Daniel 1:3-8 - Obstacles to Faithfulness

Steve Viars January 30, 1999 Daniel 1:3-8

- Did anyone try to make a Babylonian out of you this week?
- You might say, what do you mean by that?
- this morning we’re going to study the life of a man who was a godly Jewish individual who was taken out of his home and sent to the country of Babylon and was put through what amounted to a brainwashing process....they tried to make a Babylonian out of him.

- In Romans chapter 12, the Word of God says “Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed....”
- J.B. Phillips translated that verse as “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.”

- Believers in Jesus Christ are constantly faced with that pressure....Am I going to choose to be what God wants me to be, or what the world wants me to be?
- who am I going to seek to please?
- who‘s flag am I going to follow?
- Did you have any choices like that to make this week?

1) Maybe it was in the area of ethics.
- you were working on a group project and someone in the group suggested that you just download the research results from someone else’s project on the internet instead of doing the work yourself.
- and you could feel the pressure of the mold.....
- someone was trying to make a a Babylonian out of you.

2) Or perhaps it was in the area of entertainment....
- you were having lunch with some folks from work...
- and the conversation starts heading in the wrong direction....
- making fun of the boss and trying to top one another with stories of his / her incompetence.....
- and then the attention focuses on you so you can tell yours....
- and you had to decide...am I going to let the world squeeze me into its mold?

- the beauty of this is....that doesn’t have to happen.
- it is possible to live faithfully for God regardless of the pressure to do otherwise.
- this young man that I mentioned a moment ago.
- he was taken to this foreign land of Babylon.
- and he was a prize for them.....

- the Bible says that he was handsome.....he was smart....he was young.....he would make a perfect future star in their empire.
- but he was a Jew...a worshipper of Jehovah....of the God of Abraham.
- so all they had to do was to make him into a Babylonian.
- where he would adopt their ways.....
- and worship their gods....
- and be absorbed in their culture.
- in their minds, if that could be accomplished, it would work out best for them and best for him.
- I’m happy to tell you that it didn’t work.
- this man stayed true to the Lord.
- He didn’t compromise his convictions.

- and he wasn’t mean about it...he wasn’t brazen....he wasn’t overbearing.....
- he just refused to let the world squeeze him into their mold.
- this morning we’re going to begin seeing how he did it.

- would you please open your Bible this morning to the book of Daniel chapter 1.
- last week we learned that this book begins around 605 BC.
- the two major players are Israel, God’s chosen nation which was currently living in sin...and Babylon, a rogue heathen nation that God had allowed to come to power in part as judgment on His own people.
- He had said through his prophets Jeremiah and Habakkuk that this would happen unless His people repented.
- they didn’t repent, and in 605 BC King Nebuchanezzar started to besiege Jerusalem, and he took some of the choice citizens from Jerusalem, along with choice articles from the Jewish temple, and he carted them back to Babylon.
- let’s pick up the story in Daniel 1:3.
- READ Daniel 1:3-8 [through “defile himself”]

- from these verses we can find four obstacles Daniel overcame in order to be faithful to his God.

I. Obstacle of Making Excuses Because of His Age.

- one of the details that comes screaming out of this text is that Daniel and his three friends were just young men.
- most commentators think that they were somewhere between 14-15 years of age.
- now, from a parental perspective, can you imagine what it would be like if a couple of your teenagers were taken out of your home and carted off to a foreign land?
- of course you’d be concerned for their safety and their well-being....
- there would be the pain of not having them in your home any longer....
- but you’d also be wondering how they would be able to stand up under the pressure they’d face as young people....

- now think about it from this perspective....what if that had happened to you back when you were 14-15 years old [for most of us, that would be looking back!]
- how would you have done if you were facing these sorts of issues at that age?

- here’s one of the bottom lines of this passage -- Daniel didn’t let his age stop him from doing what was right.
- you don’t read anything in this book that even approximates an excuse.....none of this I’m just young, you can’t expect me to do right.
- no, Daniel overcame the obstacle of making excuses because of his age.

- there are several lessons that flow out of that.
1) One is....the importance and value of training champions for God.
- one of the many things that’s left out of this book is Daniel’s parents.
- we don't know anything about what they did prior to his leaving their home [wouldn’t you love to know that?]
- we don't know anything about whether they ever knew how their son was doing...and when they would have learned that....
- did his parents stay back in Israel.....did they know about the stand his son was taking?
- were they able to rejoice in his obedience and faithfulness to God?
- we don't know.

- but we know this.....somebody did something right.
- somebody cared about teaching truth...and living for truth....and modeling truth....
- and it wasn’t because they knew this was going to Daniel at age 14 so they hurried up and got him ready.
- no, they faithfully did what the Word of God commanded them to do, and when the unexpected happened in their son’s life he was ready.

- there is a great value in seeking to raise champions for God.
- I’d like to pause and thank every parent in our church family who takes the job of raising children seriously.
- none are perfect---we’d be quick to say that....but there’s a lot of people in this auditorium who put significant effort this week into raising godly children....
- and you put significant effort into it the week before that and you plan to do it again next week.....
- if that’s the kind of parent you’re trying to be....take encouragement from the book of Daniel....there’s great value in that.

- I’d like to also say a word to all the folks in this church who serve in the various youth ministries of our church.
- a lot of folks work in a lot of different ministries to try to assist parents in this all important task.
- its not always easy ministry....but also take encouragement from the book of Daniel....there’s great value in that.

- I’d also like to thank our church family for having the vision to offer all kinds of ministries to young people.
- why do we have a Sunday school program? --- to have a part in raising up Daniels....
- why do we have a Clubs program? ---- to have a part in raising up Daniels....
- why do we have an afterglow ministry? ----
- why do we have a Christian school? -----
- why do we have vacation Bible school? ----
- why do we support camps and Christian schools? ----
[and Daniel-ettes]

- the book of Daniel that that kind of investment is worth it.

2) Another lesson from this first obstacle is that God can help young people do important things for Him now.
- that’s one of the things I love about Christianity....
- you don't have to be a certain age, chronologically or spiritually, before God can start using you.
- Daniel would have barely had peach fuzz on his face---and he was making a significant contribution to the plan and program of God....a lot more significant than most of the Jewish adults of the day.

- I appreciated the way a number of our young people helped out during this snow emergency.
- they were off school and a number of them were looking for special opportunities to serve God.
- cf. Kelly Hoffman answering the phone at the shelter.
- cf. kids going out shoveling  [get some stories]

- the point of all of this is that Daniel overcame the obstacle of making excuses because of his age.
- God can use young people to do important things for Him.

- as I look back over my life and look at what God did to bring me to Himself, and then get me started on growing....
- you know in several key places He used other young people.

- cf. Frank Hall.....
- cf. the faithfulness of Jim Bargfelt, Bob Kellemen, Steve Moisoff

[yes, He used pastors, teachers, and other adults....but at some pretty pivotal times for me....he used other young people]

- for the young people here with us [since none of us wants to say we’re old--this point is for all of us] --- do you understand that God can use young people, and are you positioning yourself spiritually to be used by Him?

3) One other related idea under this heading is --- God can use people who are young in the faith.
- in the case of Daniel, we’re talking about someone who was young chronologically....but I realize that there are many here who would say....
- PV, I’m young in the sense that I’ve just recently come to Christ, or I’m just getting started on this growing business.
- you too can be greatly encouraged by what we’re studying.
- you don't have to have been saved and growing for 100 years before God can start using you.

- I realize that a place like this can be intimidating....
- because we do emphasize taking the Christian life seriously....
- and we do emphasize growing.....
- and there are a lot of solid, mature, committed  believers running around here....we’ve been very blessed as a church.....
- but if you’re here and you’d say, but I’m just on the front end of that.....
- great, we want to be a place regardless of where they are on growth spectrum....but please be encouraged by the life of Daniel....God can use even those who are young.

- so Daniel overcame the obstacle of making excuses because he was young.

II. Secondly, Daniel Overcame the Obstacle of Becoming Bitter Because of His Place.

- I don’t know that people like you and me can fully grasp what it would have meant for a Jewish young man to have to leave his land.
- for us, moving is the American way.
- a piece of land doesn’t mean much.

- but to the Jews, their land was a whole different issue.
- if you were here last week, we learned that the nation of Israel, God’s chosen nation, began with a promise God made to a man named Abraham.
- INPUT - In what book of the Bible is that found?  [Genesis 12]
- INPUT - What approximate date? [2100 BC]

- when God made that promise to Abraham, it had three important provisions....what were they?  [land, seed, blessing]
- those promises were taken very seriously.....
- which is why, even to this day, much of the discussions in the middle east revolve around what?.....around land.

- think of it --- Daniel was being taken out of what?.....the land...the PLACE he loved.
- but it wasn’t only that....he was also being taken to serve in a PLACE that would have been very difficult.
- Daniel is being groomed to serve Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon.
- and again, I know that that doesn’t hit us like it would have hit the original readers of this book...but Nebuchadnezzar was one cruel king.
- he had a reputation for being wicked and ruthless.

- for example, in the next chapter [that we’ll study some day]....Nebuchadnezzar had a bad dream....so he brings all of his wise men together...the magicians, soothsayers, fortune tellers.....
- and he tells them to interpret the dream.....

- and so they say?...well, OK, tell us the dream and we’ll interpret it for you.
- if you’ve studied this book before, what did Nebuchadnezzar say back?
- no, not only do I want you to interpret the dream....just to be sure you’re on the up and up, I want you to tell me what the dream was.....
- and he said --- if you don’t, I’m going to [quote] - cut you into pieces and your houses will be made a rubbish heap.

- please look at chapter 5 for a minute to get a summary of how ruthless this man was.
- these are words that are actually spoken to Nebuchadnezzar’s son...but they are a commentary on him.....
- READ 5:18-19

- now, what’s the point?.....For anyone who might be tempted to say --- well, Daniel was faithful to God because things were going so well for him at the moment.....
- the truth is ---- this young man was in a situation where one day he was living in the promised land and the next day he was living in the palace of a cruel despot that was his new boss.

- But Daniel didn’t let his circumstances run his life.
- he didn’t live by the motto --- I’ll serve God as long as everything is going my way.
- no, he said, If God has me in Israel, I’ll serve Him there.
- If He has me in Babylon, I serve Him there.
- I’ll grow where I’m planted....
- I’ll serve where I’m placed.

- and you look at this and say --- but this place wouldn’t have had any parental supervision....Daniel was still faithful.
- but this place wouldn’t have had the support of his faith being the majority religion....Daniel was still faithful.

- see, a change in location / or a change in circumstances....will either make a believer, or break him.
- it will either prove the genuineness of that person’s faith...or reveal the lack thereof.

- its interesting to watch young people go off to college....
- there are some striking parallels to Daniel’s situation and that of many students in college...
- talk about a place that tries to make Babylonians out of people....unfortunately that is true on many college campuses.

- if you’re in that situation....a new setting, less parental involvement, more pressure to compromise your convictions....what are you doing with it?
- how are you handling that?

- its been a delight to me over the years to see young people come to Purdue and say in their hearts, I’m going to do more than get a degree while I’m here....
- I’m also going to continue to grow spiritually....and I’m going to look to have a ministry in the lives of others.....
- so just because momma isn’t looking over my spiritual shoulder doesn’t mean I’m going to stop living for God.....
- in fact, I’m going to let the freedom that comes from these days cause me to ratchet up my devotion to Him to prove the genuineness of my faith.
- see, a change in location / or a change in circumstances....will either make a believer, or break him.

- now, let me ask all of us....are you overcoming the obstacle of being bitter because of your place?
- some of you have recently moved to our community.

- this may be a lot different than what you’re used to.
- I think Lafayette is a great place to live and raise a family.....but moving to a new place is hard....its a new place and its not like the last place you lived.
- its been interesting to me to watch folks move into our town over the years and deal with that newness.....

- some were faithful to God in their church where they used to live and they’ve found a good church in our town and they continued that pattern of faithfulness.....
- but some make the move...and they just don't seem to get plugged in....and the net effect of the change in location is a change in faithfulness.

- what about those who haven’t had a geographic change but something is different in circumstances?
- your company got sold and the new owners aren’t as good to work for as the previous ones?
- are you still going to serve God?

- you used to be in a team you liked and now you’ve been transferred to a group you don’t.
- are you still going to serve God?

- you used to have great health....but now its not so good....are you still going to serve God.
- in order to be faithful like Daniel, we have to overcome the obstacle of being bitter because of your current place.

III. Thirdly, Daniel Overcome the Obstacle of Giving in to The Small Compromises.

- what was going on with this food?
- a daily ration from the king’s choice food and wine....
- in other words, they were allowed to eat from the king’s table.

- can you imagine that....we’re not talking about quarter pounders and fries, here.
- we’re talking about sumptuous meals.....the best of the best.

- but there were a couple of problems.....
- it would have been a direct violation of the OT dietary laws that the Jews of that day lived under.
- also, this food had probably been offered up to some foreign gods.

- we’ll have more to say about this next week......but what would that have been for Daniel and his friends.
- just a small compromise.....just a little step.....and also a deadly one.
- which is exactly why they didn’t eat it.

- and there’s a huge lesson in that.
- Babylonian makers won’t ask you to become one all at once....they’ll just ask you to take one small step at a time.
- just a little compromise....just a little backing down.....just a little giving in.

- I’m not talking about opinions, or views.....I’m talking about clear teaching of the Word of God....
- we ought not to only be concerned about the big ones....we ought to be on guard for the little ones.

- the writer of Proverbs said ---- just a little slumber, just a little folding of the hands.....so shall thy poverty come.
- Peter swore that He would never deny his Lord.....
- but then, there he was....and someone said --- weren’t you one of his followers?.....
- just a little lie.....
- and before he knew it, he had denied the Lord who had died for Him three times.

- friend, did you face any situations this week where you were tempted to compromise your relationship with Christ?.....we all did....whether we recognized them or not, we all did.
- what’s the obvious question ---- how’d you do?
- did you give in?......

- and for anyone who would say.....but its just a little thing.....
- it was just a little lie.....
- it was just a little “off-color”
- it was just a little embrace....
- it was just a little glance....
- it was just a little touch...
- it was just a little.....

- if we want to be like Daniel --- then we have to be committed to not giving in to the small compromises of life.

- now you might say --- PV, what we’re talking about here is hard....I’m not sure I could have done what Daniel did....
- friend, all of this requires the power of God.
- another one of the OT prophets, Zechariah said....its not by might, nor by power.....

- of course all of that begins with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
- we don't live faithfully for God in and of our own strength.....
- and we don't live faithfully for God in order to be saved....

- we start by admitting our sin....by admitting our inability to please God in and of ourselves...
- and then by looking to the cross.....and by humbly accepting the free gift of salvation that is available in and through Christ....

- and then after establishing a personal relationship with Him, we can say with the apostle Paul, I can do all thing through Christ who strengthens me.

- there’s one last obstacle in this text that Daniel had to overcome, and that was

IV. The Obstacle of Being Distanced from His God.

- why did the Babylonians want to change Daniel and his friend’s names?
- because their names spoke of their love for and connection to God.
- Daniel - God is my judge
- Hananiah - Jehovah is gracious
- Mishael - Who is like God
- Azariah - Jehovah is my helper.

- the Babylonians wanted to distance them from that ---
- so Daniel was renamed Belteshazzar -- Bel [one of their idols] protect the king
- Hananiah becomes Shadrach - Command of Aku [another of their gods]
- Mishael - becomes Meshach - Who is what Aku is
- and Azariah becomes Abednego - Sevant of Nego - the god of vegetation.

- do you see the pressure?
- worship our idols....fit into our culture.....don’t stand out.....
- and more than anything else...don’t show allegiance to the one true God.

- decide about how to end this.....
- could use the illustration from McDowell -- the teacher ordered to take his Bible off his desk.
- or could allude to the situation Gloria Smith mentioned....

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