Be Brave: When Facing the Impossible

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 9/15/2019

Last week, we saw how the Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem. Jehoiakim, the corrupt king of Judah, is defeated. The King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, orders his chief official, Ashpenaz, to bring back a number of Israelites from among the royal family and nobility. Daniel 1:4 tells us they were to be—“young men (teenagers) without any physical defect, good-looking, suitable for instruction in all wisdom, knowledgeable, perceptive, and capable of serving in the king’s palace.”

Though “Babylon” was a literal place, and Nebuchadnezzar a real king, in Scripture Babylon becomes a symbol for every evil thing that stands opposed to God. Last week to talked about how we cannot be naïve about those who would take this this next generation hostage, erase their God-given identity and call to serve God, and subject them to nefarious ends.

Parents you have two choices. [1] Most parents eagerly hand their kids over to Babylon. They reason, “Maybe my son or daughter will be successful? Maybe they’ll make a name for themselves? Maybe they’ll attain their full potential? Maybe they’ll have a better lifestyle eating the royal food, imbibing the king’s wine? Maybe it’s best to just go along with the king’s program.” [2] But the other choice is to offer your children in service to God … so that when the world comes to take them hostage, they stand!

*The book of Daniel is about four teenagers who resolved not to be defiled neither by the King, nor his food, nor his wine, nor his ideology, nor Babylon. If you missed last Sunday, you’ll want to log into our Website/APP and catch up.

This morning I want to pick up in our story where we left off—Daniel 1. We often romanticize this idea of serving God. We idealize, we glamorize, what it looks like to follow God. These young men were taken hostage. They were cut off from everyone and everything they’d known. They were pressured and bullied.

Like Ashpenaz, the “Eunuch,” many scholars, believe these young men were physically emasculated. Because of what happened they would never enjoy sexual pleasure, or have any sex life to speak of, they would never have their own children, families. A humiliating, gravely unjust thing, deeply shameful thing was being done to them they’d dare not speak of. If most believers were put in such a circumstance, they’d write God off, they’d be suicidal. But these teenagers trusted God.

The first ultimatum they faced was whether/or not to be defiled. We hardly think diet, food, drink or sobriety matters today. We shrug our shoulders over the things mentioned in Daniel 1:8. But neither do we think much of sexual immorality, promiscuity, cohabitation, drunkenness, homosexuality, pornography addiction, video gaming addiction, coarse joking, lying, cheating, partying, drug use, gambling… abortion. There are so few lines today, even Christians, aren’t willing to cross if the pressure is strong enough. When given an ultimatum, these men chose not to be defiled.

I don’t think it’s a matter of “if” but “when the world will give us ultimatums. An ultimatum is a spiritual test, a spiritual trial. If you dare stand up for God, the world takes notice. The world says, “What? Who’s this? Who do you think you are? What fabric are you cut from? Are you a fake, or the real deal?”

I was reading Chris Hodges book on Daniel called the Daniel Dilemma. He talks about when he was a student at Louisiana State University. He started working on a maintenance crew to pay his bills. Most of the crew members were “good all boys, proud rednecks who liked to smoke, drink, cuss, and joke about Christian boys.” Chris would take his Bible to work and read it during breaks. They guys would laugh and talk trash about him. If that wasn’t bad enough… one day, one of their buddies, who was a campus police officer, stopped by. He was a Muslim guy, named Mohammed, with a big burly build, who grew up in the Middle East. When he saw Chris reading his Bible, he angrily confronted him, “You don’t really believe the stuff in that book, do you?”

When Chris declared that yes, he did believe every word in the Bible… SMACK! The officer backhanded him so hard he fell off his stool unto the floor. Demanding to know whether Chris still believed, Mohammed grabbed Chris’s Bible, stuck his finger in his face, and said, “If you believe everything this book says then you must turn the other cheek.” Chris turned his cheek and sure enough, CRACK! Knuckles to the face. Stars and searing pain. Chris didn’t know what to do, so he picked up his Bible and continued reading, pretending to ignore all his pain. Astonished, Mohammed took his cap off and said, “Tell me what you believe and why you believe it…”

In 1 Peter 4:12 the Apostle Peter says, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” The world is desperately looking for someone and something to believe on absolutely. Forget about “fake news”, there is so much “fake faith” out there! Christians are just as defiled as non-Christians by Babylon.

I want to share five things God did for teenagers when they were given an ultimatum. The first four are short and sweet so turn to Week 2 and write fast!

(1) Whenever we stand, God gives favor. When you serve God, it always has immediate relational implications. (a) If you resolve to be sexually pure, to not live together, your boyfriend/girlfriend is going to have an issue. (b) If you don’t get drinks/get high after work, if you don’t laugh at their crass jokes, if you have spiritual priorities (like not working Sundays), oh how your coworkers bristle! (c) If you resolve to tithe 10% to God, or go beyond in generosity, you might find yourself in a big fight with your spouse! “That’s my money not Gods!” (d) If you are a parent, and you change the weekend schedule to worship Jesus, your kids might practically disown you. They’ll make getting here hell. Ah mom and dad, church is stupid!

To stand with God “often” means we forfeit favor with the world… but it doesn’t have to. Daniel found favor with Ashpenaz. Daniel 1:9 it says, “God had granted Daniel favor and compassion from the chief official” for what he was about to ask. In Luke 2:52, were told how Jesus the teenager, “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” If you’re going to serve God, you’re going to have to pray for favor, for God to make the impossible possible.

(2) Whenever we stand, God gives strength. When you serve God, there is often a physical and emotional toll. For Daniel following God meant eating vegetables and drinking water! How long do you think you could make it on veggies and water? When the Egyptians left Egypt, they were ticked because with Pharaoh they enjoyed eating pots of beef… but with Moses it was bread, water, and quail. Forget that we want to go back to Egypt! But Daniel 1:15 says, “At the end of ten days they looked better and healthier than all the young men who were eating the king’s food!” We don’t serve God in the strength of our personality, nor do we serve God in the strength of our flesh. Just like you’ll need favor to serve God, you’ll need to pray for supernatural strengthening.

(3) Whenever we stand, God gives wisdom. I’d like to say that when we resolve to serve God everything becomes easier, simpler. Take the example we’ve already been using. Daniel and his friends resolved not to defile themselves. At face value, they made a very straightforward choice. But in making that choice, their world was about to become infinitely more complicated. They would need supernatural wisdom/insight in how to proceed. As a pastor people will often bring pastoral situations to my attention. In the natural, I’m completely dumbfounded, but God doesn’t ask you/I to figure out things in the natural. He invites to pray. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” If we don’t learn to pray were going to sit there a really long time, we’re going to be scratching some pretty big holes in our heads!

Daniel 1:15-20: “God gave these four young men knowledge and understanding in every kind of literature and wisdom. Daniel also understood visions and dreams of every kind. . . no one was found equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. . . In every matter of wisdom and understanding that the king consulted them about, [the king] found them ten times better than all the magicians and mediums in his entire kingdom. So, we don’t serve in the force of our personality, our strength, our high IQ. There are people, strength, wisdom, … obstacles … that only God can help us scale. We must pray!

(4) Whenever we stand, God gives roots. Let me get right to it. The last verse in Daniel 1:21 says, “Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.” Daniel was taken hostage age 14. He would stay sixty years in Babylon. We are going to see over the next weeks just how dramatic this tiny verse is. Over the next 60 years and beyond, Daniel would persevere though catastrophic change.

Do you realize Daniel outlasted some of the world’s most powerful kings? Do you realize he served 13 different kings in that one palace? Do you realize that Babylon changed power four times… four kingdoms came and went. Here Babylon tried to get the best of God’s servant, but God’s servants got the best of Babylon! When we stand God doesn’t sweep us off our feet and evacuate us, he causes our feet to grow roots!

We live in a day when everyone is so eager to change and move on. New place. New city. New home. New address. New circumstances. New job. New career path. New church. New ministry. New group. New marriage. New family. New friends. We never stay rooted long enough for God to work much of any miracles! It was only after the fourth kingdom came (70 years?), that that the Jews (under Nehemiah/Ezra) got to return to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple, and wall, and city. We love to quote Jeremiah 29:11 where God says, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and future…” Well what if that plan unfolds 70 years later than you expected? The plan Jeremiah 29:11 alludes was God bringing his people back after 70 years of captivity! Are we willing to stay rooted long enough to taste the future God has in store for us? In the end God works beyond our mere personality, our strength, our high IQ, our circumstance… He gives favor, he gives power, he gives wisdom, he gives us roots to stand.

(5) Whenever we stand, God gives authority. I love the “Great Commission” in Matthew 28:18-20 where Jesus says: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, therefore go and make disciples of all the nations on earth, baptizing them in the name of the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I’ve commanded you, and surely I am with you always to the end of the age.” God is sovereign. God is in control. God grants us true authority. He opens doors and pathways for influence in his time, and in his way. He promotes/rewards.

Back to our story! In Daniel 2, Nebuchadnezzar has a dream that so profoundly troubles him, he finds himself no longer able to sleep. Make no mistake about it, every day we are surrounded by desperate people who cannot find any peace. People may act like they have everything figured out, that they have all these great worldview answers to lifes biggest questions… but they neither believe their own answers, nor trust their own answers, nor are satisfied with their own answers… even as they so readily try to indoctrinate others.

Put yourself in the king’s shoes. At the end of Daniel 1, he interviews these Jewish teens after three long years of indoctrination. Every answer they give however, is 10x better than any existing knowledge or understanding. 10x better than anything found in Babylonian wisdom/literature. Every answer 10x better than the highest paid consultants, experts, magicians, and mediums.

For some time, on Sunday nights, on YouTube, Jewish conservative Ben Shapiro has been interviewing the most brilliant thought leaders in our culture—Jewish, Christian, Religious, Agnostic, Atheist. I’m telling you, on every topic, the Christian answers are 10x greater, 100x greater. They had Ravi Zacharias on there. William Lane Craig. I’ve found it to be some of the most stimulating, satisfying, compelling presentations found anywhere on the Internet. Check it out if you like.

What happens in Chapter 2 is King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream. But instead of just asking for an interpretation to his dream, he demands that his priests, mediums, sorcerers, and Chaldean wise men tell him both his dream and his interpretation. Essentially, the King is calling “bologna sandwich” on all the metaphysical authorities in his kingdom. His word is final. He is giving an ultimatum. He is saying (Daniel 2:5), “If all you turkeys are really connected to the divine, you can tell me both my dream and its meaning.” More than this, the King threatens them, “If you don’t tell me my dream and the proper interpretation you will be torn from limb to limb, and your homes will become garbage dumps!”

Well of course the authorities panic. They know the king’s request is impossible. They know they’re full of bologna, and they know the king know it! To no avail they plead with the king to at least share his dream, but the king insists even more “tell me dream and interpretation or die!” A second time they beg him. Its life and death for them. In fact the Chaldeans are forced to admit, “No one on earth can make known what the king requests…no king great and powerful has ever asked anything like this of any diviner-priest, medium, or Chaldean… only the gods whose dwelling is not with mere mortals could reveal such a thing.”

DING DING DING! That’s what the King wants. He wants true truth. He wants divine inspiration and answers and revelation! And so do people today! Daniel 2:12 says, “the king became violently angry and gave orders to destroy all the wise men of Babylon… including Daniel and his friends!”

Daniel 2:17-30 

Let me end with how this story ends.  Daniel 2:46-49. No matter what the ultimatum, trial, or test… God comes through for us. If we never stand, we’ll never what it means for God to give us favor… strength… wisdom… roots… true authority/ true influence.

Psalm 18:25-29 says, "To the faithful you show yourself faithful; to those with integrity you show integrity. To the pure you show yourself pure. . . You rescue the humble. . . You light a lamp for me. The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness. In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall.”

Scripture Verses

Daniel 2:1-30

Worship Set

Worship Playlist

Raise A Hallelujah
by Jake Stevens, Jonathan Helser, Melissa Helser, and Molly Skaggs
as recorded by Bethel

Be Still
by Ben Fielding and Reuben Morgan
as recorded by Hillsong

You Make Me Brave
by Amanda Cook
as recorded by Bethel

Our God
by Jonas Myrin, Matt Redman, Jesse Reeves, and Chris Tomlin
as recorded by Chris Tomlin

Study Questions


Read Daniel 2:1-30


1. Have you ever felt so troubled about a situation you couldn't sleep at night? What did you do?


2. The King became desperately troubled by his dreams. Where did he turn for answers?


3. People take desperate measures to find peace. They often become angry and make unreasonable demands of others. What desperate measures did the King take in order to find peace? What was so impossible about his request?


4. Read Daniel 2:15. When have you felt threatened by a person desperately looking for peace? How did Daniel try to better understand the situation? Why is it important to seek first to understand?


5. Revealing and interpreting the dream became a life and death matter for Daniel. Have you ever found yourself in a completely impossible situation with no way out? What did you do?


6. Read James 1:5-6. Read 1 Corinthians 10:13. What does it look like to trust God when facing impossible circumstances? Would you be able to trust God even in death?


7. Read Daniel 2:19-23, 27-30. What truths did Daniel discover about God during his trial? Read Daniel 2:46-49. What did God ultimately do?


8. What is an impossible situation you are facing in life? What truths about God will be most helpful for you to consider when facing the impossible?



KIDS:

  1. Read Daniel 2:1. Have you ever had a bad dream? How did it make you feel? Did it make it hard for you to sleep?
  2. Read Daniel 2:17-18. Daniel needed to know what the king's dream meant. Who did he go to? What did he ask his friends to do?
  3. God showed Daniel what the King's dream meant. Read Daniel 2:48. What did the king give Daniel?
  4. Read Daniel 3:49. Did Daniel forget about his friend?

CHALLENGE: Pray with your friend for God to show you someone you can help. Talk to your parents and make a plan to help the person God showed you.

Apply It!

Resources

Lakeside Bookshelf

Below are some books to complement our Be Brave sermon series through the book of Daniel. Stop by the bookshelf in the lobby to browse or purchase.

The Daniel Dilemma: How to Stand Firm & Love Well in a Culture of Compromise by Chris Hodges

The Daniel Prayer: Prayer That Moves Heaven and Changes Nations by Anne Graham Lotz

A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today's World by John Stonestreet & Brett Kunkle


Downloads & Resources