|Daniel in the Den of Lions – Francois Verdier|
It was the last sermon of 2012. The time of year when we can feel worn out and empty. Our reserves are low and we are looking for something to fill us back up.
So, I wondered what the Pastor would say. What words would fill us up and carry us into the new year?
He spoke about Daniel. The young man who showed great courage and wisdom beyond his years in the face of overwhelming circumstances.
And I thought to myself, this sort of godly strength of character doesn’t just appear out of nowhere.
It comes from consistently cultivating an appetite for the healthy and holy.
Daniel had made a habit out of making good choices. The kind I hope to make every day of 2013 and beyond.
Which is to say he was determined to do the right thing.
So, although he and his friends had been taken captive and forced to live in the service of the King of Babylon, Daniel 1:8 tells us that “Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine…” (You can read the full chapter here.)
The Matthew Henry Commentary expounds on the significance of this verse:
Perhaps it was not in itself unlawful for them to eat of the king’s meat or to drink of his wine. But, they were scrupulous concerning the meat, lest it should be sinful. Sometimes such meat would be set before them as was expressly forbidden by their law, as swine’s flesh; or they were afraid lest it should have been offered in sacrifice to an idol, or blessed in the name of an idol… Observe, The great thing that Daniel avoided was defiling himself with the pollutions of sin; that is the thing we should be more afraid of than of any outward trouble.
Some say that the making of New Year’s Resolutions is a waste of time. And I’ll confess the question has crossed my mind, “Why even try?” It may be a new year but it’s that old fear of failure that keeps popping up, threatening the hope of change.
But I do think there is value in setting goals. Especially when they promise to lead us toward greater wisdom. Something I GREATLY need.
So I order myself to forward march! Even though it can mean signing up for an epic internal war between my flesh and my will, this battle of the resolutions must be fought.
These knees of mine have buckled many times over the prospect of another loss but, the truth is, I know that I will ultimately win if I focus on what I gain in the attempt.
That phrase from childhood rings in my head…Practice makes perfect.
Here’s what Jesus said about “practice”.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:24
Daniel practiced obedience to his Heavenly King, submitting his will to God’s will. And the result of his “resolution”?
Verse 17 of the first chapter of Daniel says that God gave him knowledge and understanding. He won favor with God and man. Several times throughout the book, he is referred to as one who is “highly esteemed”.
My prayer is that I, like Daniel, will make a habit out of making good choices. If that is your prayer too, then let’s resolve to fill up on the things of God, to cultivate an appetite for the healthy and holy, turning away from anything that might defile us with the pollutions of sin.
We’ll take it step by step, and if we stumble, we can pray to God for strength and know that He will answer. In the words of former U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”
Read aloud the following verse and be encouraged. With God’s help, we can conquer our old fear in this new year!
“Do not be afraid, (Insert Your Name Here). Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.” Daniel 10:12