James Merritt - Put Your Foot Down
I was 17 years old. I was a nervous wreck. I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep. That went on for about two weeks because there was a day that was coming in my life, and just the thought of that day, just, it would make me sick to myself, stomach. And there are days that stand out in your mind, and this day stands out in mine because I remember it like it was yesterday. I grew up out in the country, not too far from here, and I grew up close to the railroad tracks. And every morning the old Southern railroad train would come by at seven, oh, you could count it, seven o'clock every morning, it would come by.
And I remember this day, I woke up and I waited two hours for that train to come. And I laid in my bed and I was just silently crying. You say, "What was going on"? You're gonna think this is funny, probably, but I was going to college. I was leaving home. And you may say, "Well, why was that such a big deal"? Well, number one, I was a mama's boy and I'd never been away from home in my life. I mean, really, I'd never have been away from home in my life. And then, of all things, I'm going 500 miles to a college I'd never seen. I'd never been on the campus.
Furthermore, I was going where I did not know one person. I didn't know a student. I didn't know a professor. I didn't know anybody. And then, on top of all of that, I knew, this was in August, I knew I wouldn't be back home until Thanksgiving. And, if you've ever been homesick, you know what that's like? And so, it hit me that, for the first time in my life, I would go from being mama's boy to my boy. And I was gonna be on my own. And there wasn't gonna be anybody there to make sure I went to class, nobody to make sure I even went to school, nobody to get me up on Sunday morning to go to church, nobody to do my laundry, nobody to set my schedule, nobody to hold me accountable in any way. I was on my own. I was free; I was out of the cage.
And I remember laying there that, in my bed, those two hours. And I remember thinking one, this thought came into my mind. As I thought about the next four years of my life, whatever is going to be, is going to be up to me. Whatever's going to be, is going to be up to me. And just before I heard that train go by, and I knew it was to time to get up, I made, maybe one of the two or three biggest decisions I've ever made in my life. In fact, the decision I made that morning set the tone for the next four years of my life.
If you're watching this morning online, I would encourage you to, if your high school senior's still asleep, wake him up, wake her up 'cause she needs to hear this message. If you have a high school senior, you need to make sure, if they're not here, get them this message. I, please get them to listen to it. 'Cause as a high school senior, I did one simple thing that morning made difference in my life. I literally, in my mind, set my foot down. And we've all heard that phrase, setting your foot down. You may not know that actually came from the 18th century. And people realized, back in the day, most roads were dirt roads and they didn't have much pavement, back in the day. So, if you were to clamp your foot down, or tramp your foot down, you would leave a print. You'd leave a footprint there.
And so what it came to mean was, that you would set a certain rule or certain principle in your life that you were gonna go by and you really expected others to do the same thing. You were putting your foot down. That's exactly what I did that morning. I put my foot down. And I got that idea from another high school senior. He was only 14 years old. He lived about 2,600 years ago and his name was Daniel. And the story that I'm gonna tell you, this morning, takes place over 2,600 years ago. The year's around 605 BC. And if you brought a copy God's Word, I want you to turn to a book called Daniel. It's in the Old Testament. It's right after Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Solomon's Song, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, right in there.
So, we're in Daniel 1, and I'm gonna begin picking up the story in verse one. "In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and he besieged it. And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god".
Now, let me tell you what's going on. I'm gonna give you a little history lesson, so stick with me. One of the promises that God made to the nation of Israel was that if they obeyed Him and they followed Him, He would bless them and He would raise them up. But He also made another promise. He said, "If you don't follow Me, if you don't obey Me, if you forsake Me, if you turn to other gods, I will bring you down. I will exchange the comforts of freedom for the chains of bondage". And God gave them fair warning. I mean, over and over and over. This is what a lot of the Old Testament is all about. He kept sending prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Habakkuk. They would plead with Israel. They would preach to Israel. "You need to repent; you need to get right with God". And he, they warned them: "This is what will happen if you don't". But those words fell on deaf ears.
Now, let me tell you some good news about God, but it's also bad news. The good news is: God keeps His promises. I wanna tell you that, right now, God keeps His promises. However, God makes two kinds of promises, good ones and bad ones. He keeps the good ones and He also keeps the bad ones. And God had promised them, "I give you My word as the God of this universe, If you don't obey Me, if you do not follow Me, if you disregard Me, if you leave Me, if you turn your back on Me, you are going down". Well, that's exactly what happened. So now, Israel's been conquered. Jerusalem's been captured by this pagan nation of Babylon, ruled by a king called Nebuchadnezzar. And here's what Babylons would do, this is kind of interesting. Every time the Babylonians would capture a country, they'd do two or three things.
First of all, they would take all the false gods, all the idols that the other country would worship and they would bring them back and put them in their temple to prove that the god they worshiped was more powerful than the god that that country worshiped. The problem was, Israel didn't worship idols. So, there weren't any false idols to take. So, what they did was, they went into the temple and raided the temple and they took all of the articles and all the utensils, and they would bring them to the house of their god just to humiliate the Jews. But then, they had another custom. It was kind of cool, if you think about it. There was something else they would do.
And here's what we'll read. "Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king's service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility. Young men without any physical defect," kinda like the guy you married, Teresa, a long time ago. "Young men," that's not in the Bible, that's my translation. "Young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, qualified to serve in the king's palace. He was to teach them the language and the literature of the Babylonians".
So, here's what they would do. When the Babylons would conquer a country, the king would say, "I want you to scour the country and I want you to go out and find every young man that you can, but not just any young man. I want the best. I want the brightest. I want the most attractive. I want the smartest, the socially well to do, the creme de la creme, the five-star recruit, the first-round draft choice". And they would bring these men back to the country and then here's what they would do. They would, literally, try to brainwash them. They would give them this intellectual, and this psychological, and this educational, and this spiritual, and this mental extreme makeover. And they would make them completely Babylonian. And once they had finally made them the Babylonians they wanted them to be, then they would come under the direct authority of the king.
So, we keep reading. "The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king's table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king's service. Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Adednego". Now, these young men had it made. They had just been given a full scholarship to the university of battle. And that was kind of like the Harvard of that day. They were given Babylonian names. They were given Babylonian clothes and they did all of this for one purpose. The books that they read, the clothes that they wore, the language they spoke, the names they were given, they were trying to get them to think like Babylonians, act like Babylonians, look like Babylonians, live like Babylonians.
Now, let me just stop and say this, before I go any further. I'm not about to tell you there's anything wrong with that, per se. There is nothing wrong at all with studying in the world's universities. There's nothing wrong with wearing the world's clothes. There's nothing wrong with enjoying the world's culture. There's nothing wrong with speaking the world's language. But then Daniel, this 14-year-old kid, this high school senior, he did something totally unexpected that, eventually, we'll all have to do if we're going to follow the world and not God. You gotta do it, I gotta do it. You still gotta do it today, 2,600 years later.
If you're gonna live in the world, but make sure the world doesn't live in you, you have got to put your foot down. That's exactly what Daniel did. Put it down. Watch this. "But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and the wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way". Don't quite know what was going on. Daniel was asked to eat the king's food. He was asked to drink the king's wine, but in Daniel's heart, it was like a tripwire had been hit. It was like alarm bells had gone off and somehow Daniel said, "I can't cross that line. I can't go there".
Now, the question is: Why would he draw a line in eating the king's food and drinking the king's wine? Now, to be honest, there's been all kinds of speculations and all kinds of reasons. We're not specifically told, but here's one thing we do know. And this is true, by the way, even today. In Middle Eastern culture, when you sit down to eat a meal, especially if you're to eat with a ruler or with a king, it's a sign that you're making a covenant commitment to that king, that you're saying to that king, "I have ultimate loyalty to you, that you are more important to me than anything else". Well, Daniel couldn't do that. Because in Daniel's heart, there was only one King and that was God. And so, Daniel's conscience would not allow him to give that impression.
Now, here's the problem. He's 14 years old. He's in Babylon. He's in the palace. He's face-to-face with the king. His life is in the king's hands and it looks like Daniel is out of options. It looks like Daniel, you're not just drawing a line in the dirt, you've not just put your foot down. Buddy, you have just written out your obituary. And yet, we're about to learn a lesson about lives that we find in the dirt of our own lives. Because as you go through life, you're gonna find a out what I found out. You're gonna find out there are God-drawn lines.
There are lines that God's drawn. You don't have to draw them; God's already drawn them. And you're gonna find every day of your life, and you never get too old for this, the world's gonna tell you, "You can cross that line. You need to cross that line. You need to cross that line. And you can get away with it and you'll be happier, and you'll be more popular, and people won't criticize you, and you won't have rocks thrown at you, and you won't have stones thrown at you, and you'll live a life of ease, and you'll live a life of comfort". You're gonna find there's these God-drawn lines. And the world's gonna tell you to cross that line. But what you've gotta do is, you've gotta put your foot down and you've gotta say, "No, I'm going to stay on God's side. I'm gonna stay on the good side".
Now, to do that, we gotta follow what Daniel did. Now, I want you to write down these three things, this morning, and I beg you, in the name of Jesus, share these. By the way, you don't have to wait for high school seniors. If they're juniors, sophomores, freshman, eighth grade, teach these to your kids. Here's what Daniel did. You ready? Number one: Draw your boundaries. Step one: Draw your boundaries. Now, Daniel had no problem reading Babylonian books, speaking the Babylonian language, dressing in Babylonian clothes. But whenever it came to anything, anything that would appear to be putting the Babylonian king above God, he'd draw a line in the dirt. So, we read again. "The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king's table".
Now, keep in mind what's at stake, okay? You're slaves. You're being trained for positions of honor and power. If you'll just go along to get along, here's what's gonna happen. You'll be given a great salary. You'll be given a great position. You'll be given the best accommodations. You'll be given the finest food. You'll wear the nicest clothing. All you gotta do, it's not hard, you just go along and you just get along. You don't rock boats. You just go with the flow. You take what they give you. You keep your mouth shut. You keep your head down and happy days are here again. I mean, sounds pretty simple. And, as a matter of fact, to be honest, there were all kinds of reasons for David to say yes. I mean, you think about it. I mean, he's on his own. Nobody at back home would ever, ever know about it. Everybody else was going to eat it.
And by the way, it's great food: steak, twice baked potato, Cabernet, I mean, great food. But what was the problem? Daniel had boundaries. Boundaries that his parents had taught him. Boundaries that the Spirit of God had given to him. And that Spirit that lived in Daniel said, "You can't cross that line, Daniel. You can't compromise that principle, Daniel". And I want you to understand something. This was not a matter of diet. It was a matter of dedication. There was a line in the dirt and Daniel had to decide, "Which side of that line am I going to be on"? One of the things you'd better be teaching your kids, right now: Life is all about decisions. Every day, you make decisions. Every day, you make choices. And someone wisely said this, "There is a choice you have to make in everything you do. You must always keep in mind the choice you make makes you. There's a choice you have to make in everything you do. You must always keep in mind the choice you make makes you".
Now, don't discount the pressure that Daniel was under. He was under more than just political pressure to praise, to please the king. He faced greater pressure than that. He faced the greatest pressure we all face in our life. You know what it's called? Two words. The word starts with a P. Do you know what it is? Peer pressure. You never get too old for peer pressure. And we all face peer pressure because, remember now, get the picture, he wasn't the only Jewish teenager that was there. We don't know how many were there, probably hundreds. But yet, we're told here, Daniel was the first one, and Daniel was the only one who said, "No".
Now, can you just imagine the conversation taking place in that room right now? Everybody else was saying, "Come on Daniel, everybody's doing it". And Daniel says, "Well, no, not everybody's doing it because I'm not doing it". And everybody else said, "Daniel, nobody will ever know". And Daniel said, "Yeah, two people will know. I will know. And God will know". And everybody else finally pulled the trump card and said, "Daniel, you might die". And Daniel said, "I'd rather die in the will of God than the live outside the will of God". Now, keep in mind, Daniel's only 14 years old, but evidently something had happened throughout his entire life that prepared him for this moment. Evidently, there were some lines that Daniel had already made up in his mind, "These are lines I will not cross".
And if you are a parent this morning, if you are a mom or a dad, I want you to please hear this. One of the greatest things you'll ever do for your children, and you'd better start when they're young, is to teach them to set boundaries. And not just your boundaries, not just my boundaries, not just anybody's boundaries, but boundaries based on God's Word. And then, you'd better teach them, no matter what it costs you, no matter what you have to do, don't you ever cross those boundaries. Let me tell you why. If you wait until you're tempted to cross the boundary to decide whether or not you're gonna cross the boundary, it's too late, just gone. It's too late to decide what your ethical standards are going to be if you wait until you're filling out your first income tax return.
I see some guilty faces. It's too late to determine your financial integrity if you've already put your money on the table. That ship has sailed. It's too late to decide what your moral standards are going to be if you wait until you're offered that drug, you're offered to get drunk, you're offered to have sex, you're offered to fool around. No, you gotta do this early. You gotta do it now. You've gotta know what you are. And you've got to resolve to draw your boundaries. Saved my life so many times in college. I saw kids, and you all know the story, I saw kids flame out, and I saw kids flunk out, and I knew them. And they came from good homes and they were taught better, but they didn't draw their boundaries.
Number one: Draw your boundaries. Number two: Define your convictions. Define your convictions. Now, listen to this statement. It's one of the greatest statements in the Bible. "But Daniel resolved not to defile himself". Another way to translate that word "resolve" is, is you can translate it to "set aside". And evidently, what happened was, Daniel had grown up in a godly home and his mom and dad were one of those rare breeds, they didn't turn their back on God. They had taught Daniel, "Daniel, you love the Lord, your God, with all of your heart and all of your soul and all of your mind and all of your strength". And evidently, Daniel had been taught early in his life: You set God aside from everything else, you make God first in your heart. And then, when you read about this kid, this kid's such a hero to me.
I love this story; one of my favorite stories in the Bible, 'cause you read this story and you go, "Wow". You could change Daniel's home, but you couldn't change Daniel's heart. You could change his name, but you couldn't change his nature. You could put Daniel into Babylon, but you couldn't get Babylon into Daniel. There was this God-shaped boundary around Daniel's life. And there's a word that we use for God-given boundaries. They're called convictions. And evidently, Daniel had these God-given convictions. And that leads to the next part of the story. "But 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".
Now, watch this. "Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, 'I'm afraid of my Lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.' Daniel then said to the guard who the chief official appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 'Please test your servants for 10 days. Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, treat your servants in accordance with what you see.' So he agreed to this and he tested them for 10 days".
Now, there's a big difference. We already see it. There's this obvious difference between here because all the Jewish boys that were there, of all of them, only Daniel and his three buddies drew that line. I don't know how many, there were probably hundreds of them. Everybody else said, "We'll eat the meat". Everybody else said, "We'll drink the wine". Everybody else said, "Hey, whatever this guy tells us to do, we're gonna do it. We're going along to get along". But Daniel and these three guys said, "No, we've drawn a line in the sand". You say, "Well, wait a minute. What was the difference"? Because, I mean, after all, all these boys were Jews. Everyone had been taught to believe in God. They'd all been taught God's Word. They'd all been taught the difference between right and wrong.
So, here's my question. You got all these hundreds of Jewish boys. Four boys say, "No, we're not gonna do that". But everybody else says, "Yeah, we're gonna go along to get along". You say, "Well, what made these four guys different"? Listen carefully. Everybody had beliefs, but only four men had convictions. And if you don't, I want you to please hear this. We're living in a day and age where you really need to hear this 'cause we're gonna find out a lot about the Church in the next five years. I've told people this. We're gonna find out more about the Church in the next five years than we've found out in the last 50. And here's what we're gonna learn.
There are a lot of you that I could say, "Do you believe this, and do you believe that, and you believe this"? You just say, "Oh yeah, Pastor, I believe, yeah, I believe that, yeah, I believe this, yeah, I believe that". But is it a conviction? Do you just believe it? Or is it a conviction? Because there's a tremendous difference between having a belief and holding a conviction. A belief is what you have in your head. A conviction is what you have in your heart. A belief says, "Oh, I'm convinced of this truth". A conviction says, "I'm committed to this truth". People will argue their beliefs. They'll die for their convictions. People debate beliefs. But they'll pay any price for their convictions.
I want you to hear this. Beliefs are negotiable; convictions are not. Belief are negotiable; convictions are not. Next year, I'm working on my year for preaching, if God lets me live. And we're gonna tackle some big topics, like the transgender issue that nobody wants to touch and the gay marriage, and the homosexual issue that nobody wants to touch. And the political issue that nobody wants to touch. And the fornication issue that nobody wants to touch. And the adultery issue that nobody wants to touch. And a lot of other issues that nobody wants to touch.
And I'm gonna tell you something somebody told me the other day and they're so right. In fact, this guy's one of the most popular commentators in America. And here's what he told me. He said, "We're in a day and age where you can preach the truth or build a big church. You won't be able to do both". And he's right. I wanna warn you of something. When we get through next year, we'll probably lose more people than we gain. That's okay. I'm way past that. I don't have to prove anything to anybody anymore. I'm way past that stage. And I'm not trying to make anybody upset. I'm simply letting you know we have got, as a Church, not just our church, everybody.
It is time, let me tell you something. We ought to be more passionate for God's truth than people are out there for errors from the devil. We ought be more passionate and more convicted. And there's an even deeper reason why Daniel and his friends came with this ingenious plan to keep from crossing that line and to obey what they believed was God's will. Because don't think for a moment, Daniel just came up with this idea on his own, 'cause he didn't. Here's what happened; watch this. "Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel". See, while every other Jewish boy felt they had no choice, they were out of options, gotta go along, get along, do what you're told, Daniel said, "You know what? I'm gonna rely on Him. I'm gonna rely on divine guidance. I'm gonna believe that God's gonna come through for me because there's a great principle here that's proven itself true so many times in my life. I've seen it happen over and over".
When you're determined to follow God's path for your life, God will direct you to the right path. Does it every time. He never ever fails. So, remember with this, remember this, please. When you think you are out of options and you gotta cross a line you know you should not cross, remember this: With God, you're never out of options. With God, you are never out of options. There's always an option. When you think, "I'm in a dead end, there's no other way, but the world's way, no other way but the wrong way," if you will say at that moment, "God, I'm gonna rely on You to guide me, I'm gonna rely on You to direct me, and I'm gonna do what I know your Word tells me to do," He will make the right way. He'll open the right door. He'll show you the right path.
By the way, one other thing, Daniel was just like this eunuch. He had to wait on the results. Daniel had never been a vegetarian before. He didn't know what he was gonna look like. He had no way of knowing how that diet was gonna affect him. There was no guarantee that if Daniel followed what God told him to do, he would live. He might die. At the end of those 10 days, he didn't know how he would look in the eyes of the king. But you know what mattered to Daniel? Listen to me. He didn't care what he looked like in the eyes of the king. All he cared about was what he looked like in the eyes of God.
I've got news for you. I don't mean it to sound arrogant, ugly, or unkind. I couldn't care less about what the world, "The New York Times," "The New York Post," "The LA Times," Hollywood, Wall Street, I couldn't care less. Take this respect. I don't care what you think about what I preach. I care about what He thinks about what I preach. I don't care what you, how you look at me. I'm just being honest. I care about how God looks at me. I wanna know what He thinks. So you've gotta decide in your life. If you're only going to listen to the voice of God, you're only gonna follow the direction of God, you're only gonna go the way of God, just always know God's path is always straight and God's path is always right.
So, what are you gonna do? You draw your boundaries. You define your convictions. And then, here's the last thing: You demonstrate your faith. Now, lemme tell you the good news about where we are as a country right now. We're all gonna get plenty of chances to demonstrate whether we want... We've been saying we believe for 50, or 30, or 40, or 20 years. We really believe it, or it's just been talk? We're gonna get our shot. We're gonna get our chance to prove to the world, no, it's not just talk. It's not just church stuff on Sunday. I base my life on these truths. I commit my life to these truth. You demonstrate your faith.
Now watch this. There's a phrase that's repeated three times in this chapter and it really is the key to the entire book. It's the real key to the life of this guy named Daniel, Listen to verse two. "And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand. God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel. To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning". Now, listen to those words. The Lord delivered. God calls, God gave. Yeah, it was God that caused Israel to fall to the Babylonians. It was God that caused Daniel to be one of those young men chosen to go to Babylon. It was God that gave Daniel wisdom and understanding that was so far above and beyond his peers, guess what? He ultimately became the right-hand man of the king that wanted him to eat the meat and drink the wine.
Now, I don't know where you are in your life right now. I don't know. But you may be in your life right now where you're saying, "You know, I walked in here believing that I'm in a room with no windows, no doors, no way out. I'm out of options". You may walked in here today. You may be watching me, right now, and you're thinking, "You know what? There is no way out of my dilemma except doing what everybody else is doing, taking the road everybody else is taking, making the decision everybody else is making, even it means crossing a God-drawn line". Okay, hear me, please hear me. If you don't believe anything else I've said, please believe what I'm about to tell you. You listening? I don't care what you think. I don't care how it looks. I don't care what you feel. God is working in your life. God is working in your life.
Let me ask you a question. Do you think, when Daniel's home was being destroyed, he thought God was working? Do you think, when Daniel was snatched away from his parents, his family, and his friends, and his home, to go to a foreign land that didn't even believe in the God he was taught to love and to serve, do you think he thought God was working? Do you think, when he was forced to go to a Babylonian school, take a Babylonian name, wear Babylonian clothes, speak the Babylonian language, he thought God was working? Well, obviously, and evidently, he did, but even if he didn't, God was still working.
"Pastor, I just don't feel like God's working". He is. "I just can't see how God is working". He is. "I just can't hear God at work". He is. Because God had a plan. He had a plan far greater than Daniel. He had a plan far greater than Jerusalem. He had a plan far greater than Israel. Because God's ultimate plan for Daniel was to take him to the highest seat of influence and the greatest powers of the ancient world. And to do that, what did he have to do? He had to relocate Daniel because Daniel was going to play a key role in the preservation and the restoration of his people. And eventually, guess what? In the birth of Jesus, 2,600 years later. And that takes us to the last verse of this chapter. And it's one of those verses, let me just tell you, if you're reading it's, I call 'em speed bumps, you kind of just cross on, you don't pay any attention, but this is an unbelievable verse.
Now, when I read it, you're gonna really... Listen to this. "And Daniel remained there," that is in the king's palace at the right hand. "And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus". That's one of those verses you read and you go, "Okay, what's next"? No, no, no, don't skip that. That's a big verse. "What do you mean? I mean, it sounds like, okay, he stayed there until the year of King Cyrus, but..." Whoa a minute. Whoa, whoa, whoa. In verse 21, the fast-forward button has been pushed. Who is Cyrus? He was the king of Persia and he began reigning in 539 BC. So what? Nebuchadnezzar had passed from the scene.
Well, what happened to Babylonian? What happened to the Babylonians? What happened to Babylon? Well, King Cyrus and the Persians did to Babylon what Babylon did to Israel. They conquered Babylon. They took over Babylon. Cyrus became the king of Babylon. This is 70 years later. So, here's what happened. Over a 70-year period of time, one king passed, another king came. One kingdom passed, another kingdom came. But there was one man that was still standing. Give me his name. Daniel. You know why he was still standing? Because 70 years earlier, as a 14-year-old boy, he put his foot down. And God said, "Daniel, you are still standing".
Now, listen, I'm gonna wrap this up. Daniel had no idea as a 14-year-old boy, when he was taken captive in prisoner to a foreign land, he had no idea that over the next 70 years of his life, he would climb to the highest positions in two kingdoms, the Babylonian kingdom and the Persian kingdom. And in the last years of his life, he would exercise more power than any other member of the Jewish race had ever known. He had no idea that he would have the great privilege of leading his nation back to God, that, ultimately, because of him, they were returned to their homeland, according to God's promise. See, Daniel didn't know it. And you don't know it. God had a greater plan for Daniel than Daniel had for Daniel.
I got news for you. God's got a greater plan for you than you have for you. And God has a greater plan for you than you have for you. God has a greater plan than you have for you. I wanted to be a lawyer. I told you thousands of times, I didn't wanna save 'em, I wanted to sue 'em. I wanted to be what my son is, and a very successful one. And he's an honest one, by the way. I had big plans for me. But you know what? My plans didn't involve being in the oval office with the president of the United States. My plans didn't involve being president of the largest Protestant denomination in the world. My plans didn't involve traveling the world over many times and seeing things most of you will never see, meeting people most of you have never met, and experiencing things most of you will never experience. Because God, as a 17-year-old boy, had bigger plans for me than I did. And it's all because I've led by the Spirit of God to put my foot down.
See, the reason why God had a plan, and the reason why God carried that plan out, is one simple reason. Because Daniel saw a line in the dirt and he said, "I'm not crossing that line". Because Daniel had drawn a boundary in his life and he says, "I'm not gonna upset that boundary". Because Daniel had defined certain convictions in his life and Daniel said, "I'm not gonna compromise that conviction".
So, I'm wrapping this up. Last paragraph. You will rarely go a day in your life that you don't come across some line in the sand. And you're gonna hear all kinds of voices that will tell you, "You can cross that line". Money will tell you, "You can cross that line". Sex will tell you, "You can cross that line". Popularity will tell you, "You can cross that line". Fame will tell you, "You can cross that line". Riches will tell you, "You can cross that line". And you might even be convinced, "I'm out of options; I've got no choice. I've got to cross that line; I've got to cave in. I've got to follow the crowd".
But just like Jesus, refuse to take the easy way out. And Jesus took the hard way in and died for our sins. We can do the same thing, with God's help, put our foot down. I can't promise you what will happen if you do. I can't guarantee you it'll be all roses and no thorns, all gain and no pain, all sunshine and no rain. I can't promise you that. Here's what I can promise you. If you will put your foot down, if you will draw your boundaries, if you will define your convictions, and if you'll demonstrate your faith, you'll always be standing right where God wants you to be. And when everything else is crumbling around you, you will be the last man standing.
Would you pray with me right now, with heads bowed and with eyes closed? As a nine-year-old boy, I put my foot down. I made a decision that radically changed my life. It so changed my life, it's because I'm married to the lady that I'm married to today. It's because I have the job that I have today. It's because I have the joy in my life I have today. It's because I have the peace in my heart I have today. I put my foot down as a nine-year-old boy, and I said, "I'm following Jesus. I'm going with Jesus. I believe He was who He said He was, He did what He said He did, and I'm committing and surrendering my life to Him".
I put my foot down and it's made all the difference in the world. Have you done that? You're sitting at home, right now, and you're watching me on a computer or an iPhone or a TV. Have you put your foot down? Have you ever put your foot down, the most important foot you'll ever put, in the most important place you'll ever put it, in giving your life to Jesus Christ? Listen to me. Not a belief, but a conviction.
There are people that go to church every Sunday and they think they're going to heaven, but they're not. You know why they think they're gonna? "Well, I believe in Jesus". Yeah, it's just a head belief. It's never been a heart conviction. That's why your life's never been changed. If, today, you would say, "I wanna put my foot down, today, I wanna give my life to Jesus, I wanna become a full-fledged follower of Christ," then, would you just tell Him that? Just tell Him that, right now. You could say something like this. You could pray something like this:
Lord Jesus, I'm a sinner. And I know, now, what I need to do. When You died on that cross, You put Your foot down. You died to save me from my sins. Three days later, God raised You from the dead. Now, I'm putting my foot down and I'm giving my life to You. I repent; I turn away from my old way of living. I trust You as my Savior. I confess You as my Lord. I ask You to forgive me of all of my sins, and I wanna receive Your free gift of eternal life.