Three Lessons From the Book of Daniel
I've known the story of Daniel and the lion's den since I was a little girl. Even at that young age though, I was quite cynical - I mean, how is it even possible to be in a den full of hungry lions and survive? For a long time, to me, the Bible was just another book of fairy tales.
But, this time as I read through the book of Daniel, I truly studied it - without cynicism or pre-conceived notions. I read it with a heart full faith and desperate need to get to know my God better.
What I learned has encouraged my faith so much, so I'd like to share my personal notes with you.
You should have a heart for God's people
Even though Daniel rose up to high political positions of power and influence, at his core, Daniel was a prophet, a man of God. Upon seeing a vision of what the future holds for God's people - the corruption, deaths, wars, and unimaginable nightmares.
So Daniel went into mourning for three weeks. He fasted and prayed for insight from the Lord. One day, an angel appeared to Daniel.
"Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words." -Daniel 10:12
Have you ever prayed for something for weeks without an answer in sight? It can get incredibly frustrating, to the point where you just want to give up completely. But, read the truth in these words.
From the first day you set your heart to understand, and you humbled your heart before your God, your words were heard. You see, it's not just about praying, it's about the intent behind the words you say and the state of your heart as you say it.
Daniel made it his sole goal for three weeks to seek understanding about the visions he saw. He gave up "pleasant foods" and spent his days in prayer - not for himself, but for God's people.
So there are really two lessons here - how to pray and what to pray for. We need more of both of those things today in our generation: powerful prayer warriors whose hearts ache at the state of modern Christianity.
You are a child of God, and fire has no power over you
I love this passage from Isaiah 43. Three of Daniel's friends got to actually live out these words.
If you're not familiar with the story, Daniel and his friends were taken into a foreign land as prisoners of war. However, with time, they found favor in the King's eyes and were put into powerful political positions. One day though, they were instructed to bow down and worship a gold idol of the King. Daniel's three friends though, strong in their faith, knew of the commandment not to worship any other God except for our God.
At the sound of the horn, flute, harp and all kinds of music, thousands of people bowed down in unison towards a great gold idol - in the streets, public squares, and their homes - but these three young men stood straight. So, the King ordered the worst punishment he could think of: throw them into a burning fiery furnace. The fire was so hot that the men who opened the doors of the furnace died on impact.
"If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up." -Daniel 3:17-18
Can you imagine this kind of faith? Willing to go through fire for God without any expectation you'd survive? But, isn't that also every day for us on this earth?
All around us are temptations to serve other Gods. They're not always as clear as a gold sculpture. It's in the crude videos that go viral on our social media feeds, the need we have to please people and fit within society's expectations, keeping up with appearances and accumulating wealth, and dozens of other things that take up our time each day and a lot of space in our hearts and lives.
And you know, to give up any of these idols is a social death. To wear modest clothes people will call old-fashioned in a mocking voice, or to speak up that homosexuality is a sin in a world where everyone stands for equal rights - that is the equivalent of walking through fire today.
Do you have the faith and trust that it takes to walk through these fires? To give God the opportunity to glorify His name through your life?
Spoiler alert: those men survived the fire. In fact, God put an angel in that furnace with them, and they walked out of that fire: "the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them."
God truly has a plan for everyone and everything
Sometimes, it's incredibly hard to believe that God really has a plan for each life on this Earth - that some being out there is controlling the world like a puppeteer. But, you can't read the book of Daniel and still have this skepticism, because Daniel's life is a God-story.
Four young men, prisoners of war, taken into a foreign land and treated as nothing more than slaves. But, God had plans for them - plans that would glorify His name. The Lord gave Daniel wisdom to interpret the King's dreams when no other person in all the land could. As a result, Daniel and his friends (foreigners!) were put in prominent political positions in the King's administration.
Then came the lion's den. And the furnace. And more dreams interpreted. Because of the position these men were in, each event was played out for all world to see, until the King himself declared that there is no other God, than the God of Daniel.
"...but you are able, for the Spirit of the Holy God is in you." -Daniel 4:18
God has a plan for your life. There is purpose why you're in this city right now, why sometimes hard things happen in your life and why you stood by that one person at the grocery store. You were created for such a time as this.