A FEW GOOD MEN SERMON SERIES
FOOD FOR THOUGHT – DANIEL IN THE LION’S DEN
HOW TO DEVELOP COURAGE
JUNE 5, 1994
What do the following names have in common? Batman, Wonder Woman, Amelia Earhart, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, General Norman Schwartzkopf? You guessed it. They are men and women of courage. And that’s why we admire these folks. Courage seems to be a character that we all want but few of us really have. Are you a man, are you a woman, of courage? Most people cross their arms and say, “You know courage is something for the extraordinary people, Ed, those human mutations, not for a ordinary, well-adjusted, middle-class, metroplex, suburbanite like me.” That line of thinking, though, is false. Because the older I get the more I realize how much old-fashioned courage it takes just to live an average, normal, everyday life.
Choices come our way in rapid-fire succession. We have the opportunity to either stand for courage or to cower, to either say, “I’m going to make a difference” or “I’m going to retreat into my shell.” “I’m going to follow God’s leadings even though they seem illogical and countercultural” or “I’m going to take the easy way out”. Most of us make these decisions so quickly that we are oblivious to the process. We end up going with the flow, kind of floating downstream, acting like anybodies instead of somebodies. I have got a secret this morning and I am going to share this secret and I want you to be a part of it. So look at your neighbor, that’s right, just take a look at your neighbor. Don’t be embarrassed. Some of you might have to look across the aisle. And I want you to say these words. “Neighbor, I’ve got a secret that I am going to share and here it is.” God wants you, that’s right you, to be a person of courage.” God wants you, that’s right, everyday, ordinary you, everyday, ordinary me, God wants all of us to be people of courage.” How? How? How?
Daniel, in my opinion, was one of the most courageous individuals to ever walk the face of the earth. And we are so thankful that his biography was been written and recorded for us in the pages of scripture. Over the few moments that remain in the session, we are going to pick his biography apart, because Daniel is going to show you and show me what it really means to develop courage. Courage is not some one-dimensional character quality. It is not something that you wait for and then when the situation arises say where an infant is being swept downstream, you heroically jump into the stream, fight the currents, grab the infant by the left toenail and drag the infant to safely through a bed of water moccasins. That’s not it. Courage is multi-dimensional. It’s multi-dimensional. It should bleed over into every area, every slice of your life and my life. And Daniel demonstrates three dimensions of courage.
The first dimension of courage is spiritual courage. Take out your outlines. They are in the bulletin. We provided all the scripture verses for you. The blanks are there, fill them in. There is something about blanks we don’t like. And most people like to fill those blanks in, and you can save these outlines and refer back to them. Three dimensions of courage. The first dimension is spiritual courage. Let’s talk about the life of Daniel, 605 BC, Babylon. The Babylonians were really a bad people and they decided to boldly walk down to Jerusalem, surround Jerusalem and take back with them the best and the brightest young people from that city. And take a wild guess who was one of the best and the brightest. That’s right, our man, the Dan man himself, Daniel. They take Daniel back. He is sixteen years of age, he just finished his sophomore year at Jerusalem High School, they take him and deport him all the way back, 500 miles to Babylon, a very decedent, a very perverted culture. And Daniel is enrolled in a private school, and you are talking about elite, the king’s private school of Babylon. The schooling lasted three years and after Daniel graduated from this Babylon school, he was to be placed in a top position in the King’s administration. Oh, yea, Daniel would also take with him three of his friends. We talked about those guys last week, you know the faithful firemen, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So they all hung tight. They were in Babylon together.
One of the benefits, one of the fringe little perks of being at this school was the fact that you got to dine at the king’s training table. Whoa, was that good. Here are these young, strong, adventuresome Hebrew lads, and then they are told “Hey, guys, eat whatever you want, here’s all this rich food, this wine, you have whatever, whenever. We cook it, it will make the Mansion look bad. Done, its your time to eat.” And sure enough, most of them would dive in like sharks in a feeding frenzy. And they had a cholesterol feast. Maybe they served some cancer-causing hot dogs or some popcorn prepared in coconut oil. I’m not sure. But the Bible says everyone, most people, dined on this rich food. And they were commanded to eat, to dine at the king’s training table. But, but our man Daniel, because Daniel followed God, because Daniel had a personal relationship with the Lord and he knew God had instructed him not to eat anything that had been sacrificed to gods, Daniel looked at his superior and said, “No.” He said, “No.” He began to reflect some true-to-life spiritual courage. Daniel 1:8. “Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine…”. He said, “No.” Then, you’re talking about a stand-up guy, he looked at his superior and said, “I’ll tell you what, for the next ten days I will do a deal with you. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, we will eat to win, water and vegetables and you guys can eat what you want to, this rich, fat-saturated diet. Then we will kind of compare at the end of ten days which side is more intelligent, which side looks better physically, and then whichever side looks best, well, we will go with that.” So this administrator says, “This guy has a lot of courage, he is pretty faithful, we will go ahead and try.” And take a wild, wild guess what happened. Daniel’s side won. They looked the best. Spiritual courage.
We need people of spiritual courage these days, don’t we? And some of you are saying, well, this seems rather minute, kind of an afterthought. You’re telling me that is spiritual courage over just a small, little thing, like eating, come on, what’s the big deal here? If you are going to develop courage, it starts with the small meal, it starts in bite-sized chunks. The minute you take those bite-sized courage chunks, as the stakes get higher, as the opportunity becomes broader, then you are ready to really shine for courage. Spiritual courage. Five hundred miles away, he had every reason in the world to fall into this pagan culture, but he stood for the Lord. It takes courage, I’m talking about spiritual courage just to become a Christian, doesn’t it? You know what makes me mad? And I am kind of like Michael Jackson. “I’m a lover, not a fighter.” But what makes me almost fighting mad is when someone looks me in the eye and he goes, “You know, Ed, I’m not going to become a Christian because Christianity, it’s for weaklings, it’s for people who need a crutch, it’s for people who can’t really make it in this life, so you kind of got to have that thing over there, but you see, I don’t need it, because I can make it myself.” I say, “Oh, really?” It takes courage to become a Christian. Why? Because the first thing the Bible says you have to do is, you have to confess your sins before a holy God. You’ve got to come clean, you’ve got to say, “God, I have blown it. I am a failure relationally, morally, ethically, spiritually.” You’ve got to call sin what it is. So when someone says that to me, I want to say, “Well let me tell you something, young man, Christians have a lot more guts than you do, because you won’t even tell the truth about yourself. You are afraid of it.” So please, if you are thinking about that, don’t ever use that term or those lines in front of me. Because it’s a lie. Christians have more courage than you do if you are outside the family of God right now. Spiritual courage.
We also need courage to follow Christ. To be a fully devoted follower of Him, a full-court follower of Him, a four-quarter follower of Him. Many times God’s leading in my life seems to be so odd, like coming and accepting the pastorate of this church, as an example. It seems to be so unique and I have to step out though, in courage, in spiritual courage, because that is what God wants me to do. And it is hard to do it. It is hard for you to do it. If you are really growing in Christ don’t be astonished when you think something is so crazy, that you can’t believe you’re doing it, but you trust God, even if You have not been given me the answer or the outcome beforehand. Spiritual courage. Daniel had it.
There is another dimension of courage. You can’t miss. Ethical courage.
Let’s move the pages of history ahead about sixty years. The Dan Man is still there, he is hanging tough, he is still courageous. A new king is on the scene now, his name is Darius. And Darius loved Daniel, because he saw the difference in Daniel’s life. Daniel 6:3. “Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities”. Circle the phrase ‘exceptional qualities’. He distinguished himself by his exceptional qualities. Daniel 6:4 (Have your pen ready for this one.) “The administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.” Doesn’t that sound relevant to us? What happens. We’re in the business world and we are among our peers and our supervisor taps our best friend, or our co-worker, on the shoulder for the promotion. Our first response is to try to find fault in his conduct, to try to say something or do something that will really mess him up and make him look stupid in front of our supervisor. It is human nature. How do you feel when someone around you gets that promotion? These folks right here felt exactly the way we do, if we are honest with ourselves. And they wanted to trap Daniel. They wanted to nail Daniel because, you see, he was someone from a different culture. He didn’t have the same background that they had. And they tried and they tried and they tried. But he was a man who exemplified true ethical conduct.
Let me give you a hint on scripture study. Look at Daniel 6:4 again. See the name Daniel in there? Substitute your name. Just write your name above Daniel and where it says in his conduct of government affairs, put your occupation whether it be a pastor, an attorney, a doctor, a salesperson, a teacher, a homemaker, and then read the verse this way. Here is how I would read it to myself, applying the scripture: “The administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Ed in his conduct pastoring the Fellowship of Las Colinas, but they were unable to do so.” Could someone say that about me? Could the people that work with me say that? Could they say that about you? Or would they say, “We were really able to find some major, moral problems and ethical foul-ups in this person’s life.” Ethical courage. We need ethical courage in the marketplace. You are talking to the client on the phone and you say, “It cost us $2,500.”, but in actuality you know you paid $1,800 for it. “The check is in the mail”, but the check hadn’t been cut. “Yeah, I talked to him yesterday about this,” and the truth is you hadn’t talked to this man in a year. Ethical courage. Do you have it? It’s time for us to stop this easy stuff, this jump in the raft, go with the flow type mentality, just who cares, what does it matter, just kind of throwing courage out and going along with the current. It is time for some of us to stop and say “I’m going to be someone who models ethical courage. How about ethical courage to stay sexually pure. I’m talking to junior high and high school students, I’m talking to single adults. I’m talking to those of us who are married who need to resist the greener grass syndrome. To say “I am going to remain sexually pure before the marriage bed.” Because God says in His Word time and time and time and time and time again we are to remain pure for one person of the opposite sex and we can have sexual intercourse once we say “I do” before God and make that covenant with Him. That is safe sex. Safe sex is Biblical sex. Young people, don’t believe these lies from the pits of hell about this ethical code that the world and the humanists and the new agers try to give to you and me. “Well if you really love the person, it’s OK.” You know, whatever is right for them, you can be a person, a standup person who stands, and will not be moved, for ethical courage. It is the way to live. God will give you the strength, the power, the ability if you are willing to say “I’m going to be the one, Ed, I’m going to be the one. From this day forward I am going to stand up for courage.” Will you be the one? Because we have too many people here at the Fellowship of Las Colinas, you are playing the game of Christianity, but you are not really on the court or in the field. You are on the sidelines. It is time for you to get in or get out. If you are not in, leave, go somewhere else, go to another church where they tickle your ears, go to another church where you kind of fit in with your lifestyle. Don’t come here. Because God says, you make Me sick. God says you are not truly being a follower of Mine.
Let me tell you why I know this. And it breaks my heart to say this. I know it because I have been there. I have been there. Don’t ever look at me and say “Oh this guy doesn’t know what he is talking about. This guy has never been tempted. This guy has never seen sin before.” I have. I have traveled around the country. I received a full basketball scholarship at Florida State University with twelve hell-raisers. I was the only Christian these guys had ever seen. Every day they kidded me, “What’s wrong with you, Ed, why don’t you have sex outside of marriage? What’s wrong with you, Ed, why don’t you do cocaine with us. What’s wrong with you, Ed, why don’t you smoke dope with us? What’s wrong with you, Ed, why don’t you go to the strip joints with us? Ed, what’s wrong, what’s wrong, what’s wrong.” And I’ll tell you the temptation was real. Have you ever seen the girls at Florida State? Four to one ratio, guys to girls. I mean Lisa and I were in love but there were some great looking babes there. I was a thousand miles away from home, man. No one would have ever known. I was making money on a full scholarship. My rent only cost $99.00 a month and full scholarship paid me $800.00 a month. You see where it has gotten Florida State now. It would have been easy. And I am a normal person. Have the same drives and desires of every man and woman here. But, I did something. I asked God for ethical, standup, moral courage and He gave it to me. So when I was married, I was married a virgin. You don’t have to have sex outside of marriage. That is a lie. And you young people say, “Well you know if you have sex outside of marriage, you know, you can kind of try it out and then you sex will be better in marriage.” I want to laugh. The best sex in the world, again, is Christian Biblical sex, one man, one woman in marriage. If you have failed sexually, you say today, I am going to confess my sins, turn from them and start to become a person with ethical courage.
I have never had a drink of alcohol in my life. And some persons will say, “Oh, here he goes. I knew it. Oh my goodness. Oh he has mentioned the alcohol thing. Let’s get up and leave. I’m taking my coat off. Oh my goodness, I cannot believe this. Oh, because I have one beer a week I guess I can’t come to church here anymore, oh man.” Let me tell you something about alcohol. If you drink, it is between you and God. Nowhere in the Bible does it say if you drink you are going to go to hell. Nowhere. And people ask me about drinking all the time. “Well, should I drink or not”. That is between you and God. I would tell you from personal opinion not to drink and let me tell you why. I have never met a person and I have counseled hundreds and hundreds of people who have been devastated by alcohol, I have never counseled a person who has told me, “Well you know what, when I took my first drink at fourteen I really wanted to be an alcoholic”. I have never met that person. If you are, please come up and tell me that after this. Please do that. But the reason I don’t drink is because I believe it causes a weaker brother or sister to stumble. And they look at my life as a Christian and they look at your life as a Christian. There are too many alternatives. “Well, Ed, I like the taste, you know”. Well, there is non-alcoholic wine and beer. But if you drink, I am not going to judge you. And I see people often times in restaurants when I come in, it is a mad dash to try to hide it and cover it. (Demonstration and audience laughter) I mean, I was born at night but not last night. Please. But I am saying to you, it’s time to make a stand and I would tell you to remain abstinent as far as drinking. I have never had a drop of alcohol and I know I have a better time than anyone who drinks. So it is between you and God. But again, I am talking about ethical courage here. You can do it if I can do it. Man, you can do it.
There is a final dimension of courage. It is called relational courage. We are going back to our man Daniel. Daniel 6:1-3. Relational courage. The Bible says “It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel…the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.” Again, Daniel was the man. But Daniel is going to exemplify some relational courage because he had a tight relationship with Darius, but even though the relationship was tight, he stood.
And this is what happened. Those administrators told Darius, you are so awesome, you are so great you ought to set forth an edict. For the next thirty days anyone who worships anything other than you should be thrown into the lion’s den. They should go to Food Lion. And sure enough Darius saya, “You know I am great and you know what, I’m going to do it. I can do that. I’m king.” And they said, “Right, Darius.” So he set forth an edict and he pops his seal on the edict, boom, there it is. I’m ready to go. But then these people, they snuck around, they knew Daniel, they knew he was a man of God, they knew he was a standup guy. And sure enough the Bible says, look at Daniel 6:10. Daniel began to pray, as he had done three times a day, circle that phrase ‘three times a day’, as he had always done. And they said Daniel, we got you man, we’ve got you. And they ran back to the King. “King, King, King, oh it breaks our hearts to tell you this, King. Oh it really hurts us, but Daniel, your man, he is praying to that Jehovah, to the God of Israel. Oh, no it hurts us.” And Darius, you’re talking about devastated, he was crushed, he was torn apart. And he had to throw Daniel into the lion’s den.
But something happened in the lion’s den because of Daniel’s faith and because God decided to deliver him, He shut the mouths of the lions and Daniel was delivered. But think about that relational courage, because Daniel had it. He stood up to someone he was close to named Darius. We need people of relational courage. How about in our marriages. Too many people are just throwing in the gloves and walking out of the ring and saying that’s it for this marriage, I’m going to get someone else. But it is time to put on the gloves and say to your spouse, “We’re going to fight for this thing, because every marriage has problems, every marriage has sticking points, every marriage has areas that need work on.” You’ve got to say, “We are going to work on it, we are going to take steps and we are going to take strides to really make it happen. We are going to talk to that marriage counselor, we are going to go on that couple’s retreat, because we want to have that God-inspired, Holy Spirit anointed marriage.” Relational courage.
We need relational courage in raising our children, don’t we? You know what’s funny? I see two and three year old children intimidating their parents. The other day I was in the grocery store, which is a rare thing, and I saw this big body-builder guy. He was walking with his wife, aAnd in the cart there was a little baby, a baby about two and a half years old. And this little baby started whimpering. ” What do you want? What do you need?” And then the baby began to whine…”candy, candy”. And this big body builder is running over and getting candy and running back. “What else do you need?” “You can ride the horsey when we leave”. They were afraid to discipline the child. The child was running the show. Because for some strange reason they had been reading this secular material which says you should climb into the playpen, sit down indian style and reason with the child. Parents, your children aren’t always going to love you. They are not. I really should say they are not always going to like you, they will always love you down deep, but they are not going to always like you. And they are going to whine and complain and moan because you have drawn the line in the sand. But there has to be consequences when children cross the line. Whether they sit out or whether they get popped. And I am not saying to turn into a mean-spirited dictator mom or dad. But we’ve got to stand up and say I’m going to have relational courage because I want my child to be a difference-maker. And parents when you show your children courage they will catch this courage thing. But at the time you are not going to win the popularity contest. Relational courage, raising our children.
We also need relational courage to build significant relationships, to build significant friendships, especially the men here. Men, all we do is talk about facts, most of the time. What do you do for a living? What is your handicap? How many kids? Where do you live? Where are you from? Women. They share feelings left and right. You go into a room of women, I’ve been in a room of forty or fifty all talking at the same time. But they are hearing something. Men, we need to get more in touch with our feelings and talk to that golfing buddy, who better be someone who knows Jesus Christ. It’s time we get past talking about the stock market and how many clients I have this month and we get to the real issues of life.
Spiritual courage. Ethical courage. Relational courage. We are cruising now. We are spurring the horse to the barn. It’s about time to conclude and I will after listing four ways, right now, that we can all develop courage. Four ways, four marks. First, you have got to eat spiritual food. You have got to eat spiritual food. And what is spiritual food? Spiritual food is the Word of God, spiritual food is talking to God in prayer. What did Daniel do? He prayed how many times a day? Three times a day, three square spiritual meals a day. He knew the physical diet was important and also that the spiritual diet was important. And he got in touch with God. Too many times in my life here is what I do. I kind of do a quick drive through type meal. “This is God, Ed, can I help you?” “Yes, God, I would like a MacBlessing and a MacGuided with cheese and french fries.” “Go to the first window and pay $7.25.” “Thanks, God.” Vroooom. I pay the money and then I am off, you know. That’s not it. Too many of us are picking appetizers instead of going for the full course meal, instead of a true entree. And that is what Daniel did, and that is what gave him courage. The Bible says in Joshua 1:8 “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from you mouth.” That means talk about it. “Meditate on it day and night.” That means think about it. “So that you may be careful to do…” That means apply it. “…everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Spiritual depth happens when you talk about it, when you think about it and when you do it. Great preaching, great bible study is not informational it is transformational. And a lot of people walk around saying “Ed, I am getting deep spiritually because I finally figured out the complex aqueduct system during the reign of Solomon. I finally figured out the eschatological ramifications of Daniel 9 compared to Revelation 18. I finally figured out I am a pre-millennial dispensationalist and not an amillennialist.” That’s deep? That’s doing God’s work. Those things are important, but that’s not it. You’ve got to know it but you also have to apply it. And when you apply it you eat it and the spiritual calories give you energy to do it.
That brings us to the second step found in Joshua 1:9. The Bible says “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous…” Circle that phrase, commanded you. It is not an option. Number two. Realize that courage is standard equipment. That is the second step. Realize that courage is standard equipment, it is not optional. “Well, I’ll take this, and maybe not that.” When you buy a car some things are standard. When you become a Christian courage is a standard, it is a basic, it is a given, it is a foundational principle. And that is why God told Joshua, “Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous.” But most of us, what we do is, we kind of collapse courage. We have courage out when it is convenient to be courageous. But then when peer pressure begins to circle, when everyone else is doing it, when everyone else is going there, when everyone else is getting drunk, when everyone else is having sex outside of marriage. “Oh, I better fold this up and put it away and hide it. Man, no, no, no. I’ll just collapse courage.” And then after that temptation passes and you fall to it, then, “OK, now I will bring courage back. I’m around Christians now, I’ll be courageous, you see, I’m for God. I’m really a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Sound familiar?
Here’s the third one. Face your lions. Do the Gunther Gable Williams thing. Daniel 6:22. “My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions…” Daniel faces these snaggle-toothed, bad-breathed, 1200 pound king of the jungle type things breathing down his neck for hours, and hours, and hours, and hours. In Joshua 1:9 it says “Do not be terrified…” Do you know what courageous people are? Courageous people are ordinary people who face their fears, ordinary people who face the lions. That’s what courageous people are. Facing the lions, facing the music. They are simple people, but they are people who face them. Because if you don’t face your lions, let me tell you what will happen. If you don’t face them and cower and run from them, the lions will get bigger and bigger and bigger and one day they will take you apart. If you face the lions, which is tough, there will be tears, there will be sorrow, there will be victory, there will be defeat now and then. But if you rely on God, you face those fears, every battle you win, even those bite-sized chunks, will be like rungs on a ladder. You climb higher and higher upward on that courageous continuum. So face your lions.
And finally. Joshua 1:9. The Bible says “…do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Number four. Limit your exposure to cowardly people. Limit your exposure to cowardly, spineless, gutless people. There is a lot of talk these days about limiting your exposure to the sun. You don’t want to get melanoma or skin cancer so you put on the sunblock. Well you need to limit your exposure to cowardly people. If you hang around with them too much their rays are damaging and they will cause those cowardly melanomas all over your body. So it is time to ask the Holy Spirit to put you with a super spiritual sunblock, hang around with strong, courageous people. That is why we have provided these outlines for you and have you read about these Biblical characters, these courageous people, so you can have an infusement of courage.
One question. Today we have learned, and we have had presented to us, food for thought. Are you going to eat it, or not?