Allen Jackson - Daniel an Overcomer - Part 2
It's an honor to be with you today. We're still talking about the battle in the heavens, but we're gonna look specifically at Daniel's life. He's one of my heroes in the Bible. Daniel lived his entire life as a slave in Babylon. He was born in Israel, he's Jewish, but his life corresponds with that time when the Babylonians overran Jerusalem, they destroyed the city, they kept some of the brightest and best young men, they took them back as slaves to the city of Babylon.
Daniel had to lead the life of an overcomer. He overcame empire changes, he overcame the jealousy of his peer group, he overcame the personal disappointments. Just think about it. All of the dreams and ambitions he might have had as a young person were impossible to him, they could not be fulfilled. They weren't available to him. He could have been angry, resentful, bitter, he could've hated God, he could've withdrawn from people, and yet he chose to honor the Lord with his life. Three times in the book of Daniel, God sends an angel to tell him he is highly esteemed in heaven. Our lives aren't perfect, but God can write an outcome that will make you valuable for his purposes. Open your heart and hear what God has for us today.
You know Daniel? Young Jewish man in Babylon. God has punished Israel and Jerusalem is destroyed by the Babylonians. The temple is destroyed. Many of the population have been slaughtered. But they've taken some of the brightest and the best with them back to Babylon. Jewish scholars suggest it may have been the first Jewish ghetto in history. Jewish ghettos filled the European landscape for a long time, and the Russian landscape. But in Daniel chapter 10, there's an interesting scenario we're invited into. It says, "At that time, I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food, or no meat, no wine touched my lips. I used no lotions at all until three weeks were over".
He's not morning as if he were grieving someone's death, it's morning in the sense of a fast. He has humbled himself. He's eating simple food. He's doing, he has set himself apart to seek the Lord. "And on the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude".
Again, our topic is "Battle In the Heavens," and Daniel began to seek the Lord to fast and to pray. And he's three weeks into that, and standing on the bank of the Tigris River, he sees an angel. And I think it's just noteworthy as we begin this little exercise that the angelic visit was initiated by Daniel's prayers. He fasted and prayed and an angel was dispatched with a message for him. We're gonna look at the message in a moment. Again, it's worth noting that heaven responded to Daniel's prayers. And may I insert here that heaven responded to the prayers of a slave. Daniel wasn't a king. He wasn't empowered. He was in the midst of a very disheartening set of circumstances.
However much time allows us to look at, we're gonna look at some of Daniel's circumstances. But he was in a very broken, very despondent place, a place where it would have been easy to have abandoned his faith. I'm going to ask you, do you have the imagination that God would move in your life, even if your circumstances were less than you would prefer them to be? Or do you have the imagination that God's really only welcome in my life? I'm not even gonna seek God, certainly not invite him in, and certainly not going on an extended fast if God isn't moving to alleviate the things that I've drawn his attention to.
Now, so much of our relationship with the Lord is about identifying for God the things he's overlooked. You know, we kind of acknowledge he's busy, his schedule's crowded, there's those people, all those other people praying. How do I get my prayer to the top of the list? And he doesn't always give attention to what I'm trying to get him to focus on, and the time I want him to focus on it. I'm not the only one here, right? Everybody's looking at me like I'm takin' a walk, but I think we all understand that circumstance. But in the midst of this, that's not what Daniel has done, because his personal circumstances aren't really what are on the table.
So, I'm asking you to imagine that in the midst of difficulty, or hardship, or something that's requiring perseverance, or endurance, that leaves you dissatisfied, or broken in some way that you would prefer not to be, that God could give you a significant revelation of himself that wasn't about the circumstances that we've been drawing his attention to. I could say it another way. My journey to this point would suggest that there's a price to be paid if you're going to experience a breakthrough from the Lord. Very seldom have I been able to celebrate breakthroughs without there being some requirement attached to that. Not that you earn it, but there is a reminder that in the midst of the brokenness of that place that the power of God has made evident, and you're very clear that you didn't generate it, you didn't cause it, you weren't the initiator of that.
I'm very suspect of people who suggest that we manipulate God. God will never be manipulated by us. I want us to get back, I'm going to come back to Daniel, but I wanna go to the book of Acts for just a minute. It's an advantage of giving you the scriptures. Emotionally, keep your finger in the book of Daniel, but in Acts chapter 10, it's Cornelius's house. Cornelius is a Roman Centurion, a Roman soldier in Caesarea, a pagan city. At the center of the city of Caesarea was a temple to a Roman god. Observant Jews wouldn't even go there.
And in Acts 10:30, Cornelius makes this statement. "Four days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at 3 in the afternoon, and suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, 'Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. Send to Joppa for Simon who's called Peter.'" He's a Roman soldier. A lot of good, observant, Jewish people in the land of Israel, attending synagogue, attending the holiday celebrations, observing kosher, keeping the rules of Moses, doing the things they know to do, but God responds to a Roman soldier. It says, "And Cornelius said, 'I was in my house praying at 3 in the afternoon.'" It suggests that was his habit. "And a man in shining clothes," an angel, "Stood before me and said, 'Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor.'"
If Cornelius had not cultivated the habit of prayer and being generous with his resources, and he wasn't giving to the Roman soldiers, he was being generous to the people whose land he was occupying. You think he took any heat for that? Do you think his peer group celebrated when they heard about that? God responded again. In the same way that God responded to Daniel's dreams, God responds to Cornelius, I'm sorry, to Daniel's prayers, he responds to Cornelius's prayers. Our prayers initiate heaven's responses. How is it we've been content saying, "Well, you know, Pastor, I just don't pray that much," the men especially. "Well, I don't know how to pray," learn.
When we say I don't know how to pray, what we are in effect saying is I have learned to live absent God. I don't invite him into much, I don't ask his opinion very often. We have accepted some statements, and some habits, and some practices that have left us diminished, and I want to go back to Daniel chapter 10. I wanna hear the rest of what that angel, or a part of what that angel had to say. "He continued, 'Don't be afraid, Daniel.'" So, the angel's saying that and what is Daniel? Frightened, "Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard and I've come in response to them. But the Prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me 21 days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes came to help me, because I was detained there with the King of Persia. Now I've come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come".
He has an angelic messenger that has arrived with a message from God who says he's highly esteemed and hasn't even come to talk to him about what's gonna happen in his life. I won't ask for a show of hands, but I suspect most of us would rather have information about what's gonna happen to me than what's gonna happen when I'm not here. Do you understand how much we've been coached into kind of a personalized faith? It's about me, and mine, and what we want, and how do we get more of it, and I'm not sure that's evil, but I know that it's often not fruitful in the context of the kingdom. And in the season that we're walking through, I think we're going to have to cultivate a different imagination.
Daniel 10, same chapter, verse 20. "He said, 'Do you know why I've come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the Prince of Persia, and when I go, the Prince of Greece will come. But first I'll tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. No one supports me against them, except Michael, your prince.'" A bit of history, there were four consecutive Gentile, non-Jewish empires that began ruling over Jerusalem in about the fifth century, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and then Rome. And the angel that's come to visit Daniel said I was withheld by the Prince of Persia, and when I go back, I'm going to have to confront the Prince of Greece. There's an empire change. You believe there are spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places that influence what happens amongst nations on planet earth? It isn't politics.
Do you understand what we have abandoned when we said we don't want to talk about current events? We take our faith and we put them in the realm of the theoretical or the prophetic. The only time we would talk about current events, or the only lens we have is some prophetic event about the end of the age, so whatever's happening in the world has to go through the filter of the end of the age. If there's a war, or a rumor of war, or something that happens, it has to be the end of the age because that's the only filter we allow where current events can cross over with spiritual activity in our lives, and we have diminished our impact because of that. I suspect if the Ukrainian Christians had adopted an American theological position, they'd be saying it's the end of the age tonight. I suspect we'd feel like that if there were tanks rolling on our streets.
Now I want to spend a moment with Daniel's journey. I at least want to open it. We'll continue it in the next session. I think he has so much to say to us to help us understand this battle in the heavenlies and the necessity of being an overcomer. You know, the book of Revelation is written for overcomers. Every one of the seven churches at the beginning of the book of Revelation is told they have to overcome, and at the end of the book of Revelation, it says that all the promises will be given to the one whose overcome. Overcoming presupposes, it assumes that there's going to be obstacles, and hindrances, and barriers. If there weren't, you wouldn't have to overcome. I don't like that. I mean, may I state that? I would prefer not to have to overcome. I would prefer it was just a downhill pull, do you know what that means? You're too sophisticated for that.
If you ever had to push a wheelbarrow or something up an incline, it's harder work than if you're going downhill. I don't wanna have to overcome the incline. I don't want the extra effort, the extra energy expense, I don't want the extra sweat equity in it, I would just prefer the downhill ride. Now, having noted that, that's not what the Bible promises. It says we're gonna have to overcome evil with good. That evil exists and it will have to be overcome. That's true in your life, and my life, in our lives together, and in our world, until the Prince of Peace arrives and establishes his ultimate victory. But between here and there, we have to be overcomers. We're better at overlooking. We'd rather overlook evil than overcome it.
Well, it's just not that big a deal. Not my problem. We've said that for so long, until now it's hard to look any place where it isn't our problem. We said it about our schools, and we said it about our universities, we've said it about our lack of integrity in business, we've said it about our lack of morals and how we've engaged and we've just overlooked it. Not that big a deal. We've wanted to be inclusive, or tolerant, or accepting, or something. We didn't want anybody to say we judged anybody, so we've spent a lot of our time and energy in recent years in the church, and I've spent my life in this window, so I'm not throwing stones at anybody else, but we haven't been particularly developing our overcoming muscles because we've been overlooking a lot. I mean, if you have to deal with a horse that's too excitable, too aware, a little too frenetic, you put blinders on 'em.
You shield so that they could only see what's directly in front of them. You can keep them moving in a straight line. We've been a little bit like that. We just didn't want to look, we didn't want to talk about it, it was inconvenient or uncomfortable. We knew what we wanted to get, we knew the agenda we were trying to push down the road, so we didn't want to be bothered by having to take a broader biblical perspective that every human being was created in the image of God, that every human being was valuable, the sanctity of human life. Those were just kind of uncomfortable realities. We had other agendas that we prioritized above them. We didn't destroy them, we didn't put them in the shredder, we just said they weren't top priority. We didn't lead with them, hmm. And God's begun to shake us, and we're beginning to wake up. I'll take the first section of Daniel's life, because I think it sets the tone for the entire book.
Daniel chooses humility over hate. We could use a bit of that in the church. We could use a bit of that. Daniel chapter 1 in verse 8, "Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. And God caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel". Daniel had three friends with him, we're introduced to them together. Again, we could miss that a little bit. Daniel's life in Jerusalem was defined to a great extent by what he ate. If you've never lived in a culture where kosher rules are important, it's hard to understand. You know, we talk a lot about food here, but not because we have such great boundaries, we just have an obsession with food. And we talk about organic vegetables as if there's some other kind, but that's another discussion. But I've lived in Jerusalem, and dietary rules, until today, are a big deal.
If you stay in a kosher hotel, the rabbis come to inspect the kitchen on a regular basis to be sure that the food preparation and the food service is being done in a kosher way, because you can't mix meat and dairy. And they have to have separate utensils to cook one or the other, and you can't do them at the same time in the same place. And you have to have separate serving plates and utensils for whether it's dairy, or whether it's meat, and that's just kind of the doorway into the beginning of the rules. Everything is defined by how you eat. Your godliness, your holiness, your righteousness, your purity, your zeal, your concern for the integrity of scripture.
Scripture begins with your fork, and that's how Daniel has lived his whole life. And now Jerusalem is gone, and he's gone from Jerusalem, and the temple has been destroyed, and there's no more rules, and the priesthood can't be found, and the structure has crumbled, and the temple that reminded you of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, watched over us was still in our midst. But now Daniel is hundreds of miles away in a foreign capital before a foreign king that eats things that are unthinkable to him, and it's a time when he should've been angry, and furious, and enraged, and filled with hate and bitterness. I mean, his faith has been put through the shredder.
How could God have allowed that to happen? The message by the false prophets was God has delivered Jerusalem time, and time, and time again, he'll deliver us this time. Don't listen to Jeremiah. Jeremiah's too grumpy. God won't judge us. There were dozens, and dozens, and dozens, and dozens of false prophets saying don't listen to that. That's not God. God's gonna bring us through. The message that was heard overwhelmingly with more frequency was God will deliver us, he's always delivered us. Have you ever been disappointed by a message that didn't come true? Don't raise your hand. That's Daniel, and now he's serving as a slave in the palace of the pagan king, and the first thing we learn about Daniel is he asks for permission to maintain the integrity of his diet. I'm goin', "Are you kidding me"?
Of all the responses. And watch what God says, it's Daniel 1:15. "At the end of the ten days," he asks for a ten-day trial period, the man responsible for him was afraid. He said if you don't eat our food and you don't do well, the king will take my head. Ancient Near-Eastern monarchs did not have a court of appeals. It was their opinion that was the rule, and he was afraid, so he gave him a trial period of ten days. "At the end of ten days, they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead. To these four young men," God did something. "God gave them knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature, and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds".
May we go back? Seek first the kingdom of God. Offer yourself as a living sacrifice. The same Spirit that brought life to Jesus's mortal body is within you to help you. There's a battle in the heavens today, folks. It's not just in the fields, and the streets, and in the cities of Ukraine. It's not just in Canada, or on our southern border, or in Washington D.C, or wherever else your attention may be directed. There's a battle in the heavens, and the church has a role to play. You and I have a role to play. Our voice makes a difference. Our prayers matter. Our willingness to meditate upon the Word of God and allow the Spirit of God to direct our prayers makes a difference, and if we abandon the arena, we are far more guilty than whoever abandoned our people in Afghanistan or turned a blind eye to the potential of Putin invading Ukraine.
Don't be angry at others, begin to talk to the Lord with a new intensity, with a new seriousness of saying God, is it possible I have been unaware or disinterested? That you're more willing to be engaged, that you have more to be said, or more to be done and than I've been willing to entertain, because I've been busy tryin' to get you to do what I wanted you to do. I've had really marginal interest in being engaged with your purposes. There's a battle in the heavens, but our response on earth makes a difference. Jesus very clearly told us that the end of this age will not come until the gospel of the kingdom has been preached in the whole world.
And that's not just a matter of dialing up the technology so we can spread the message, it has to do with the attitude, and the hearts, and the engagement of God's people in the earth to be engaged in the spiritual conflict so that that gospel can be heard in the earth. I pray we're willing to be that kind of generation. I pray we have the courage that we've seen coming out, at least anecdotally, from Ukraine. I have been amazed, encouraged, fascinated by the responses of some of their people. I pray we find a similar courage not to be politically correct, but to honor our Lord and our King. I want to close with a proclamation and I took it from the book of Daniel.
I didn't have room in your notes. I had such ambitions. But they'll put it on the screens for us, it's taken from Daniel chapter 2 and verse 20. Daniel is told, Daniel and his friends are told that they're gonna be executed unless they can interpret a dream that the king had, but the king can't remember his dream, whoops. And God reveals the king's dream to Daniel, and the interpretation, and Daniel and his friends are a bit happy about that. And that's the proclamation I brought to you. I thought we could make that in faith as the proclamation over this time in history, at this time in our lives, is that fair? Why don't we stand for this. It's taken from Daniel 2 verses 20-22, but let's just read this together:
Praise be to the name of God forever and ever. Wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons. He sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things. He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him, amen, hallelujah.