“DANIEL: A Life of Integrity”
Read Daniel 1:1-7
This morning we’re continuing our conversation about the quality of a person that everyone admires, aspires to have, and yet is allusive to manyàINTEGRITY. Our working definition comes from C.S. Lewis, who said , “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” As a reminder, I’m using the inspirational thoughts of Pastor Steve Yates to help guide the trajectory of our conversation. However, our main inspiration will be God’s Word, and specifically the characters found in the prophetic book, Daniel.
Last week we looked at a few characteristics of the man, Daniel, as we explored his time up close and personal in a den of lions! For more details I invite you to read the message from our website, byhaliaumc.org. But here are last week’s truths about living with integrity:
- Living with integrity brings success and opportunity. Daniel 6:3 says, Daniel soon proved himself more capable than all the other administrators and high officers. Because of Daniel’s great ability, the king made plans to place him over the entire empire.
- People are watching the way we live. Look at 6:4à Then the other administrators and high officers began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling government affairs, but they couldn’t find anything to criticize or condemn. He was faithful, always responsible, and completely trustworthy. Others are watching, even if it’s to trip you up…to catch you compromising your integrity.
- Genuine integrity is rooted in a profound trust in God. God’s Word says that not a scratch was found on Daniel from his time in the lion’s den, for he had TRUSTED IN HIS GOD. A profound trust in God…in the promises of God…in the truth of God’s Word…guides us to being men and women of integrity and honesty.
Today, let’s consider more truths and benefits of walking in integrity. To do that, let’s go back to chapter one and look at our heroes of integrity as they got their start in King Nebuchadnezzar’s service. We touched on this last week, but we can see some more nuggets of truth about integrity.
It was the yar 587 B.C. and Nebuchadnezzar was handed the kingdom of Judah on a silver platter by none other than Yahweh! God handed Judah’s king, Jehoiakim, over to Nebuchadnezzar, along with articles of gold from the Temple of the Lord, which were put into the temple of Nebuchadnezzar’s god, Marduk.
This was all prophesied by Isaiah to King Hezekiah some 130 years before the exile. Listen to Isaiah 39:6à Behold, the days come, that all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, said the LORD.
They also took captive many of Judah’s inhabitants and assimilated them into the Babylonian kingdom. But certain young men with a high aptitude for learning…those good-looking, healthy young men were brought into the king’s service at his palace.
This leads to the first truth I want us to see : Sometimes those with integrity suffer alongside those who lack it. From our reading we can infer that these guys, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, were devout men of Jewish faith. They knew the Hebrew Scriptures and the God of the Scriptures. They didn’t just START being follower of Yahweh when they found themselves in a tight spot! No, their lives were already exemplary. Sadly, however, the collective sins of their people, the Jews, resulted in divine retribution for ALL.
Church, I believe that our nation—as prosperous as we are, and as bright a future that politicians and analysts predict our nation to have—is under the emanant judgment of God. I believe the Church will suffer along with everyone else. Maybe it will be a cyberattack that cripples our economy. Maybe it will be a rogue nation that somehow gets the best of us. Maybe it will be our own government whom we foolishly elect over time that slowly erodes the remaining moral fiber of our great land and we implode. I have no idea how…I just believe it is inevitable.
Let’s imagine for a moment that the Great Fall of America were to happen in 2020. In the process, those in power offered you and your family a comfortable life…provided you violated a few of your Christian values. Let’s say they required you to work at Planned Parenthood, or to work for broadcasting company that offered programming promoting sexual deviancy or distorted views on human sexuality. You could still go to church and all that…you just had to do this one thing. Would you compromise your religious convictions to avoid a hard life in order to gain a more comfortable, pleasant one?
This is the scenario our heroes find themselves in. Nebuchadnezzar told his chief of staff to make sure the dream team ate from the king’s table, which no doubt means eating food considered unclean by God’s holiness code. Living a life of integrity does not insure a comfortable life.
Here’s a second observation : People of integrity don’t have to be bitter or angry when faced with adversity. Daniel and the boys don’t throw a pity party for being taken captive. They don’t shake their fists at God or rebel against their captors. They understood, no doubt, that this was God’s doing…that the southern kingdom of Judah was rightly being punished for their sins. And, if they knew the whole of prophecy found in Isaiah and other places of the Torah—and there’s no reason to think they didn’t—they would know that God will restore his chosen people to their place in the land of Israel.
People of integrity, because we know and trust God and his Word, do not get angry with God. Instead, it is more profitable to ask, “God, what do you want to show us about your nature and purpose through this situation? What part of my character do you need to form more into your image because of what we’re going through?”
We are not privileged to hear the prayers of Daniel and his companions; but if we could, I would like to think that they prayed in this way. I wonder, how often does our character match such prayers? Or, do we cry out in anger or fear whenever trouble comes? As Blackaby says, when facing a crisis of belief, what we DO says more about what we believe about God than what we say.
Let’s look back at the story, picking up with verse 8à 8But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, 10but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”
11Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12“Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
Here’s today’s third principal of people with integrity. Not only do those with high moral character sometimes suffer alongside those who lack it; and not only do people of integrity put things into God’s perspective and don’t whine about their situation; but people of integrity show humility and grace in difficult times.
Defying the king’s order could potentially mean severe punishment at the least—at worse, death. Daniel and the gang could have been executed for rebelling against the kings wishes. They could have been flogged and placed in a very dark hole for the next 70 years. It took courage to ask the chief official for this favor NOT to eat the king’s meat. Daniel was “resolved” not to defile himself. Obeying God’s Word and God’s ways was more important than obeying a temporal king.
But Daniel challenged the order with such grace and class. He wasn’t a jerk about it. How I need to learn this lesson! I’ve been so frustrated with the powers that be in our denomination that I have come across like a real jerk! That doesn’t represent the Gospel very well, does it?
On the other hand, defying the word of God does so even less! I suppose I’d rather be a righteous jerk than a pleasant heretic! Even still, Daniel shows us that we can demonstrate character with class.
Here’s an interesting statement nestled in this story: Now God had granted Daniel favor and compassion from the chief official. Which came first, God’s favor or Daniel’s resolve to trust God by not eating from the king’s table? What if it’s a both-and situation? God’s favor is upon those who trust in Him. But people also trust in God BECAUSE He has already proven His love for us! And this is true of the entire human race: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” We can ALL trust God and His Word. And because we trust in Him, we will see God pouring out more favor upon His children.
Back to the story. Daniel humbly asks the official for permission not to defile himself by eating the king’s meat and for he and his three amigos to only have vegetables and water. The official, fearing what the king might do to him if he finds out that his orders were not followed, questions Daniel. So Daniel offers him a reasonable proposal: “Give us 10 days to prove this plan will work. If, after 10 days of vegetables and water we look worse than the others, then do what you want with us.”
Here’s the rest of the story: 15At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king. 16So after that, the attendant fed them only vegetables instead of the food and wine provided for the others.
Again, God was with them! Let me offer this morning’s fourth and final observation of people with integrity : People with integrity tend to excel at what they attempt to do. Look at the very next verse: “To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding in every kind of literature and wisdom. And Daniel had insight into all kinds of visions and dreams.”
People of integrity don’t take shortcuts…they don’t compromise or settle. The best athletes put in the hard work to excel at their sport. The late Kobe Bryant didn’t become the 4th leading scoring basketball player of all time without shooting hundreds of thousands of practice shots from the free throw line of three-point-line. John Wesley did not become one of Christianity’s most influential champions without having the integrity of disciplined learning of God’s Word and a whole-hearted commitment to love and serve Christ. And God blessed the work of Wesley.
Would God have blessed those four young Jewish men had they not showed uncompromising loyalty to God? Possibly, but not likely. It was BECAUSE they were men of integrity that God was able to use them. And as God empowered them with understanding and wisdom, they deployed those gifts, which in turn blessed them all the more.
We can’t out give God. If God has blessed you with a capacity to learn and apply that knowledge, should you not offer that gift back to God? THAT’S integrity! If God has given you the ability to work with children, should you not offer that gift back to God? Others will be blessed and I believe God will bless you even more! If God has given you the ability to sing, or play and instrument, should you not offer that gift back to God for His glory? That’s integrity! And when we do, I believe that God will give you even more.
Has God given you a source of income and provided for your needs? Then why not dedicate what you have for His glory to His service? That’s integrity. As you do, God can use your gifts to bless others and expand the kingdom, while continuing to pour out His favor upon you. We can’t out give God!
[PRAYZNMOR] Next week we will look at another instance with our heroes from Daniel and see how integrity and prayer go hand-in-hand. Let’s recap the four observations of integrity we see from the story from Daniel 1:
- Sometimes those with integrity suffer alongside those who lack it.
- People of integrity don’t have to be bitter or angry when faced with adversity.
- People of integrity show humility and grace even in difficult times.
- People with integrity tend to excel at what they attempt to do, because God continues to bless us as we offer our gifts back to Him.
Listen, living the Christ-centered life with integrity is not for sissies! It’s not for double-minded, half-hearted, bitter, prideful, whiners. Jesus deserves much more from us, doesn’t He? Our Lord should expect His Church to be a people of integrity who suffers with others, who face adversity with honesty AND hope, who give our best for God’s glory no matter what. Are you willing to be that kind of Church? Because God is more than able to empower us to be that kind of Church. AMEN.