Spiritual Resiliency

  • Spiritual Resiliency
  • Daniel 1
  • Lyndol Loyd
  • January 11, 2021
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Daniel: Living with Integrity                                                                                        Daniel 1

Daniel was one of the brightest and best of Israel, born into a family of high social standing. He was physically attractive… GQ cover material. He had a sharp mind and seemed to pick things up naturally. He also had a high level of what some would call “emotional intelligence” – people smarts. On top of all of this, Daniel had an authentic faith that went far beyond head knowledge of religious facts to a heart and life that was fully committed to God.

Daniel would have had all the dreams that young men with great potential have. In Judah, the whole world was a wide open door right in front of him. He would have gone to a great school and received an excellent education. From there, he would have been recruited into a top organization in his field of choice and gone on to glittering success.

He would have married a nice girl, lived in an enviable home, raised a wonderful family, occupied a prominent place in the temple, and had a model life. He would have been on the fast track to do great things for God and for God’s people.

BUT… There were a few BUMPS along the road to paradise.

Life did NOT turn out the way Daniel planned. Nothing ended up as expected. Instead of becoming a poster boy among the people of Judah, Daniel became a PRISONER OF WAR. A king by the name of Nebuchadnezzar invaded the territory of Israel and Jerusalem fell. The dreaded Babylonian army killed most of the men and took many women, children, and young men captive. Daniel was among those herded back to Babylon in a human caravan of sorrow.

Daniel’s homeland had been bulldozed by a pagan army. Many of his family and friends would have died in battle or been executed. The temple of God in Jerusalem was desecrated and the sacred contents were shipped to Babylon and stored in the shrine of a pagan god. The HOPE of God’s chosen people seemed to be CRUSHED.

Daniel would come to adulthood and spend the rest of his life in a foreign land. Separated from a cherished culture and relationships, he would have to learn and speak a strange language and serve an alien king. He would even LOSE HIS NAME and be assigned a new one.

Stripped from him was his birth name… a name of deep significance which means “the Lord will judge.” Thrust upon him was a new Babylonian name “Beltshazzar” which was a name after Nebuchadezzar’s god.

Daniel started in Judah with everything looking promising for him. He ended up in Babylon and it seemed like the BOTTOM DROPPED OUT.

One of life’s biggest questions is, “What will you do when the bottom drops out and you end up in Babylon?”  For Daniel, we will see that his years in Babylon became a laboratory that refined and defined him? He and his friends discovered that pursuing integrity and spiritual excellence rarely happens in a safe, comfortable place. Instead, God used a furnace, a lion’s den, and a foreign country as places they would meet Him and have life changing experiences.

Something you will want to consider as we make our way through this new message series is what will you do when you end up where you never expected? The truth is all of us will have seasons when the address on the mailbox of our lives simply reads: BABYLON.

Babylon is where you find yourself when life does not turn out the way you had planned:

  • When a RELATIONSHIP becomes conflicted and looks to be beyond restoration.
  • When a MARRIAGE starts to skid sideways and love seems far away.
  • When your greatest VOCATIONAL hope dies.
  • When somebody you TRUST wounds you deeply.
  • When a loved one is TERMINALLY ILL.
  • When your fears seem bigger than your faith.

Daniel’s life story teaches us that in moments like these, God is still there. If like Daniel and his friends, we HOLD FAST to the God who loves us, we will discover that He still closes the mouths of lions, protects us from the flames, delivers us from mad kings, and shows up in power. And most of all, that God grows the hearts of His children.

 

RESILIENCE                                                                                                 There is a whole field in the social sciences that studies people who have experienced suffering or major crises in an attempt to identify the consequences of such trauma on the human mind and spirit. Researchers have studied, among others, POWs from the Korean War and the Vietnam War as well as 52 hostages who were held for fourteen months in Iran.

As you might expect these studies showed that a lot of people became DEFEATED by such difficult ordeals. Their spirit withered and they simply gave up. But the studies also made a surprising finding: many people don’t just survive traumatic times: they actually seem to THRIVE and GROW.

For these people, trauma, loss, and pain actually enlarge their capacity to handle problems – they become STRONGER as a result. Researchers have come to call these folks “RESILIENT” and the capacity to thrive in challenging and difficult situations resiliency.

When we look at the life of Daniel, we see one of the most spiritually resilient persons in human history. Daniel lost virtually everything. But through it all, he exuded a sense of strength, confidence, and hope in God. Such resiliency can be a MODEL for each of us as we face the tough times of life.

 

SPIRITUALLY RESILIENT PEOPLE RESOLVE                                                                     I would suggest to you this morning that God is calling us to be like Daniel: to make a resolution in our hearts that will demand courage, wisdom, and spiritual resiliency. This is essential if we are going to survive and thrive in Babylon… because reality is that almost all of us end up spending some time in Babylon at some point.

So many people say, “I want to get to know God better” or “I want to build into the life of another person” or “I want to grab life by the horns and live it to the fullest.” But instead of taking action on these hopes and dreams, they make EXCUSES.

  • “If only I weren’t so busy”
  • “If only things in my life were not so difficult.”
  • “If only other people had not done things to hurt or frustrate me.”

If we are going to experience consistent growth and become spiritually resilient, we will need to STOP MAKING EXCUSES, resolve to walk with God no matter what we face, and get on with the journey.

Spiritually resilient people have a profound level of personal resolve to honor their deepest values. They refuse to live as passive victims of circumstances. They are determined that they will not get tangled up in things that might cause them to betray their deepest commitments. Ultimately their resolve is to honor God no matter what the price.

Daniel modeled this kind of resolve. Let’s take a look at Daniel 1:1-7.

During the third year of King Jehoiakim’s reign in Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. The Lord gave him victory over King Jehoiakim of Judah and permitted him to take some of the sacred objects from the Temple of God. So Nebuchadnezzar took them back to the land of Babylonia and placed them in the treasure-house of his god.

Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief of staff, to bring to the palace some of the young men of Judah’s royal family and other noble families, who had been brought to Babylon as captives. “Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men,” he said. “Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted with knowledge and good judgment, and are suited to serve in the royal palace. Train these young men in the language and literature of Babylon.” The king assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens. They were to be trained for three years, and then they would enter the royal service.

Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were four of the young men chosen, all from the tribe of Judah. The chief of staff renamed them with these Babylonian names:

Daniel was called Belteshazzar. Hananiah was called Shadrach. Mishael was called Meshach. Azariah was called Abednego.”

It appears that the Babylonians are in the driver’s seat. Nebuchadnezzar determines to conquer Israel. He decides to cart off most is most sacred objects and take the most gifted young people as prisoners of war.  He enrolls these young POWs in his leadership academy and decides on the entrance criteria and subject matter. They are given new names, new identities and a new menu. Daniel and his friends have no say, input, or influence in any of this.

The easiest thing in the world would have been for Daniel to feel like he was just a PASSIVE VICTIM of forces way too big for him. But one characteristic of a spiritually resilient person is RESOLVE, and Daniel was about to express this – even if it cost him big time.

Vs. 8 says, “But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods.”

In the midst of all the determining and demanding of King Nebudchadnezzar Daniel made a decision… he resolved in his heart.

 

RESPOND: MORE THAN RESOLVE ALONE                                                                            Resolve alone was not enough. He also had to respond… he had to do something. So he went to the dean of the school to discuss the meal plan. Daniel was willing to accept the name change and the new clothes, and he was ready to learn a new language, but he resolved not to become “defiled” by eating the king’s rich food.

We don’t know exactly why Daniel refused to eat the food. It could have been related to Jewish ceremonial laws about diet. Maybe the king’s food had been offered to idols. Whatever the reason, Daniel knew he needed to draw a line, to take a stand. So he responded by presenting a specific course of action to those who oversaw his training, education, and diet.

He showed great wisdom as he laid out a plan that would allow him and his friends to eat different food; he even gave a proposed timeline to confirm that the results would be agreeable to all parties concerned. What an amazing example of an effective response that grew out of a firm resolve.

And the guy in charge says, “Uh, but if I say yes to you, you’ll end up looking weak and lack energy. And the king will have my head.” It is here that we start to see Daniel’s persistence and street smarts.

Daniel says to himself, “Well, that’s not exactly a yes, but it’s not exactly a no.” He goes to the guard the next level down the organizational chart and proposes an experiment: “Let’s try this diet for ten days, and then you be the judge.” Daniel exercises amazing initiative, courage, and faith that God will work. And God does!

Daniel goes to the HEAD OF THE CLASS. He becomes valedictorian. He and his friends are elevated. But note that this happens only because he resolved in his heart he would not get tangled up with anything that would betray his deepest values.

Maybe this is a good place for us to call TIME OUT and ask ourselves, “What do I need to resolve in my heart?”

  • Do you need to end a relationship that dishonors God?
  • Do you need to repent of unethical business practices?
  • Do you need to seek first the Kingdom of God by reordering your time?
  • Is there an area of your live in which you need to pursue healing, but you haven’t done so because you’ve seen yourself as victims?

First we must resolve in our hearts and then get ready to take action. If the Holy Spirit calls us to such a resolve, then we must seek His POWER to respond in way that will honor God and lead to transformation.

 

REMEMBER: THE POWER OF MEMORY                                                                                                                      It is incredibly DIFFICULT when you find yourself living in Babylon. You can demonstrate resolve. You can even choose to respond. But one of the necessary ingredients in being able to live this way is the power of memory.

Spiritually resilient people are careful to remember that their lives and even their suffering had meaning and purpose in the eyes of God. He will not allow for the experiences of our lives to be wasted. He finds ways to take what others may mean for harm or bad in our lives and he redeems it for our good.

Researchers say that one of the factors which cause people to give up is believing that their suffering has no meaning or purpose. Many times it is not the intensity of the suffering that crushes the spirit; it’s the meaninglessness.

Who is the main character in Daniel 1? It’s God. Read Daniel 1 and you will find that God was at work right from the start.

For Daniel and his friends, the key was to remember that God was still on the throne working through all of the circumstances, even when things looked hopeless. They needed to remember that God had a plan for them and their nation. As they remembered these truths, they could endure the painful loss and challenges of being strangers in a strange land. For them, Judah’s defeat and the loss of the temple were not just random and meaningless events.

God was not asleep. God had not broken His promise or forgotten His dream. God was up to something in Babylon… in this place of great suffering. God, as it turns out, loved even Babylon. God, as it turns out, even cared about Nebuchadnezzar. Wherever life takes us we must remember that God is there with us.