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Andy Stanley - Blameless

Andy Stanley - Blameless
TOPICS: Your Integrity Our World, Integrity

So I wanna begin our conversation this morning with a question. And this is a question that if you're older, you're gonna think, "Oh, that's like a young person's question". But no, this is an offski. This is an everybody question. Who would you like to be like, or who do you wanna be like, or who do you wanna be like when you grow up? 'Cause we're all kind of growing up. Who would you like to be like? And again, it can be a person younger than you, you just think, "Wow, they're just such a fine person". Who would you like to be more like, and why? Well, what kind of person comes to mind? Maybe somebody specific comes to mind, but what kind of person comes to mind and imagine a world or a community, or maybe just a family, but a world in a community where everybody was more like that person.

And when I ask a question like that, because you're deep people, you're not shallow people very quickly, we move past all that glitters. To what they have and what they drive and who they know and where they live in. And we immediately get to more fundamental foundational issues of character. I mean, we wanna be more like that person because of who they are, not necessarily what they have. There are to some extent they're heroes. I mean, if somebody comes to mind, I wanna be like that person they've done something heroic, but they're not heroes because they have super powers. And they're not at the top of your list because they have super powers. They're heroes because of the choices they've made. They chose their way or they responded their way into your heart. Or they chose to respond to their way onto your top three or top two or top five list.

Now here's the interesting thing. Wouldn't it be cool if sometime in the future, or maybe even today, if somebody were to ask somebody, someone who's met you or has worked with you or is in your life, "Hey, who would you like to be like"? Wouldn't it be great if you were on somebody's list and someday you could be, but it's you choose between now and someday that determines whether you make anybody's list and to the point of this series, you will have to choose ought to, even when it cost you that's right. Today we're in part four of our series, your integrity, our world. Your integrity, our world we've said from the beginning, that integrity in a general sense is the grit or the determination or the courage or the will to just do the right, the honorable and the noble thing, just because it's the right and the honorable and the noble thing, regardless of the consequences.

And then last time we were together, I gave you a short definition. That's a little bit more memorable, portable. You can put it somewhere. Hopefully if you have children or grandchildren, you can put it somewhere, in each of their rooms, that integrity is simply this, is doing what you ought to even if it costs you. It's doing what you ought to, even if it costs you. As we said throughout the series, we're not always quick to do what we ought to do, but we are very quick to point out when other people don't do what they ought to do. We make excuses for ourselves. We rarely make excuses for any body else. And then there's this part of it, our personal integrity, whether it's good or bad, whether we maintain it or sacrifice that our personal integrity is in fact personal. But let's not kid ourselves. Our choices don't remain private.

So if there's a breach in my integrity, I can say, "Well, that was my decision, it was a personal decision". But a breach of my personal integrity is always gonna impact some other persons. As we talked about in the very first part of this series, when it comes to structural and structural integrity, if a column or a beam is compromised, it's not just the column or the beam that suffers the entire structure suffers because the tension or the load is transferred to other parts of the building. And it's true with a lack of personal integrity as well, that a lack of personal integrity in me is going to impact the people around me. The people closest to me, generally, the people I love the most or say I love the most. And the same is true for you as well, but a lack of personal integrity, always impact some other persons or say it a different way.

Our irresponsibility becomes someone else's responsibility. In fact, this may encapsulate your growing up years because you had an older brother or sister or a younger brother or sister, they were so irresponsible that the rest of the family had to compensate for their irresponsibility. You didn't get the time and attention that you felt like you deserved 'cause mom and dad were always engaged with what was going on with your brother or your sister, or maybe it was your father, or maybe it was your mother and their lack of integrity, their irresponsibility trickled down and put stress on the rest of the family. The load was transferred, but the opposite is true as well. The opposite is true as well. Do what you ought to do and you benefit the people closest to you, do what you ought to do and the people closest to you, you add value to their life. You add stability to your life. You become part of their story for the rest of their life. And you may make their top three or five or top 10 lists.

Now, if you've been following the series a couple of weeks ago, I gave you a key verse that I've encouraged you to memorize. I didn't give you the most memorable version of this verse if you wanna pick another Bible version, but here's kind of the version that I think takes us specifically to the heart of the issue. This is from the book of Proverbs, Proverbs 11:3 says this, "The integrity of the upright will guide them". In other words, people of integrity are guided by their integrity. It's not an add on, it's not an ancillary thing, it's not a nice to have. People of integrity. They make their decisions through the filter of what's the right thing to do, regardless of the consequences, the integrity of the upright will guide them, but the crookedness or the bitterness, or the, "Hey, I'm only gonna focus on right in front of me ness". The crookedness of the treacherous will ultimately destroy them.

And we've all got a story. We've all got a story of, instead of looking out, I was looking down and one of my appetites got inflamed, and next thing I knew I was making a short-term decision rather than a longterm decision. And it just about destroyed me, or maybe it destroyed something important to you. Then last time we were together, we look at a story from the Old Testament that revolved around food and the main character made a terrible decision. He did, he's a great example of what not to do because, and I'll let you fill in the blank, this if you were paying attention. He actually traded his future, his entire future for a bowl of yes, of all a bowl stew. And that's not what you do. You do not trade your future for a bowl stew. And when we looked at the story, even for those of us who are somewhat familiar with the story, when you look at it within the context of integrity, we just think who in their right mind would trade their future for a bowl of stew. And we talk about what that looks like in our lives.

So today another story from the Old Testament and another story involving food, but this time, the main character in the story actually makes a good decision. He models the way forward when the right thing is potentially the costly thing. So I'm gonna jump into the context, jump into the story, and this should be fun. And by the way, this story that somewhat familiar sets up one of the most familiar stories in the entire Old Testament that we're gonna talk about next time. So you're not gonna wanna miss next time. So here's the context for the story around 605 BC Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon defeated the Egyptian and what was left, the remnants of the Assyrian army in a famous ancient battle called the we referred to as the Battle of Carchemish because of where it happened. And he was supposed to lose 'cause he took on the entire Egyptian army and what was left of the Assyrians. And essentially this was the end of the Assyrians, the end of a Assyria.

Well he was in such a good mood. And he had had so much success, he thought, why not make vassal states of every single kingdom between Egypt and Babylon? So he shows up in what we would call Southern Israel or Judah back then. And he invades the area. He goes to the capital city, which is Jerusalem. It was a very short siege. He goes, and he takes the king and puts him on a cart to take back to Babylon because Nebuchadnezzar we've talked about this, had a king collection. We'll talk about that at a different time, kind of interesting, I don't know what you collect. He collected kings, living kings. He would blind them and put gold chains on them and then bring them out at parties to go, "Look how powerful I am. Have you seen my king collection". Anyway, so he puts another king on the throne for Judah, charges them a whole lot of rent for, him not coming back and doing something even more treacherous. Then he heads back to Babylon and he takes some other souvenirs other than just the King of Judah. And that's where we're gonna jump into the story.

So here we go, "Nebuchadnezzar ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his court officials to bring into his service, the king service, some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility". Now Nebuchadnezzar was very smart. Here's what he would do whenever he conquered an area or a group of tribes or nation, they didn't think of in terms of nations so much or a capital city or a large city. Instead of just slaughtering everybody, he would take the best and the brightest, the people with the most potential, the most educated, and he would basically make them slaves, or he would basically kidnap them. And they were, in some ways they were hostages. It's like, "Hey, you better behave there, 'cause I have your sons and your daughters". In most cases, it was the sons that people were most concerned about in ancient times. And he would take these sons to his capital city, Babylon. He would change their names, turn them into Babylonian citizens.

And consequently Babylon was an extraordinarily cosmopolitan city. It had people from all different nations, speaking all kinds of different languages. And it was basically his way of saying, "Look, I have conquered the world, come to the great city of Babylon. You will see people from all over the world here, because I have conquered the world". The story continues, "Young men without any physical defect, handsome showing aptitude for every kind of learning. Well-informed quick to understand and qualified to serve in the king's palace". So he's getting the best and the brightest. He wants to train them up and make sure that eventually they can rise up through the ranks and surround him and surround his family and represent the world to the rest of the world and represent what Babylon offers to the rest of the world.

Now, if you're one of these boys, and you are gonna be kidnapped or basically taken as a hostage to Babylon. And you end up in that select group, that's gonna end up living in the palace and being trained to serve in the palace. You have won the lottery because they took a bunch of guys, but you're not gonna have to work in the salt mines. You're not gonna be battle fodder. You're not gonna work on a construction site. Whereas if you get hurt, they just leave you to die and replace you with somebody else. You are gonna live in or around the palace. So right before they cart you off to Babylon, this is when your dad gets down on his knees and looks you in the eye and says, "Son, don't mess this up. Okay, this is as good as it's gonna get". And besides that son, there are plenty more where you came from.

So, "Hey, look, get this right". The king, continuing because it gets better. "The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king's table". So not only do they get, upper and high-end dorms, there is a meal plan built into this whole deal, which is amazing. And not just any meal plan, they're gonna eat the same food, the king eats. And they're gonna get a daily amount. Now again, when you're reading the Bible or you read through a story like this, it's like, "Yeah, yeah, whatever, whatever". This is a really big deal. In ancient times, most people, most people live on the verge of starvation, because the only food that you could transport and the only food that could last or that you could keep for very long was grain and wine. You could salt meat, but even that would spoil over time. Vegetables would spoil so grain and wine was about it. So if there was, and it was, there was a famine. If there was a crop that didn't come in. If somebody came in from another village and took stole your crop, you could easily starve.

So food insecurity, in ancient times was a way of life for just about everybody. So for these boys to have a meal plan, to know for the rest of their lives, if they'll just stay in line, keep in line, they're never going to go hungry, this was an extraordinary, extraordinary opportunity for them. So they got a place to live and a place to eat, always have food to eat. My mentor, Charlie Renfroe, I've mentioned several times when I first started meeting with him, I was super young in my leadership and he was this, he was business guy, still is a business guy. And he always had these sayings. One of his sayings was, this is, "Andy, there's two rules, two rules, rule number one, number two, most important rules. Number one, everybody needs to eat. Number two, everybody needs to live indoors". Those are the two rules. Everybody needs to eat and live indoors.

So I've always remembered that. So these guys, they got the first two covered. They're gonna eat and they're gonna live in doors and they're gonna live fine and they're gonna eat well, but that's not the end. They were also to be trained for three years. And after that, they were to enter the king's service. So, they're writing letters back home, like, "How do you like me now? You're not gonna believe this". What are you guys doing, I mean, this is amazing. And have the boys taken from Jerusalem to Babylon, we find the fab four, you know who they are, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. That's right. When they get there, they're given Babylonian names. This is also important for the story.

When you name something, or if you rename something, it's evidence that you own, whatever it is you've named or renamed. Some of you've renamed pets, you adopted a patent like that doesn't work for me. You gave your pet a different name, which is so confusing for the pet. But eventually they figured it out. But you had the right to do that because you possessed the pet. So for Nebuchadnezzar, I mean, these guys are like 14, 15 years old to rename somebody as a teenager, say, "That's not your name anymore, I'm giving you a new name". That showed I'm your lord, I'm your master, I'm your authority, I can do anything with you I want to you look, you're not working for me, I own you. This isn't a job, you are my possession. And I can discard you at will. So he renames them, he gives them Babylonian names. Most of them have something to do with the Babylonian god's.

So everything, and this is kind of a set of, I mean, there's a trade off, it got a new name, but I'll get used to that. But the food is good, the wine is good. Everything's gonna be great. And this is where the story, if you know the story, it takes a very strange twist, but it's the twist that makes the story a story worth we're telling and a story worth remembering. In fact, without this twist, we wouldn't know the story. But Daniel resolved. Daniel is one of these kids, 15, let's say 15. Daniel resolved, two Hebrew words here. He set his heart. He set his heart. He resolved, he made up his mind. He decided not to defile himself. Another common Hebrew word basically means, literally to pollute or to stain. He decided not to pollute or stain. He decided figuratively not to desecrate himself, not to undignify himself, not to lower himself, not to accept the fact that he's anything other than he knew he was. He makes this decision, he decided not, he'd resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and the wine.

Now it's at this point in the story. If you just read reading, the story is, the way we read these stories, it's like, you wanna go, "Wait, wait, Daniel, Daniel, wait, wait. Before you say anything about that, come here, come here, hey look, hey this is a good gig, hey look, I know, there's some rule, and I know it's gonna mess with your religion a little bit, but let's just think about this". You are far away from home. Your God Yahweh is the God of that geography. Okay, Marduk is the God of this geography, you're not in Kansas anymore. So you just need to think about this for just a minute. Don't go off making some crazy religious decision. That's gonna alienate you from everybody else and steal this amazing, amazing opportunity. But Daniel made up his mind, he's not gonna eat the food, not gonna drink the wine. Why, why was that such a big deal?

So here's why it was kind of a big deal. You, I bet are familiar with this mealtime prayer that many of us say, you've heard this said before around the meal table, before the meal, "Bless this food to nourish and strengthen our bodies". Some of you pray that, or father, grandfather prayed that, or your mom bless this food to nourish and strengthen our bodies. And we don't really think about, think much about it, but this kind of prayer actually points to a chain of events that ancient people took very literally because they lived virtually on the edge of starvation. It points to a chain of events. Many of us should take more seriously as well.

And here's what this pointed to. Here's how they thought that God provides the food because God sends the rain. God keeps away the locust and God allows the crops to grow. God provides the food, the food goes in the body. The body then is healthy and ultimately the person can prosper. It was God, food, body, health, prosperity. But the problem for Daniel was this that Nebuchadnezzar's food was blessed by and provided by Marduk the God of the Babylonians. So Marduk would be credited for his healthy body and his prosperity and his success and his intellectual capabilities that anything good that came from Daniel. everybody say, yes, the blessing of Marduk. Marduk provided the food, the food went in his body. He's got a healthy body. Look at him prosper It would basically be like an admission, that Marduk was greater than his God Yahweh. And there were some evidence that perhaps Marduk was greater than Yahweh because Yahweh's temple just got invaded by the Babylonians Nebuchadnezzar in particular, who was representing Marduk.

So there's already kind of this religious tension. So Daniel from the very outset, he just made up his mind, "Hey, I'm not gonna play that game. I'm not gonna be evidence". I'm not, can in the a cog in the wheel that kind of keeps this machinery running that's based on assumptions that just aren't true. But basically he refused to be used as evidence, that Marduk was more than a figment of Babylonia imagination, but here's the point. And this is why we dare not rushed by. This simple, simple phrase and the life of a Hebrew teenager. Daniel made up his mind ahead of time. Daniel made up his mind ahead of time. Daniel made up his mind, before he knew how the story of Daniel would play out. And ultimately, and in fact, as I said a minute ago, the only reason we know this story is because he made up his mind ahead of time.

And here's why this is important for you and for me and for all of us. When you think about your story, and as you experience your day-to-day temptations, and as you experienced the opportunities to sacrifice your integrity in order to get ahead or to get something you may not normally get. In your day-to-day life, when you have the willpower, when you have the self control, when you give into the tap of the Holy Spirit in your heart, and you decide, you know what, "I'm not doing that. I've made up my mind ahead of time". Then you set yourself up to experience in your personal story what Daniel experiences in his, but when we refused to do what we ought to do, because of what we might lose, we miss that opportunity. And we miss perhaps the opportunity to write a story, not only worth telling, but a story that potentially has the potential, the story that has the potential to motivate and inspire the people around us and who knows maybe a future generation.

When you do what you ought to, that could cost you, when you do what you ought to, and it could cost you, you're writing a story worth remembering. You're writing a story we're telling in fact, next week, I'm gonna tell you a story that happened to my dad when I was in the eighth grade. And when people ask me about the defining moments in my life, this is one of those moments and he didn't do it for it to be a defining moment in my life. He was just doing what he ought to do, but I'm still talking about it all these years later.

Now, the reason I think I'm kind of reading, I'm read Daniel's mind, just a little bit. One of the reasons that he was able to do this is somehow, he remembered what we forget. And then we remember when it's too late, but somehow he was able to remember this ahead of time. We remember oftentimes when it's too late and it's simply this, that a breach in integrity, one breach of integrity. It often leads to another. And not only that, the first breach makes the second breach a lot easier. Unfortunately we all have a story. Well, I already did it once, so I might as well do it again. I told myself I would never, ever, ever do that, but I did it, I went there, I crossed that line and now here's another opportunity to do the same thing. And why not because I've already crossed that line once.

See, I grew up hearing and I was always told that my mom told me and I learned in church and my teachers at school warned us and I'd decided, but then there was that time, that weekend, that opportunity, that thing didn't work and yet, I generally consider myself an honest person, but there was a lot, a lot at stake. And yeah, I didn't tell the whole truth. And I fudge, I have not full disclosure. I, again, I did it once and now here's an opportunity to do it again. And come on, we know this as human nature. It's just easier to do it in time, than it was the first time. And the second breach creates a pattern, a direction. And as we talk about all the time, direction, not your intention. Direction, not your prayers. Direction, not intention determines our destination. Direction, not intention determines our story and our legacy. The story we tell about ourselves, the stories we hope no one ever finds out about.

So Daniel, somehow this is all clear to him. Even with all the pressure. He made up his mind ahead of time, knowing it may very well limit his time. But the story doesn't stop there because he does something else extraordinary. Daniel doesn't pretend. In other words, he doesn't say, you know what? "I'm not gonna eat this food 'cause it's violating my conscience and I'm afraid God, I'm gonna get on the wrong side of Yahweh". So to what I'm gonna feed the food to the dogs under the tables, "Hey, would you like some of this? And I'm just find something else to eat". He doesn't do that because actually that would be a breach of his integrity.

Here's how the story goes. You may remember this part. "So Daniel asked the chief official for permission, not to defile himself this way". I doubt he said, "Hey, I would like not to defile my self". I probably didn't use that word, but he asked the chief official, "Hey, I would like not to eat this food again". He didn't pretend, he didn't mislead. Again, that would have been a lack of integrity. And by asking the chief official for permission not to eat the choice food from the king's table, the spicy meat, the red meat and the, you know, probably the best wine in the empire. By making this decision and by letting the decision be made known rather than hiding it. Daniel sets the stage for what would begin, what would be the first chapter in many chapters in his life that God would use to establish him as not only a storyteller, but someone who would document some of the most amazing, amazing events that would take place in period of history.

This is what I want for us. In this moment when Daniel decides I'm not eating it, but I'm not gonna hide the fact that I'm not eating it, I'm not eating it and I'm gonna tell somebody I'm not eating it. He plays this himself squarely in the hands of God. And he is now at the mercy of God. And mercy is not in the Babylonian vocabulary. It is certainly not in Nebuchadnezzar vocabulary. For Daniel, his only hope this is important, was that God would intervene and God had not promised to intervene. Now here's the thing I got to move on. When we sacrifice our integrity. And we're all tempted to do this. When we sacrifice our integrity to get ahead. When we sacrifice our integrity to get the thing, we don't think we can get any other way. When we sacrifice our integrity, here's what happens. We close the door on that opportunity. We close the door to see what God might do, when we place ourselves 100% at his mercy.

And you'll never, I know I say this all the time. You'll never know what God might have done, if you don't trust him. You never know the story, you would have had the opportunity to tell, if you had cast yourself upon his mercy, instead of trying to manipulate circumstances in such a way to guarantee or to try to get an outcome. Never, ever, ever, ever closed the door on a potential, what Daniel would call a now God moment. A now God moment is you have done the right thing. People know what you're doing. There's a price to be paid. And then God decides to intervene on your behalf. There are no guarantees. It is worth the risk. The next part of the text, it says, now God, now God, again, this would be so much easier. Be so much easier if God had awakened, Daniel in a dream on his way to Babylon or an angel that appear and said to Daniel, "When you get there, here's the deal, don't eat the food. Don't eat the food, but we're gonna work it out. And then you're gonna be famous. And then they're gonna write a book and thousands of years later, they're gonna be saying, so just trust me the food".

I won't you to favor that. Wouldn't that be easier? Wouldn't it be easier for us. You're about to sign the thing, even though you don't really mean the thing, and God says, "Don't sign it, it's all gonna work out". Or, it's like, but if I don't, she'll never go out with me again and the angel appears, "It's okay, look who I, you know, if you know". Well, if I do that, I'll never get a job in that industry. And an angel appears and says, "Oh yes, you will. You're gonna be a captain of industry". All right, good, it's easy to do. It doesn't work that way. It doesn't work that way. And there are no guarantees. Prosperity Gospel says, do everything right on your end, some things will work out on the other. That's just not true, but that's okay. It is still always in our best interest to place our hands in the mercy, to place ourselves, I'm sorry. In the hands of God, at the mercy of God, to give God an opportunity to do whatever God chooses to do with you and through you. Daniel has no idea how this is gonna work out. He's just doing, what he gotta doing.

Story continues, "Now God," 'cause God is at work behind the scenes. But Daniel didn't know that. "Now God had caused the officials to show favor and compassion to Daniel. But the official told Daniel, 'I am afraid. I'm afraid, I'm afraid of my lord, the king who has assigned your food and drink.'" Why he says, "Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age, the king would then have my head because of you". Now, quick point, this is a figure of speech for us. It was not a figure of speech for the chief official. This figure of speech, and they're gonna have my head, she'll have my head. You know where that comes from? It comes from right here. This is how the world was. He will literally have my head. He won't have my body because the birds will have my body. He'll have my head. He will nail it to a door somewhere as a warning.

So Daniel, this is too risky. This was common occurrence in Babylon. So Daniel gets that. He's like, okay, "Well, I got an idea, let's do a 10 day test. Just just 10 days, just a little over a week. Me and the guys, we will just eat vegetables and drink water. You feed everybody else the choice rich meat and the king's wine. And then at the end of 10 days, just compare and then decide". He says, "Treat your servants then in accordance with whatever you see at the end of 10 day". Hey, what you see is what you get. And if you don't like what you see, deal with us accordingly, turn us in, we will take responsibility for our actions. We don't expect you to suffer for our decision. I mean talk about integrity. It just goes on and on and on.

So chief official agrees to this. "So he agreed to do this and he tested them for 10 days". And lo and behold, they looked healthier. They look healthier and better nourished than all the other boys. You know why? Because they were eating like we do. They're eating clean, they were drinking water. They just didn't know back then. But these Hebrew boys did. They look better than all the other boys who ate the royal food. And then this is amazing. Three years later, they do this for three years, three years later, they're brought into the palace. The main part of the palace were Nebuchadnezzar is in. And they're brought in, in small groups and the king actually interviews each of these guys, along with all the other guys that were taken. "And the king found that none, found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah". These are their Babylonian names. "Mishael and Azariah, so they entered the King's service".

Now, if you're reading this in the Bible, couple of verses later you run across a person I'm about to show you. And if you're reading this in Bible just read pass, and go, "Yeah, look, find me something interesting. Where's the Jesus part of this great". This next, this verse, I'm about to show you is mind boggling. The text tells us, "And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus". Anybody wanna take a guess, how many years it was between Daniel deciding, making up his mind about the food and the first year of King Cyrus, I'll tell you, 70 years. Somebody should say, wow. Yeah, for 70 years, he has the emperor's or the king's ear. Nebuchadnezzar, comes and goes. Darius comes along. Darius comes and goes. Cyrus comes along. Daniel is still standing. He is strategically positioned to whisper into the ears of the three most powerful men alive in that period of history.

And do you know what set him up for this? His first decision as a 15 year old kid, I will not defile myself, with the king's rich meat and the king's wine. And there'll be decision after decision after decision like that and Daniel refused to sacrifice his integrity. The biggest test, would happened 55 years later. By that time, the Persians had replaced the Babylonians and Darius is the king of kings, and he decides to reorganize the empire 'cause the empires were very unwieldy things to manage, especially when communication was so slow. So it comes up with an idea. He's like, I'm gonna appoint 120 governors. And then I'm gonna appoint three. I'm gonna appoint three administrators to oversee the 120 governors. And then I'm just gonna play golf. So somebody else is gonna run the empire. And so he's trying to choose, who's gonna do what, and he chooses Daniel as one of the three administrators to oversee all these governors who oversee the empire.

"Now Daniel," the text says, remained Daniel. "Now so distinguished himself among the administrators". There's just three. "And the governor's 120 by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom". Well, he's not even from there. And he's like 70 years old by this point. Well, at this, the administrators who were from there. "At this, the administrators and the governors tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel and his conduct of government affairs". Now this is very important and relevant for us. Daniel had been in government for 55 years. There's some dirt somewhere. There's some skeletons in the closet. That's another figure of speech. For us, it's a figure of speech. Now they'd literally had skeletons in the closet, now, literally because it's like, "Would you like to see someone else I defeated in battle? Would you like to see somebody else I defeated in battle? Would you like to see his wife? I mean, I'm a powerful, scary person".

So you know, but surely 55 years in government, there's some dirt on this guy. And now you have people at the highest level of government, these administrators and governors looking for the dirt, "But they were unable to do so". They were unable to find anything. "But they could find no corruption in him because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent". That is something to aspire to, isn't it? That when people go looking, they come up with nothing. And even your past mistakes, you have already brought them into the open and owned them. So there's no traction there either. That's who we want at the highest level of government, national community, that's who we want at the highest level of influence in our families as well, isn't it?

And here's the thing. Daniel, was that person at 70, because he made up his mind when he was around 17 and all along the way, his integrity guided him. All along his integrity led him. All along his integrity was anchored to something outside of him. All along his integrity, it was anchored to the divine. And here's, what's interesting. His enemies recognized that and they hated that. And they were jealous of that. And so here's what happens. "Finally these men said, 'We will never find any basis for charges against this man, Daniel, unless, unless it has something to do with the law of his God.'"

The only thing they can get on this guy is he his so devoted to his God. And there's some connection between his integrity and his God and is driving us crazy. And we've got to get between him and his God, or we're never getting rid of this guy. The integrity, Daniel's integrity guided him. "The integrity of the upright guide them". Daniel's integrity guided him. Daniel's integrity guided him because it was anchored to something outside of him, something he did not create and something he didn't try to shake. And that's why he had the courage to make up his mind ahead of time.

Now we're gonna pick up on Daniel's story next time. Don't miss next time. Because next time is one of the most exciting stories in the entire Old Testament. But let's talk about us for just a minute and we'll wrap this up. What about us? What about you? Have you made up your mind. Most folks haven't. And I understand why, but for most people is, and I'm not gonna make up my mind ahead of time. It's one day at a time, it's one opportunity at a time. It's one deal at a time, it's one relationship at a time. It's one day at a time. It's I don't wanna pre decide, if I pre decide that kind of locks me in and lock some people out, locks, opportunities out. I mean, pre deciding your integrity. I'll just say it up front 'cause we're all gonna say it pre deciding to do the right thing no matter what it costs you, that is limiting. That will limit you.

And if there's no ought to that hangs out over you. If there's no divine law-giver, if there is no God, if all this ought to stuff is just a matter of evolution. It's just something we made up that we can trade off whenever it's inconvenient. Then maybe, maybe, maybe you don't need to decide ahead of time. But if you don't ahead of time, integrity, won't guide you. Do you know, what's gonna guide you? Fear will guide you. Specifically, FOMO will guide you. You'll be afraid of missing out. You're not gonna decide ahead of time 'cause I don't wanna miss out on her. I don't wanna miss out on him. I don't wanna miss out on that. I just don't wanna miss out. So I'm gonna keep, all my cards, close to my vest. I'm just not gonna commit ahead of time.

And if you didn't decide ahead of time to let integrity be your guide, here's the promise. You will miss out on some things, but we've most of us live long enough to know that if integrity had been our guide, starting at 15, we would have missed out on some memories that will just dog us for the rest of our lives. We would've missed out on some shame. We would've missed out on hurting some other people. And no matter what we say to them or what we say on their behalf, we can't reverse what we've done. We can't take away the pain. I mean, if we'd made up our mind ahead of time. Yeah, we would have missed out on some things, but I doubt very many of us wish we could go back and live a life of less integrity because somehow we think we would have gained more that actually mattered. The world does not need more leaders who just make it up one day at a time. And you don't wanna be like that because your family doesn't need that. That's not who came to mind when I said, "Who do you wanna be like"? I mean, don't you find this inspiring? I do.

"They could find no corruption in him because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent". I mean, isn't that inspiring? Isn't that the person you wanna hire? And the answer is yes. And you know why the answer is yes. Because you know, because we know, we didn't create it, we can't shake it, we just know. And you were reminded, as I said, when I ask you, "Hey, who do you wanna be like, who would you like to be like". That question causes us to sit up straight and look way down, way out. It causes us to sit up straight, stand up straight and ask the bigger questions.

So if you haven't already made up your mind. Here's the promise. If you make up your mind to do the right thing, even if it costs you, it will cost you. It will cost you, there is a price, but you're not gonna look back and regret that. So would you make up your mind ahead of time to be the person you want to be. To be the person that the people who love and trust you are hoping that you will be, would you just decide to do what ought to, even if it costs you. To be a Daniel or be a Danielle, whichever one you need to be. Would you make up your mind? Would you make up your mind to do what you ought to even if it costs you.

And here's the thing and I'm done. And when you realize it's going to cost you, when you realize it's going to cost you, get ready. You are at the precipice of perhaps something amazing. This is the precipice of the story you may tell the rest of your life because you did what you ought to do. And it was free fall. And God came through for you because you created a potential now God moment. And now God moments, those are defining moments for you and the people who love you, and the people who are looking up to you. And that's how you make somebody's top five, top three list. Because while it's your integrity, your integrity impacts your world. It's your integrity, but it's our world. It's your personal integrity. It will impact some other persons.
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