When the Pressure's On
Daniel chapter 6 gives the famous account of Daniel and the Lions’ Den. At the time of this incident, Daniel was over 80 years old. He was a capable leader and administrator, and was in charge of an empire.
This chapter is about the faithfulness of a man to God, and about the faithfulness of God to a man.
After a lifetime of faithfully serving God, Daniel is tested.
We are all tested. There is no age limit. There are no exemptions for position or authority. There are no exceptions.
James 1:2-3 tells us:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (ESV)[ii]
From these verses, it should be clear that we can all expect to be tested. The question is, “How will we come out of the test?”
I do not know what “Lions’ Den” you are facing or may be about to face, but doubtless you have one looming on the horizon.
It might be at work. It might at home.
The Bible teaches us that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the unseen forces of the evil one. Daniel teaches us three lessons that will help us stand firm in face of the “Lions’ Dens” of our lives. Daniel shows us what it looks like when a person has their spiritual armor on.
The first lesson Daniel teaches us is that we must establish our foundation.
At the close of Daniel 5, Darius the Mede took over the Babylonian Empire. “Darius decided to divide the kingdom into 120 provinces, and he appointed a high officer to rule over each province.” (Daniel 6:1) These “high officers” were called “satraps.” Then, according to Daniel 6:2, Darius appointed three “administrators” to supervise the 120 satraps. Daniel was one of these administrators.
Daniel soon distinguished himself among the administrators so that the king was planning to put Daniel in charge of the whole kingdom. Daniel 6:3 says this was so because “an excellent spirit was in him.” (ESV) Other translations have translated this word as “an extraordinary spirit was in him.” On this point, the New Living Translation misses by interpreting this as: “because of Daniel’s great ability.” There is a difference between great ability and an exceptional spirit, and in the end, the exceptional spirit is far more valuable. Great ability without character often spells disaster as Daniel’s fellow administrators demonstrate in Daniel 6.
The word the book of Daniel uses for “excellent” here in verse 3 is used in the Bible only in Daniel and it is instructive to note where it is used. It is used in chapter 2 verse 21 where it describes the statue that Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream as having “exceeding brightness.” (ESV) It is used in chapter 3 verse 22 where it describes the furnace heated seven times its normal heat as being “extremely hot.” (NASB, KJV “exceeding hot”)
Something about Daniel set him apart. He was exceptional. He was extraordinary. It was his spirit, and the amazing, exciting thing is that what made Daniel extraordinary is available to each of us.
Let’s go back and consider how Daniel started. In Daniel chapter 1, we meet Daniel as a young captive in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar. He and three of his friends decide not to defile themselves with the King’s food. From that point on, Daniel and his three friends were extraordinary.
They knew what they believed. They knew whom they believed. They had a solid foundation. The same foundation is available to anyone and everyone, but few actually build on it.
Jesus describes it like this:
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. (Matthew 7:24, ESV)
Psalm 119:1 says:
Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD! (ESV)
Psalm 19:7 says:
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. (ESV)
We must know what we believe. Our modern education has taught us to be skeptical about everything. We must not be unsure, wishy-washy or skeptical about our God and Father. Daniel was extraordinary because he was sure about his God. Notice, all the Scriptures I just quoted promise blessedness and solidity to the life built on the solid foundation of God’s word. Confidence in God is the foundation.
Trust in God is the first lesson Daniel teaches us and it is the foundation for the remaining two.
The second lesson Daniel teaches us is we must keep our spiritual equilibrium.
In other words, we must keep our balance.
Do not be perturbed or prodded into desperate action when the pressure is on. Keep your cool. Jesus said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled, believe in God.” (John 14:1)
Daniel’s fellow administrators conspired against Daniel.
This reminds me of a quote I like by Joseph Heller, author of “Catch 22.” He says, “Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Well, Daniel was not paranoid, but they were certainly after him. When they could not find a fault in character, (refer back to lesson number 1) they decided to use Daniel’s relationship to God against him.
Let me say at this point, this will always happen.
The enemy of our souls does not like us to trust in God and will always attack. This is why 1 Peter 1:7 says that the tested genuineness of our faith is more precious than gold. We will be asked to compromise our faith at work, in school and even at home, but do not do it. In 2 Timothy 3:12 the Scriptures say, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
This is where Daniel stood strong. He would not defile himself with the king’s food, and he would not stop praying. Not even the threat of the Lions’ Den could force Daniel to stop praying or alter his relationship with God one little bit.
Some things are more important than life, and prayer is one of them. How many of us would choose to die rather than stop praying? If not, we will never stand. In Isaiah 7:9 God told Ahaz, “If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.” (ESV)
Equilibrium or balance means having our priorities right, keeping first things first. Are you too busy to pray, or are you too busy not to pray?
What is the priority?
This is the second lesson, maintaining our spiritual equilibrium. The third is similar to it and it is simply, give glory to God.
By “give glory to God,” I mean use your mouth to tell others where your confidence lies.
Daniel’s testimony was consistent.
His enemies knew the only way to find anything against Daniel was in regard to his faith because Daniel’s life was consistent.
The King knew that Daniel served God faithfully. Therefore, he told Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve so faithfully, rescue you.” (Daniel 6:16)
Since Daniel’s testimony was consistent, it was natural for the King and those around Daniel to accept that his deliverance came from God.
As a result, the King made a decree saying:
“I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel. For he is the living God, and he will endure forever. His kingdom will never be destroyed, and his rule will never end. He rescues and saves his people; he performs miraculous signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.” (Daniel 6:26-27)
This is the fruit of a life lived for God and a consistent testimony.
However, at this point, I need to attach a warning. The nation of Israel did not always live consistent with the Word of God, and they earned this rebuke from God, “The Gentiles blaspheme the name of God because of you.” (Romans 2:24) Jesus also quoted Isaiah saying, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Matthew 15:8) We are quick to recognize that what a person does speaks louder than a person’s words. In order to have a powerful testimony, a person must not only speak the truth, he or she must also walk with the Lord.
Corresponding to the necessity of words matching up with life, one must also live boldly. Meekness and mildness are virtues, but cowardice is not. Jesus said:
So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 10:32-33, ESV)
Daniel serves as an example of a person whose life matched his words, and who was not ashamed to acknowledge his allegiance to God.
Daniel was faithful to God and God was faithful to Daniel.
We are all tested. When the pressure is on, we reveal what we are trusting in. “Tested genuineness” of faith is more precious than gold. (1 Peter 1:7)
What do the tests of life show us about ourselves?
[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
[ii] Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.