Daniel 4:1-27 - Godly Ministry to People in Tough

Steve Viars March 13, 1999 Daniel 4:1-27

- Have you ever wondered why God allowed evil into His world?
- why He allows human beings to do things that are wrong?
- why He allows injustice and inhumane treatment of others?
- Have you ever wondered why God allows calamities and personal tragedies?

- Maybe you have a friend, or a co-worker, or a family member who’s going through a great difficulty.....
- their life had been going well....and then boom......they get a bad medical diagnosis, or there’s an accident, or the bottom falls out financially....
- have you ever wondered bout those kinds of things?....we all have---its one of the most puzzling questions for people who believe in God ---- then why is there the existence of evil?

- Have you ever had doubts because of those issues?
- its OK to have questions.....the Bible is filled with people who cried out to God with their questions, and their concerns, and sometimes even their complaints....
- done in the right spirit, with the right attitude....that can be a sign of authenticity, not rebellion.....
- Have you ever asked questions like....now, if God is in control----how do we explain this?
- or if God is a God of love----then how could this have happened?
- questions...sincere, genuine questions.

- now, it gets a little more complicated----because for most of us, its not simply a matter of wanting to wrestle with those ideas ourselves.....
- its also a matter of wanting to be a genuine help to those the Lord has placed around us...
- because you’re probably not just asking those questions, but you have men and women in your life who are asking you those questions.....
- and many times its not in the ivory tower of some sterile classroom existence, buts its in the crucible of real life suffering, and real life pain, and real life confusion.

- now the good news is, God hasn’t left us in the dark regarding such matters....
- He doesn’t airbrush such issues out of the Bible.
- this morning, the study we have been doing brings us to a passage of Scripture that addresses these questions head-on.....
- and if you’re a person going through great difficulty---this passage can be a real help to you.....
- and if God has placed someone around you going through great difficulty---this passage can be of real help to you.....
- and if you think that God may ever place someone around you who is going through great difficulty---this passage can be of real help to you.....
- have I covered all the bases?

- with that in mind, let me invite you to open your Bibles to Daniel chapter 4.
- we’ve been studying through the book of Daniel verse by verse and chapter by chapter.

- you can find the location of the book of Daniel by looking in the Table of contents in the front of your Bible or by finding the big books of Psalms and Proverbs and then continuing to turn to the right through the book of Ecclesiates, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel.
- let me take a moment and let you know where we are in this series.
- today is our eighth week in this study....
- we are approaching half-time.....
- what I mean by that is, Lord willing we plan to look at this very important truth in chapter 4 today and next Sunday.
- then we’re going to take two weeks off to have some focused study on the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.....
- I’ll be in Florida the week after that, and Pastor Dutton will be speaking....so we’ll have three weeks off from Daniel.
- then we’ll come back for the second half....and if you’ve been reading ahead....you know that the material that comes in the latter part of this book is extremely interesting and very unusual....
- we’re not going to get bogged down in all the detail....but we are going to trace some of the important themes regarding prophecy....and what God’s Word tells us about the end times
- especially from the perspective of what that means to the way believers in Christ live their lives today.

- now, today, in the first half of Daniel chapter 4, we have a marvelous example of Godly Ministry to People in Tough Places.
- Please be looking for the important themes as I read verse 1-27---READ  [point out that this chapter is given in the first person --- and that verses 1-3 are a summary after the event had happened --- and that the story really begins in verse 4].

- we’re looking this morning for three principles of Godly ministry to people in tough places.


I. God Had a Plan and Purpose for Nebuchanezzar’s Life.


- in you haven’t been with us up to this point in the study, I realize that these details we’ve just read about could make a person’s head spin.
- let me take just a minute and bring you up to speed.
- the book began by reporting that Nebuchanezzar, the king of Babylon, came to Israel and began to conquer the nation.....
- one of the first steps was to overthrow Jerusalem, and take some of their choice young people, deport them back to Babylon.....and train these Jewish youths in the ways and customs of the Babylonians.
- the reason for that was, that as they continued to overthrow Israel, there would be trained Jewish leaders in place to help assimilate Israel into Babylonian culture.
- Daniel, and his friends Shadrach, Meschach, and Abendego were part of the group of teenagers who had been deported.

- so this book is all about how these young men remained faithful to God, even though they were young, they were far away from home, there was no parental involvement/ influence, and there was tremendous pressure to compromise.

- one of the key figures in this book thus far has been Nebuchanezzar.
- and there is no question that Nebuchanezzar is a wicked, evil man.
- for those who have been part of this series....would you agree with that statement?
- have we seen examples of Nebuchanezzar’s sinful behavior and lifestyle?
1) Deporting the Jewish young people in the first place.....there’s no hint of concern for how such an action would affect them --- they were a different nationality ---- they were his slaves, and that was the end of the story.
2) He was ruthless in his treatment of human beings --- over and over we hear him threatening to tear people in pieces and destroy their houses. 
3) Thirdly, he was an idol worshipper.....that’s why he gave Daniel and his three friends new names...he even said that in verse 8 from the chapter we just read --- But finally Daniel came in before me, whose names is Balteshazzar according to the name of my god.
- and by the way, these first three things go together.....the God of heaven and earth has always stood out from man made gods because the God of heaven and earth is holy, righteous, just, and compassionate whereas gods the human beings make up are inevitably like....human beings.....
- so its not surprising that a person who worshipped idols would behave in such a ruthless fashion to other people.
- but what else have seen about Nebuchanezzar?
4) He’s got a big time anger problem.....
- there have been several examples of something not going Nebuchanezzar’s way and he just flew off the handle in irrational rage....
- so his wise men couldn’t tell him his previous dream in chapter 2....he decides to have every wise man in the kingdom killed....
- three guys won’t bow down to his golden image.....he has the fiery furnace heated up seven times hotter which was so ferocious that it killed his own servants.
5) He also kept making these shallow professions.....he’d say when he was in a jam, Oh, now I’m going to become a follower of Daniel’s God....but then as soon as he’s out of the jam, he’s back to worshipping his own idols.....
- which showed he was just trying to add the real God to his collection of other gods....
- there was no real repentance.....
- there was no acknowledgment of who God really was.....
- there was no trust....no belief.....NO CHANGE.
6) He also promoted the worship of himself.....
- he had the ninety foot golden statue made in chapter 3 of himself.....and ordered every person to bow down to it.....
7) He even tried to kill Shadrach, Meschach, and Abendego by throwing them in the fiery furnace....an experiment that backfired terribly when the true God protected the lives of these three men through the ministry of the preincarnate Lord and Savior Jesus Christ....so that Nebuchanezzar looked in the furnace and saw not three men burning up in the fire....but four men walking around drinking iced tea [I added the iced tea part].....but the Bible says those three men came out and not only was their skin not burned.....
-- but the Scripture tells us that their clothes were not burned, their hair wasn’t singed....and frankly they didn’t even smell like smoke!

- the bottom line is -- Nebuchanezzar was one evil fellow.....in fact you could write the word “pride” over his life story.....
- that elevated opinion of self that caused him to exaggerate his own importance at the expense of everyone around Him, even the God of heaven.
- now, would you agree with that analysis based on what the book has taught thus far?

- but the amazing thing is this....God was still working in Nebuchanezzar’s life, to bring this wicked man to Himself.
- and some might read these verses and say---God is sure being mean to Nebuchanezzar, He sure is harassing Nebuchanezzar....he sure is a vindictive God....
- friends, listen, the exact opposite is true.....
- Daniel chapter 4 is a marvelous expression of the love of God for this king....
- It is amazing the lengths to which God will go to draw men and women to Himself.
- II Peter 3:9 tells us --- The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
- and that’s not the only part of that story, but its an important part of that story.

- Now you might say, Pastor Viars...what does the process look like of God drawing people to Himself?
- this is not a comprehensive answer.....but here’s some important facets of the process....

1) God gives each one of us a conscience.....part of that is a knowledge that there is a God.
- Romans 1 makes it clear that every human being is born with that knowledge.

2) God has also revealed Himself to us in creation....we have a beautiful earth on which to live, we have bodies that have been marvelously formed....
- general revelation, or the creation of the world are part of what God wants to us to draw people to Himself.

- so you have the conscience, and creation, and thirdly.....
3) God’s goodness.....
- Romans 2:4 tells us that the goodness of God leads to repentance.....
- God showers us, all of us, with good things....for the purpose of bringing us to Himself.

4) Fourthly, there’s the cross.....
- ever since man’s sin in the Garden of Eden, God began speaking about His coming Messiah....
- one would be sent who would pay for the sins of the world....
- we see hints at that all through the OT.....
- that truth becomes living technicolor in the NT when we learn that the Messiah is Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world through his substitutionary death on the cross of Calvary.....
- his resurrection...the fact that the tomb is empty proves for all who have eyes to see and ears to hear that the free gift of salvation is available for all who will repent of their sin and embrace Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.

- so you have the conscience, creation, God’s goodness, the cross.....
- but what about those who still will not believe.....like Nebuchanezzar?
- what’s the answer?.....what does a loving God do?
5) Its called consequences.....
- God has built into his world the principle of cause and effect....
- whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap....
- the way of the transgressor is hard
- why?.....to jar human beings out of their complacency and self-sufficiency.....
- Daniel 4 might look to some like the actions of a mean, capricious, vindictive god....but the truth of matter is they were the action of a patient, merciful, loving God who was seeking to draw a very evil human being to Himself.
- what are the implications of this thus far?
1) One, you may be here this morning and be like Nebuchanezzar....
- perhaps you made a shallow profession at some time in your life....
- but its not been genuine.....
- there’s been no change.....its not a real, personal, growing, relationship with Christ.
- and maybe God is bringing some difficulty into your life right now....
- maybe its not working out as well as you wish.....
- you may even have walked into this auditorium pretty ticked off at God for what’s happening in your life....
- friend, could it be, that God is using that as His loving means of drawing you to Himself.
- [could use the illus. about the criminals on the galley ship, or Jeremiah’s illus about the writer of “Just as I am”]

2) Another implication of these verses is what to do if you have a Nebuchanezzar in your life.
- do you have anyone in your life that doesn’t know God yet....and has some Nebuchanezzar type tendencies?
- have you given up on the person?.....Is he or she a hopeless case.....
- hear the message from Daniel chapter 4.
- the saving arm of God is long.....the saving power of God is far-reaching.


3) Thirdly, we should praise God for His patience, his love, and His mercy.....
- for we all brought Nebuchanezzar like tendencies to the equation.....
- if you know Jesus Christ as savior and Lord this morning, God did some marvelous things in your life to bring you to Him.

- now, what’s the second principle that flows out of these verses?


II. God Wanted to/ and was Able to / Use His Servant Daniel.


- Not only does God want to see people like Nebuchadnezzar come to be reconciled to Him...but He uses people [like you and me] as ministers of reconciliation.
- now, let me be sure I’m speaking clearly....
- God provides the means [His Son died on the cross for our sins]....the means of reconciliation is the shed blood of Christ.....
- but He uses people as messengers.....
- one of the thrusts of this text is how Daniel was the one God wanted to use, and was able to use.

- now let’s scour this passage for 5 characteristics of Daniel’s ministry to Nebuchadnezzar.
- How did God use him?

1) As a meaning maker.
- Nebuchanezzar comes with this strange dream and Daniel makes sense of it for him....he interprets the dream.
- now you might say --- PV, what’s that have to do with us today?....
- God is not speaking to people today in visions and dreams and I certainly wouldn’t have the ability to interpret them if He was.....so what does this have to do with me?
- let me answer the question with a question -- How is God speaking to people today?
- through the Living Word [the Lord Jesus Christ] as He is revealed in the written Word [the inspired Word of God]
- that’s why the writer of Hebrews said.... Hebrews 1:1 - God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.
- Take a passage like that, and then connect it with one like II Timothy 3:16-17 - All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

- where does that leave us?....part of purpose is loving offering meaning and purpose to life for those who are looking for meaning and purpose.
- Nebuchanezzar came to Daniel saying -- make sense of this for me......
- you very well have people in your life, if you’re living a consistent Christian testimony, who are saying the same thing to you.....
- my life really stinks right now.....keeping a marriage going is a hopeless task.....raising children is going to drive me crazy [or having parents is going to drive me crazy].....the pressure of school is more than I can handle....we could flesh those examples out all day....

- what a wonderful opportunity to say something like....
- well, have you ever thought about it from this perspective?
- or, have you ever considered what God’s Word would say about your situation?

- I’m certainly not talking about acting like a know-it all.....or being inauthentic or plastic....
- nor am I talking about forcing ourselves into situations or conversations uninvited.....

- but think of it from this perspective....how many of our Lord’s interactions with people were comprised of an individual bringing a particular story or experience to Him...and He exchanged the color of glasses they were wearing....
- here’s an entirely different way of looking at that event....at looking at life....at looking at truth....at looking at eternity.

- several of our pastoral staff went to a luncheon this week where the speaker was Kelly Monroe, the author of the book “I met God at Harvard”....
- and she was saying that someone asked the President of Harvard recently, what is the most difficult problem students on this campus face?
- do you know what his answer was?......emptiness.

- God used Daniel to be a meaning-maker.

2) Daniel’s ministry was also God-focused.
- this chapter, or this book, is not about Daniel being smart....or Daniel being great.....
- its about Daniel knowing God.....having a God who is wise, and powerful, and great.

- and that emphasis is flowing out of the text....at least Nebuchadnezzar is getting that.
- please notice verse 8 - READ
- don't you love that phrase -- even from the lips of an unbeliever at this point...
- you see it again in verse 9 --- READ....
- please look also at verse 18 --- READ

- now, why is Nebuchanezzar talking this way?
- its because in the previous chapters, Daniel has been talking this way.
- I was working with a woman from another church in counseling recently in our Monday program....and this was going to be her last session --- and she was going on and on about how wonderful our counseling center was, and it even spilled a little bit into how wonderful I was [she didn’t know me very well]....
- it was very important in that conversation to steer that attention off of us and onto God and His Word.
- we see Daniel doing that all throughout the book---and the test is when the person he’s trying to minister to picks up on it].....
- by the way, you may have someone in your life who has noticed that you seem to be able to handle pressure well, or you seem to know how to communicate well, or your marriage is going well.....
- are you going to leave them thinking that you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread....or are you going to turn their attention to the life-giving and life-changing Savior?

3) A third observation about Daniel’s ministry was --- it was compassionate.....
- we’ve already talked about how wicked a man Nebuchanezzar was.....
- you can imagine what it was like for Daniel to serve this man [and by this chapter we believe he would have worked for the king for 30 years].....
- yet he clearly loved Nebuchadnezzar.....
- and as the interpretation of the dream unfolds....Daniel didn’t get a wry smile on his face......
- do you remember what he said in verse 19 - My lord, if only the dream applied to those who hate you, and its interpretation to your adversaries!
- there’s a genuine compassion there that is  powerful and compelling.

[could use Pastor Goode’s joke about the 2 pastors -- “at least the new one doesn’t act like he’s happy we’re going there!”]

- I think many Christian groups are making that same mistake in the way they talk about unbelievers.....
- this web-site called the Nuremburg Files that targeted abortion doctors in a sort of hit-list fashion was wrong.....
- you don’t do God’s work using worldly methods.....

- another group called Life Dynamics out of Denton, Texas just mailed a batch of threatening materials to obstetricians all over the US and Canada.....
- that mean-spirited approach to ministry is not going to convince anyone.

- the same is true in the debate over homosexuality....
- there’s a Baptist church [I’m sorry to say], in Kansas that is picketing events all over the country with some of the most hateful signs I have ever seen.
- the name of their web site is www.godhatesfags!

- no one is helped by that.....and unfortunately churches have had a part in doing ministry in hateful ways.
- there were plenty of churches on the wrong side of race relations....and some still are.

- I believe when it comes to the homosexuality issue, churches ought to stand for biblical morality, but at the same time stand for the right of another human being to choose a different world and life view without fear of hatred, harassment, and violence.
- we ought to hold our views on morality in a way that contributes to civility whenever possible.

- you see that kind of compassion coming out of our text about Daniel’s ministry.

4) A fourth characteristic of Daniel’s ministry was --- he told the truth.
- we’re not talking about the kind of so-called love that never gets around to truth.
- Daniel clearly identified Nebuchanezzar’s sinfulness.....he loved him by telling his the truth.

5) Lastly, he offered a solution.
- can you imagine saying verse 27 to the king.
- READ.

- there’s a big difference between shouting at the darkness or lighting a candle.
- Daniel encouraged his friend, the king to repent.

- we’ve got a lot out on the table this morning....can I ask you some questions about all of this?
- are you like Daniel?
- do you have the kind of relationship with God, coupled with a winsomeness with people, that provides meaningful ministry opportunities?
- of this list of 5 characteristics we’ve studied, which [if any] would be most lacking?

[could walk down through the list]

[could also develop --- CC brochures, # of new counselors, future lay training]


- now, the bottom line is, I hope each of us would be saying --- Lord, please give me a Nebuchadnezzar....and please help me to be a Daniel.
- that leads us to this third principle this morning.....


III. Daniel’s Life Before this Event Qualified Him to be Used of God in Nebuchadnezzar’s Life this Way.


- another way of saying this is -- we couldn’t have had a chapter 4 without all that Daniel choose to do in chapters 1-3.
- this is a very pivotal time for Daniel, and Nebuchanezzar....but it would have never happened had Daniel not been willing to take the stands he took in the previous chapters....and lived the life he lived in previous chapters.

- and if you’d say --- you know PV, opportunities like the one you’re describing aren’t coming to me right now.....
- you may be in chapters 1-3 right now.....building the testimony, letting the light shine....
- I think we could say --- Chapter 4’s probably coming......[develop]


- could also develop the idea --- what Daniel was to Nebuchanezzar, God wanted Israel to be to the nations.....
[and what He wants the church to be to the 20th century world]

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