By Pastor Greg Byman
St Joe Community Church
April 7, 2019
Click "Read More" for Pastor's Notes and Transcription
We learned that we need to refuse to defile ourselves. We don't let the world determine what we're gonna do. Don't let the world be your thermostat. Let God be your thermostat. Let Him be the change-maker. Don't let other people change you in ways that you know God doesn't want you to live.
And then the next message was "Worshiping with courage." Our trust is in God alone, and these Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they were told, "Bow down to the golden statue or be thrown in the fiery furnace." And we learned from that story that our trust is in God alone, and even if God doesn't come through, our testimony needs to be clear, that we are trusting in God, and no one's gonna stop us from trusting ... Even if we lose our lives, we've still put our faith in God. And let it be known, even by the taking of our lives, that He is our God, He is our savior. We're trusting in no other but Him.
And then we saw Daniel stand up and serve with character. He told the truth in love. The king said, "I had this terrible dream." And Daniel's like, "You're right it's terrible, and I hope it happens to your enemies and not you, but King, this is what's gonna happen." And he told the truth. Don't we sometimes in a scary way go to a boss when something is happening wrong in the factory or something is happening wrong in the office place, and we have to tell the truth? Do we care about the person we're telling? Or do we want to just tell the truth and stick it to them? Daniel cared about his boss. Daniel cared about a king that could have taken his head off for the bad report, but he said, "No, King, I don't want this to happen to you, but it's gonna happen to you if you don't turn from your bad ways. Maybe God will relent from this, but just know that hard times are coming and you need to be prepared." We need to serve with character. Character doesn't show up overnight. It's something that we build over time.
And the final story is a story where we meet Daniel at about 80+ years of age. So many of you may have seen pictures of Daniel in the lion's den, this young man that's standing ... this angelic ... I wonder if he was just going ... I don't know what he was doing, but we know he had his trust in God, but I still have earthly fear, right? I'm not afraid to die, I just don't like how it's gonna happen. Okay? Okay? I mean, he's a human being, but he was actually an old man by this time. He was a man for the moment.
I bring this up to say that sometimes our lion's den may be ahead of us, not behind us. And that what you're building for in your life today might be the pinnacle of your moment, and the story of your life might not be something that's already happened, but something that's about to. I hope you don't face a lion's den. I'm not asking anybody to throw you into a pit of lions and wait for God to shut their mouths. I'm just saying that your fiery furnace, your lion's den, your moment of truth of whether you believe what you believe and the rubber hits the road ... It might happen later, and what you're doing right now is building up for that moment when the world tests you in a mighty way. Will you be prepared?
Well, I'm gonna see here in a story, and I want us to see together that we can pray with confidence, knowing that God builds us for such a moment as Daniel faced in his life. I'm just gonna read a little bit of part of this passage in Chapter 6, Verse 1. And in Verse 1 it says: "Darius decided to appoint 120 satraps over the kingdom, stationed throughout the realm, and over them three administrators, including Daniel." So he had a promotion ceremony. A bunch of people got promoted. Three, particularly, including Daniel ... he was one of the top three in the nation at this point, one of the most powerful nations in the world at this moment in history, by the way. It's as if either Russia or China or America set up three people to be the most important people in the whole land, underneath the king or the president or the dictator, or whatever it is that you call the person in charge. This is an incredibly important moment in Daniel's life, And he sat apart there.
And then it says here that Daniel, Verse 3, let me skip ahead ... "Daniel distinguished himself above the administrators and satraps because he had an extraordinarily spirit. So the king planned to set him over the whole realm." So they not only had the top three, but he was gonna be the top of the three, and only the king was higher than Daniel. You think, wow, isn't that exciting? Have you ever had people get excited when you got promoted? Have you ever had people mad when you got promoted? "Who's he think he is? What's she got that I don't have? Really? They're playing favorites" ... and maybe they are. And maybe you're just better than they are, and it's nothing to be joking about.
But they were mad. They got angry. They couldn't believe that this Jew, this foreigner would come in, and this guy that believed in the one true God, not all the gods in the pantheistic atmosphere that they were living in, in Persia at that time, and "The administrators and satraps therefore kept trying to find a charge against Daniel regarding the kingdom, but they could find no charge of corruption, for he was trustworthy and no negligence or corruption was found in him. And then these men said, 'We will never find any charge against this Daniel unless we find something against him concerning the law of his God.'
"So the administrators and satraps went together to the king and said to him: 'May King Darius live forever!'" You know something's up when you're getting false praise like that, right? "All the administrators of the kingdom, the prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an edict that, for 30 days, anyone who petitions any god or man except you, the king, will be thrown into the lions’ den."
Now you know that's not true, because Daniel would have never agreed to that, so they're lying through their teeth to try to trap Daniel. "Therefore, Your Majesty, establish the edict and sign the document, so that as a law of the Medes and Persians, it is irrevocable and cannot be changed. So King Darius signed the written edict. But when Daniel learned that the document had been signed, he went into his house, the windows in its upstairs rooms opened toward Jerusalem, and three times a day he got down on his knees, prayed, and gave thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Then these men went as a group and found Daniel petitioning and imploring his God, so they approached the king and asked about his edict. 'Didn't you sign an edict that for thirty days anyone who petitions any god or man except you, the king, be thrown into the lions’ den?'” The king answered, 'As a law of the Medes and Persians, the order stands and is irrevocable.'
"Then they replied to the king, 'Daniel, one of Judean exiles has ignored you, the king and the edict you signed, for he prays three times a day.' As soon as the king heard this, he was very displeased. He set his mind on rescuing Daniel and made every effort until sundown to deliver him. Then these men went together to the king and said to him, 'You know, Your Majesty, that is it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no edict or ordinance the king establishes can be changed.' So the king gave the order and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lion's den. The king said to Daniel, 'May your god, whom you continually serve, rescue you.' A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own ring and with the signet rings of his nobles, so that nothing in regard to Daniel could be changed.
"And then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting. No diversions were brought to him and he could not sleep. At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lion's den, and when he reached the den, he cried out in anguish to Daniel, 'Daniel, servant of the living god,' the king said. 'Has your god, whom you continually serve, been able to rescue you from the lions?' Then Daniel spoke with the king. 'May the king live forever. My god sent his angel and shut the lions' mouths and they haven't harmed me, for I was found innocent before him, and also before you, Your Majesty, I have done no harm.' And the king was overjoyed and gave orders to take Daniel out of the den. When Daniel was brought up from the den, he was found to be unharmed, for he trusted in his god."
I want us to learn how to pray with confidence this morning, and I think we can learn from the life of Daniel. First of all, we need to pray with a clear conscience. We need to be 'fessing up when we mess up. Daniel was a man of integrity, and they couldn't find anything wrong with him. They couldn't find anything to trap him in. His life was impeccable. That doesn't mean he was perfect. It's just that they couldn't find any kind of variance in his character. He had a reputation of excellence. Are we planning for the day when people come against us? Do we live for God or do we live for man? Do we live for ourself?
By the way, sorry for the throat. I feel perfectly fine. It may sound worse to you, but I'm fine, and I did get over it, so if I do shake your hand, we're good. Okay. No temperature. We're good. But I had to come home to get well from vacation. Isn't that awful?
But anyway, he had a reputation of excellence. In 1 Peter 4:15 it says that we are not to suffer as a law-breaker. We shouldn't be suffering at the hands of the law because of stealing or murder or any other kind of thing that we're breaking the law. Well, that shouldn't ever be true of Christians. We ought not to be breaking the law. We ought to be living up to the authorities in our lives. We ought to be the best employee that's ever been employed by our company. We ought to be the best boss anybody's ever had, because our boss is Jesus Christ, and my best friend is Bill Wallace. Thank you. Did you spit in it? Thank you. Thank you for that glass of water. That's good.
Do people know you as a person of integrity? Do they know you as a person that stands on principle? You may not always be right, but do you make things right when you're not? Are you a person that tries to reconcile whenever you're able to reconcile with somebody? Have you set it on your mind that from this day forward you're going to live in a way that honors God, even if it ticks off a few people around you? Your goal is not to tick anybody off. Your goal is just simply to live right for God.
Well, you can pray with confidence when you have a clear conscience because you're praying from a pure heart. You're praying from a heart that doesn't have preconceived notions of manipulating God into doing something that He would never do in the first place. So I want us to think about praying with confidence through a clear conscience. You see, 2 Timothy 3:12 says, "In fact, all who want to live a godly life in Jesus Christ will be persecuted." All of us are gonna face somebody who doesn't like the fact that we follow Jesus Christ. It seems as though that the world is very tolerant of religion, but they are not tolerant of faith in Jesus Christ. This is nothing new. This has been for a long time.
It just happens to be that we live in a, what we might call a post-Christian age of the Western world in which we are situated in the middle of. That at one time Christianity was a prevalent force. There was a pre-Christian time and then there was a strong Christian movement, in which people followed Christ and some played the game. In fact, some commentators, as they look at the church as a whole in America, not specific churches, but if you lumped all the Christian churches together, it is estimated that there are probably quite a few who are playing a game and not really followers of Jesus Christ. They don't have a personal relationship with Jesus. They have a formal religion that has some sort of a head nod or a wink to Jesus.
But there was a time when it was a very popular time to be a Christian, and less what you might call persecution, although not nearly the persecution here like it is in other countries. But we are living in a more post-Christian era, where it is not politically correct to say, "I'm a follower of Jesus Christ." You can say, "I'm a Christian," but to say, "I believe that Jesus is the one and only savior" is not politically correct. I'm not trying to harp on this or try to make a bit point or to get upset. We just need to be realistic in where we live. And so, we're all going to have to pay a cost at some point for our faith in Jesus Christ. I hope that things change, that my children have a better country than I've found it, or that I'm in the middle of right now, but if things don't change it probably will get harder for our children to follow Christ, in the legalese of our land.
What we believe in might be considered a hate crime, because if the Bible speaks out against certain lifestyles, and then those certain lifestyles are codified as protected under the law, it could be just like in Canada for it to be a hate crime for us to actually teach the Bible as fact, and we could be censured or fined or worse. And that's, by the way, without getting any other commentary about it, what the big hubbub is at the statehouse with the current hate crime bill. That is the current hubbub. But if you start to codify the law to protect a certain group of people, that by conscience another group of people says by their faith conviction they cannot go along with. They can agree that they can tolerate that that's happening, but not believe that that's right. That will be considered hate in the eyes of the law, and those who have faith in the Bible could potentially not be protected, as those who come against the Bible.
In other words, there's a double jeopardy. They want us to say everybody's protected, but then they say, "But actually, we only want a certain segment protected against those who would have a faith in the Bible to preach against it." I have a whole lot more to say over a cup of coffee, but that is kind of the crux of why there was such a debate at the statehouse. It sounds really good to say that we want to protect all people, and I believe in the dignity of every single human being, and no person should ever, ever be perpetrated against. Period. End of story. I don't care who you are. I don't care what your lifestyle is. I will stand up for anybody's dignity to not be harmed in any particular way. Amen? Amen.
God made all of us in his creation, and human beings are specially created in his sight, and we ought to honor that. I don't care what that person's doing, whether I agree or disagree with them or not. They are special in God's eyes, and I want to make sure that we know that that's never going to be in doubt in this church and by this person right here. Again, cup of coffee. We can talk more.
So Daniel has come against, they come against him through his faith, not because of his faults. It was his faith. We can expect people to oppose us, and Daniel certainly had those people coming at him. And here was the trap. Daniel's enemies manipulated the king to declare an edict that they knew would get Daniel into trouble. I have a question. Is your faith so well-known that people know how to trap you in your own faith? Let's put it another way. If a court was adjourned and we could convict you of being a Christian, is there enough evidence? If we brought up enough witnesses in your life, both sides of the coin, which side would win. Those that say that you're not a Christian or those that say that you are? And by the way we can subpoena anybody, and your mama can't be the only one to talk about you, because she's always gonna say something nice about you. I don't know. My wife is pretty hard on my kids sometime.
In other words, they knew how to trap him because they knew he had a faith in God. Could you be trapped because people know that you have a faith in God? Huh. In other words, we pray with confidence. You know how we pray with confidence? We pray with a clear conscience, but we also pray habitually. We do it often. We pray all the time. You know, baby prayers are for baby Christians. Mature prayers are for mature Christians. You know how you get mature in praying? You keep praying. You keep getting good at it.
Have you ever started a relationship with ... a friendship for the first time, right? The first time you meet, if you hit it off, obviously you want to be friends. "Hey, I kinda like this person, I want to hang out with them." And you start to talk to them and then the next time you kind of have to think about, "What am I gonna say next time? Have we covered everything?" And then you kind of slip through ... and two human beings, you always have two human beings so there's always error on both sides. You're talking to God. He's perfect.
How many of you have ever talked to the principal? Yeah, the first time was tough. How many had a good meeting with the principal? Anybody here? And the first time you had the good meeting was like, yeah, meek, you know. What do I say? I get tongue-tied around famous people, people who have power. I just do. I just get kind of flustered and my son is starting to weave and bob through different people, and I said, "Son, figure that out early. It'll go well with you later in life." Because for me, I still get, I'm, "What am I gonna say?" You know, I've met some pretty neat guys and I'm okay, I think there for 10 minutes. "What's my first line gonna be? I've always wanted to meet this guy. What am I gonna say to Lou Holtz?" I mean really, I was like, "What am I gonna say to him?" And I don't think I blew it, but it was kind of a sweaty moment. You know, "What am I gonna do? I don't want to look stupid in front of the guy," you know?
Daniel was comfortable talking to God because he talked to God often. You get comfortable talking with God with confidence, because you talk often with God. You spend time with him. You walk with him. Daniel prayed three times a day, just has he had done before. In other words, they knew how to trap him because they knew his pattern of lifestyle was he prayed a lot. That guy, he just prays all the time. You know who prayed all the time in life less was John [Walderman 00:23:42]. I just brought him up again. He was just always praying. He's always talking to God. "Well, I'm just gonna have to pray about that." "You do that, John, and then when you agree with me we'll talk." No. But he would always be talking to God.
Daniel always talked to God. A lifetime of prayer prepares us for a once-in-a-lifetime test. Daniel didn't know he was gonna face the lion's den at age 80+. He probably thought those days were gone. I mean, he was in the glory years. He was gonna be the head honcho under the king. Why, he had it made. He had a retirement plan. He'd already figured out he wasn't going back to Jerusalem, but God has given him visions of what was gonna happen. I mean, he's thinking, "This is a mighty moment in my life." Could rest on his laurels. All is well. No, no, no, no, no. He was prepared for the biggest test of his life. Would he still pray to his god even when it became outlawed?
These people knew how to trap him because they knew his rhythm of life. Do people know your rhythm of life? Do they know that you walk with God? Are you that person that when things go tough, they come to you, say, "Well, now, you know I'm not the best person here at work. We all know I don't trust the man upstairs so much like you do, but my mama is really sick, and I was wondering if you could pray for her. My wife, well, let's just say I'm not living at the house right now, and could you pray for me?" They don't tell the guys out there. Are you that person they go to? Are you the person to go to, Christian? Not the Christian that says, "I'm a Christian." No, the one they know walks with God. And they trust you with their prayer requests, even if they don't trust the person you're praying to, because they know you've got a line with God, because they know you walk with God.
What was that phrase the disciples asked Jesus? Let's say it together. "Lord, teach us to pray." You know why they asked him that? Because he was a man of prayer. He walked with his heavenly father. He needed time with the father, as a human being, fully divine, fully human, had to have walking with father time in order to get through human time. And Jesus taught them how to pray. The final way that we pray in confidence is that we pray in total dependence on God. Total dependence on God.
At this point, let's just do the math. Daniel could not depend on his peers to save him. They turned against him. He couldn't depend on the king because they had manipulated the political powers to come against him. So even people who wanted to give him a pass were legally bound not to. Daniel was in a pinch from the world's perspective. The question is, are we all in with God or not? Do you have a plan B? I only have one parachute and it's Jesus. I've not packed a second parachute. Don't need one. Fully trust the parachute God gave me in the cross. He is the one who saved me. I'm not trusting in my own parachute. Mine has holes in it filled with sin. Jesus is the one that gave me a new heart. Jesus is the one who saved me. Jesus is the one who's saving me. Jesus is the one who will save me. He's my plan A, there is no plan B.
Is that your life? Daniel was all in. I mean, think about this. If he had been faced with the lion's den maybe at 20, 21, 22, I sense from his story he might still have been confident in God, but you know a lifetime of seeing kings come and kings go, seeing his friends delivered from the fiery furnace, seeing his truth-telling to be rewarded rather than punished, he had a lifetime to rest on to know that God can be trusted, and so when he said, "You know what? What's a lion's den? God's all I've got anyway. He's all I've ever had. If God takes me out by the lions, well I've gotta die somehow. Prefer not, but somehow it's gonna happen."
100% mortality rate. I don't know if y'all knew that. Right? Unless Jesus comes before you die, you're gonna die. Lazarus was raised up and guess what. He ain't walking around any more. He died. It wasn't permanent. It was a temporary reprieve of the death process in Lazarus's life. Some of you had a miraculous experience of coming back from death-defying circumstances in your life. Maybe you've had an accident where God spared your life. He just plucked you out from the middle of chaos. Maybe he delivered you from alcohol or drugs, and you could very well be dead today, but God saved you and delivered you out of that lifestyle. Praise God. Praise be to Jesus for that.
But at some point you're gonna die. And guess what? Your parachute is Jesus. All the way, 100%. And Daniel was trusting, with confidence, because he was praying with confidence because he prayed in total dependence on God. What or who in this world do we depend on more than God? Is there anything? Are you hedging your bets? I hope not. Do you dabble in church because you need a little of that, because we gotta make sure we get that taken care of, and then I'm gonna go over here and do this, got that taken care of. Or are you all in? This story is popular today, but even Paul mentioned that when he talked about how he was rescued from the lion's mouth in 2 Timothy 4:17.
Daniel was inspiring, not only to us, but he's been inspiring people ever since he stood up for God, because we knew he had a total dependence on God. And even if the lions had eaten him up, we would still say, "Daniel, you go man. You went out with a bang." I mean, you know, die with vigor. The last thing I want to do is, right at the finish line of my life, peter out in my faith. I would hate that. I would just ... man, pray for me that I would never do that. I just don't want to disappoint my God. You know what I'm saying. I want to be "well done now, good and faithful servant" kind of guy. I want to finish well.
So this morning I just want to encourage you. I implore you, let's pray with confidence. Let's trust in the story of Daniel and how we, too, can come to God, pray, have a relationship with God with confidence. My question is, this morning, is in your conscience, what do you need to turn away from and ask forgiveness for? How do you need to have a clear conscience? Is there something in front of you right now that when you go to God you don't want to go there? Is there a closet in the house of your life that you keep closed that you're unwilling to open and let God clean out? Will you give Him the key? Don't keep saying you're gonna clean it up for Him. Let Him clean it up for you.
As was telling the people being baptized downstairs before we came up, baptism ... this is simply us getting serious about God, but He's the one that cleaned us up before we got here. We're in this to let Jesus take care of us, not to take care of things for Jesus. The other question is I want to ask you this morning is, if you're gonna pray with confidence, we get confidence the more we do it, so do you have a habit of prayer? What do you need to change in your schedule to start spending more time with God?
I remember your granddaughter, Mr. Snell, and she was going to have surgery, and I already knew you were a man of prayer, but I didn't know that Tim [Bresnehan 00:33:48] was on the other side of the coin praying as well, and he's another man in our city that is a man of prayer. His testimony, it'd blow you away if you heard it. And we were sitting around that circle, these weren't people that were just praying because they needed to pray. It was a lifetime of pouring out in that waiting room, imploring God to do something that only He could do. And He did. He's doing it. That doesn't happen overnight, and I'm still learning from people like that in my life, to get more confident in God every day.
Do you already believe God has an answer before you ask Him for it? Do you already believe God has an answer before you ask Him for it? Or are you just questioning whether or not He's even gonna show up? Hmm. We pray with confidence when we spend more time with Him, and we need to change our daily lifestyle to hang out with God as much as possible. And finally, do you hedge your prayers? Are you praying to God and trusting in something else?
Simon Peter, when challenged by Jesus, when everybody was turning away, this was kind of a turning point in Jesus's ministry, when people were starting to realize Jesus wasn't just trying to be popular. He was telling the truth and they didn't quite like it. And he said, "Simon, are you all going to leave me also?" Everybody else was leaving. "Disciples, are you also gonna leave me?" And Simon Peter said something that I think all of us ought to declare as a Christian this morning. "Lord, to whom will we go. You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the holy one of God."
Have you put your faith in Jesus Christ? Could it be said of you that you're all in with Jesus this morning? I want to give you an opportunity to make good on that conviction. I want you to take that card and I want you to put on that card, "I am committing my life to Jesus Christ." It's one of the options on there. I want you to put on that card, "I want to be baptized. I want to tell the world I'm a Christian." Baptism doesn't make you a Christian, it tells the world you are. Are you willing and ready to sign on the dotted line in front of the whole world? No turning back. No turning back. "I'm gonna go for Jesus all the way."
Band, will you come up here? We're gonna sing one more song. We're gonna worship God a little bit more in music, and we as believers, we've got some reckoning to do with, too. Maybe there's somewhere in your life where you've just kind of compromised in some way, and it's time for you to get serious and buckle down and say, "Jesus, I turn back. I turn away from that. I want to go the right way with you today." So maybe this morning you need to put on that card, "I'm recommitting my life to Jesus Christ." Maybe this morning you need to put a specific word of what you need to do to follow Christ today. Maybe God's calling you to a special purpose. Maybe you have a question.
Maybe I said something today that didn't set quite well with you. You're not agreeing with me, but you're hanging on a little bit longer and you have a question. I want to know what that question is, and will you trust me enough to ask me that question so that we can walk together in a spiritual conversation, so that we can talk about it, instead of just maybe be on opposite sides of the fence. Will you give me the courtesy to at least let you share with me where your heart is so that we can walk together and not find my answer, but find God's answer together as we trust in Him.
B: Bible book