September 24, 2017
The prophet Daniel was one of the most self-aware characters we encounter in the Old Testament. Because of that, he had opportunity after opportunity to make a lasting impact in the world. But things weren’t always easy for him. Sometimes, he faced challenges that forced him to make difficult decisions.
In this message, Ed Young unpacks one of the most well-known biblical accounts, Daniel and the lions’ den. Through an in-depth look at the decisions Daniel had to make in the midst of that time, we discover just what it takes to make the right decisions today and experience the kind of impact God wants us all to have.
INTRO: You’re in the throes of making a major decision. Maybe a vocation decision, a relational decision, a recreational decision, a marital decision, a parental decision. You’re in the throes of making a decision.
We’re all the middle, in the midst of making choices, are we not? Life is a net effect of choices. We all make decisions. Whether you find yourself here or at one of our many locations, you’re making decisions. Some decisions are those micro decisions, small decisions; they seem rather insignificant. On the other hand, some we would call our macro decisions. Big, hairy, honking decisions. Yeah, we’re the net effect of decisions.
How do you make decisions? How do you go about this process? Because in life, they seem to just fly at us, at a NASCAR-type pace. How do we make decisions? That’s a great question. I’ve discovered that dynamic decision makers are self-aware. Those who make dumb decisions are self-unaware.
I’ve been in a series on self-awareness called “Know Thyself.” Socrates said it. He said, and I quote, “Man, know thyself.” Man has been on a journey from the beginning of time to know himself. To know yourself you have to know the one who knows you better than anyone. And that’s the Lord. You can’t really know yourself outside of him, because he’s the one who made you and me. He’s the one who designed you and me. So in reality, you might think you know yourself, but I would argue you don’t really know yourself until you know the one who knows you better than you’ll know yourself.
We don’t know ourselves just to know ourselves. We don’t know ourselves just for some humanistic psycho babblish thing. It’s a benefit of a believer. If you’re truly walking with God, you’re going to know yourself.
Well today, we’re looking at a king and this king is in Daniel 6. Now Daniel is over in the Old Testament, Daniel 6 and we’re going to look at a king, his name was Darius.
If you don’t have a Bible, here’s what I would like for you to do. At all of our different locations we have a source, it’s a bookstore. Go to the source afterwards and say “Man, hook me up with a Bible,” and we will give you a Bible, or you can buy a Bible. If you can’t afford one, we’ll give you one. If you can pay for a Bible, which I think 99.999% of us can, I would urge you to do so.
And make sure also, that you have our Fellowship app. Do you have our Fellowship Church app? If you do, it is absolutely amazing, because after every message during the week we send you a five-minute devotional. You click onto the app and it says devotional, click on the devotional and you do the devotional right along with what we’ve talked about over the weekend. And we have thousands and thousands of people who’ve done so. So make sure you do that. How do you do that? You simply go the app store, type in Fellowship Church, click on get and you’ll have the Fellowship Church app. So two things, those are two points of application. Go to the bookstore, get a Bible if you don’t have one. Secondly, make sure to download the Fellowship Church app.
There’s a guy in the Bible, as I said earlier, named Darius, and also there’s another gentleman in the Bible, named Daniel. I would say Daniel was one of the most self-aware people we’ll ever come in contact with. You look at his life, humility. Look at his life, integrity. Look at his life, he stood in the midst of a very pagan culture. Daniel was in an area, specifically the city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was overtaken by the Babylonians, he was deported, he and some friends, all the way back to Babylon.
Now think about this, Babylon was a very sensual, wheels off, crazy culture. There were no believers there. Yet Daniel stood for the Lord. Daniel had generation after generation after generation of integrity. He, and we know several of his friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Those are the guys who went through the fiery furnace. Daniel was amazing. Yet we’re going to find that Darius… and I don’t want the names to confuse you, but just stay with me, Darius was the alpha male, the man over the Persians. The Persians took out the Babylonians.
So when Darius showed up, King Darius, he looked around and he realized what Daniel had done. He realized that Daniel had spoken to the lives of so many powerful people. And that’s brilliant. I mean we’ve got to give him a round of applause. Good job Darius. Darius, yeah that’s good, Darius you recognized that Daniel was amazing. And the Bible says in Daniel 6:3, “Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities…”
Again, this guy had a serious track record of humility, of integrity, of living the life in the midst of a difficult, difficult situation. So Daniel so distinguished himself by his exceptional qualities “…that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.”
Now that’s important because remember, there’s a new kingdom now. Darius had come in, he’d taken over Babylon, and it was a fresh start, a new kingdom, he was wise. He thought, “Who can I give this too? I mean who can run this show? There’s only one, Daniel.”
And here’s what’s so interesting. Daniel was not a Persian, he was a Jew. Yet Darius tapped him on the shoulder. Whenever you start anything new, maybe you have a baby, maybe you’re newly married, maybe you’re staring a company, maybe you’ve started a brand-new position. Whenever you start something new, you’ve got to make great decisions, you’ve got to have discernment, you’ve got to be self-aware. And self-awareness, or being self-aware, basically is having a read on your strengths and weaknesses, your context given to you by God. It’s how you connect with yourself and how connect with others.
Daniel was like Phi Beta Kappa in self-awareness. He lived this incredible life. This life in the middle of a hell hole in a lot of ways, yet he stood. But I want to tell you something I want to encourage you make sure to have a Daniel next to you when you make these macro-decisions when something is starting afresh and anew. You just started school. I mean school has just kicked off. Those are major, major times for you to make the right decisions.
Here’s what I find fascinating, because in the Bible not only do we know what to do, not only does God tell us what to do, and we see that through different figures like Daniel. Okay Daniel will tell us what to do. We can emulate him. The Bible also tells us by looking at figures like Darius what not to do. So you can learn from someone like Darius, who is Phi Beta Kappa at being dumb. We can learn what not to do. Conversely, with Daniel, we can learn someone who is self-aware to really do the right stuff.
Darius did something stupid man. He went on social media, ancient social media. He started blabbing and talking about this decision. “Oh, I’m planning on Daniel taking over the whole deal. Whoa, I’m planning on this guy running the show. Man, Daniel is the man. I’m planning on him doing it.”
How many times do we drop the ball? How many times are we self-unaware when we talk too much about what we’re going to do? Don’t talk to everyone about what you’re going to do. Lean into the Daniels. Lean into the right people in your lives. If you talk, though, to anyone and everyone, invariably the wrong group will come into your life and mess you up. And that is what happened to Darius.
Darius, I mean looking at him, is hilarious. Darius you’re so dumb. You’ve got Daniel right by you, you’ve announced to everyone on social media that he’s the man. You’ve talked too much to the wrong people, and when you talk too much the wrong people pick up stuff, and they’ll come to you and mess you up.
Here’s something about Christianity that you need to understand. Christianity is about a remnant, it’s about a small collection of people. You’re never going to please the masses. In other words, the Bible says, from cover to cover, the majority is wrong. Let me say that again. The majority is usually wrong. Wrong. There was just a few who lived for God in this pagan culture. There’s just going to be a few who live for God in your company, my friend. There’s just going to be a few who stand up for Jesus around your neighborhood. There’s just going to be a few. Christianity is about the remnant. You can trace it from the Old Testament to the New Testament, so you’re not always going to be the most popular. You’re not always going to be the most liked. You’re not always going to be the one everybody claps for, and Daniel wasn’t.
Yet because of Daniel’s self-awareness, because of his integrity, he was able to speak into the lives of kings, of the powerful. Wow, Daniel. What a guy.
Well what happened? Everyone knew that Daniel was going to be the man. Everyone saw how blessed he was. Now Daniel is old. I mean he’s like in his late 80s now, maybe early 90s, and people are like, “Wow, this guy’s amazing.” People are like, “Wow, why would they pick a non-Persian?” You want some racism here? “Why would they pick a non-Persian to run the show?” You see, Darius had a board of directors. One being Daniel who was unbelievable. The other being a bunch of posers. A bunch of players. A bunch of people who were jolted with jealousy when they saw Daniel was going to be the man in charge. Jealousy. Jealousy.
If you trace jealousy back it starts with pride, and then it can be said someone who’s jealous is self-unaware. You’re jealous man. “What’s this non-Persian, what’s this Jew doing? What’s he doing? And he’s going to take the reins of this place? What’s up with that?” And the group didn’t really dig it.
I discover something about jealousy. I’m not jealous of my heart surgeon who did my valve repair. I’m not jealous of a teacher. I’m really not jealous of a head high school football coach. I’m not jealous of someone in technology. I’m not jealous of someone I know in commercial real estate. But… a pastor? Someone that does what I do? “You mean he got to speak there? You mean he signed that book deal? God, what about me?” Jealousy. Self unawareness. Pride.
We see it advertised right here amongst this group. Amongst the board. They didn’t dig that Daniel was going to get this promotion. That Daniel was going to receive the windfall. That Daniel was going to have the opportunity. That Daniel was going to get the raise. They didn’t dig it.
Jealousy is something that everyone deals with. Those engines of envy begin to get going and when we feel that, when we see that. We need to take it to God. “God,” hey, God knows, “I’m feeling jealous.” Well God will tell us and he tells us in our word, “Why don’t you pray for that person?” Because the scripture says “weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.” Man that’s difficult. It’s a God thing. At the end of the day I’m not that person. At the end of the day that person is not me.
At the end of the end of the day the satraps and administrators weren’t Daniel. Daniel was not one of those guys. Take it to God. And some of you right now are dealing with jealousy. And one of the evil sides of social media is jealousy. It’s envy. It’s a highlight reel of peoples’ lives. It’s totally unrealistic. And every time we go on social media, I’m here to tell you, it’s about jealousy, envy, and how can I one up someone by my physique, by my travel schedule, by the massive crowds I’m speaking in front of, by money, by this car. What’s driving that, so much of it? It’s people who are self-unaware. And amazingly, those who are self-unaware don’t even know they’re self-unaware. Because if they did, they wouldn’t be self-unaware.
And right now you’re thinking about someone else, and it’s you. And it’s me.
The group came to Darius, these haters, and they tried to trip Daniel up by playing up the pride and the ego of Darius. I’m like Darius, this is hilarious man. How dumb can you be? This group is coming up to you, you’re not even talking to Daniel. You’re not even talking to the man. You’re not even talking to this guy with integrity and humility and who’s self-aware. You’re not even talking to the right person.
Whenever you’re making a decision, the wrong group will always be there. Always. Whenever you make a macro or micro decision, there’s always going to be the wrong group telling you the wrong thing to do. Every single time.
However, God always brings the Daniels into your life. So often we don’t talk to them because we don’t want to hear the truth. But these satraps and administrators, they were just an echo chamber to Darius. Whatever he said, they said “Brilliant! You’re the man! You’re awesome!”
Let’s keep on going because it gets really dumb. I mean you see how brilliant and dynamic Daniel is compared to dumb, dumb Darius. Darius, come on brother. Look at Daniel 6:6-7. “So the administrators and satraps went as a group…” The majority, remember I’ll say it again, is usually wrong. As a Christian we’re always swimming upstream, we’re going against the current, and one of the hilarious things we say these days, ah, where there’s smoke there’s fire. Sometimes, but more often than not it’s just smoke.
“… to the king and said, ‘O King Darius, live forever!”
Darius is like, “Man I like this. These guys are awesome.”
“The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed…”
Well, all agree? Where’s Daniel? No, that’s a lie, exaggeration. They voted? Really? They voted. You realize every time God’s people in the Bible voted they voted outside his will? Every time, read it, that God’s chosen people voted, they voted outside the will of God. Again, I’ll tell you the majority is usually. Not always, but usually wrong.
We’ve all agreed “…that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree…” Again, they never consulted the right person. “…that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions’ den.”
They played up to his pride. They said, “Darius, you can write a book, ‘30 Days of Me’. Isn’t it awesome, Darius, because you are awesome. You are amazing. You are the man. You are great.”
What were they thinking? They didn’t give a flying flip about that. They wanted to take Daniel out. They wanted Daniel to be lion bait.
And here’s what happens about negative people. A negative group will take someone and throw that person under the bus, but what happens eventually is the negative people get run over by their bus. That’s what they don’t understand. Because they’re self-unaware.
Darius what are you doing? Darius you’re going to agree with this crazy group. So you know what Darius does? He makes an emotional decision. If you’re self-aware you cannot make emotional decisions. Emotions are great, but he makes and emotional decision. “I am the man. I am great. Yeah, this sounds great. 30 days of me.” And he presses the send button and the mass email is sent.
Well see, they had ancient technology. Once you press the send button, once you say send, you can’t take it back, you can’t delete it, you can’ change it, it’s sent. It’s in writing. How many times, don’t raise your hand, have you pressed the send button and you’ve gone. “What have I done?” How many times have we done that? “Why did I respond to that text in that manner? Why did I post that? Why did I say that? I didn’t mean that.” We hide behind the screen these days. It’s so ironic that we have better communication these days than the history any time any place in the world, yet we have a hard time sitting down with someone and having a conversation. It’s amazing.
Why didn’t Darius talk to Daniel? Why aren’t you talking to your Daniel? Why? It became really difficult because these men played up to him and they played up to him to such a degree he made a dumb decision. Because as we all know the best decisions in life aren’t always they easiest. Isn’t that true?
Students, listen to me. Children, listen to me. The best decisions in life aren’t always the easiest ones. Because if you please God it doesn’t matter who you displease, but if you displease God it doesn’t matter who you please. And that’s Daniel. Daniel was pleasing an audience of one.
“If anybody, Darius, worships any god or anything other than you during 30 days, lion bait.” They knew what Daniel would do. Daniel saw the email. They knew his courage. They knew his integrity. And these men went as a group, the wrong they, as a group, and found Daniel praying and asking for God’s help.
Then in Daniel 6:13, “Then they said to the king, ‘Daniel, who was one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king…” I mean how racist is that? Is that unbelievable? That’s wrong, that’s not true.
Again, the haters will always lie, they’re always going to exaggerate. Don’t believe the haters. In fact, I would encourage you not to read too much into social media. It can send you on a roller coaster ride up and down, up and down about yourself, about others, and I would say the majority of it isn’t real, it isn’t even true. Yet we think it’s real because we say “Wow, perception is reality.” And sadly, in today’s culture, it is. But it’s not. What I’m saying to you, it’s not. It’s not.
And Daniel understood reality, because he was self-aware. So the king sends this, they’re lying to the king. Now they come to the king and tell them that Daniel is praying to his God. So what does the King do? He has to lob Daniel into the lion’s den. It killed him. It tore him up. No one survived the lion’s den.
Are you facing a Darius decision right now? Are you facing a major decision in your life? Who are you listening to? First of all, we have to listen to God. That’s where self-awareness comes in. And secondly, we have to have the Daniels in our lives.
Daniels are not going to volunteer. Daniels are not going to blow up your phone. Daniels don’t swim in schools, they’re singles. You got to find them. Daniels are in the house of God, serving. Daniels have integrity. Daniels have humility. Daniels speak the truth in love.
So they lobbed Daniel into the lion’s den. And the king, normally he had entertainment at night, the Bible says in Daniel 6:18, “Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him.” Even though he took Ambien. He could not sleep.
And notice, skip up to Daniel 6:16, If you have your Bibles you can look up or you can read it on view a verse. The king said to Daniel right before he lobbed him into the lions den. I love this. “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you.”
The king woke up. Ran down, early in the morning. Who was taking a nap with the lions? Daniel. Patting the lions, scratching their bellies, had nicknames for them. The Bible says a messenger shut their mouths. Some theologians think this was a pre-incarnate visit of Jesus. Remember Old Testament.
So Daniel emerges. And guess who becomes lion bait? Take a wild guess, a stab at who becomes lion bait? Yeah, yeah, yeah you got it. You got it.
Self-awareness. We know the one who knows us better than we know ourselves. He will show us what integrity and consistency and devotion and generational commitment is all about.
ILLUS: This past week my mother died. And Lisa and I drove to Houston Sunday after I spoke, and we were there the whole week. One of the most challenging and difficult things I’ve ever done was doing part of her memorial service. And if you want to see this amazing worship service of an amazing woman, it’s on our website, you can click on. It might kind of help you understand even about my background and where I’m front et cetera. But more importantly, it’ll be an amazing worship experience.
So after this memorial service, which had I don’t know, probably at least 4,000 people in it. We all broke up, our family did, in different parts of this massive church so people could say a word of comfort, a word of greeting to all of us. That lasted for several hours as you can imagine. I hadn’t seen a lot of the people in 20 some odd years. We’ve been up here 27 years. And family after family came up to Lisa and I and they said “Ed, I can’t thank you enough for your mother, her Bible teaching, her life, her counsel changed the course of our family.”
I saw people in their 70s and 80s walking up to me, and saying that. Then I saw their children, who are in their late 40s and 50s, walking up to me and saying that. Then I saw other family members, 20 somethings, even teenagers, walking up to me and saying that. Family after family after family after family after family, after family, after family. The words were amazing. They were comforting.
But as Lisa and I were driving back yesterday, I said, “Lisa, can you believe the generational blessings of people who’ve been a part of 2nd Baptist Church for two to three to four decades? Can you believe the blessings?” They’re blessed, these people. They’ve hung in there, these people. They’re Daniels, these people. God has blessed some relationally like you can’t even imagine. God’s blessed some financially, like you can’t imagine. God’s blessed others with opportunities, like you can’t imagine. Why? They stayed in the house. Through hell and high water. And it’s not always been easy at 2nd Baptist Houston, one of the largest churches in America, in the world. It’s not always been easy there.
You get married, it’s not always easy. Stay in the house. Whenever I’ve seen people, and let’s use 2nd Baptist as an illustration. I know scores and scores, thousands of people, who have cycled out of 2nd Baptist. God, generally, has never blessed their life because they left the house and they’re in another house. I have never seen someone, unless it’s a special set of circumstances, to leave the main house and flourish in another one.
You want to be self-aware? You want to have consistency in courage? You want to be a difference maker? You want to follow God? You want to be a Daniel? Stay connected in his house. Stay strong. Stay committed like Daniel and God, by his Holy Spirit will make you aware of things you never thought possible.
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]
If you would look at me for a second… Let’s give it up for the decisions that were made here! Because I want to be a Daniel. I know you want to be a Daniel. We need to have the right people, the right THEY in our lives, speaking into our lives. The right they. T – they are teachable, they are tough, they are tenacious. H – they’re honest, they’re holy, they’re wholesome. E – they’re encouraging, they’re exciting, they’re engaging. Y – they are yielded to God, yielded to your friendship, yielded to the life here at the local church!