A couple weeks ago about 15-20 Redlanders drove up to Poolesville to spend the day working on a house that is being built there by Habitat for Humanity. I was really proud as a pastor to see so many from our church show up early on a cold Saturday morning with all their TOOLS ready to go to work. Now, the only TOOL I brought that day was a hammer, mainly because that is about the only tool I own that I know how to use with any degree of efficiency. I mean, the tools I’m most familiar with in my line of work are commentaries and Bibles and my concordance and my laptop-things like that. I guess you could say that I am definitely tool-challenged when it comes to those devices that are required to build a house.
Fortunately the other men who came were not limited in this way because they brought some really amazing tools-tools I enjoyed learning to use. For example, there was this thing called a CHALK LINE and it is a great little gadget that is very handy for use in building. It’s a very simple device, just a small metal container full of blue chalk dust and a length of string. You pull this chalked string out of its container and hold it taught between two points, then you pluck the string, and VWALLA!…you have a straight chalk line to guide you as you nail your nails or lay your shingles. We used those chalk lines a lot that day in Poolesville.
Some of the men who came brought another very simple but practical tool, a THICK FLAT PENCIL, to use in marking wood for cutting. It’s like a normal pencil except for the fact that is FLAT so that it won’t roll away…which would be very important if you’re working up on a roof or something. We used those pencils a lot that day as well. Others brought levels and belts to hold tools and tape measures. But, of all the people who came that day…the best tool bringer by far was our own Buddy Young. In fact, he came with his ever faithful Suburban full of all kinds of tools, including power saws that we quickly became dependent on to cut all the wood that day. As you can tell it was great fun for me to be exposed to all these TOOLS. In fact it kind of made me want to walk the aisles at HOME DEPOT looking at all the gadgets they sell!
But you know, the greatest pleasure I derived from that day was simply watching our men and women using all these various TOOLS to accomplish the great and noble task of building a home for someone who couldn’t afford one.
Now, as you have heard me say repeatedly this year I believe that God has called our church to a great task, that of sharing His love here in Montgomery County, and literally all over the world through four mission trips this summer. To help prepare ourselves for this task we have been studying the lives of several MEN ON MISSION, whose lives are recorded in the Bible. And, this week as I studied our MAN ON MISSION for today God helped me to see that to accomplish our mission as a church you and I will need the proper tools.
Now, think about that with me for a moment. I mean consider all the tools we will need to share God’s love in the coming year. We’ll need materials to use in running Vacation Bible Schools and equipment to use in leading sports clinics. Of course we’ll need our Bibles. Some of our mission trips involve construction so we’ll need some of the same tools we used in Poolesville a couple weeks ago. But what do you think is the MOST important tool for us to have-especially as we serve God here in our own community? Now to help you guess which tool I am thinking of, I want you to pay close attention to today’s text because Daniel had it and used it very effectively as he was ON MISSION for God.
But, before we read this chapter of Daniel’s life, let me give you a little background to help you understand the setting. As prophesied by Isaiah, Nebucadnezzar, king of Babylon invaded Judah around 606B.C., sacked the temple of anything he found of value and took it back to Babylon. He also took a number of young Judean princes. Among them were Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were no more than pre-teens at this time, around 12-14 years old. And they were indeed princes. Josephus tells us that Daniel and his friends were of the family of Zedekiah. This means their grandfather was good King Josiah…the king who led the last great attempt to return the people of Judah to obeying and worshiping and serving the one True God. Daniel also heard the teaching of the prophets Jeremiah, Habbakkuk, and Zephaniah. Reading the things that Daniel wrote in his book show that he had read the writings of Isaiah.
All this is to say that from birth Daniel was exposed to people who held a deep faith in God. As soon as he was able to read his family instilled in him the importance of living by the principles found in his study of the word of God. This godly upbringing gave him the ability to endure exposure to a pagan culture without compromise. Perhaps Daniel’s parents were following the teaching of Psalm 119:9 where it says, How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your word! Daniel’s life shows us the importance of teaching our children to learn to study the Bible and apply it to their lives, so that when they grow up and leave home, they too will be able to withstand the ever increasing negative influences of our own pagan culture.
Now, Nebucadnezzar took Daniel and his friends into his employ because he wanted young, educated minds to serve in his court. Daniel did this for the Babylonians and later for the Persians for a total of 70 years. And he served them well. In fact within fifteen years of entering the king’s service, his name became proverbial throughout the realm in terms of wisdom. Ezekiel refers to Daniel as being as wise as Noah and Job. Well, Daniel outlived Nebuchadneszzar and the next six kings of Babylon. As I alluded a moment ago, he even outlived the Babylonian empire itself and lived on into the third year of the reign of King Cyrus of Persia.
Now, the text we are looking at this morning refers to something that happened toward the end of Daniel’s life, which, by the way, shows that we are never too old for God to use us in a powerful way. I mean Daniel wasn’t shelved…living in some Babylonian retirement home. He didn’t consider himself useless. He wasn’t collecting dust in some rocking chair. No, He was very involved in life. Even though Daniel was in his early 90’s by this time he was given a great deal of responsibility in the Persian kingdom, working for Darius, who most scholars believe ruled for King Cyrus. And, Daniel not only had SENIORITY, he had superiority! He was chosen for this top governmental appointment due to his reputation of being the best at this kind of work. Follow along now as I read the 6th chapter of the Book of Daniel and see if you can spot the essential TOOL that Daniel uses so well. It’s a long text so hang in there.
1 – It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom.
2 – with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss.
In other words these three administrators were to guard against corruption…to protect the king’s assets from any of the satraps who might want to skim a little off the top.
3 – Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.
4 – At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of governmental affairs, but they were unable to do so.
They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.
5 – Finally these men said, We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.
6 – So the administrators and the satraps went as a group to the king and said: O King Darius, live forever!
7 – The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions’ den.
8 – Now, O king, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered-in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.
I don’t know about you but this decree reminds me of that old QUEEN FOR A DAY television show back in the ’50’s where the lucky winner was crowned queen for a day but in this case Darius was to be GOD FOR A MONTH.
9 – So King Darius put the decree in writing.
10 – Now, when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.
Daniel knew that if he gave up his practice of daily prayer, he would be joining the rest of the kingdom in their idolatry.
11 – Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help.
12 – So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or man except you,
O king, would be thrown into the lions’ den? The king answered, The decree stands-in accordance with the laws of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be repealed.
13 – Then they said to the king, Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the decree yo put in writing. He still prays three times a day.
14 – When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed: he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him.
15 – Then the men went as a group to the king and said to him, Remember, O king, that according to the law of the Medes and the Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.
16 – So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, May your God, Whom you serve continually, rescue you!
This shows that Darius’ GOD OF THE MONTH title wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on because being a god is not worth much unless you can do what you want to do.
17 – A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed.
18 – Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.
19 – At the first light of dawn the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den.
By the way, kings don’t hurry anywhere…they are majestic and unruffled…but not this king. He was genuinely concerned for Daniel, which is why verse 20 says,
20 – When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice,
Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?
21 – Daniel answered, O king, live forever!
22 – My God sent His angel, and shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in His sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king.
It is interesting to note that whereas the king could not sleep in his palatial and luxurious home, Daniel apparently slept great even though he was surrounded by a den full of hungry lions. He probably even used one of them as his pillow that night!
23 – The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted his God.
24 – At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed their bones.
25 – Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language throughout the land, May you prosper greatly!
26 – I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. For He is the living God and He endures forever; His kingdom will not be destroyed, His dominion will never end.
27 – He rescues and He saves; He performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.
28 – So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
Well, did you figure it out? Did you discern the tool that Daniel used so effectively? The tool I am referring to is the tool of personal INTEGRITY. In fact, I think that Daniel’s life and ministry shows us that what I said earlier is true: PERSONAL INTEGRITY just may be the most important tool to have as we go ON MISSION for God. Well, what exactly is INTEGRITY? Webster defines it as, consistency and sincerity, with no deception or pretense. The word INTEGRITY and the math term INTEGER come from the same root word which means, WHOLE. In other words, there is no discrepancy between what a person of integrity appears to be on the outside and what he is on the inside. He is whole-the same through and through. Warren Wiersbe observes, A person with integrity is not divided (that’s duplicity) or merely pretending (that’s hypocrisy). He or she is ‘whole’; their life is ‘put together,’ and things are working together harmoniously. People with integrity have nothing to hide and nothing to fear. Their lives are open books.
Charles Swindoll recounts the true story of a man who went in to a Kentucky Fried Chicken store in Long Beach, California to get some chicken for himself and the young lady who was with him.
She waited in the car while he went in to pick up the chicken. Inadvertently, the manager of the store handed the guy the box in which he had placed the financial proceeds of the day instead of a box of chicken. He was going to make a deposit and had camouflaged it by putting the money in a chicken box. This man took his box, which he thought was filled with chicken, went back to the car, and the two of them drove away. When they got to the park and opened the box, they discovered they had a box full of money. Realizing the mistake, he got back in this car and returned to the place and gave the money back to the manager. The manager was of course elated! He was so pleased that he told the young man, Stick around, I want to call the newspaper and have them take your picture. You have to be the most honest guy in town! Oh no, don’t do that! said the man. Why not? asked the manager. Well, you see I’m married and the woman I’m with is not my wife.
As this story illustrates, on the surface individuals may look like people of honesty and great integrity, people so thoroughly honest that they’d give the 35 cents back at the phone booth, but underneath, it isn’t unusual to find a lot of corruption.
Well, integrity means that what is outside matches what is inside. There is no division in a person of integrity. They are whole. For the Christian, integrity means there is a congruence between our character and our creed, between our beliefs and our behavior, between our walk and our talk. It means loving God with the totality of who we are and allowing our faith to extend to the whole of our life, including our families, community relationships, and careers. Well, as I said, Daniel’s experience can teach us a great deal about this tool. I mean he overflowed with it. INTEGRITY was his middle name. Now, let’s review together some things Daniel’s experiences shows us when it comes to this essential ministry tool.
1. First of all his life illustrates the fact that integrity SHOWS.
This is why Daniel got this high power job in the first place. People noticed his integrity. He was known throughout the kingdom as a man who’s walk matched his talk. His word was his bond. He could be trusted to be completely fair and just. Remember what it said in verse 3?
Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.
Daniel’s integrity showed. In fact his character was so inculpable that his enemies had to create a law against praying to God in order to accuse him of anything. In essence they had to make INTEGRITY illegal in order to have grounds for his arrest. And if we are to be effective for God in representing Him on mission, we must strive for personal integrity as well. We must apply our faith to every aspect of our lives. As Proverbs 20:7 says, The righteous man leads a blameless life.
You know I think that most Christians believe the only kind of evangelism we do is verbal but in Acts 1:8 Jesus actually said we are to, BE His witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and in Samaria and to the ends of the earth. We are to BE Christians-Christlike-in every thing we do. We gain the right to share our faith when we live it. When it comes to evangelism, BEING precedes doing.
There’s a Contemporary Christian song out now that is popular. It’s words go like this, If you want to lead me to Jesus you better find a better way ’cause your life is speaking so loudly I can’t even hear a word you say.
Well, ask yourself, what message is your life conveying to those around you? Are you BEING a Christian? Are you known as someone who walks his or her talk? Is YOUR integrity showing? You will never be effective ON MISSION for God until it does! And then another thing Daniel shows us about this essential tool is that..
2. …living a life of Christian integrity does not prevent you from the UNFAIRNESS of life.
I mean BEING FAIR with others does not mean they will be FAIR with you! Remember, Daniel wasn’t thrown into the lions’ den because he had done something wrong, but because he had done something right. Daniel was punished for the crime of praying in the privacy of his home-UNFAIR!
Reading how it happens makes me think it must have been some sort of a prayer stake out. Daniels accusers knew his daily habit of prayer and watched and waited until they saw him through the window. Perhaps they were all crammed in a motel room across the street from his apartment with binoculars so they could watch and walkie talkies so they could talk to agents outside Daniel’s door. And when he began to pray they gave the word and broke down his door shouting, Freeze! Drop your prayer book and put your hands where we can see them!
Now, some Christians are under the false impression that if you live a Godly life you will be exempt from pain and hardship in life but this isn’t always true. The truth is that in our fallen world things are so warped that at times people are rewarded for doing wrong and punished for doing right. This is hard to swallow. In fact many people who try to live lives of integrity and endure hardship because of it can identify with the words of Psalm 73 where it says,
As for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning. (Psalm 73:2-3,13-14 )
Well, when our INTEGRITY causes us to endure adversity, we must remember that this is a sinful world that we live in and because it is LIFE IS OFTEN UNFAIR. No one-not even the righteous-are exempt from tragedy and disappointment. In fact, as the events of the first Holy Week remind us, even God Himself was not exempt. Philip Yancey writes, Jesus offered no immunity, no way OUT of the unfairness [of life] but rather a way THROUGH it to the other side. Just as Good Friday demolished the instinctive belief that this life is supposed to be fair, Easter Sunday followed with its startling clue to the riddle of the universe. Out of the darkness, a bright light shown.
So, if you are using the tool of INTEGRITY in your own life, and because of that are facing unfairness, remember Easter Sunday follows Good Friday and hang tough. God will bring you through your own lions’ den just as He did Daniel. Follow the advice of King David in Psalm 37 . He said, Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good…Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn.
To endure UNFAIRNESS in life, we need to learn to do as David says: TRUST IN THE LORD. We need Jesus’ resurrection power flowing through us, which leads us to the next thing that Daniel’s life shows us about this essential tool of discipleship.
3. You see, people of integrity know the importance of PRAYER.
It was apparently Daniel’s daily habit every day of his long life to pray three times. Perhaps he was following the example of David who wrote Psalm 55:17 and said, Evening morning and noon I cry out in distress and [God] hears my voice. Now, I don’t mean to point the finger of blame, but I wish we had more Redlanders in our midweek prayer service. Most weeks only 10 to 15 adults join me in this time of talking together to God. That’s not a good thing for a church our size. If Daniel were a member here, I know where he would be each Wednesday at 6:45PM, he’d be in our upper room praying. As his life shows he would rather be eaten by lions that miss one prayer meeting.
And note his position. Daniel KNEELED. I think that if our health permits that’s a good position in which to talk to God because its UNCOMFORTABLE. If you’re like me, when you pray in the recliner or something like that it is easy to drift off after a few sentences but when we kneel it is easier to maintain the conversation. Jim Elliot once said, God is still on His throne and man is still on his footstool. There’s only a knee’s distance in between.
Well, how is your prayer time? What does it take to get you on your knees? Daniel wasn’t on his knees because of some tragedy or emergency. It was his REGULAR habit. In fact I believe this constant communication with God was the source of his great integrity. And it is for us as well because as we spend time with God…we become more and more like Him. In his book on the spiritual disciplines, Richard Foster writes,
In real prayer we begin to think God’s thoughts after Him: to desire the things He desires, to love the things He loves. Progressively we are taught to see things from His point of view.
William Carey once said, Prayer, secret, fervent, believing prayer lies at the root of all personal godliness.
We must learn to shut the world out and tune God in at least ONCE a day every day without fail, otherwise the things of the world will crowd God out. You see, life in a sinful society can be confusing. The world today says that there is no such thing as right or wrong and that what’s right is what is right for you. This can be perplexing when it comes to making correct ethical decisions on a daily basis. But time alone with God cleans our clogged sin-sensors. He helps reprogram the ethical rationales in our minds so we remember again why right is right and wrong is wrong. Many of us claim we are too busy for daily prayer but Daniel wasn’t even though he was the CEO of a huge kingdom. The truth is prayer must be a priority. We must orient our daily schedules around time with God. I came across a little note this week that addresses this principle. It goes like this:
When you’re faced with a busy day, save precious time by skipping your devotions.
Anyone who lives a life of integrity knows, as Daniel did, that we can’t afford to miss regular time alone in conversation with God if we are to be successful on mission for Him. And then, there is one other thing that Daniel’s life teaches us…
4. ….by using the tool of integrity we can have an amazing IMPACT on this world.
Daniel’s reputation as a man of integrity not only gave him the opportunity to impact two great empires: the Babylonian and the Persian. He also changed the course of the history of the people of God. Do you remember the king’s proclamation after finding Daniel unharmed the next morning? He said, I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. For He is the living God and He endures forever; His kingdom will not be destroyed, His dominion will never end. He rescues and He saves; He performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions. Now, most scholars doubt that Darius ever became a worshiper of Yahweh but he did respect God’s power so much that he later sent the Jews back to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple. And I for one believe this never would have happened if it were not for Daniel’s integrity.
You know, it was exciting to use our hammers and chalk lines and saws and levels, to IMPACT that house in Poolesville. We made a huge difference that day by using our tools. Well can you imagine the excitement YOU could experience if you were to use the tool of PERSONAL INTEGRITY at the office…in your family…in your neighborhood? Like Daniel, you too could change your world.
This morning is God calling you to do that? Is His Holy Spirit speaking to you, urging you to BE a Christian in your scope of influence?
If you haven’t been living a life of integrity if you haven’t been conducting yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ… (Philippians 1:27 ) …then it is never too late to begin to do so. As I John 1:9 says, If we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. God does give us second chances but remember INTEGRITY is a hard thing to get once you have lost it. Daniel’s caliber of INTEGRITY took him his entire life to earn. But, with the power of God, it is possible and as I said, it is worth it.
We must understand, the tool of INTEGRITY is a POWER tool. I mean, it won’t work without the POWER of a personal relationship with God behind it. It is Jesus in us Who gives us the day to day ability to live lives of integrity. Some of us may need to rededicate ourselves to the Lord this morning, committing to keep our relationship with Jesus strong.
And, if you don’t have access to that power, if you don’t know Jesus personally then today I encourage you to commit your life to Him. Accept Him as your Savior. Decide today to follow Him as your Lord. God is speaking to us today and if you feel led to respond publicly, now is the time to do so by walking forward and talking to me as we stand and sing.