Banking on the Abilities of God (Daniel 6)
The king’s question in Chapter 6 verse 20 is still the world’s question to the disciple: “Is your God able?” This was an unconscious acknowledgement that Darius knew his god was not able. He never did commend Daniel to the gods of Babylon or the Medes. What an admission! Today also the world, way down deep, knows its gods are not able. The gods of lust and mammon, power and pleasure — what can such gods do for a man or for the world? The world may not openly acknowledge its bankruptcy, but we have here an insight; those who worship today’s gods are not always as sure of themselves as they pretend. We will find their defenses against Christ are not impregnable after all.
Daniel was ready to stake his very life upon the abilities of God. He might have rationalized, “I’d better give in. I can do nothing for God if I’m dead.” He might have compromised, “I’ll still keep praying, only not in front of my window anymore. I’ll become a closet disciple.” He might have temporized, “After all, it’s only for 30 days. I’ll give in just for this once, and for this little time, and then I’ll go back to begin a saint.” But that would have been a denial of God. “My God is not really adequate in the crisis.” Have we ever by our actions said something like that? That’s not the testimony of a disciple. The best of all lives is based upon the unshaken and unshakeable assurance that our Lord will see us through.
Suppose Daniel would have capitulated. It would have been the end of his witness forever. “Don’t talk to us about your God ever again, Daniel. In the crunch you showed us. You think your God is not really able when life becomes crisis.”
Is God able? He had always been, up till now. Review the life of Daniel to this point. Remember the three friends in the furnace. Or to make it even broader, look at Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David…the list is unending. Now the lion’s den. Why would God fail now? Our own experience bears it out. He is able. Darius couldn’t think beyond the lions’ teeth. But we take his question and test it by all of life. Is God able to do what? Provide daily bread? Comfort us in sorrow? Strengthen us in temptation? Encourage us in depression? At last save our very souls?
What do we need? Nothing is beyond the abilities of God. This is the assurance upon which our discipleship rests. We know we can build the best of all lives on the adequacies of our wonderful God. We look for no other ground because there is none other, but this is more than sufficient. This gives us the courage to be disciples and bring the witness out into the open. We’re not ashamed of such a God, or his Gospel in Christ. Modestly but confidently we proclaim and exhibit Christ to the world and toss out the challenge: “What have you that beats this?”
Experiencing the Love of God (Chapter 10)
We saw in chapter 1:8 that Daniel purposed in his heart to keep himself pure. But now see chapter 10:12. “From the first day….” God at once began to work to grant Daniel his purpose. He made Daniel a man of absolutely unimpeachable character. There are no self-made men, or if there are I pity them. The product always reflects the maker. The world will make a materialist. The devil will make a demon. And a self-made man will be an egotist. Only God can make a saint. Who, and what forces, are you allowing to shape your character?
Daniel’s encounter with God began with utter humiliation for him. This is the inevitable effect of seeing, really seeing, God. Think of Peter. “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” All our little self-deceptions, all our cheap tricks, all our secret sins, suddenly are dug out before our eyes. Next to Christ we look dirty, mean, sinful. It is necessary for God to destroy the citadel of our pride and all our imagined goodness before he can make us devoted to Christ as disciples.
But that having been done, God then exalts us to true godliness. He assures us of his love. “O Daniel, thou man greatly beloved!” That has a transforming effect upon us. Think of Zaccheus. See the effects of that love upon Daniel. God can speak to him now in terms of courage, power, and peace.
Persecution and cross bearing are part of discipleship. At one time or another we’ll all meet it, if we’re disciples at all: Unjust treatment from fellow workers, unfair criticism, unfounded gossip, etc.
Cross bearing – not only suffering mental or physical anguish, but the “reproach of Christ.” You’re scorned and rejected because you’re a disciple Some of this is inevitable. Only be sure you’re not the persecutor. Also, do not become obnoxious as an invitation to persecution.
In trouble Daniel turns to God alone. The way to handle persecution is not to kick the persecutor. See Psalm 59:9,17. Jesus, when he was reviled, taught us to turn the other cheek. Do not quickly go on the offensive, if persecuted or slandered for Christ’s sake. If there actually is something wrong in your life, it’s indefensible. If your heart and life are right you need no defense. The slander and evil will die for lack of grounding.
Certainly Daniel knew sorrow in his trial. Every one knows sorrow. Every village has its cemetery, every home its empty chair. There’s something aching in every heart. And the final cure is always discovering the adequacy of God. Job is a case in point. It wasn’t finally his orthodoxy that gave him relief, and certainly it wasn’t his friends, nor was it his philosophizing. It was the revelation of God’s power and majesty and adequacies. All the pain, the bafflement, the grief, the misunderstanding, the loss, at last was resolved when he prostrated himself before God. There is no other way to handle the hurts of life. This was also the source of strength and peace in Daniel. He trusted with an unshakeable faith that his God indeed loved and cared.
So Daniel lived the best of all lives. A man of unimpeachable character. He became a showcase of divine grace and love in action upon his spirit. He became a rallying point for others who desperately needed a stable figure in chaotic times. Would the three friends have dared to face the furnace without Daniel’s influence? Without Daniel would we ever have had the doxology of Nebuchadnezzar? So a disciple may be the presence in other’s lives by which they do things he himself never had occasion to do. Such is the use God may make of a disciple living the best of all lives.
Daniel bloomed where he was planted, and served in the niche for which God prepared him, and which he prepared for him. That is a key ingredient of vital discipleship.