By Pastor Greg Byman
St Joe Community Church
March 24, 2019
As American Christians enter an increasingly secularized culture, we will do well to observe how men like Daniel lived with conviction in a world at odds with his values and convictions. Today, Pastor Greg Byman delivered, “Serve with Character,” the third message in a four-part sermon series studying the life of Daniel. Listen to Sunday's sermon here or on your favorite podcast platform.
Notes & Human Transcript
Greg Byman: Well, we've been studying some stories in Daniel and I'm on a third story here of Daniel serving in the court of the king as an advisor, as a dream interpreter. And last week we talked about the fiery furnace, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. And today we're in Daniel chapter four.
Daniel is faced with some integrity issues because he has got to give a bad report to his king. And you don't do that to kings. You don't do that. But we know that there were already some stories that had been built up in Daniel's life that he probably has gained some spiritual confidence, even as he played out and lived out some spiritual convictions early on in his stay. Some of you were here at the very beginning when I explained to you that Daniel was a part of a group of boys that, around their teenage years, were snatched from Jerusalem and the surrounding regions, the noble men's kids, basically. Then all the kids, they were in the top of their class at Jerusalem High School. They grabbed him and they deported them to Babylon, and they would never again see their homeland. They would probably never again see their families.
They were thrust into Babylon High School, Babylon college, where they were required to learn the customs and the ways. They were given new names in this land, as was the custom in those days. When you captured a country, you took them out and if you put them in the king's court, you renamed them in order to acclimate them to the new environment.
And in the middle of that, Daniel and his three friends said, "we don't want to defile ourselves.” And we talked about the fact that he decided that he would live with conviction even though he lived in a different land, in a different culture. He let his convictions play out more than the culture. And he was determined to do that.
And what we learned was we've got to choose before we face our test. We need to choose what we're going to do before we face the test of people putting our feet to the fire, whether we're going to do it or not.
And then we talked about the three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who when the golden statue was put up and they said we want you to worship this golden statue. And these three men just wouldn't do it. And it really wasn't so much that the king noticed that they didn't do it, but people that didn't like them called them out for their faith and said these people aren't bowing down to the Golden Statue. And because of their refusal to do so, they were thrown into the fiery furnace. They found God in the furnace and they came out without even a hint of smoke on their personhood. God rescued them from that circumstance.
We need to trust God to take care of us as the world is forcing us or asking us or telling us or criticizing us for not bowing down to the cultures, idols and gods that they set up. We need to be careful that we worship with courage in the face of a fiery furnace.
Today: Serve with Character
But today is “serve with character.” The king is asking in verses four through 18, he's asking Daniel, he's sharing with Daniel, this extravagant dream. I'm not going to get into that. You can read that on your own this afternoon.
But Daniel is being called upon to give this interpretation. And in fact, the king says, "hey, tell me what's going to happen to me?” And of course, Daniel's like, "uhhh, this is the dream I had.”
“And now Belteshazzar, which was Daniel's given name in Babylon, tell me the interpretation. Because none of the wise men in my kingdom can make an interpretation known to me, but you can because you have the spirit of the holy Gods.
He knew there was something different about Daniel that could tell that he knew, and this happened once before this incident, and so he comes to Daniel says, “let me know what I'm supposed to do here.”
So, let me read for us, starting in verse 19.
Then Daniel, whose name is Belteshazzar, was stunned for a moment after the king had shared with him what the dream was, and his thoughts alarmed him.
The king said, "Belteshazzar, don't let the dream or its interpretation alarm you.”
Belteshazzar said, "my Lord, may the dream applied to those who hate you and its interpretation to your enemies. The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, whose top reached to the sky and was visible to the old earth and whose leaves are beautiful and its fruit abundant, and on it was food for all under it was the wild animals lived in and in its branches the birds of the sky lived. That tree is you, your majesty, for you become great and strong and your greatness has grown and even reached the sky and your dominion extends to the ends of the earth.
The king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, "cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump with its roots in the ground with a band of iron and bronze around it and the tender grass of the field. Let them be drenched with dew from the sky and share food with the wild animals for seven periods of time.”
This is the interpretation.”
Now this is where rubber hits the road. This is where Daniel has to tell the truth and he has to face whether or not the king's going to be acceptable or not.
Your Majesty, this is the decree of the Most High that has been issued against my Lord the king. You will be driven away from people to live with the wild animals. You will feed on grass like cattle and be drenched with dew from the sky for seven periods of time until you acknowledge that the Most High is ruler over human kingdoms and he gives them to anyone he wants. As for the command to leave the tree stump with its roots, your kingdom will be restored to you as soon as you acknowledge that heaven rules. Therefore, may my advice seem good to you, my king. Separate yourself from your sins by doing what is right and from your injustices by showing mercy to the needy. Perhaps there'll be an extension of your prosperity.
I'm going to stop there because that's where the meat of what I'm going to talk about resides this morning.
Daniel had to decide whether character or comfort, whether being serious for God or playing it safe was going to be the way he lived his life. He had to stand before a king who could go, “off with your head,” and he was dead in an instant. I mean, somebody could draw a sword right there in the king's court and lop his head off right there. This king was the same king that got mad and threw Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fire because he didn't like how they worshiped. Nebuchadnezzar was a pagan king. He had not had any kind of conversion experience up to this point where he was trusting in the one true God.
In fact, the way he addresses Daniel in this passage, it says, "you have the spirit of the holy Gods.”
You know, there are people that look at you, as if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, and they look at you and they know there's something different about you. they know that you tick a little differently. They know that you have some kind of a presence of God in your life, but they don't know how to explain it. They explain it in their own way of religiosity and they tell you,” you're weird.” and that's a good thing. But they'll say, "man, you just seem to beat with a different drum.” And, "I don't know what it is but, could you give me the lottery ticket numbers? I mean, I just like to know because you seem to have a ticket.”
We get called upon, if you're following Christ in your workplace, if you're honoring God in your neighborhood or in the people around you, they know you're different. They see something about you that is attractive, maybe not necessarily compelling to them personally for their own lives, but they see something about you.
In fact, there are times when in great distress at work, people will come to you because you seem to be that person, that woman, that man, that person you didn't even have to bring your Bible to work every day. Just the way you lived your life showed them that the Bible was living in you and that you had some way of praying that was different from what they knew how to pray.
And you can explain to them, calmly, that I wanted to throttle them, too. I would have very much, in my mind, had thought about all the ways in which I could get away with hurting my boss. And, by the Lord's strength, he gave me no weapons to use around me, and I decided that feeding my family with this job was more important than getting fired for doing something I really wanted to do. You can explain to them that you're a human being, but that by the grace of God, you've been able to get through circumstances that otherwise you could not have.
Daniel is in this moment, this predicament. But he's faced with a situation where he has to speak the truth. And so, my first thing is how do you serve with character in your workplace? How do you serve with character around people around you that don't honor and trust in God? My first point this morning is we need to speak the truth in love. We got to speak the truth in love.
Now, that's true in the Christian Church. We know that, through speaking the truth in love in Ephesians. “Let us build one another up. Let's do the right thing. Let's help each other.” Let's speak the truth in love, not just the truth, because sometimes the truth is that “you're ugly and your momma dresses you funny.” I mean, that's just not nice to say. then you follow up with some concession like, “but I love you.”
No, no, I'm talking about a spirit of love, that you care for somebody, that you actually care about who they are and you're walking with them through the trial of their moment of life. We must always speak the truth, especially when they ask us.
I mean, the king says, "I want to know what's going to happen here.” And of course, it says here that Daniel was stunned, and his thoughts alarmed him. He said, "oh, I don't know if the king wants to know this or not. And the king assured him, “I do want to know what you're thinking.”
So not only was he asked to tell the truth, but then he was double asked to tell the truth.
Now, I don't know about you, but a person of character who decides to lie in that moment is not a person of character. I mean character is built or whether you're trustworthy. And your trustworthiness is based on whether you tell the truth. You’ve got to tell the truth. [CM4] That's not a good job. You need to do better. You got to do something a little bit differently. This isn't going to work around here.
My dad, growing up, he used this phrase around me, but I guess he wanted to go somewhere, and his dad said, "you're not going. I'm not driving you into town.”
He says, "well then I'll walk.”
And his dad said, "you turn around right now, or one of us is going to jail for murder.”
That wasn't very funny.
But seriously, it was funny to me when I was growing up.
“Oh, okay, I'll stop doing that.”
But the joke was, look, sometimes we just got to stop what we're doing. And we need people to tell us that we got to speak the truth, especially when they ask us.
Daniel is about to do something that could possibly get him in trouble in his favor with the king. But we know in Proverbs chapter 12 verse 19,
Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue, only a moment. – Proverbs 12:19
At the end of the day, your character is more important than your job. Who you are is more important than what people think of you in terms of what they like about you. You know, popularity is very fleeting. We're not living for popularity. we're living for purpose, for how God wants us to live and what he wants us to do in our lives.[CM5]
Godly character is built on the foundation of truth. And how can we be trusted if we're not truthful? Do your supervisors want to know the truth? And if they do, are they expecting you to report the truth? [CM6]
Now, proper timing is important. It doesn't say here that Daniel just kept going in there and bugging Nebuchadnezzar about how prideful he was. God got a hold of Nebuchadnezzar and Nebuchadnezzar opened up his heart to receive the word from Daniel about what God was saying to him.
You don't need to play God for somebody, in other words. Let God be God. You can be the Holy Spirit if people invite you in, but you got to let people invite you into that moment. You might be harping on somebody about how they ought to live their life, and you may be absolutely right. But if they're not ready to receive it, they're not going to receive it.
But boy, wait for those moments when they ask you and be prepared to offer the hope that they're looking for. And that they may not enjoy hearing it first, but they asked for it. And you can remind them of that too.
“You asked me to tell you this.” After they get angry, right?
But we need to speak in love. Proverbs 22:11 says
The one who loves a pure heart and gracious lips, the king is his friend. – Proverbs 22:11
Notice that? You will be respected for telling the truth when you're gracious with the way you tell it. Gracious lips, unmerited favor lips.
You may be in a situation where the person is a tyrant. They're not enjoyable to be around ever. And yet when they ask you to share something in the truth, do you care more about them or do you care more about telling them off?
I've been in a handful of situations where I really have enjoyed the thought of telling them off. But I have to ask myself, “do I have my boss's best interests in mind? Do I really care for the person I'm sharing the truth with?” [CM7]
Daniel says in this passage, “May this this happen only to your enemies. May this dream apply to those who hate you and its interpretation to your enemies. I don't want this to come on you king. It's coming, but man, this isn't something…. I wouldn't want this to happen to you.”
Respectfully, he's trying to back into the conversation carefully so he can press forward in a way that will have the impact that it needs to have.
He said king, “I care about you and so what I'm about to tell you, you're not going to enjoy. I wish it wouldn't happen to you but it's going to if you don't mend your ways.”
One of the clearest first examples of having to deal with an ethical dilemma occurred when I was working for the county highway department.
I know, “working for” and “the county highway department” are oxymorons. They work pretty hard, to be honest.
I drove tractors to mow the ditches in our county, two summers in a row. The second summer, I had the boss of all bosses. He was crazy. If he was sitting on the front pew, I would look him and say, "you're crazy.” And he'd look at me and say, "I am.” He loved to boast about what he did wrong and got away with. And one time we had to move his car. No, no. One time he needed to move his car from one place to another. I didn't do the bad part. I just drove the county truck and he drove his car and I went and picked him up.
Well in our county, you're in the middle of nowhere just about everywhere. But when you're doing something you shouldn't do, you always find somebody you never thought you'd see. And as sure as we did that, we went by a back road where there was a, a dump truck, one of our dumpers. I looked in my rear-view mirror. I look this way and there he was, and I saw him in the rear-view mirrors. He looked at me in his rear-view mirror and all of a sudden, his brakes came on, and he saw me driving the truck instead of my boss.
Now I wasn't in trouble. My boss was. But my boss is asking me to lie about it. “Now, just tell them this, this and this.”
I said, "I'm not lying for you.”
Now, I didn't want to say it too much because he was crazy. Did I tell you that? And he could do things that I didn't want him doing to me or to my car or to, he knew where I lived. I was uncomfortable with that and I still had a long summer to go with him as my boss.
And so, he's just sitting there telling me about how I needed to fix this and fix that. I said, "the truth is always the best policy.” I said, "you don't even know if the guy's going to tell that you did it or not, but you need to get ahead of the game and decide in advance what you're going to say and just tell the boss what you did and get over it.” The cover up is always worse than the truth.
Well anyway, it all worked out. But I had to carefully and diplomatically explain to him that I was in no way, shape or form going to lie for him.
I got out of that one and we had some other moments, but that was a particular moment when I knew that I was not in danger, but it certainly wasn't going to be a good summer if things went down the wrong way at that moment. And as a teenager just out of high school, just actually after my freshman year of college, I was still trying to think through how to work through people that really couldn’t care less about God and just as soon spit on you and do you in than to help you move forward.
That was a new environment for me, for the first time. Oh, I've seen plenty since, don't get me wrong, but that was the first time that my character to do the right thing was tested.
and don't you know, I was doing some mental gymnastics. “Well, I could probably do this, this, this, this, this.” And every time I ended my argument in my brain, there was no way I could not step up and tell the truth., I just had to do it.
But I did care about him and I still do care about that man. It was more about what I cared about who he was that got me through that than it was just saying, “I'm not going to do that because I'm a Christian. I don't do things like that. No, I'm a Christian and I care about everyone around me, including you, boss. And buddy, it would be better for you if you just tell the truth.”
I don't really know what all happened in that circumstance. All I know is that I was tested to do what I needed to do. We must speak the truth in love.
And then when we think about this speaking the truth in love, what you realize is that—and I've said this many times from this platform—I don't have the highest position in this church. I have the particular position of leading our congregation as pastor, along with two other very capable men who are our elders as well. And we get to serve an opportunity of leading and guiding and directing and shepherding and watching over and caring for in ways that help the body of Christ move forward, we pray and hope.
Some of the greatest positions of influence and authority are you guys right here in this room. Wherever you live, whatever your sphere of influence is. The highest pinnacle of living for Jesus is not to be a pastor. The highest pinnacle of your Christian existence is to live out the purposes of God in the sphere of influence in which he's put you.
Somebody got that wrong when they were counseling a particular individual, and I have a video I want you to see, the testimony of somebody who they were told that that the highest pinnacle was to be a pastor after they became a Christian. And well, let's just see it play out here.
I was getting pretty frustrated with that spiritual search and one of my brothers basically said it was time to take a leap of faith, and that that it was impossible for a person who has finite capabilities compared to an infinite God to be able to understand infinity in order to make your decision. That made a lot of sense and I committed my life to Jesus Christ that night.
And he responded this way. He said, "well, Ed, you, now that you've made the most important decision in your life, you need to decide what you want to do with it.
I said, “okay, as a new Christian, what would you counsel me to think about?”
He said, “well, are you interested in serving the Lord?”
I said, “absolutely.”
He said, "well, that means full-time Christian ministry.”
Being a new believer, I didn't know what that meant.
So, I said, “well, define full-time Christian ministry for me.”
Their definition was, "you should go on to be a pastor or a missionary or a para church worker and they really help you. Your next step ought to be going to seminary.
I said, "well, what's the alternative?”
And he said, "well, here are two things to think about in the alternative. The alternative is, then you go out to the secular world where you're not going to make much of an impact except to make sure that you tithe so you can fund the people who are actually doing full-time Christian ministry. And every now and then if you get a chance to share the gospel, that would be great.”
Somehow, that wasn't resonating with me because even as a new Christian and reading scripture, there seemed to be a disconnect there. Well, after we talked, I ended up being more confused than ever because here I heard from a lot of people this was the path. But yet when I looked at the Bible, the Bible said something completely different. It wasn't until….
So, I graduated, I ended up taking a secular job. The most interesting thing about that was that weekend, after my first week of work, I was walking out of the church that I was going to and I saw my boss's boss's boss's boss's boss walk out of the church at the same time. He was the guy who gave the new employees seminar to all the new employees.
I went right up to him and I asked him, “how long have you been a Christian?”
He said, "for about 25 years.”
I said, "how long have you been in the workplace?”
“For about 20 years.”
“Would you please mentor me on how to integrate my faith into my work?”
And the most important lesson that he taught me during his lifetime was that all Christians, without exceptions, are called to full-time Christian ministry. But full-time Christian ministry isn't defined specifically as being a pastor or a missionary or parachurch worker, but it's where ever you dedicate whatever you're doing to glorify God. And so, you can do that in the workplace. God considers that ministry and worship.
My name is Ed Moy. I had the privilege of working in the White House from 2001 to 2006. And I served as the 30th director of the United States Mint. I'm also a follower of Jesus Christ.
We're all called to full-time Christian ministry. Some of us are pastors. Many of us are serving in our God-given gifts and talents and abilities in spheres of influence, a variety of vocations, some of which those vocations are full-time home maker. Sometimes it's out in the workforce, sometimes it's…wherever you go. Our joy in life is not to have some sort of a church position but is to be in the position of being an influencer for the glory and grace of God wherever we are.
And that's where Daniel was. Daniel had an opportunity to have the king's ear. He had an opportunity to have the ear of the man who was one of the greatest rulers of all time, and probably arguably the greatest ruler of that time period. And Daniel didn't blow it. He spoke the truth with a compassion for the person he was telling the truth to. [CM8]
But he didn't just leave him with this truth of, "God's going to get you because you're too prideful.” He also shared hope. And that's what also we need to do, is to share hope with the people around us. When you tell somebody the truth, is there a path out of the hardship that they're about to face? Is there a way for them to avoid God's punishment for what they've been doing in their lives? The consequences of their other actions?
This king had been incredibly prideful. He's the same king that earlier headset up this statue and said, "you all worship it or you're going to go the fiery furnace.” And then when they didn't listen to him, he got mad and threw people in there. He was absolutely into himself to the nth degree.
And Daniel said at the very end of that in verse 27, he said to the king,
“therefore, may my advice seem good to you, my king. Separate yourself from your sins by doing what is right and from your injustices by showing mercy to the needy.
Separate yourself from your sins by doing what is right. Do the right thing.
I always say around here—what's the phrase you get tired of me saying all the time? Take your, “next right step.” how many of you repeated that to somebody? Anybody? A couple of you have. Okay, I'm going to keep saying it until you start repeating it to somebody else.
These messages aren't for us here, in the room. It's for all of us and it's for the entire city of Fort Wayne. It's for anybody who will listen to God's word. And I don't mean that I have something great to say for everybody else. What I'm saying is, take it, boil it down. Find those nuggets of truth have meant something to you and share those truths with somebody else. If God got a hold of you, God's probably getting ahold of someone around you. Invite them on your journey to be part of what God's up to.
B: Bible book