Robert Jeffress - The Courage To Stand Alone - Part 2
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. When America was founded, Christian morals were deeply rooted in the heart of our nation. Now, taking a stand for God in the public square often means standing alone. And it looks as though things are getting worse, not better. Well, today, I'm going to share with you three principles from the story of Daniel, for standing firm when your beliefs are challenged. My message is titled, "The Courage to Stand Alone", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Nebuchadnezzar selected these youth for a three full-year paid scholarship in the university of Babylon. And they would train there for three years. They would learn astronomy and astrology and mathematics and the Acadian language and all of the cultural lessons to be learned from the Babylonian culture. Why did he want them to learn about Babylon? Because they were living in Babylon and if they were going to be effective in the culture where they were living, they needed to learn about the culture in which they lived. Secondly, he said, I'm going to give you a new diet. Look at verse five. "The king appointed for them a daily ration from the king's choice food". That could be delicacies from the king's choice food. "And from the wine which he drank and he appointed that they should be educated three years, and at the end of which they were to enter in the king's personal service". He wanted them to enjoy the best food possible, food that came from his table.
And then finally, in addition to the new education and the new diet, he gave them new names. Look at verses six and seven. "Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah". Now, Nebuchadnezzar changed all four names. He changed Daniel's name, which meant "God is my judge" to Belteshazzar, which means "Baal," the false God, "Will protect his life". Hananiah's name, Jewish name, meant "God is gracious". It was changed to Shadrach, referring to the worship of the moon God. Look at Mishael. His name in Hebrew meant "Who is like God". It was changed to Mishack, "Who is like Aku" the Goddess of wine. And Azariah's name in Hebrew meant "God is my helper". It was changed to Abednego "The servant of Nebuchadnezzar". Why did he engage in this name-change for these Hebrew youth? He wanted to remove them from their Jewish culture. He wanted them to forget their training in Judah. He wanted them to forget their service to Yahweh, the only true God and so he changed their names.
Now, here's the pivotal verse in verse eight. Look at Daniel's decision. Look at verse eight. "But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king's choice food or with the wine which he drank, so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself". I want you to notice, here, where Daniel drew the line. He didn't draw the line when the king said I'm going to give you a new education. You're going to have to learn all about the Babylonian culture. He didn't resist that at all. The fact is, if we're going to minister in the culture in which we live, we need to know about the culture in which we live. There's no premium on ignorance in God's book. God many times, his choicest servants are those who have been the Most Highly educated. I think about Moses, for example. He learned all of the literature and the language in Pharaoh's court.
I think about Saul who later was transformed into the apostle Paul. He was probably a graduate of the university of Cilicia. He was highly educated, which, by the way, gave him the ability to argue and reason with the Greek Philosophers. Remember his sermon on mars hill? Those of you who go to Greece with us this summer will go to mars hill. We'll actually see the pedestals that still remain of those Gods that were lined up there that Paul made mention of. Now Paul would not have been able to know about the Greek Philosophers and pagan Philosophies if he had not studied them. Somebody sent me an email this week, one of our members, and said, "What do you think of people who say, 'I'm only going to listen to TV channels and commentators and read books by people I agree with. I'm not going to listen to anybody else'. What do you think of people like that"?
I think people like that are very, very narrow. People like that aren't able to think because if you're really going to engage the culture in which you live, you need to know what people who don't agree with you are thinking. You need to understand how they're reasoning so that you can meet their objections and show them truth. There is no reason at all to be ignorant of the world in which you live. Daniel didn't mind being educated. He didn't have anything to say about his new names. That was something that Nebuchadnezzar did. But here is where Daniel drew the line. He said, "I am not going to eat the meat from the king's table or drink the wine from the king's table". Why did he draw the line there? There were two problems with the food from the king's table. First of all, the meat had not been prepared according to the customs of the mosaic law. And not only had it not been prepared according to the mosaic law, it also included forbidden animals that were not to be eaten.
Secondly, the wine. Why did Daniel say, "I'm not going to drink the wine"? Now, this week when I was preparing this message, I heard all kind of explanations about it. Some people use this as an example of why no Christian should ever drink wine for any reason at all. See Daniel? He wouldn't drink wine. Now, I want to be very clear here. The Bible doesn't say there's anything inherently sinful about wine or alcohol, but the fact is there's nothing in that can of beer. That substance, in and of itself, is not sinful. It's sinful when you are addicted to it. It is sinful when you get drunk. It is sinful even if you drink it in moderation, if you cause somebody else to stumble and violate their conscience. There's nothing sinful about wine, but having said that, I think the wisest decision anybody can make is not to drink alcohol at all.
That's a decision I made. I don't drink it. I think it's the wisest decision you can make, not because it is sinful, but because it's the way of wisdom. You look at history. Think about Alexander the Great. Alexander the Great, the most powerful man in the world, lost his kingdom. He died at age 33 all because of his addiction to alcohol. He couldn't handle it. It caused him to make bad decisions. He ended up dying because of his addiction to wine. You look in the Bible in the Old Testament. We're not under the Old Testament, but there's a principle. The people who were called to the highest level of service took the nazarite vow and they were told not to drink wine. It's just a wise decision to make not to drink. It's not a decision I can make for you. It's a decision you have to come to but it is a wise decision. But having said that, the reason Daniel didn't drink wine was very simple. This wine had been poured out, a portion of it, before pagan altars. It had been dedicated to pagan deities and because of that, Daniel would have absolutely nothing to do with it. So he said, "I am not going to do this". But notice what he did. The last of verse eight says, "So he sought permission from the commander of the officials," that is ashpenaz, "That he might not defile himself".
Now I want you to notice through this story, the courteous way in which Daniel conducts himself. He didn't stomp out of the room and say, "You pagan king and court official, I can't believe you would ask me, a holy man of Israel, to do something as pagan as you do". No, he didn't do that at all. What he did was, he sought permission to do something else and so he proposes another solution. Look at verses nine and 10. "Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials. And the commander of the officials said to Daniel, 'I'm afraid of my Lord the king, who has appointed your food and your drink, for why should he see your faces looking haggard, more haggard than the youths who are your own age? Then you would make me forfeit my head to the king'". The court official said, "I'm sympathetic to you, Daniel, but if I give you a pass on this, and you end up looking haggard and not well-fed, I'm going to lose my head. The king's going to execute me over this". And so Daniel proposes an alternative plan in verse 12. He said, "Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink".
You see, Daniel understood the king's goal. He was sympathetic toward it. Verse 13, "Then let our appearance be observed in your presence and the appearance of the youth who are eating the king's choice food and deal with your servants according to what you see". You see the test? "For 10 days," Daniel said, "Me and my three friends, we'll just eat vegetables and drink water, and you let the others drink from the king's choice table and eat the meat from the table, and at the end of 10 days, let's see what happens".
Now let's be honest. Changing your diet for 10 days would not make that big of a difference in your physiology. I mean it's just not going to. Daniel was expecting God to intervene in a miraculous way here. He expected that God was going to supernaturally work in his situation. Verse 14, "So the court official listened to them in this matter and allowed them to be tested for 10 days". What was the result? Look at verse 15, "At the end of the 10 days, their appearance seemed better and they were fatter than all the youths who had been eating at the king's table". Now when we read "Fatter," we think yuck. That's anathema to us, but that's only because of the distorted culture in which we live. Fatter in the Jewish thinking meant healthier. And the fact is, they looked healthier after these 10 short days. Realizing that this is what the king wanted, the overseer felt confident in allowing Daniel to continue that plan for all of his three years of special training in Babylon.
Now verse 17 is a summary verse of Daniel's three years in Babylon during this program. "As for these four youth," that is Daniel and his three friends, "God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom. Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams". Daniel succeeded in his program of training. He gained and understood all of the wisdom of Babylon, but his ability to gain understanding was rooted in his understanding of God. As an early youth, as a child, Daniel had been trained in the ways of Jehovah God. He knew God's word. And his basic training as a child gave him the foundation. It was the filter through which he saw everything else he learned during this time in Babylon. Proverbs one verse seven says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom". I don't care what education you receive, what degree you receive.
If you don't know God and his word and what he expects of you, you are not a wise person. Wisdom means being able to see life from God's point of view. Sir Walter Moberly, the British educator, observed, "If you want a bomb, the chemist department will teach you how to make it. If you want a Cathedral, the department of architecture will teach you how to build it. If you want a healthy body, the department of physiology and medicine will teach you how to tend it. But when you ask why should we want bombs or Cathedrals or healthy bodies, the university is silent. It can help and give guidance in all things subsidiary but not in the attainment of one thing useful. True wisdom comes only from God". And look at verse 21. "And Daniel continued until the first year of Cyrus the king". He probably lived to the age of 85 until Israel was allowed to go back into the Promised Land.
Now, this chapter is important for two reasons. From a historical perspective, it introduces us to Daniel and it begins the story of his ascent to power in Babylon, but this chapter is also important because it reminds us of the importance of learning how to stand alone in the midst of a pagan culture. And tonight, in the few moments I have left, I want to give you three principles about standing alone that I hope you'll always remember. Jot them down. Commit them to memory. First of all, the courage to stand alone is instilled at an early age. The courage to stand alone is instilled at an early age. Daniel and his friends learned the ways of God, not as teenagers, but as children. They were 16, probably, when they were carried off into Babylonian captivity, so this knowledge of God was instilled at an early, early age and that is why it is so important that as parents, as church members, we invest in our children.
A couple years ago, I was talking to my friend, josh McDowell. We've been friends for 40 years. I said, "Josh, if you were a pastor today, what would you do"? Without missing a beat, he said, "I would double my children's ministry budget". And he said, "And here's why. The issues, the temptations, that used to be reserved for high school students and college students, they're now being faced by grade-schoolers and junior highers". They're being confronted, bombarded, with ungodliness and temptation. You're not going to shield your children from what's happening in the world. That is why it is so imperative that we, as a church, are committed to investing in the lives of our children. That's the age it's going to make a difference of whether or not they stand for God. And that's one reason we are pouring millions and millions and millions of dollars into this new preschool facility and children's facility.
I had a parent tell me recently. They just came to our church from another well-known church here in town. They said when our children were at such-and-such church, all they were is entertained at that church. It was just an entertainment program. But in the few months that we've been here, our children have learned more about the Bible than they learned the whole time they were at that other church. And our children's area, if you go through all six years of our children's area, you go through every book of the Bible twice. You learn the Word of God. It's that way in our children's area, our preschool, our junior high ministry and our senior high ministry. You know what they're doing there right now? They've got a new program in our junior high and senior high, a leadership program, where they're taking select youth and they're training them how to be leaders on their campus, how to take a stand for God.
What I'm saying to you is, the courage to stand alone isn't something that is acquired later in life. It's acquired early in life. And parents, listen to me. The most important task you have, as a parent, listen to this, is not to ensure your child's scholastic success, their athletic success, their social success. Your prime responsibility is to ensure their spiritual success. And that means sometimes teaching them to stand alone. It means sometimes teaching them we're going to miss that ball game that's being played on Sunday morning, the Lord's day. We're not going to be out there with the rest of pagans and the pagan Christians out there on the Lord's day. We're going to be in God's house. And you know what? If that costs you a place on the team, so be it. You know the greatest thing we can teach our kids early in life is it costs you something to be a Christian. The sooner they learn that in life, the better.
The courage to stand alone is instilled at an early age. Secondly, the purpose of standing alone is to honor God. The purpose of standing alone is to honor God. The reason Daniel made this choice, was not to bring glory to himself. It wasn't to cause the Babylonians and Nebuchadnezzar to admire him, no. He wanted to bring glory to God. His whole life was dedicated in Babylon to pointing people to the fact that Yahweh was the only true God. Thirdly and finally, the reward of standing alone is God's blessing. The reward for standing alone is God's blessing. Isn't it interesting that Daniel's name means "God is my judge". Daniel understood from the time he was a little boy that it didn't matter what other people thought of him. All that really mattered is what God thought of him. Daniel lived his life for an audience of one. Daniel believed what Samuel the prophet had written years earlier in first Samuel 2:30 when God said through Samuel, "I will honor those who honor me".
And God will do the same for you. God will honor you if you devote your life to honoring him. God's honor comes in many different ways. Sometimes, it comes through material blessing. Sometimes, it comes through relationship blessings. Sometimes, it comes through physical blessings, but the fact is God always honors those who honor him. There is a blessing, a reward, for honoring God, but that blessing is always preceded by a great cost. It costs you something to stand alone. Are you willing to pay that price? Are you willing, from this point on, to say, "I'm going to live my life for an audience of one". I don't care what other people say or think about me. All I care about is what God thinks. Are you willing to make those hard, hard choices, to say no to those things everyone else is saying yes to and to say yes to those things everyone around you is saying no to. Someone has written, "Dare to be a Daniel. Dare to stand alone. Dare to have a purpose firm. Dare to make it known. Daniel, the courage to stand alone".