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The Courage and Consequences of an Uncompromising Life (Daniel Sermon 2 of 17)

The Courage and Consequences of an Uncompromising Life (Daniel Sermon 2 of 17)

December 10, 2000 | Andrew Davis
Holiness

I. Compromise is the Language of the Devil

I'd like to ask now that you take your Bibles and open to Daniel 1. Today, we're going to begin our look at Daniel. Last week we had an overview, a time to look across the whole 16 or 12 chapters of Daniel and see what God is saying in a large sense there, but today we're going to begin in earnest and with a little more care to look at Daniel 1.

Our first President, George Washington, said this, said, "Very few men have the character to withstand the highest bidder." Very few men have the character to withstand the highest bidder. What that means is that all of us have character flaws and weaknesses that if the temptations were strong enough, we would cave in and even more when there's positions of power, prestige, money at stake. It's very hard to stand firm and to be an uncompromising man or woman in that situation. Number of years ago, right after I graduated from college, I went across the country with a friend of mine, and we went out to out west and we were in Wyoming, the Grand Tetons, and we decided to go whitewater rafting in the Snake River. I don't know why I did this. This is the foolishness of youth. I'll never do it again, but I did it that one time. And this was a powerful river, the Snake River, and I was a total novice and had no business being in an inflatable raft bouncing from rock to rock down that river, but that's where I was, I fell out twice, thankfully I was pulled back in both times. But as I was in the river, and it was cold I felt the pull of the current, incredible pull. And there is in whitewater river, just an amazing force that sucks you where you don't want to go.

And that's the way I see the world today, in reference to the Christian church. There is a powerful influence on us pulling us where we do not want to go. Do you feel it? Do you feel it getting stronger? And it's here. And Daniel 1 gives us an insight into how we must stand firm against that whitewater pull toward the rocks of destruction or fruitlessness in our Christian life. The focus is on Daniel and on his character, but I don't want to miss the point because the real focus is on the God of Daniel. And He who gave Daniel the courage and the conviction to stand firm. Number of years ago there was a movie entitled Chariots of Fire, many of you saw it. It was about a Scottish missionary who took time away from his mission work to prepare and train himself for the Olympic Games, and he ended up winning a gold medal in the 400 meters, a great movie and a great story, but as he was trying to decide whether he wanted to go in for this training and take time away from the work of God to do this he was exhorted by one of his mentors to do it. And he was exhorted to give himself fully to it, whatever he did, he should put his hand to the plow and work at it with all his might and with all his strength and that's what he did. And in giving him this exhortation he said, "Compromise is the language of the devil." Compromise is the language of the devil.

And I fear that we've become fluent in the church today, we cave in too easily. As with George Washington, we sell out to the highest bidder and we need to return to our roots, we need to return to the Scriptures and to the kind of strength of character it would take to say no to this whitewater pull and that is in Daniel 1. Look along with me as I read the words of this chapter.

"In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia, and put in the treasure house of his god. Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of the court officials to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility, young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well-informed, quick to understand and qualified to serve in the king's palace. He was to teach them the language and the literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king's table. They were to be trained for three years and after that they were to enter the king's service. Among these were some from Judah. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: To Daniel the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah Shadrach, to Mishael Meshach and to Azariah Abednego. But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine. And he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Now, God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, 'I am afraid of my lord the king who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.' Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 'please test your servants for 10 days, give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.' So he agreed to this and tested them for 10 days. At the end of the 10 days, they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead. To these four young men, God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds. At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar, the king talked with them and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. So they entered the king's service, in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them 10 times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom and Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus."

Now, Daniel is a historical book. And last week, we talked about the division of the book of Daniel into two section. Chapters 1-6 is the historical section with visions and other information in there but it's a recounting of Daniel's history in Babylon. And chapter 7-12 is the apocalyptic visions of the future which God granted to Daniel in order that we may know the things to come.

II. Context of Daniel 1

Now, in this first section, we have to understand therefore the context of Daniel 1. Now, I covered this last time, but it's good for a review. God had caused the people to come into the promised land, the Jewish people. He gave them the land on condition that they obey the Covenant, on condition that they obey the laws of Moses which he had granted them, that they should not worship the gods of stone and wood, the idols which were in the land of Canaan before them. But the people consistently rebelled and disobeyed, they consistently bowed down to idols and worshipped them. And so after the kingdom had been divided into two parts: North and South, Israel and Judah, He deported the northern kingdom Israel, at the power of the Assyrian nation simply because of their sinfulness.

He gave the Southern Kingdom Judah and Benjamin some time to repent. They had some good kings and some bad kings but for the most part, they had fallen also into idolatry. There was a cycle of rebellion, a cycle of warning and of rejection of those warnings and the final straw may have come when king Manasseh one of the descendants of David took some of his own sons who were also descendants of David and sacrificed them to Molech, detestable god of the Sidonians. God never forgot and never forgave the people for this. And so through the mouth of Jeremiah the prophet he said that because of the sins of Manasseh and because of all of the accumulated sin he was going to deport them and exile them to Babylon. And so it came about that Nebuchadnezzar came to that region. First before conquering Israel however he had to deal with Egypt. Egypt overshadowed that area. Egypt was the military power of that region, Israel was a minor kingdom, a minor area, not a major power to be dealt with. Egypt was the major power. And so Nebuchadnezzar in command of his army came down and defeated Pharaoh Neco at Carchemish and then turned back up and headed up toward Jerusalem.

Now, Jerusalem as a city is very difficult to conquer. There are deep valleys and ravines all around, and they were strongly protected walls. And so it was going to be no small thing for Nebuchadnezzar to conquer and to defeat Jerusalem. The problem was though behind those walls, was nothing but rottenness. There was no power, no strength, no conviction or courage to stand on those walls. And so in the end without even a battle at this point, they opened their gates and allowed Nebuchadnezzar to come in and he deposed the king, he put up a puppet king in his place and at this point he took some of the vessels of the temple and some of the young men of noble blood and deported them to Babylon and Daniel was included in this.

Now Daniel and his friends were deported and this was a bleak situation in the history of Israel. But it was even more difficult for God Himself. Understand that God had married His name to these people, these people were His people, He even used marriage imagery. There was a bonding between God's people and His holy name. And so for Him to deport His people, exile them out of the promised land was a catastrophe for His reputation in the world, and He knew it. But He had to do it because it's the very thing He said He would do. God is concerned about His name, He's concerned about His glorious majestic name and His reputation, it matters to Him what people think about Him, and not because He's vain or conceited but because our salvation depends on our estimation of His name, does it not? Everyone who calls on the what? The name of the Lord will be saved. And there is a reputation, a history of God throughout history of what He has done throughout history, and that's what we're calling on Him for. He is the God we're calling and so if His name is sullied or trod in the mud in any way, it affects salvation. Joel 2:32, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

This is what God says about His holy name. Malachi 1:11-14, "My name will be great among the nations from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets in every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to My name because My name will be great among the nations, says the Lord Almighty, for I am a great King, says the Lord Almighty, and My name is to be feared among the nations." This is the greatness of the name of God. But in the exile, God was in effect risking the damage to His name. And He deals with this in Ezekiel. Ezekiel lived at the same time as Daniel. And when dealing with the fact that some day God would regather a remnant and bring them back into the promised land after 70 years, He dealt with His motivation and He said, "My motivation is not your holiness, not even your benefit, but my holy name because my name has been defiled by you among the nations." Simply by the fact that you're there in Babylon. Simply by the fact that you had to be evicted from the promised land. Ezekiel 36:19-23. You really should read this on your own. Ezekiel 36 He says, "I will show the holiness of My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them, then the nations will know that I am the Lord declares the sovereign Lord, when I show Myself holy through you before their eyes."

So in effect, the deportation of the Jews created a crisis for the name of God, do you understand that? The fact that they were even there, created a problem for God's reputation and so God had to do something for His reputation. After 70 years, He would bring back a remnant and re-establish them, that would help, but within the context of Babylon, He had to raise up a remnant of godly people who would stand firm for His name, even in the godless pagan situation and that was Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. It also explains the incredible miracles that God did in that pagan situation with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace, with the incredible visions and dreams that Daniel was able to interpret. God was upholding His holy name and He does it through uncompromising servants.

III. Four Uncompromising Jewish Youths Introduced (vs. 3-7)

In verses 3-7, we see the uncompromising Jewish youths, and they're introduced to us. Now Nebuchadnezzar's goal was to raise up some skilled subservient counselors. Some people who could give him wisdom and input as he governed a large empire, as he's conquering each of these lands, there are cultures that he's taking over. And the Assyrians had already perfected the art of deportation, they would take people up, uproot them from their home area, and bring them to another place, they had therefore no strength for rebellion, they were in a foreign land.

Furthermore, he would take some of those, the Assyrians did this all the time, some of them and bring them out, give them all the best of the land, the best of the training and use them as counselors over their own people. So that's exactly what Nebuchadnezzar wanted to do with these youths of noble blood. He was going to take them, he was going to train them, he was going to assimilate them. They would be Babylonian more than Jewish. And he would use their training for the glory of his own kingdom. Now, key to this was the determination to get them young. You've got to get them young, you see if they're older, they're already set in their ways. And so these were youths, teenagers, young men and he intended to brainwash them, I guess, it'd be the best way to put it, to attract them in the Babylonian ways and then to use their abilities.

He chose not only the young but only the best, royal blood, choice young men who were intelligent, quick witted, who were physically able and strong and he was going to use them and he was going to teach them Babylonian language and wisdom. The Babylonian language necessary for service in the court, of course, but also the language begins to affect your thinking. There is, in every language, a way of thinking, a worldview. And so it's going to be affected. Also Babylonian literature, their history, the things that they have done up to that point. They're going to be inculturated and they're going to be given the best of Babylonian knowledge. Science, military and agricultural knowledge, an incredible society. And in all these ways, these youth were going to be taken in and say, "Oh what a place is Babylon, that old land is nothing. Israel's nothing compared to this." They'll just be drawn in, buy into it. Hook, line and sinker. That was his plan and he was going to get them used to the good life, some luxuries, some comforts, food and wine from the king's table, and the promise of the most powerful intoxicant of all: Power and influence. We're going to give you a position in the court where you can influence things, and as a symbol of all of this, he would change their names.

The Meanings of the Names

Now, at the heart of the name change is not just a sense that old things have gone, everything has become new, there's part of that, but it also has a religious overtone. Each of the Jewish names had religious significance. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah all meant things in the Hebrew language. Daniel meant God is judge or God is my judge. Hananiah meant Jehovah is gracious. Mishael meant who is what God is and Azariah means Jehovah has helped me. Jehovah has helped.

But now we've got some new names Babylonian names, filthy names really if you understand them. Belteshazzar means may Bel or Baal protect his life. You know Baal the Canaanite god, may this Canaanite god protect Daniel, and Shadrach means under the command of Aku. Aku is the moon god of the Babylonians. He's under orders from Aku. Meshach is a direct contest. You see Mishael who is what God is, Meshach is who is what Aku is. There's going to be a competition. We'll see. We've already beaten you on the battlefield, now we're going to beat you in every way imaginable. And then Abednego means servant of Nebo and Nebo, the son of the Babylonian god Baal.

And so, there's a religious conversion attempted here as well, and along with this is the food that they're going to eat. This is not just any food, this is food which had been sacrificed to these very gods and wine which have been offered to these very gods. There is a religious force being pulled, pulling on these folks like whitewater, powerful forces for change and compromise. These are young men, they're far from their home, they're torn from their family, they're treated kindly by their conquerors, that's the hardest part of all. They're given advantages, and benefits. They're given a bright future if they'll just tow the line, they're given the best of Babylonian education, their names are changed and their religion, hopefully changed as well. Who can stand against this kind of whitewater pull? But only he who God raises up, only he who God gives strength to and these four, God did that very thing. These are God's heroes. God's grace raises them up for such a time as that, that they might stand firm and might exalt His holy name.

IV. Daniel’s Uncompromising Example: Values Tested and Triumphant (vs. 8-17)

Now, in verses 8-17, we see Daniel's uncompromising example. Daniel lays out his values. They're tested and ultimately they triumph. Look at verse 8. In verse 8. That's the key verse. I have it printed on the front cover of your bulletin. Look what it says. "But Daniel resolved not to defile himself." Do you see that? Daniel resolved not to defile himself. That's my whole sermon's message right here. Don't defile yourself. Resolve and be determined that you may not defile yourself. That's what Daniel did. He resolved that he would not defile himself with the royal food and wine and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself in this way. This is a strong determination. The Hebrew word resolve means that he laid it on his heart. It's a firm determination he makes from his heart and the word defile is strong as well. It means to be polluted, to be defiled, to be polluted even spiritually polluted.

Now, can I say to you, it is impossible to resist a whitewater current, with wishy-washy determination. You've got to stand strong. You've got to say. "No, may it never be." If you say, "Well, not today. Not today." "Well then tomorrow." says the devil and he'll get you eventually, but if you say, "Absolutely not, I will not give in to sin. I will not wave the the white flag. I will not lose this war." That's a whole other thing. And Daniel had that kind of determination, he resolved in his heart that he would not defile himself. This was a measure of Daniel's love for God.

Our Savior Jesus Christ said, "If you love Me, you will obey what I command." There is no separation between Jesus as Savior and Jesus as Lord, it's impossible. If you love Jesus you'll obey Him, and Daniel loved his God and he obeyed Him. Now, what were Daniel's reasons for not eating this food and drinking this wine? Well, first of all, there was the Levitical law, he was still under the law of the old covenant and there were rules about certain meats that you could not eat. And Daniel didn't know the origins of these meats, they just came as meat. Sometimes perhaps he could tell what it was and it was clearly against the Levitical rules and regulations. How easy would it have been for him to say that's passed now, we're out of the promised land does the law still count for us? What could it hurt to eat a little bit? What could it hurt to just take some of it? Besides I'm very hungry and it looks good. There's a pull there, temptation. But more than that this food, as I mentioned, had been offered to these detestable gods. Perhaps if they're going to be training these youth, they're even there when the offering is going on. So that they can observe and start to take part in the Babylonian system of religion.

Now, idols are nothing, they are nothings, they don't exist. They're stone carvings and wood carvings but behind every idolatrous worship service, there is a demonic presence that is real, so said the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:20, "The sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God and I do not want you to be participants with demons." There's a spiritual force in that idolatrous worship and Daniel said I don't want to be part of it, this is evil, and he knew it, and he stood firm against it. But what's so beautiful in verse 8 and what starts to come out is not just Daniel's iron-clad resolution, but it's also his winsome manner. He is a very pleasant person, he's not offensive or obnoxious, he's actually very easy to get along with, as long as you don't force him to choose between you and his God. If you force that choice he's made that choice. I'll be your friend as long as you don't force me to choose between my God and you because if you force that choice I will choose God even to death. And so he goes in verse 8, and he asks permission, that he might not defile himself, isn't that interesting? "May I please not defile myself?"

He's trying to work within the system. Do you think he's ever going to defile himself? No. But he's trying to keep the relationship intact, gentle and firm manner. He has a burning zeal for God that cannot be dimmed but it also says in Romans 12:18, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you live at peace with all men." And Daniel went well beyond that. I think he actually loved King Nebuchadnezzar. I think we're going to see that as this book unfolds. He actually had his heart wrapped up in these pagans, he wanted them to know God. He was a missionary and so he loved them and he yearned that they came to know God and so he was the picture of speaking the truth in love. But as much as he loved the Babylonians he loved God more.

Now, God orchestrates the whole situation in verse 9 it says, "Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel." Now the fact that there was a Daniel at all, I believe is grace from God, God raised him up. But then God helps him out with His sovereign grace. And never think for a moment that God is not permitted to get into people's brains and influence the way they think, He does it time and time again in Scripture. What does it mean that God caused Daniel to find favor in their eyes except that they saw him a certain way and this was the lubrication that enabled him to do the things that he wanted to do.

He had friendships with these officials but there was an obstacle in verse 10, the official said, "I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you." You see life is cheap there. And Nebuchadnezzar was an autocrat, he was a tyrant, a dictator, he could at any time give the command, we'll see it in chapter two and the heads will roll. And so he was afraid and he said we have a problem here. What about my obligation to the king? And so then Daniel proposes a test. The test is accepted and the test is passed in verses 11-16, "Daniel said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah, please test your servants for 10 days, give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat of the royal food and treat your servants in accordance with what you see."

Now, where in the world did he get this idea? John Calvin a commentator on this text says he got it from God. And that it would have been presumptuous for him to propose such a test if God had not led him. You don't throw yourself off the pinnacle of the temple unless God tells you to do so that He will command His angels concerning you and they'll lift you up in their hands but if God has not given that command you don't throw yourself off the temple. And so, I believe, it doesn't say so in the text, but knowing what I know about Daniel, he was a man of prayer, and I think he under the influence and the leadership of the Spirit, he proposed this test and the test was accepted. And notice he doesn't propose it to Ashpenaz but to the guy under Ashpenaz said, "Let's not get Ashpenaz in trouble." There's no reason to be concerned here. If we end up looking better at the end of the 10 days, then Ashpenaz will actually look good. So let's just work it out between the two of us. You give us vegetables and water and then see how we looked, let's try it out. Vegetables and water only. Now, by the way, that's not a bad resolution, New Year's is coming up and maybe for more than just 10 days it might be of some benefit to you to eat nothing but vegetables and water.

But I think there's something deeper going on here. Isn't the way you eat a kind of a symbol of your life, the way you live your life. If you don't withhold from yourself anything that you like, aren't you really just living for luxury? Isn't this the function of fasting in the Christian life so that we may discipline our appetites. People who live for nothing but their appetite, it says in Philippians 3, "Their God is their stomach." And so it ends up being a symbol of the way you live your life. Daniel was not living his life for luxury and comfort, didn't matter to him, he was living his life for God, and that was enough for him, that was enough for him and so said, "I'm going to say good-bye to all that luxurious, delicious food. I'm going to say good-bye to a lifestyle of comfort and ease, and I'm going to venture out in faith and I'm going to eat vegetables and I'm going to drink water."

Well, at the end of the 10 days. God blessed lavishly. They looked incredibly well. Perhaps, the others were a little sickly. God can orchestrate these things as they just line them up and say "Boy, it's clear, it's obvious the difference. Obvious." And so the first reward from God is just the success of the test. But then God lavishes on them besides verse 17, it says, "To these four young men, God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning and Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds." Now, all four of them were blessed with insights and wisdom and understanding.

Now, I know for you college students, this is an important thing. Alright, especially this week. You've got tests coming up. Have any of you said to your professors, "Now test your servants for 10 days and see if we pass the test." They didn't ask your permission. They're testing your wisdom, your insights, your knowledge. But the Scripture says these things come from God, these things come from God. They're gifts from God, every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights who doesn't change like shifting shadows. He is capable of opening your minds and giving you clear thinking. For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things, including wisdom and understanding. So God gave it to them, and then He gave to Daniel a special gift. And this gift sets up the rest of the book, doesn't it? Daniel has an ability to interpret prophetically visions and dreams, mysteries, and through that gift God opens up to all of us the history of the world. Incredible. And so, Daniel 1 sets the stage for the rest of the book.

V. Uncompromising Servants: Strategically Positioned for God (vs. 18-21)

Now, in verses 18-21, we see uncompromising servants strategically positioned for God. Graduation day comes, the three years is over and they have to stand before the king. And he asked them questions, he tests them like an oral exam and as he does this, he finds that there's no one in all his kingdom with the kind of insight and understanding and ability that these four Jewish youths, these teenagers, had. Now, King Nebuchadnezzar was a young man at this point. Very gifted himself, very intelligent and very open-minded in this regard. He could tell who was better and who wasn't. He wasn't blindly partisan or loyal to his own people. He could tell that these Jewish youths had it all over his own people. He said that they were... The Hebrew says 10 hands better, that means 10 times better than any that he could find among his counselors.

But you see, God's strategy in all this, strategic planning. He's raising them up and he's going to position them in the kingdom to influence matters for his own people and for history and that they might serve as a mouthpiece for God in a strategic way, but we also see, God's patient timing as well, because it's not time for that yet, not yet, just that a seed is planted in Nebuchadnezzar's mind, "Boy, they're better than anybody I've seen." At the end of chapter two, they get their positions of power and authority and influence, after all of that, with a dream, which we'll begin to cover next week.

Daniel’s Endurance by God’s Sustaining Grace (vs. 21)

And then finally, in verse 21, we see the endurance by God's sustaining grace. Verse 21, it says, "Daniel remained there until the first year of king Cyrus." Now, without a knowledge of history, you have no idea just how long this is. But he began his training, probably in the year 602 BC, and King Cyrus raised to power 536 BC, that's 65 years of service in the Babylonian and then the Medo-Persian empires. Sixty-five years. And it's not easy to stand firm with politics swirling all around you, you might lose your life at any time. Intrigue, maybe cloak and daggers things, assassinations, plots. And these things did happen to Daniel as we'll see in chapter 6, and God enabled him to stand firm, even through the change of an entire regime. That never happens. If you are a high official in the old regime and then the new one comes in, you're gone. But through God's grace, he stood there and remained firm.

VI. Applications

Now, what applications can we take from this chapter? The first is to exalt and glorify God for His sovereign grace. It's easy for us to put Daniel up on the pedestal here but let's not do that, let's put God where He belongs. God does all things for the glory of His own name. It was God's sovereign power that raised Daniel up and made him a hero. It was God who gave Daniel his courage and uncompromising convictions. It was God who gave Daniel his wisdom and his intelligence. It was God who gave Daniel his winsome personality. It was God who gave Daniel friendships with key Babylonian officials. It was God who gave Daniel three godly friends to help him in his ministry. It was God who gave Daniel the idea of the 10-day test and then saw to it that the test was successful. It was God who gave his friends and he special insight, wisdom and intelligence 10 times better than anyone else, and it was God who gave to Daniel the special ability to interpret dreams and visions that no one else could do. And so, what does this mean? All of these things come from God.

Are they attractive to you? Then be a spiritual beggar. Go to God and ask Him for them. Ask Him for each one of these things, including the character to stand firm against whitewater. I want to say a word right now to teenagers, to maybe some teenagers in our midst today. Daniel was just a teenager maybe 13, 14, 15 years old. His whitewater peer pressure, cultural pressure, was no less than yours. And he stood firm and did not cave in. He did not cave in to what everyone wanted him to do. Yet he was winsome, he had friends, but he didn't need to be like them. What mattered to him was pleasing God above all things. Also, realize that Daniel was still a teenager when he interpreted the dream of the king in chapter two, don't just sit back and wait for life to come to you. These are some of your best years of service to God. When you're free from responsibilities, you could be a warrior for Christ, both young men and young women. You could be free to serve Him with all your time, to witness for Christ. You can understand theology at some of the deepest levels. I'm speaking to youth.

This morning, we studied about Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus. How old was she when this news came to her? Just a teenage girl. Don't underestimate what God can do through you, if you make yourself available to Him. Also, I think for all of us, we need to note Daniel's uncompromising leadership. We need leaders like this, don't we? Don't we need leaders like this? Americans, don't we need leaders like this? Daniel was an uncompromising leader. He had visions and principles that were unwavering and he would not cave in no matter what, on these things. And he was an influencer of others, wasn't he? I think he influenced Shadrach or Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. He influenced them, perhaps converted them to his ways. And so, he had allies. Who are you older people influencing for Christ? Are you mentoring anybody? Have you taken somebody under your wing and you're training them and bestowing on these younger folks, the wisdom and knowledge you've gained over the years? Very thing that's commanded. 2 Timothy 2 and other places. We need you to do it.

He was an influencer and a leader. And also, note the well-balanced aspect of his life. He was in the world, but not of it. He had all the wisdom, college students, of the Babylonians, all of it, but he was able to discern between good and evil. He was able to see what was right among the wisdom of the Babylonians and what was not. He was sifting through and when he got done, the wisdom didn't defile him any more than the food would've. There are twin dangers in the Christian life in terms of the world. Retreat from it or total immersion in it. We can't do either one. We've got to be the salts and light. If the salt loses its saltiness, it's worthless. But if it's in the world, it can do the salt that God intended it to be. We have a crying need for this in our own day. We need leaders who will stand up, who will take the wisdom of the Babylonians, sift it through and use what God gives us, our position for His glory. How do you get there? Well, where are you now? Be faithful in little, and you'll be faithful in much. Whatever small amount God has given you now, be faithful there now, today, through prayer, through fasting, through the knowledge of the word and God will raise you up to the next level, step by step, just like with Daniel.

I want to close with a word to those of you who have not committed your life to Christ. God is a pure God. He's holy and righteous. He expects us to stand firm against the whitewater. And the whitewater and the pull are those things that lead to destruction. It says very plainly, because of these things God's wrath is coming. We must stand firm, but there is no other name under heaven, given to men, by which we may be saved from sin. Jesus came into the world to save from sin. That is the message of Christmas and not just the penalty of sin, but all of the influence of sin in our lives. Through Christ and through Christ alone, you can have eternal life and the power to say no to temptation. Won't you close with me in prayer?

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