andrew would say in "Puminavia." Just give them a little twip, little twip, little twip.

You know, here's what I think he probably did. He probably found the chubbiest one and he said, "Come over here. You get to be my pillow tonight." While the king is having a really bad night, no food, no entertainment, no sleep, I imagine that Daniel slept like a little baby. Friends no mistaking this, God wanted all of his people including you and me, now, this is for us, to know that that den belonged to God. Those lions belonged to God. Wise is the person who knows and lives faithfully for him.

Would you stand with me for prayer? Father in heaven, we praise you for being this powerful of a god. Lord for those who don't know you personally, I pray that they would look to the lion of the tribe of Judah, the Lord Jesus Christ and they would place their faith in him today. Lord would you forgive some of us for not distinguishing ourselves and not loving our world by being different? Lord would you also forgive some of us for spending way too much time worrying about those lions in our lives? Lord I pray that we would look to the cross and live. We pray this in Christ's name, amen.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video