June 14, 2015
By John Ulrich, Senior Pastor
Daniel 1: 1-21
The percentage of U.S. adults who say they do not have a religious affiliation (especially Catholics and main line Protestants) is up sharply from 2007 — according to a Pew Research Center survey released on May 12, 2015. Religion has become irrelevant to many folks, and they choose to ignore it. We certainly live in a culture that is less sympathetic and increasingly distant to our faith. How then, as Christians, do we live in this culture? Is it possible to “thrive” rather and just “survive” as Christians?
Let us consider how Daniel was able to thrive in Babylon, as described in Daniel 1:1-21.
I. Daniel was in a difficult, confusing place where people were distant from God.
The Babylonians, also known as Chaldeans, had taken Jerusalem and brought back to Babylon some treasures from the Temple as well as several highly qualified young men (Dan.1: 2-4). It was an especially difficult and painful period for the Jews, and especially Daniel, who was moved to Babylon where the people were rebellious and distant from God and His values.
Daniel and his three Jewish friends were probably castrated (a frequent practice of Babylonian kings), had their names changed to pagan names from Christian, and were given a non-kosher diet, probably first offered to idols. Instead of focusing on these difficulties, however, the author shows us how they tried to live out their faith in that environment opposing God.
Today we face this same difficult situation as we live as “strangers in the world” (I Peter 2:11). Where is our spot of “Babylon” in this world?
Is it our work where we experience the survival of the fittest? Is it in our family where if we show honesty, it might be used as a weapon against us? Is it in our culture at large where our seniors have seen moral high ground completely flipped? If some of these values clash with our Biblical values, how do we respond?
This is why at Grace Community Church we need our Vision Statement encouraging us to grow together “in a faith that makes sense, being transformed by Christ from the inside out.” No one plan fits all, but with regular preaching/teaching of the Word of God, we open ourselves for God to transform our minds so that we will interact with this world more and more as Jesus would.
II. Two realizations that can help in confusing, painful circumstances:
A. God is in control (sovereign over everything that happens in our lives).
God in Daniel 1 shows us that He controls both the good (causing the official to show favor and sympathy toward Daniel in Dan. 1:9) and the bad (delivering Himself both the Temple treasure and some people to the Babylonians in Dan. 1:2).
How would your attitude or thinking be different if you really believed that God is in control of every area of your life? If you believed that He actually allows each circumstance of our lives and is active in it. Perhaps you might learn that: (1) God might be larger and more complex than you thought. (2) This may not be all about me, but God’s plans for this world.
B. God can help us to thrive where He calls us to live.
Daniel showed us, through dealing with the official concerning his diet, that we can work through our faith and action in difficult situations when we are not dogmatic, but respectful and humble.
As illustrated in the story of Daniel, God honors faith and action, causing us to thrive in a culture that is distant to God. Where in our lives is God calling us to become a Daniel, calling us to puzzle out how to live our faith?