Faithful Living in an Unsympathetic World – Part 5 – Sermon – Rev. Alex Moir – 29 August 2021

WELCOME

Good morning First Baptist. We welcome you to worship this morning. Be sure to remember your brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the week as you pray for them, and as the Holy Spirit brings their faces to your mind. Be sure to also connect with them in the ways that are possible. And if you have any questions or would like to talk to someone, please don’t hesitate to contact the church through the church telephone and leave a message. (519-733-4144)

Call to Worship

“I speak God’s hidden wisdom, his secret purpose framed from the very beginning to bring us to our full glory.” 

— 1 Corinthians 2:7

Prayer

Our hearts are bursting with joy, generous Father, as we celebrate the unveiling of this “secret purpose”.  You have freely made it known to all those who seek for a better way … and it is the purpose of this gathered group of believers to share it widely.  May our time together today inspire us further and encourage us all the more to give this “reason for the hope that is within us.”  In the name of the true hope of the ages, even Jesus, we pray … amen.

Song

Today's Message: Faithful Living in an Unsympathetic World – Part 5

Scripture Reading: Daniel 6:10-22

10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. 11 Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. 12 So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?”

The king answered, “The decree stands—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”

13 Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.” 14 When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him.

15 Then the men went as a group to King Darius and said to him, “Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.”

16 So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”

17 A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed. 18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.

19 At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. 20 When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”

21 Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! 22 My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”

We conclude our study of these episodes in the life of Daniel with a true success story.  Our hero has not only survived as an official in different administrations but through two different empires as well!  He has shown through “his exceptional qualities” (v. 3) that whether working within the Babylonian or the Persian empires, he possesses abilities and values that are found to be useful wherever he happens to be serving.  Such is often the case with some of us, as we serve in our version of “empire” today.  As in Daniel’s case we are equipped, in no small way because of our faith, to serve with distinction in whatever role we find ourselves.  But as we shall see in the following verses not everyone is pleased with how he has ascended the ranks of the government of his day …

It seems that a problem emerges when Darius, the king of Persia, begins to consider a promotion for our friend.  Daniel has been one of three “administrators” that the king has been relying upon … but he has so distinguished himself that Darius is making plans “to set him over the whole kingdom (v. 3).  As we know in our own contexts, promotions can often set in gear certain reactions among those who feel that an unwelcome shifting of power is taking place.  Add to this the fact that Daniel is still recognized as a bit of an outsider, and we can understand how the seeds of distrust are beginning to be sown …

The resentment and distrust has reached such a point that a plan to discredit this faithful servant is being hatched, unbeknownst to the king.  After trying to find “grounds for charges” (v.4) within his job performance and finding none, they resort to an attack on his personal life.  Reading this we realize that these kinds of “dirty tricks” did not begin with the advent of social media.  Being unable to find anything on Daniel within the palace, his home life comes under scrutiny.  What could they possible do to affect the plans being made by the king?  As the story unfolds, they devise a scheme that would make things especially difficult for all God fearers … but particularly so for Daniel.  These “trusted” advisors ask the king to pronounce the following edict … that persons found praying to anyone other than the king during the next month would be sentenced to death in a lions’ den.  Why King Darius could not see through such deception, particularly in light of Daniel’s widely known religious convictions, is a bit of a mystery.  Perhaps we can attribute such carelessness to the king’s busy schedule, causing a lack of attention to detail.  Nevertheless, the decree is issued in such a way that it cannot be repealed.  Our hero is in trouble …

It is interesting to note how Daniel responds when he learns that this edict has been published.  You might think that, due to his close connection to the king and the high regard with which Daniel is held, he might have proceeded to the palace to plead his case.  Instead, the scripture is very clear as to what happens next … he makes his way home to pray, “just as he had done before (v. 10).”  No artificially arranged emergency is going to alter the plans of this faithful disciple of Yahweh God.  For Daniel an important part of each day involved prayer … and so it is with us as well.  As you think about the things you must do each day … eating, sleeping, fellowship with family and friends, work, a little exercise … a vital part for disciples of Jesus is our prayer time.  I remember a fridge magnet at the home of my mother-in-law … “Seven days without prayer makes one weak.”  For those of us who have experienced the abundant life in Jesus, we know this to be patently true.

Further, it is interesting to note the focus of our hero’s prayers.  Once again looking at verse 10 the text states that, “Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed giving thanks to his God …” Thanksgiving is an essential part of our relationship with the Father.  It is so important that it is the first thing we schedule in the worship service.  Such a structure is based on the understanding that the reason so many folks come to worship is to express thanks.  They have begun to understand that very little that is good in life comes from our efforts, ingenuity, or cleverness.  All of the raw materials for living come from beyond us.  In fact, even the hard things we encounter can be filled with blessing as well.  Hear these famous words from our brother Paul as he writes to fellow Christians in Rome:

“We also boast of our troubles;
because we know that trouble produces endurance,
endurance brings God’s approval,
and his approval creates hope.” 

— Romans 5:3-5a

When we begin to understand that there is no sphere of life where our blessed Father is not present, we become “free indeed!”

But there is a second subject of Daniel’s prayers, noticed by those who were involved in the surveillance of his home:

“Then these men went as a group
and found Daniel praying
and asking God for help.” 

— v. 11

It doesn’t require much living to understand that we need such a partnership to help meet life’s challenges.  I find myself most mornings in my first prayer of the day (over breakfast) asking the Lord to equip me to speak thoughtfully.  Further, our prayers reach a greater level of maturity when we ask for a holy awareness around others who may be truly struggling and need a listening ear or a helping hand.  And we often take prayer for “help” in another way … not so much for us, but for others who are in such a crisis mode.  In prayers of thanksgiving and asking for help we find that our days are filled with prayer … whether we are in our “place of prayer” or not!

Of course, we know the rest of this story.  The conspirators report their findings to the king and, as a result of his edict, the order is issued that Daniel must be ushered to the lion’s den.  Darius shows his regard for his faithful servant by pulling out all the stops in an effort to save him, but the Persian bureaucracy appears to have won the day … until the King proceeds to the place of execution after a fitful night to find his friend safe and sound!  For some who express discomfort over a “miracle story” such as this, we might remind ourselves of the miracles we ourselves have witnessed … a “peace that passes understanding” over perplexing issues in our own lives; release from a problem addiction by a friend who incorporated faith into his/her treatment plan; the conversion of someone we know who never showed the least bit of promise in this way.  

Reflect

This story is a great reminder the impact one life of prayer can make.

Prayer

Eternal Father, we praise You this day for our brother Daniel whose life has inspired us over these past weeks.  He has reminded us that much can be accomplished for the kingdom if we faithfully continue to live for You.  How glad we are to be sharing in this ministry and to experience the thrill of seeing lives changed when the precious ones around us embrace life in Your Son.

As we’ve studied this figure from our faith history, we’ve been led to consider his circumstances, being a person of faith within an empire that was often hostile to him.  This is where we relate most closely to these episodes, for such is the nature of life for us as followers of our Lord.  We confess that there are occasions when we despair of the direction our society seems to be heading.  Forgive us for trusting our eyes alone and forgetting the work of your Holy Spirit which, as the Psalmist writes, is always “working salvation from the midst of the earth.”  

As we close our prayer this morning, we have noted that our hero spent a fair bit of his prayer time asking you, the Father of lights, for help.  We do so for ourselves, gracious Father … but also for those in our company whose names have been mentioned over this past week.  We bring before You Ruth Setterington, Scot Hedge, Ray Gray and others who have special needs at this time.  May those charged with their care be strengthened by Your Spirit … and may Your healing hand be evident during the coming days.  We pray in the strong name of the one who acted out of compassion for many who crossed His path … amen.

Song

Benediction

“But I am among you as one who serves …”

— Luke 22:27b