Daniel has always been one of my favorite Bible characters and books. My parents named me after him, and from an early age I loved to hear the stories. By eighth grade I was deep into studying the prophecies of the book as well.
As Seventh-day Adventist leaders we recognize that Daniel is a book especially for the last days (Daniel 12:4). The outline and time prophecies in the book of Daniel show us that we are living in the last days, and the stories in the book of Daniel show us how to live in the last days.
Lessons from the stories in Daniel can provide personal inspiration for church leaders. They can be shared during visits, small groups and sermons to help people be courageous for Jesus in the time before His second coming. Here are twenty seed thoughts from the stories in the book of Daniel. A great resource in preparing sermons from Daniel is the book Prophets and Kings (abbreviated PK below) Chapters 39-44.
1. Faithful young people can influence rulers and nations. In the great controversy between Christ and Satan, God has designed that young people who are as “true as steel to principle,” who “never compromise with idolaters,” will be brought into difficult situations, sometimes in foreign lands, so that leaders of nations might come to know the true God and fulfill God’s destiny for their nations. A relatively simple home life upbringing and decisions by the young person to honor God, make a huge difference (PK 479-480). “The tidings of their [the three Hebrews] wonderful deliverance [in the fiery furnace] were carried to many countries by the representatives of the different nations that had been invited by Nebuchadnezzar to the dedication. Through the faithfulness of His children, God was glorified in all the earth” (PK 512).
2. Character is often tested near the beginning of a new experience. “At the very outset of their career there came to them a decisive test of character.” (PK 481). Soon after Daniel had been promoted by Darius in Daniel 6, he was severely tested to see if he would continue his habit of praying in spite of threat of death. What was his attitude? “Why should he cease to pray now, when he most needed to pray? Rather would he relinquish life itself, than his hope of help in God” (PK 541). Often during the instability and additional stresses of starting a new school, a new job, a marriage, becoming a parent, relocating to a new neighborhood, or other major life change, there is a serious test of character. Determination to be faithful to God at this point in time will impact the future more than we realize at the time.
3. Studying and Applying Bible Stories in advance of a moral test can be very helpful in making good moral choices. “They [Daniel and his friends] were acquainted with the history of Nadab and Abihu, the record of whose intemperance and its results had been preserved in the parchments of the Pentateuch; and they knew that their own physical and mental power would be injuriously affected by the use of wine.” (PK 482). “From the history of their fathers they had learned that disobedience to God results in dishonor, disaster, and death; and that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the foundation of all true prosperity. Calmly facing the furnace…” (PK 508).
4. Strict (no excuses) Temperance helps prevent a lot of poor moral choices. “Daniel and his associates had been trained by their parents to habits of strict temperance.” “Had Daniel so desired, he might have found in his surroundings a plausible excuse for departing from strictly temperate habits.” (PK 482-483). At the end of the three years of training “The erect form, the firm, elastic step, the fair countenance, the undimmed senses, the untainted breath–all were so many certificates of good habits, insignia of the nobility with which nature honors those who are obedient to her laws” (PK 485; cf. 488-489). Intemperance can often be at the root of personal and national destruction. “With reason dethroned through shameless intoxication, and with lower impulses and passions now in the ascendancy, the king [Belshazzar] himself took the lead in the riotous orgy… The king would prove that nothing was too sacred for his hands to handle” (PK 524-525).
5. Having a few godly friends can greatly reinforce good moral choices. “And in this resolve [see Daniel 1] he [Daniel] was supported by his three companions” (PK 483). “Together they sought for wisdom from the Source of light and knowledge [see Daniel 2]” (PK 494).
6. God honors those who honor Him. When we make moral choices based on what is pleasing to the Lord, trusting in His power, we can also trust Him with the outcome. “In prosperity and adversity they honored God, and God honored them” (PK 479). After their ten day test, “In personal appearance the Hebrew youth showed a marked superiority over their companions” (PK 484). “The Lord regarded with approval the firmness and self-denial of the Hebrew youth, and their purity of motive; and His blessing attended them. He “gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom…” The promise was fulfilled, “Them that honor Me I will honor.” 1 Samuel 2:30.” At the end of the three years of training the king “found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.” “In physical strength and beauty, in mental vigor and literary attainment, they stood unrivaled.” (PK 484-485). “In his first words [of explanation of the dream in Daniel 2] he [Daniel] disclaimed honor for himself and exalted God as the source of all wisdom” (PK 494).
7. One good moral choice leads to additional blessings from God. “As Daniel clung to God with unwavering trust, the spirit of prophetic power came upon him. While receiving instruction from man in the duties of court life, he was being taught by God to read the mysteries of the future and to record for coming generations, through figures and symbols, events covering the history of this world till the close of time” (PK 485). After demonstrating his willingness to convey a message of judgment to powerful and debased Belshazzar, the new king, Darius, reorganized the government. “Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm” (PK 539). “Strict compliance with the requirements of Heaven brings temporal as well as spiritual blessings” (PK 546).
8. “God gives opportunities; success depends upon the use made of them” (PK 486). Our part is “faithful use of [our] powers, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit,” “making the knowledge of God the foundation of [our] education,” “placing [ourselves] where God [can] bless [us],” “avoiding that which would weaken [our] powers,” “improving every opportunity to become intelligent in all lines of learning,” seeking “to acquire knowledge for one purpose- that [we] might honor God,” “constantly praying, conscientiously studying, keeping in touch with the Unseen,” and walking “with God as did Enoch.” “His grace is given to work in us to will and to do, but never as a substitute for our effort” (PK 486-487).
9. Remembering that God has the universe in His hands is a tremendous motivator to good moral choices and gives us a peace as world events take place. “…the God we serve is able to save us… But even if he does not… we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18. When Daniel and/or his friends were faithful to God He reminded them again and again of His power, presence, love and help in a variety of ways- Daniel and his friends were recognized to be ten times wiser than the other trainees (chapter 1); God is in control of the destiny of nations and reveals this to those He chooses (chapter 2); God can take an occasion designed to affirm a human’s absolute power and turn it into a witness of God’s power (chapter 3); God can humble the most proud earthly ruler and restore his kingdom to him if God chooses (chapter 4); God is the Unseen Watcher of all life events, and when a nation has filled up its cup of iniquity God steps in the change the world order (chapter 5); and God can protect His servants from destruction and remove their enemies whenever He chooses (chapter 6). “[In Daniel 2] God would reveal that He has power over the kingdoms of the world, power to enthrone and to dethrone kings. Nebuchadnezzar’s mind was to be awakened, if possible, to a sense of his responsibility to Heaven” (PK 498; cf. 499-500). Only God’s “stone kingdom” would last forever (Daniel 2:44). “While nations have rejected God’s principles, and in this rejection have wrought their own ruin, yet a divine, overruling purpose has manifestly been at work throughout the ages. It was this that the prophet Ezekiel saw in the wonderful representation given him during his exile in the land of the Chaldeans, when before his astonished gaze were portrayed the symbols that revealed an overruling Power that has to do with the affairs of earthly rulers” (PK 535; cf. 535-538). “And so perishes all that has not God for its foundation. Only that which is bound up with His purpose, and expresses His character, can endure. His principles are the only steadfast things our world knows” (PK 548).
10. Recognizing that God has placed us where we are can help us be strong during trials. “Their [Daniel and his friends] faith was strong in the consciousness that God had placed them where they were, that they were doing His work and meeting the demands of duty.” (PK 493)
11. Through continual transgression even the greatest intellects can prevent themselves from understanding God’s word or to misapply its meaning. “though the rulers of proud Babylon were men of the highest intellect, they had separated themselves so far from God by transgression that they could not understand the revelations and the warnings given them concerning the future” (PK 501). “[In Daniel 4] Once more in this idolatrous nation, testimony was to be borne to the fact that only those who love and fear God can understand the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. The king in his perplexity sent for his servant Daniel, a man esteemed for his integrity and constancy and for his unrivaled wisdom… To Daniel the meaning of the dream was plain, and its significance startled him” (PK 516-517). “…the king indulged his pride until he lost confidence in the interpretation of the dream, and jested at his former fears” (PK 519).
12. Our strength as a nation or as individuals is not based on natural talents or special opportunities, but on our faithfulness in fulfilling God’s purpose for us.“To understand these things,–to understand that “righteousness exalteth a nation;” that “the throne is established by righteousness,” and “upholden by mercy;” to recognize the outworking of these principles in the manifestation of His power who “removeth kings, and setteth up kings,”– this is to understand the philosophy of history. Proverbs 14:34; 16:12; 20:28; Daniel 2:21.
“In the word of God only is this clearly set forth. Here it is shown that the strength of nations, as of individuals, is not found in the opportunities or facilities that appear to make them invincible; it is not found in their boasted greatness. It is measured by the fidelity with which they fulfill God’s purpose” (PK 502). God revealed the dream of the great statue to Nebuchadnezzar so he would recognize this (see PK 503). “Each [nation] has had its period of test; each has failed, its glory faded, its power departed” (PK 535).
“Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever, ‘twixt that darkness and that light.
Then to side with truth is noble, when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ’tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses while the coward stands aside,
Till the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.
By the light of burning martyrs, Christ, Thy bleeding feet we track,
Toiling up new Calv’ries ever with the cross that turns not back;
New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth,
They must upward still and onward, who would keep abreast of truth.
Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.”
(Once to every man and nation, by James R. Lowell accessed at http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/o/n/oncetoev.htm)
13. Speaking out loud about God’s power can strengthen our faith. “Their [the three Hebrews] faith strengthened as they declared that God would be glorified by delivering them, and with triumphant assurance born of implicit trust in God, they added, “But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (PK 507).
14. As followers of God, we are not only to make good moral choices for ourselves, but to encourage others to repent and turn to God as well. “Daniel urged the proud monarch [Nebuchadnezzar] to repent and turn to God [after receiving the dream in Daniel 4]” (PK 518).
15. Ignoring the way God has led in the pastcan lead to poor moral choices and vice versa. “Many had been his [Belshazzar’s] opportunities to know the divine will and to understand his responsibility of rendering obedience thereto. He had known of his grandfather’s banishment, by the decree of God, from the society of men; and he was familiar with Nebuchadnezzar’s conversion and miraculous restoration. But Belshazzar allowed the love of pleasure and self-glorification to efface the lessons that he should never have forgotten. He wasted the opportunities graciously granted him, and neglected to use the means within his reach for becoming more fully acquainted with truth. That which Nebuchadnezzar had finally gained at the cost of untold suffering and humiliation, Belshazzar passed by with indifference” (PK 522-523, cf. 529). “A careful study of the working out of God’s purpose in the history of nations and in the revelation of things to come, will help us to estimate at their true value things seen and things unseen, and to learn what is the true aim of life. Thus, viewing the things of time in the light of eternity, we may, like Daniel and his fellows, live for that which is true and noble and enduring. And learning in this life the principles of the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour, that blessed kingdom which is to endure for ever and ever, we may be prepared at His coming to enter with Him into its possession” (PK 548).
16. Because the final movements of the fall of earth [like those of Babylon] will be rapid ones, now is the time to understand Bible prophecy and to apply Bible principles to our lives. Later will be too late. “And now, in rapid succession, momentous events followed one another exactly as had been portrayed in the prophetic scriptures years before the principals in the drama had been born” (PK 531; cf. 531-534).
17. Don’t expect everybody to appreciate your high ethical standards. “Daniel’s blameless conduct [after being promoted by Darius in Daniel 6] excited still further the jealousy of his enemies” (PK 539). “God did not prevent Daniel’s enemies from casting him into the lions’ den; He permitted evil angels and wicked men thus far to accomplish their purpose; but it was that He might make the deliverance of His servant more marked, and the defeat of the enemies of truth and righteousness more complete. “Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee” (Psalm 76:10), the psalmist has testified. Through the courage of this one man who chose to follow right rather than policy, Satan was to be defeated, and the name of God was to be exalted and honored” (PK 543-544).
18. Often the first step in compromise is to conceal our convictions because it is inconvenient or dangerous.The three Hebrews could have easily bent over to tie their sandals when the music started playing on the Plain of Dura to avoid being thrown into the fiery furnace, but they didn’t (Chapter 3). Daniel could have easily prayed only in private during the thirty days of the decree, but he didn’t (Chapter 6). “He did not try to conceal his act. Although he knew full well the consequences of his fidelity to God, his spirit faltered not. Before those who were plotting his ruin, he would not allow it even to appear that his connection with Heaven was severed” (PK 542).
19. Character is both formed and revealed in trials and suffering. “…in seasons of trial and gloom God’s children should be just what they were when their prospects were bright with hope and their surroundings all that they could desire. Daniel in the lions’ den was the same Daniel who stood before the king as chief among the ministers of state and as a prophet of the Most High. A man whose heart is stayed upon God will be the same in the hour of his greatest trial as he is in prosperity, when the light and favor of God and of man beam upon him. Faith reaches to the unseen, and grasps eternal realities.
“Heaven is very near those who suffer for righteousness’ sake. Christ identifies His interests with the interests of His faithful people; He suffers in the person of His saints, and whoever touches His chosen ones touches Him. The power that is near to deliver from physical harm or distress is also near to save from the greater evil, making it possible for the servant of God to maintain his integrity under all circumstances, and to triumph through divine grace” (PK 545).
20. “Death rather than disappointing God” is the attitude that God’s true people will adopt in the last days. “The season of distress before God’s people will call for a faith that will not falter. His children must make it manifest that He is the only object of their worship, and that no consideration, not even that of life itself, can induce them to make the least concession to false worship. To the loyal heart the commands of sinful, finite men will sink into insignificance beside the word of the eternal God. Truth will be obeyed though the result be imprisonment or exile or death” (PK 512-513).
“We’re pilgrims on the journey
Of the narrow road
And those who’ve gone before us line the way
Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary
Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace
Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize
But as those who’ve gone before us
Let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone
And our children sift through all we’ve left behind
May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover
Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful”
(Find Us Faithful, by Steve Green, accessed at http://www.lyricsdownload.com/steve-green-find-us-faithful-lyrics.html)
Blessings to you,