The Unwavering Christian

By Jon Pippy

20 January 2007

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Back in 1942, when Britain faced its darkest hour, Winston Churchill said to the people, "in war we must be unwavering." He said, "Then we can truly win the battle;" and, you know, I listened to that or, at least, I was reading that in this book I've got of all of his quotations. And I was thinking about the uncompromising spirit and the unwavering determination of so many of God's people that I've had the privilege of knowing over the years; and it's quite remarkable really, quite remarkable.

Because you know, brethren, life's a battleground, okay? Life's a battleground, it's not a playground, as the world would have us believe; and it takes men and women of unwavering confidence to face the enemy and to win the spiritual battles.

What does it mean to be unwavering? Well, how about unshakable or not shakable? How about having a firm conviction? How about unbending perseverance? How about unbending loyalty -- not showing abrupt variations in your life; not overly discouraged; not forced to abandon your purpose or your effort, undiminished in courage or valor, and not giving in or giving way to fear.

That's a rather tall order for many of us on different occasions. It is certainly true of those so many who have lost their way. Over in Matthew 11[:7] -- don't turn there -- but Christ said to the people He was talking to, when they were talking about John; and He said, "what did you go in to the wilderness to see anyway, folks? Did you go out to see a reed shaken by the wind? Did you go to see someone clothed in soft garments? Or did you go to see a prophet?" And, oftentimes, Christians are forced into circumstances that make it easy to become a reed in the wind.

You know, the outstanding Biblical examples that God has recorded for us to study, that we have read over and over and over, and we're going to have read them over and over again, because we learn something new every time. At least, I do. They're there; and they're filled with hope, and they're filled with meaning.

The book of Daniel -- a very intriguing book. It's one we're going to take a look at today for the majority of this discussion (at least a portion of it); and, you know, brethren, Daniel was forced. Daniel himself was forced into circumstances that made it easy for him to become a reed in the wind, if he'd wanted to be; but he stood firm, and he was completely unwavering. Instead of bending (instead of blending in and giving up), he resisted and put down roots like an oak tree, falling back on the laws and promises of God. He defied all the storms of change; and a lot of change came to his life when he was taken to Babylon, retrained, dealt with a couple of different kings.

And, brethren, today's society is a good deal like the one that Daniel lived in centuries ago. The world still wants God's people to conform to its standards and its practices; and they want to squeeze us into their mold, don't they? Oh, yes they do! And so many of the churches today want to do exactly the same thing: "think like we do, we've got the answers, come with us, meet with us, you'll be fine. You'll be safe over here." Squeezing you into a mold. Truly, we live in a world in which people find it easy to do "what's right in their own eyes."{1} And yet, brethren, God is looking for people who will do what is right in His eyes, and be totally and completely and absolutely unwavering. That's what He's looking for. That's what we're gonna have to be like.

Back in June of 1787, over 200 years ago now (it's really not that long when you think about history), during that time the American Constitution was being formed; and, as they were struggling with the language, trying to get everything right; and all the men were assembled together, Benjamin Franklin (and this is true, by the way, I'm not making this up), Benjamin Franklin stood up and he said: "the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men," and that he then moved with the Assembly to invite some of the local clergy to lead the group in prayer for Divine guidance. If only that could be done in today's House of Commons, or in the Senate, or in the Congress: "Bring out the Bible. We need God's help here and how to deal with Iraq, and how to deal with the rest of the world, and how to deal with all of our problems." Wouldn't that be marvelous?

God granted favor to Daniel and to his friends (and you know the people I'm referring to) as they were recruited into the government of the Babylonians. Let's turn to Daniel 1. You might want to have a marker -- if you want to anyway -- and keep it in that general area of Daniel because we're going to go back and forth.

Daniel 1:3-7 Then the king instructed the master of the eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel, and some of the king's descendents, and some of the nobles; (4) Young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom and possessing knowledge, and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Babylonians. (6) Now from among those among those of the sons of Judah, were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, (7) And to them the chief of the eunuchs gave names. He gave Daniel the name, Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-nego.

When you read the scriptures, brethren, you always see where there is always a faithful remnant that followed and obeyed God. All down through history, right down to today, there is a small, faithful remnant who will not give up, who will not abandon. Let me just turn over ... I want to show you something here in Isaiah chapter seven; then we'll come back to Daniel. Isaiah 7, one quick verse here that kind of sets the tone for this, at least for that particular thought.

Isaiah 7:3 Then the LORD said to Isaiah, Go out now to meet Ahaz, you, and Shear-jashub thy son, at the end of the aqueduct [and so on].

Do you know what that name means, Shear-jashub? It's in your margin. It means "a remnant shall return," a faithful remnant; and, you know, brethren, the same principle applies today, doesn't it? Is there a faithful remnant hanging on, trying to do what's right, hanging on to the truth that was once given? Yes. Are they scattered? Yes. Same principle applies today. In Matthew 7[:21], we're not going to turn there, Christ said, "not everyone who says, Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven." In other words, be careful how you stand, lest you fall.{2} Don't be so sure you're right! An unwavering and faithful remnant is what God is looking for and working with. Daniel and his friends fulfilled that role (and we're going to see that), and so must we.

TRANSFORMERS, NOT CONFORMERS (PLAY FROM 8:36) (PLAY FROM 8:36)

Daniel and his three friends were to be transformed. When you read some of these scriptures we're going to go through, it is very interesting how it kind of unfolds here. They were being transformed, or they were to be transformed, from Jews to Babylonians, in a new land, with a new name, new ideas, new customs and a new language. How would you like to have that happen? If they take away your name: "My name's Bill." "No, now it's Fred." "What?" You know, or whatever it might be.

They took everything away from them. In other words, they were brainwashed -- brainwashed in order to think and to live and to act like Babylonians. Now, it's interesting, the name Daniel means "God is my judge." All right, that's what that name means. But it was changed to Belteshazzar, or "Bel protect my life." A false god protect his life, that's what it means. And Hananiah means "the Lord shows grace," but his new name Shadrach means "command of Aku." A-K-U. That's the moon god of the Babylonians. And Mishael means "who is like God?" and the new name Meshach means "who is like Aku is?" And Azariah means "the Lord is my help;" but Abed-nego means "servant of Nego." N-E-G-O, a pagan god.

Now here they were, taken out of the land. They changed their names to pagan gods. They changed their style, their life, their customs, their language -- everything. They were being BRAINWASHED, squeezed to conform. The name of the true and living God was replaced by the names of the false gods of Babylon. They were being squeezed into conformity with the world at that time. So, what's new? What's new? Are we not being squeezed and conformed? Yes, we are! Or they're attempting to do it anyway. Satan's certainly doing his part to squeeze us to conform. Turn over to Romans for a moment, Romans 12; and keep your marker in Daniel, if you want. (If you don't, I will speak to you later.)

Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (2) [Here's how it fits in.] And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Conformers are people whose lives are controlled by pressures from without, but transformersare people whose lives are controlled by power from within, through God's Spirit. Which one controls your life? Daniel and his friend were transformers. Instead of being changed, they did the changing; and you're going to see that. God used them to transform the minds of powerful pagan rulers and bring glory to His name in a foreign land. It's quite an amazing story when you dig in a little bit further. We're gonna see that.

Do we identify with that in the Church today? Do we? Do you? Are you an insignificant bump on a log of the Christian life, or does your life have purpose? Your measure of transformation -- your measure of faith, and confidence, and hope, and how you live your life -- does it make a difference with people? It should, and I'm sure it does.

Unwavering. That begins with something mentioned back here in Daniel 1. Let's notice it. Here's where it all began for Daniel. Just as they changed his name and said "we're going to teach you a different language, different customs, we're going to mold you into a Babylonian to serve the mighty king" and all of their wretched pagan gods -- that's what they were, virtually, doing.

Daniel 1:8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself.

Not talking just about the king's delicacies and the food. He was not going to defile himself spiritually either. And he purposed in his heart and he was completely and absolutely unwavering. His heart -- the totality of his being -- belonged to God! And notice God's response:

Daniel 1:17-20 As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; [notice that: God gave it to them] and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. (18) Now at the end of the days, when the king had said that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. (19) Then the king interviewed them, and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king. (20) And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm.

All the rest of the people were nothing by comparison to these four men, because they purposed in their heart, and God rewarded that! You think He doesn't do that today? Oh yes, He does! They understood the mindset of the Babylonians (these people, these men); and they were better suited now to show them the superiority of God's wisdom, and that's what they did.

And Satan applies pressure of his own to destroy our faith, doesn't he, brethren? Lots of pressure! But God tests us to develop our faith. That's the difference. That's the difference, because a faith that can't be tested can't be trusted. False faith withers in times of trial; and true faith that's unwavering takes a deep root, okay, and brings glory to God. This explains why three young men here were to be tested and thrown into the fiery furnace. You all know that story. Well, there's a whole lot more depth to that story; and there's more significant impact, I think, than we sometimes realize.

I think, you know, the apostle Peter, making that statement about the fiery furnace, I think the apostle Peter must have been familiar with the book of Daniel. Notice over in 1 Peter 1:7, he says:

1 Peter 1:7 That the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1Peter 4:12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;

I think Peter read the book of Daniel, or had access to those manuscripts. What these men faced makes you stop and examine your own faith, or it should. Is it authentic faith that can be tested and bring glory to God? Is that the kind of faith that you and I have? Good old King Nebuchadnezzar, he had a problem in his particular kingdom, and he was going to force unity in his kingdom by means of religion and by means of fear. That's how these despots operated in those days. They didn't trust anybody. And three young men got caught up in this. Daniel 3:

Daniel 3:1-2 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its width six cubits. He set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. (2) And King Nebuchadnezzar sent word to gather together the satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and ALL the officials of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

Everybody was to come. Every administrator and top official in that government, everyone! It's like Mr. Bush might call and say "I want my Vice President, and I want every member of Congress and the party assembled tomorrow morning. We're going to have a very important meeting. Everyone has to be there." (The same thing.) All the government officials, everyone was to be there. All these difference offices are especially named. Every level of authority was represented and expected to be present.

Daniel 3:3-6 So the satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered together for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. [You know, brethren, it wasn't just politics. It was religious as well. Complete with music, all the sound effects.] (4) Then a herald cried aloud: "To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, (5) that at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, [and so on, then], you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; (6) and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be [put]into the midst of a burning fiery furnace."

Notice the word "worship" is used here a few times. This is a religious thing as well. It's not just an administrative thing, not just a political move. It's religious as well. There was no voting. It was life or death! They had to be there. The difference between an unwavering believer and an unbeliever isn't the presence of faith, because everybody lives by faith in something, whatever it might be. The difference is the object of that faith. That's the difference. The crowds fell down, and they worshipped the image; and three young men believed the commandment of God, so they disobeyed.

Unwavering faith, REGARDLESS of the obstacles -- that must be our resolve as well. True faith, brethren, isn't frightened by threats, or impressed by ceremonies, or impressed by crowds. True faith obeys God and trusts Him to work out the consequences. What if they had decided to compromise? "Well, just this one occasion, we're gonna compromise. After all, it's in our best interests; and God knows we really don't mean it." If they'd bowed down to the image only once to get out of trouble, it would have been very difficult to get their lives back on track again. Very difficult! In verse 11, he says here:

Daniel 3:11-13 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. (12) There are certain Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon [yeah, the leaders came to him and said, "hey, there's certain people that you set up, they're Jews]: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego; these men, O king, have not paid due regard to you. They do not serve your gods or [they do not] worship the gold image which you have set up." [Notice the king's response to the unwavering faith and confidence that these three displayed. (13) Then Nebuchadnezzar, [was very understanding and he didn't really mind. Oh, no.] in [a] rage and [a] fury, gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. So they brought these men before the king.

You know, he may have conquered many cities (King Nebuchadnezzar); but he could not conquer himself, could he? What's it say in Proverbs 16[:32] "Better a patient man, who controls his temper, than one who takes a city or two." So he just said "throw them into the fire and be done with them!" And yet, these three men were calm and respectful -- just like what Peter said, "always be ready, to give defense to everyone who asks a reason for the hope that is within you, with fear and meekness." {3}

TIMES OF ADVERSITY OR OPPORTUNITY (PLAY FROM 22:26)

Times of adversity are usually times of opportunities, especially when being persecuted for being unwavering and faithful. Notice Mark 13, or I'll just look it up there for you. You can keep your marker in Daniel.

Mark 13:9 But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them.

It's a testimony to them! You're gonna see that. The impact these men had on that king, that Daniel had as well on King Darius, it's amazing what took place. Back in Daniel 3, we see that these men were only concerned with obeying God and providing a faithful witness to all who were watching. Their attitude was respectful with very few words, very carefully chosen. Verse 15, he says:

Daniel 3:15-17 Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the [music], and you fall down [no problem, everything's great] But if you [don't, into the fire ... (16) Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. (17) If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.

In other words, we don't need to defend ourselves or our God. He will defend Himself and us. For you and me today, brethren, we must obey and trust God; and He will do the rest. That's the lesson for us. Keep your finger there. I want to go over quickly to Isaiah 12, something that ties in here.

Isaiah 12:2 Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; 'For YAH, the LORD, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.

That's exactly what Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were thinking and saying in their hearts. These three men were men of faith, not men of presumption. No, had they affirmed that God would deliver them, they would have presuming, wouldn't they? They would have been very presumptuous. But they said IF He does it, but He's capable of doing it, because they didn't know what God had willed for their situation. They had no idea. Verse 18:

Daniel 3:18 But if not [if He doesn't deliver us], let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up."

Instead, they stated that God was able to deliver them; but, even if He didn't, they still would not fall down before the image. You know, it's like someone once said, "I will obey God if He rewards me for it." Isn't that marvelous? I can recall a chap years ago, talking about tithing and Malachi -- receiving blessings for tithing -- he said, "I've been tithing for years and I'm holding out my basket, but there's no blessings!" Tithing for the wrong reasons! And he gave up and moved away from Church years ago.

"Yeah, I'll obey if there's something in it for me." That's Satan's philosophy of worship, isn't it? Remember he said to Christ "I'll give you all these things if you worship me." That's the way of "get" -- you know, one of the Two Trees Mr. Armstrong talked about. It's like today a commercialized faith; and to that point I heard a rabbi this week on the radio being interviewed, and I wish I had a chance to listen to more of it. It was over, and I'd like to get his book. I'm just curious because of the way he was speaking -- a man of great understanding. He went through the war, in the concentration camps; and he talked about contemporary religion in today's society and the decline of Judaism. Never mind the rest of the religions out there.

He said, in today's society -- he called it "a la carte religion." I never heard that before. I thought, "beautiful way to put it." I know you're delighted to hear that as well -- a la carte religion. He said, you know, I'll have a little bit of this, I don't want that and maybe I'll have a side order this, right? Maybe I'll keep the holy days and maybe I won't. [laughs] Maybe I'll throw out tithing. You know, whatever it might be. And I thought, yeah, that's a really interesting way to put it -- a la carte religion. Yeah, not the whole menu; just little bits and pieces.

With God it's all or nothing. Not everyone who prays for healing is healed immediately; but God provides the strength to bear the pain and face death, if necessary, without fear. I think back of a woman we knew who died not too long ago of cancer. We prayed for her, she was anointed. Wonderful woman, she died. She died in faith; and she was calm, and she was confident.

Brethren, these three men, they believed that God could deliver them; but they would trust Him even if He didn't. Let's look over Habakkuk 3. (Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk.) You know, that is how faith is supposed to operate in our lives. That is what these stories are here for, so we can go over them again and again and again and learn more -- more understanding of what took place and why. He says:

Habakkuk 3:17-19 Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls -- (18) Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. (19) The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer's feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.

TRUE FAITH CONFOUNDS THE ENEMY (PLAY FROM 29:52)

Another interesting point here about this story, brethren: true faith confounds the enemy. True faith confounds the enemy, it does! Let's go back to Daniel 3 again.

Daniel 3:19-22 Then Nebuchadnezzar [the wonderful, understanding man that he was (laughs)] was full of fury, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. He spoke and commanded that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. [Seven times hotter, make it really hot for these guys.] (20) And he commanded certain mighty men of valor who were in his army to bind [the boys up and throw them in]. (21) Then these men were bound in their coats, their trousers, their turbans, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the [fire]. (21) Therefore, because the king's command was urgent, and the furnace exceedingly hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. (22) And these three men, [ ... ], fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.

The king's temper got the best of him, didn't it, and he had the men thrown into the furnace. Now, you have to wonder about this guy's mental stability at this time. He's not thinking very clearly, because he ordered the heat to be turned up seven times more, right? The hotter the flame, the more instant the death. If they're going to toss me into a furnace, I want it to be a hot one! The lower the heat, the more intense the suffering would have occurred. Verse 19 he says, he was so mad, seven times more put the heat up. Verse 24:

Daniel 3:24-26 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; [This is a king of an empire, and the impact of what took place here -- you have to think about it in real terms -- it's astounding! He was astonished] and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, "Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?" They answered and said to the king, "True, O king." (25) "Look!" he answered, "I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God." (26) Then Nebuchadnezzar went near the mouth of the burning fiery furnace and spoke, saying, [I could imagine he wasn't mad this time.] "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, servants of the Most High God, come [on]out, [a little bit of a humble change, I'm sure, in his attitude] and come here." Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego came from the midst of the fire.

And looking at this in real terms, it is astonishing -- this event for the king; and for all his servants to witness -- every official in his government was there and saw this! The entire nation was being witnessed to, to the power of God! Verse 27:

Daniel 3:27 And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king's counselors gathered together, and they saw these men [on whom they had accused -- they had accused them, 'didn't these exiles, they didn't fall down and worship you, they didn't worship the image. Into the fire with them! So they all gathered round and saw] on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and [they couldn't smell smoke from them].

You know today you stand in front of a fire outside, a campfire -- the smoke's all over you -- it smells like that for days. They didn't say a word -- they wouldn't dare, but the king did. Notice verse 28:

Daniel 3:28 Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God!

King Nebuchadnezzar learned some very important things: the power of the God of Israel, the effectiveness of faith in Him, and the remarkable faith of three Jewish men who gave their bodies to the true God and not to the king's false gods. "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind [ ... ]." {4} These young men became witnesses of the true and living God to the entire Babylonian empire, because all the officials were there! Talk about unwavering, they truly were.

The experience of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, must have greatly encouraged many who were compromising with the enemy, after being taken captive in exile -- a strong message was being sent to people, a very strong message: God is still on His throne, and He has not forsaken His people. That was an unbelievable, powerful witness to that king. "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego who frustrated my efforts and delivered them."

THE PRICE OF BEING UNWAVERING (PLAY FROM 35:45)

Just think in real terms: if there's a giant furnace, and you look and the three men were thrown in, and you looked in, you saw four walking around -- blow your mind (to use today's term). Let that really impact! That's what happened to a powerful king and all the officials that were there that accused Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that wanted to denounce them. They were smarter, they were better, they had more wisdom. God gave it to them. They resented that. They called them the exiles from the Jews, or these Jews -- these exiles. Find a way to accuse them. How did they feel? Can you just imagine, they must have been shaking with fear! Powerful -- this is powerful stuff here, brethren. It really is if you think about it. You think about what's coming. You think about the impact the Two Witnesses are gonna have on this world. You think that's not gonna be powerful, they're going to shake people? You bet it is!

Life may be fairly safe and it may be fairly comfortable where you and I live right now; but, in many parts of the world, people have and people are paying a price to be faithful and they're paying a price to be unwavering in their separation from this world. And would it not be safe and true to say that, somewhere, someone is shouting, "fall down before this golden image," or whatever it might be? Or concepts or thoughts or whatever ... ideas ... follow me, follow us, forget the spiritual heritage we were given. We must move on with new ideas! That's what some of them are saying today. No, no! We must be unwavering to what we were taught and truly get back on the track we fell off of. Revelation 2:10, don't turn there, you know the scripture. It says:

Revelation 2:10 ... Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, and Daniel -- they all understood that. They were prepared to be sacrificed. "God can save us if He wants to, but if He decides not to, we're still not going to worship that image of yours!" And "God can cure my cancer, my whatever, if He wants to. If He decides not to, I'm prepared to go to the grave if that's what it comes to." I've known many people who've thought that way and it's happened to them. Is God unfaithful? Is God not on His throne? Does He not intervene? Yes, He does; but He has a purpose and a plan.

The book of Daniel is a great source of encouragement because it reminds us that God cares for His people AND honors them WHEN they are true to Him! Notice that over in ... Keep your marker in Daniel. Go over to I Samuel -- "Foist" Samuel 2. When you start looking at these things in detail, it's powerful what took place back then. 1 Samuel 2, God honors those who turn to him. Verse 30, notice it:

I Samuel 2:30 Therefore the LORD God of Israel says: 'I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.' But now the LORD says: 'Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego honored God, gave a powerful witness of understanding, confidence and faith, and God honored it for a magnificent purpose -- to show that king, to show all those governors, to show that kingdom that there is a God and He intervenes. That must have shaken Mr. King Nebuchadnezzar to the bottom of his being when that happened, and probably for the rest of his life.

The story is so relevant to us today, because there is coming a world leader (like Nebuchadnezzar) who will have an image of himself; and people will be forced to worship him; and those who refuse will be persecuted and killed! You see the connection? Being, or becoming, unwavering has a price to be paid.

As we move through the book of Daniel here, brethren, we'll see here that King Nebuchadnezzar dies; and Darius the Mede is the new king over the kingdom, and things start to change. Things start to change certainly for Daniel, as we bring him back into the picture here. Let's turn to Daniel 6. Initially, Daniel was very highly esteemed by Darius.

Daniel 6:1-5 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps, to be over the whole kingdom; (2) and over these, three governors, of whom Daniel was one, that the satraps might give account to them, so that the king would suffer no loss. [So you put trusted people in place to make sure that they don't take any money from you, you're getting what you deserve. Three trusted individuals.] (3) Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm. [That just shows you how powerful his example was. What a magnificent individual he was that God was working with. But the other leaders did not like it, and they plotted against Daniel. (4) So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him. (5) Then these men said [Well, we can't catch him at work, we gotta catch him some other way.], "We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God."

IMPECCABLE CHARACTER (PLAY FROM 43:08)

That, again, really says something, doesn't it? They were, undoubtedly, younger men. He was older and a Jewish exile, as they liked to call him. And it is certainly a commendable thing when people possess character that is so impeccable, so absolutely impeccable, that they can't be accused of doing anything wrong except in matters relating to their faith. Isn't that amazing? Could they say that about us? "Well, I can't trip Jon in any area of his life. I've looked and I've tried to find something."

You know, like when people run for office? They've got people going back and trying to find some dirt on a person. Whatever it might be, they're going to find it if it's there. So, they go back; and they can't find a thing. Daniel never took a bribe, never did anything wrong -- beautiful life. It's impeccable! "Okay, now we're gonna go after him in matters relating to his faith. That's how we're going to catch him!" I think that's a lesson for us today. I really do. The conniving leaders could not tempt Daniel to do anything illegal, but they could attempt to make his faithful religious practices illegal. Very clever fellows, these guys. Very clever!

You know, it's really interesting, Daniel could have said, "Look, it's no big deal. If there's gonna be a problem with the king and he's got some issue with me praying, I'll just close the windows. You know, they don't have to see. What's the problem here?" Could he not have justified that? Yes, he could have. Think of it in real terms. "They don't have to see me." Daniel didn't hide the fact that he prayed in his room three times a day, and the window was open toward Jerusalem. Notice verse 10:

Daniel 6:10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed [this edict, we'll go back over it in a second], he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom.

He wasn't going to change that. If the king made prayer to other Gods [than Nebuchadnezzar's] illegal, then Daniel was as good as in the lion's den. They were so happy. "We've got him now!" You can just imagine these conniving characters, like politicians, you know? So the plot is set; and, guess what, the king fell for it. Notice verse 6:

Daniel 6:6-9 So these governors and satraps thronged before the king, and said thus to him: "King Darius, live forever! [They probably fell all over themselves to get to him, to make an impression. "Yeah, King Darius live forever. O great and wonderful king, we're with you all the way!] (7) All the governors of the kingdom, the administrators and satraps, the counselors and advisors, [Notice once again, we have all the leaders here. Every leader of Darius' kingdom are all together. Once again a magnificent, unbelievable thing is going to occur here to affect every one of them.] have consulted together to establish a royal statute and to make a firm decree, that whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. [They were appealing to his vanity.](8) Now, O king, establish the decree and sign the writing, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which does not alter [which can't pass away]." (9) Therefore King Darius signed the written decree.

All the big guns were there in attendance, falling over themselves to impress the king, trying to ingratiate themselves while they wanted to get Daniel. They probably gave him the impression that all the leaders were united behind him: "We're with you, buddy. No problem."

These men were very clever in the plot that they conceived and the way they presented it. They knew Darius wanted to unify the kingdom as quickly as possible, and to transform the Babylonians into loyal Persians. What better way than to focus on the king himself and make him out, you know, where he was not just the supreme leader, but he was the only god for an entire month. That would appeal to a despotic leader. "Hey man, I'm not just the king, I'm the god. I'm the man." And to emphasize the importance of this law, the officers requested the ultimate penalty for disobeying -- the lion's den. I have no doubt the king was flattered. He signed the law; and once it was signed, it couldn't change. Etched in stone. As it says in verse 8, "it can't be changed."

Yeah, they wanted to be sure they could get Daniel. "Once it's signed, man, we're home free!" The scheming officers and the leaders lost no time in proclaiming the king's decree. And it's an interesting fact that he could have closed his windows. And you can just ask yourself: I can close the windows, and I can pray silently three times a day, and no one has to ever see me. No one has to ever know. Or he could have left the city, prayed somewhere else. Now, in your mind, is that a compromise? Or is that just dealing with the reality in the circumstances of the day? Well, you decide. In Daniel's mind, it might have been a compromise to him, and really it was.

But that was not Daniel. He feared God, not the king. And when you fear God, you need not fear anyone else. Some of the leaders, of course, they spied on him so they could catch him. They knew what he going to do, didn't they? They knew what kind of man he was. And they report that back to the king.

This also brings to thought something else for me. Did you ever consider this, brethren? The most important part of a Christian's life is the part that only God sees! Huh? Our daily private time -- isn't that not the most significant time in our lives -- only the part that God sees? Everybody else sees Jon Pippy, you know, Bob Evans, Debi Evans, others. They see certain things. Maybe they don't see the real Jon Pippy, the way he can really be; but God does.

This is just a little point and Daniel knew that his outlook would determine the outcome of his dilemma. When you look each day to God for His guidance and help, we know that the outcome is in His hands and we have nothing to fear. Daniel was undoubtedly familiar with Jeremiah 32:27, you don't have to turn there. It says:

Jeremiah 32:27 "Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?

He asked that question. No, there's nothing. Daniel undoubtedly knew about that scripture. "I will honor those who honor Me." "Is there ANYTHING too hard for Me?" No! And as soon as Daniel's enemies saw him praying, they rushed to the king -- couldn't wait -- like little kids, you know? Someone says, "I found some gossip, I've just gotta tell somebody!" [laughs] And they showed no respect for a man that had a higher office than they had. Verse 13:

Daniel 6:13-18 So they answered and said before the king, "That Daniel, who is one of the captives from Judah, [Notice that? Distinctly calling him that.] does not show due regard for you, O king, or for the decree that you have signed, but makes his petition [to other gods]three times a day." [What kind of guy is this that defies the king? And they probably pushed that point home with him as well. They distinctly called him one of the exiles from Judah.] (14) And the king, when he heard these words, was greatly [distressed] with himself [greatly distressed with himself. Why was he distressed with himself? Because he knew that Daniel was a tremendous individual; and he knew he lost his cool, and he listened to the babbling of the administrators and those who fell all over themselves with him. "You'll be a god, not just the king for a month." Appealed to his vanity.], and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him; and he labored till the going down of the sun ["How am I going to do this? How can I deliver this guy?]to deliver him. (15) Then these men approached the king, and said to the king, ["King, you know the law, buddy. It's the law."] the Medes and Persians that no decree or statute which the king establishes may be changed." [So they put the heat on, they put the pressure on. So the king had no other choice. He was pressured.] (16) So the king gave the command, and they brought Daniel [to the lions and they tossed him in] But the king spoke, saying to Daniel, "Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you." (17) Then a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signets of his lords, that the purpose concerning Daniel might not be changed. (18) Now the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; and no musicians were brought before him. Also his sleep went from him.

Probably had a big headache, and there was no Tylenol. He was distressed how he had believed the leaders and their lies, and he signed the law much too quickly. So Daniel was lowered into the pit. The deed was done. The king had a bad night. Verse 19:

Daniel 6:19-23 Then the king arose very early in the morning and went in haste to the den of lions. (20) And when he came to the den, he cried out with a lamenting voice to Daniel. The king spoke, saying to Daniel, "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?" [Very concerned, and Daniel came back and said](21) Then Daniel said to the king, "O king, live forever! [He must have been thrilled to hear his voice!] (22) My God sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also, O king, I have done no wrong before you." (23) Now the king was exceedingly glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no injury whatever was found on him, because he believed in his God.

TO GOD BE THE GLORY (PLAY FROM 54:60)

And Daniel was very quick to give God the glory. He didn't say, "Yes, because of my faith, ha, that's why I've been saved." No. He said, "My God delivered me." The angel was sent to deliver and, I guess, to keep him company for the night. You know, brethren, we don't know when angels are around us, do we? But we do know that they're present, and they're sent to serve and deliver us. So he comes up out of the pit with no wounds, no marks, no lion's saliva on his sleeve [laughs]. You know, just like the men in the furnace showed no evidence of being in the fire. None. Yet he was exceedingly glad, the king was. He was delivered because of his faith. However not every faithful servant is delivered, right? Notice over in Hebrews 11. (Keep your note there in Daniel. We're going to come back here.)

Hebrews 11 talks here about many great men and women. We've read this a thousand times, have we not? We've been through this chapter, and it continues to have significance; and it should. That's what it's here for. Tremendous, great people: Gideon, and Barak, and Samson, and David, and Rahab, and this person, and that person -- wonderful individuals.

Hebrews 11:35 Women received their dead raised to life again. [And then it says something else, notice this word "others."]Others were tortured, [others] not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. (36) Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment.

And others this happened to them, and so forth. They were not delivered! They had just as much faith; but they were not granted special deliverance at that time, were they? They were just as faithful, were they not? Yes. That's why it mentions them. Back in Daniel 6:24, the traitors were judged.

Daniel 6:24 And the king gave the command [He knew exactly what had taken place, what they'd done and how unfaithful they had been to him. They'd lied and cheated to destroy Daniel and to try and fool the king. Verse 24, the king gave the command], and they brought those men who had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions -- them, their children, and their wives; and the lions overpowered them, and broke all their bones in pieces before they ever came to the bottom of the [pit].

Back in those days, when the king got rid of one man in a family where there was a problem, he got rid of everybody else as well because, down the road, he didn't want someone coming back to him with a vengeance thing -- with a vendetta. Okay, that's why they did it. "Get rid of the whole family, all the kids, throw them in! I don't want that kid to grow up and come after my family later on." That's what happened back in those days. It still happens today. It's called the Law of Compensation, right? You know, "whoever digs a pit will fall into it." {5} In today's terms, "what goes around, comes around," right?

Remember Pharaoh? Really interesting to think about this: Pharaoh, he ordered all the Hebrew male babies to be killed and, at the Passover, all the Egyptian firstborn died, huh? Isn't that the Law of Compensation -- what goes around comes around? He commanded that the babies be drowned in the Nile River and his own army was drowned in the Red Sea! The very punishment he wanted, it came back on him!

Haman tried to destroy the Jewish people and he was hanged on the very gallows he prepared for Mordechai. Amazing, how God works! Daniel 6:25 [pauses] Yes, I was in Daniel 7. I was ahead of myself as always [laughs]. No, usually I'm behind.

Daniel 6:25-27 Then King Darius wrote: To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you. [Now listen to what he said.] (26) I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel. For He is the living God, and steadfast forever; His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed, And His dominion shall endure to the end. (27) He delivers and rescues, And He works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, Who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.

Something similar to what King Nebuchadnezzar said. A pagan king giving glory to God and commanding it throughout the kingdom! Powerful witness here. Think about it in real terms. Darius did more than execute the criminals. He issued a decree to the whole empire, commanding his subjects to show reverence to the God of Daniel! He joined Nebuchadnezzar in giving public testimony to the power and the glory of the true and living God.

That's what these stories are all about. God could have kept Daniel out of the lion's den easily; but, by rescuing him from the lions, God received greater glory, right? Far greater glory! The Israelites had been humiliated and exiled, and their defeat made it look as though the false gods of Babylon were stronger than the true God of Israel. The Israelites' idolatry brought on their destruction, and God used an idolatrous nation to bring it about. Isn't that interesting? And now God was receiving praise from pagan rulers whose decrees would be published throughout the Gentile world at that time. Outstanding! What a paradox!

You know, the Israelites (who should have been a witness to these pagan nations of the true living God) were being witnessed to by these pagan nations! They were. You could look at the decree of King Darius as his theology. You could. You know, it is just as true as anything written by Moses or David or Paul. It is! "The God of Daniel is the Eternal God whose kingdom will never be destroyed," he said. "It is God who saves people and rescues them from danger and death, who performs signs and wonders." He said that as well.

Brethren, our nations will be destroyed by sinful, idolatrous nations that do not honor God, just the way our nations, who should know better, have become totally idolatrous and don't honor God -- see the relationship? That's how it affects me. Marvelous stuff here! Not just an isolated little story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego going into the fiery furnace or Daniel in the den. There's a whole lot more to it.

The impact that these men had on those nations, on that king, on that empire and all those people -- outstanding! Along with the account of the deliverance of the men from the fiery furnace, the report of Daniel's deliverance must have brought encouragement -- tremendous encouragement -- to the Jews in the exile.

MESSAGE FOR US TODAY (PLAY FROM 1:03:36)

But Daniel has a message for God's people today, doesn't he, who are being attacked by the enemy and suffering because of their righteous stand. Let's go, for a moment, over to I Peter 1 again.

I Peter 1:6-7 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, (7) that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, (8) whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.

I Peter 4:13-17 But rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (14) If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. [Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego and Daniel were all reproached because of their trust and their love for their God.] On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. (15) But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer [No, Daniel was going to suffer all right. They were going to put him in the lion's den, not because he was a thief or a murderer or he did anything wrong. It's because of his love for his God.] [ ... ] (16) Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. (17) For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?

That is such a critically important scripture, isn't it, for us today? These examples we're looking at, how they impact us. And they should impact us, because we're under the gun right now! And we're under the gun with Satan, and God's watching.

I Peter 4:18-19 Now "if the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?" (19) Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.

Brethren, whether we face the fiery furnace, heh, or whatever it might be, notice chapter 5 here and verse 8:

1 Peter 5:8-10 Be sober, be vigilant [you face the fiery furnace, or]; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion [He can't throw us into a lion's den; but he's a lion, and he's out to get us.], seeking whom he may devour. (9) Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. (10) But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.

We are in God's care, and He will work out His divine purpose for His glory. That's what He did with those men in the book of Daniel we just looked at. The glory that He received (the great God received) from those kings, through those circumstances, that He could have altered [snapping fingers] all that stuff in two seconds. He let it play out for a magnificent purpose. And those pagan kings, who wanted to be worshipped, were now saying "serve the living God, give honor to Him, whose purpose can't be altered!" Marvelous! Absolutely outstanding!

I think it's important to understand the life that Daniel lived, knowing God's future plan and obeying God's present will, you know? That should go together, it really should. II Peter 3, just over the page.

II Peter 3:11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,

Yeah, what manner of person ought you to be? What manner of person should I be? It's interesting that both Daniel and Joseph -- you know Daniel and Joseph? -- were called of God to serve Him in different places, at the center of authority in pagan empires. Did you ever think about that? Both were cruelly taken from their homes, both handed over to foreign masters, both went through periods of testing, both were lied about, both were falsely accused; but both maintained godly character and godly conduct and became respected leaders in the nation. Brethren, most of all they were able to encourage God's people and to help preserve God's Way -- both of them did that magnificently.

Like Daniel and Joseph, we live in an alien culture, don't we, with people whose thinking, whose values, whose actions, whose attitudes, whose goals are totally different from those of God's people. And, yet, like Daniel and Joseph, we must keep ourselves pure and become truly transformed. We understand the terms "strangers and pilgrims on the earth,"{6} it really sinks in, doesn't it? The key to Daniel's successful life is found back in Daniel 1. I'm just going to turn back there for a moment. Daniel chapter 1, the key to his success in life and all of his endeavors:

Daniel 1:8 Daniel purposed in his heart ...

He was an unwavering man, not intimidated by powerful people nor troubled by difficult circumstances. He believed in a sovereign God. Yeah, "the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, " {7} He knew that. That's one of the basic truths taught in the Book. They changed his name, they changed his address, they changed his education; but they could not change his unwavering faith.

And he had a disciplined prayer life. See the things that we can learn from this, and set aside time with contact with God. You ever thought about this, brethren? Jesus Christ, when He was on the earth, He never taught His disciples how to preach. What did He teach them? He taught them how to pray. He taught them how to pray.

Daniel studied the Word of God and he believed it. Notice Daniel 9 and this is my 59th scripture to go -- I've got a hundred more, but I'm only going to do 59. No, I'm only kidding! Okay, we're down to two. [laughs]

Daniel 9:2-3 In the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. (3) Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.

Prayer and the Word of God go together. Which one is more important, do you think? Which one's more important? Prayer or studying the Word of God? Well, which wing on a bird is more important for it's flight, the right one or the left one? [laughs] You decide. Now it takes both, right? It takes both reading/studying and prayer -- praying for wisdom to understand and praying for power to obey.

And Daniel had an outstanding life, and he had a tremendous understanding of spiritual warfare because he really went through it. He sought only to glorify God; and he was tactful, and he was considerate, and he lived up to his name. Daniel's name means "God is my Judge."

So, brethren, dare to be a Daniel! Dare to stand alone if you have to. If you have to stand alone, then stand alone. God's with you. Dare to have your purpose firm, and dare to be unwavering.


{1} Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

{2} 2Peter 3:17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness.

----- I Corinthians 10:12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

{3} 1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

{4} Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

{5} Proverbs 26:27 Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him.

----- Ecclesiastes 10:8 He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it; and whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him.

{6} Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

{7} Daniel 4:17 This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.