Some time ago, I read about one of those crazy world records. This one was set by Trevor Krueger, a man from Johannesburg, South Africa. What record did he set? You may not believe this, but he spent 36 days in a South African snake pit filled with 24 poisonous snakes: 6 boomslangs, 6 puff adders, 6 black mambas, and 6 Egyptian cobras—all without being bitten even once. How did he do it? He said, “I practiced for ages to sleep motionless and to wake up in the same position.” In other words, by did by careful and painstaking preparation.
I think that provides a graphic illustration for us. Because as followers of Jesus Christ, we too are surrounded by venomous enemies who may not be visible to the eyes; nevertheless, they are very real—the leader of which is known as Satan, the old Serpent, who is also able to transform himself into a vicious lion who constantly prowls about seeking someone to devour. That means that we too need to be ever-vigilant, always ready to resist him firm in our faith.
In our case, the preparation that is needed is not physical, but spiritual. Paul explains in Ephesians 6:12-13, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
How do we do that? How do we prepare ourselves to win the victory when the evil day comes? That question is answered in tonight’s study. Our passage is Daniel chapter 6 where the prophet finds himself in a no-win situation surrounded by enemies both human, spiritual, and animal who are ready to pounce on him from every side. Will he be ready for it? Absolutely! Why? Because of a well-developed inner life that will give him great power and courage when the evil day comes! So let’s see what we can learn from him.
Here are four facts about a consistent inner life that give us power with God.
Fact #1: A Consistent Inner Life Produces Fruit for God.
Think back on Daniel’s life and you’ll realize how extraordinary he was! Taken hostage as a teenager and carried off to Babylon, he impressed his captors so much that he was immediately chosen for serving in the king’s court, which is where he continued to serve for the next 70 years—throughout the entire Babylonian captivity! In fact, other than the Lord Jesus Himself, there’s no one like him in the entire Word of God! Joseph is a close second because of his faith and the way God exalted him in the land of Egypt. But Daniel was a breed apart sought out by not one, but four consecutive world rulers for his wisdom and advice: Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius the Mede, and Cyrus the Great. And in at least two cases, he led them to personal faith in Jehovah the One True God of Israel who was and is and is to come. His secret? You can boil it down to one essential ingredient—his personal faith and fellowship with God.
You’ll remember that was the same thing the priests said of Peter and John, two simple fishermen, when they heard the power of their preaching. It says, “They were astonished and recognized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) The same can be true of us! What makes us stand out from the crowd is the fact that we’ve been with Jesus!
Remember the phrase that is used of Daniel several times in this book? Nebuchadnezzar, for example, said of him, “In him is the spirit of the holy gods,” because he was still an unbeliever at that point and didn’t know the one true God. But he knew there was something different about him. And we find something similar here in this chapter. Having appointed 120 deputies to govern the land of Persia, Darius now appoints Daniel and two other vice-presidents to oversee the deputies. And at age 80, Daniel immediately begins to distinguish himself again as someone who had “an extraordinary spirit,” so much so that verse 3 says, “The king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom.”
Why! Was this something Daniel just sort of stumbled into? No, it was the result of years and years developing his inner life by meeting with God, because if you sneak ahead to verse 10, you’ll see this was a habit he practiced day in and day out, every day of his life. He knelt three times a day, windows open and his face pointing towards Jerusalem where God’s Temple had stood, praying and giving thanks to God—which means all the success and all the influence he enjoyed was really just the by-product of something far more dynamic going on inside of him.
Jesus promised the same thing to us in John 15:4-5, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” Jesus said it’s the cultivation of our inner lives that produces fruit for God.
I love how Bridget Herman put it in her book on faith: “When we read the lives of the saints, we are struck by a certain large leisure that went hand in hand with a remarkable effectiveness. They were never hurried. They did comparatively few things and these not necessarily striking, and they troubled very little about their influence. Yet they always seemed to hit the mark; every bit of their life told; their simplest actions had a distinction, an exquisiteness suggesting the artist. The reason is not far to seek. Their sainthood lay in their habit of referring even the smallest actions to God. They lived in God. They acted from a pure motive of love for God. They were as free from self-regard as from slavery to the opinions of others. God saw and rewarded: what else did they need? They possessed God and themselves in God.”
Isn’t that a beautiful way of describing the Christian life? So let me ask you. Are you enjoying that? Do you set aside time every day to meet with God feeling so close to Him that you’re free from hurry, worry, and self-regard referring even the smallest issues to Him confident that He’s with you and leading you? You can if you trust Him enough to let other things go and spend time in His presence. But you say, “I’m so busy I don’t have time to pray!” Really! Daniel was second in command over the kingdom of Persia, but he made time to pray three times a day, and can any of us say we are busier than he was? Don’t rob yourself! The greatest treasure on earth is the companionship of Christ in whose presence,” Psalm 16 says, “is fullness of joy and at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Don’t rob yourself of that!
Someone wrote with regret: “I got up early one morning and rushed right into the day; I had so much to accomplish, I didn’t have time to pray. Troubles just tumbled about me, and heavier came each task. ‘Why doesn’t God help me,’ I wondered. He answered, ‘You didn’t ask. I wanted to see joy and beauty, but the day toiled on gray and bleak. I called on the Lord for the reason. He said, ‘You didn’t seek.’ I woke up early this morning, and paused before entering the day. I had so much to accomplish I had to take time to pray.”
Fact #1: A consistent inner life produces fruit for God and—
Fact #2: A Consistent Inner Life May Provoke Jealousy.
What was the reaction of his fellow commissioners when they learned of Daniel’s promotion? Envy and a conspiracy to kill him! Verse 4: “At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.” But they didn’t give up. Having found no fault in the man, they come up with a plot to trap him based on his love for God. Isn’t that a perfect foreshadowing of the way Jesus was falsely charged and put to death because of His love for the Father?
First, they come to Darius claiming, “All the commissioners agree.” (In other words, “everybody says.”). But that was a bold-faced lie, because who was the chief of the commissioners? Daniel, who was never consulted! Nevertheless, they say in verse 7, “May King Darius live forever! The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed. So King Darius put the decree in writing.”
Those are the two great failures of leaders, both then and now. He was charmed by the flattery of his flunkies and he initiated a new law without taking time to think through the complications. So Daniel is trapped. First, because there’s no way he’s going to stop worshiping his God. And the second reason the trap is so clever is because once the king signs it into law, it can never be reversed. That’s one of the ways the Persian kings were inferior to the Babylonian monarchs, and why Persia is symbolized by silver rather than by gold. Nebuchadnezzar’s word was law and he could change it whenever he wanted. But not Darius! Persian kings were under the law like everyone else, which means once a law was passed, it had to be obeyed by everyone and couldn’t be changed—not even by the king!
So Daniel’s fate is sealed. But that isn’t my main point here. My main point is how Daniel’s fellow-leaders reacted to his promotion. It became a source of jealousy and hatred. And we need to be ready for that too! Because if we love Jesus and do everything to the glory of God, we’re going to be promoted! But not everyone is going to be thrilled about that. Some people—friends, family, fellow-workers, even other Christians—may be jealous of our success and angry that they haven’t been blessed in the same way themselves, even though they haven’t been willing to pay the price we’ve paid.
You’ll remember the two sisters, Martha and Mary, had a conflict about this. Jesus came to their house for dinner one day, and Martha became angry because instead of helping her cook and clean, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to Him talk. So Martha complained to Him, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to get up and help me!” But it wasn’t Mary He corrected, was it? It was Martha. Remember what He said to her? “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about so many things. But only one thing is necessary, and Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” In other words, “Martha, you’ve gotta let some things go if you want to get to know Me, and that’s what Mary has done.” You see, so often those who are prayer-less accuse the prayerful of being weak and passive, when in the long run, they’re the ones who make the greatest impact of all.
Fact #3: A Consistent Inner Life Provides the Peace of God.
I came across a little poem some time ago that you may appreciate. Many of you travel to see children and grandchildren, and of course, before you leave, you try to make sure you’ve taken care of everything on your list. The poem is called “Vacation Haunts,” and it goes like this: “Did I leave the water running? Did I double-bolt the door? Did I with care and caution, do each crucial little chore? Did I water all the plant life? Did I spray the sink for ant life? Did I wash that dirty dish? Did I also feed the fish? Did I leave a light on burning, lest some burglar know I roam? And one final question with some yearning, ‘Why didn’t I stay at home!’”
Worry, fear, anxiety gnaw at us even at the best of times. Few of us, however, will ever face the dilemma Daniel faced. What would he do? He’s heard the law. He knows the penalty. Will he quit praying for 30 days and hope God understands or maybe change his routine and pray silently or in secret? No. He doesn’t change a thing. Because of the strong inner life he’s developed, the outer world had little effect on him. So he responds with great peace and calm. Verse 10: “When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees 3 times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.” He didn’t change a thing because he wasn’t worried. He threw open all the windows and knelt down to pray like he always had. For as Hebrews 13:6 says, “God is my Helper. I will not fear. What shall man to do me?”
Well, they actually tried to do a lot to him. Having caught him in prayer, they dragged him before the king, saying in verse 13, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed but makes his petition three times a day.” Imagine how he felt at that moment. Not only at the thought of being torn apart by lions (We’ve all read stories of fools who’ve stuck their arms in the lion’s cage and had them torn off, because as warm and cuddly as they may appear, lions are not domesticated creatures)—but think too of the hurt he must have felt, being ratted out by people he thought were friends but weren’t. Notice. They don’t call him one of the commissioners; they call him one of the exiles from Judah. That’s a racial slur. So how would you feel and what would you do? There’s no question he was hurt by this, but he didn’t flinch. He responded with perfect peace and calm.
In fact, as you read through the passage, it’s apparent that the one suffering the most anxiety is not Daniel, but Darius who searches all day long for a loophole in the law but with no success. So he seals Daniel in the lion’s den and stays up all night fasting and praying for Daniel to be saved, whereas Daniel—I think he simply curled up with those giant cats and went to sleep. The inner life he’d cultivated gave him the power to rest in God while the king tossed and turned on his bed.
So I ask you again. Do you have that kind of peace and inner stability? Just think of all the things that could rob you of sleep—an unwanted diagnosis, unexpected bills, a burgled house, a car accident—what do you do when these things come knocking? The answer is: Step back from it all and begin to work on your inner world again because that is where true peace is cultivated.
I’ll never forget the natural childbirth classes we took before our first daughter was born. Have you ever taken those classes? If so, you know that one of the things they tell you to do is to establish a focal point you can concentrate on and practice certain breathing methods that’ll take your mind off the pain when the labor begins. Did they work? You bet! Not so much for Cheryl but for me, as I tried not to cry out from the pain of having my hand crushed as she squeezed it. And Cheryl says it helped her too, but only a little, because the labor and delivery came so hard and fast that she had to go straight to blowing candles. None of the other methods helped at all.
Something similar is true of the spiritual crises we find ourselves in. It’s the spiritual disciplines we exercise in those quiet moments when no one else is watching—making God our focal point, inhaling His Word, and breathing out our prayers to Him—that give us strength for the trials ahead. That’s the promise of Philippians 4:6-7, isn’t it? “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
And one more fact before we finish! A consistent inner life produces spiritual fruit, it may provoke jealousy, it brings a sense of peace and calm, and—
Fact #4: A Consistent Inner Life Promises the Favor of God.
Because he had a habit of spending time in God’s presence every day, Daniel felt free and confident to ask for His deliverance. But if you haven’t been on speaking terms with God, and you only pray to Him when you find yourself in a jam, you aren’t going to be very sure of His presence or desire to help you. But Daniel was! Bound by the new law he’s signed, Darius seals Daniel in the lion’s den. But that isn’t the end of the story.
Leaving behind his royal dignity, the king runs to the cave at first light to see if Daniel is still alive calling out to him “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?” What does he hear in response? Daniel says, “May the king live forever! My God sent His angel and 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.” God’s Angel, I believe, is the same Person who saved Daniel’s friends in chapter 3 from the burning, fiery furnace—the One whom, Nebuchadnezzar said, has the appearance of “a son of the gods,” Jesus Christ, in His Pre-incarnate glory.
The king, on his part is overjoyed at the news, whereas the men who falsely accused Daniel (The Hebrew literally says, “They ate the pieces of Daniel.”), are thrown into the lion’s den along with their families and their bones are crushed before they ever reach the ground. But again, why was Daniel saved? Verse 23 makes it clear. It says, Daniel was “lifted out of the den, no wound was found on him because he had trusted in his God,” a trust that was cultivated in all those quiet hours he spent with God. In fact, I don’t think this was even a bump in the road for Daniel. It was just one more opportunity to spend a little quiet time with God. Daniel tamed lions the easy way. No whips. No chairs. Just simple childlike faith cultivated in his daily time of worship.
You see, there are two basic types of people in the world: those like Darius who only turn to God when they’re in a jam. They don’t pray, they don’t read their Bibles, and they rarely take time to worship. But when trouble comes, they want His help. Then there are people like Daniel who live in constant communion with God. Their greatest joy is to spend time in His presence.
So which of the two are you? Eric Liddell of Chariots of Fire fame, the Olympic sprinter who refused to compete on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, but still won a gold medal in a race that wasn’t his forte—he later became a missionary to China. Then World War II erupted in Asia and Liddell was confined to a prison camp. His biographer tells of the extraordinary leadership he showed there, the high esteem in which his fellow prisoners-of-war held him, and the peace and joy he exhibited even at the most difficult of times.
One of the women, who was confined in the same camp as he, revealed his secret. She said, “Once I asked him but I knew already, for my husband was in the same dormitory and shared the secret with him. Every morning at 6 am, with curtains tightly drawn to keep in the light of our peanut-oil lamp, lest the prowling sentries think someone was trying to escape, he would climb out of his top bunk, past his sleeping dorm-mates, and at a small Chinese table, the two men would sit together with just enough light to illumine their Bibles and silently read, pray, and discuss what they should do. Eric was a man of prayer who talked to God naturally all the time as one can who enters “the School of Prayer” to learn this way of inner discipline. He seemed to have no weighty mental problems. His life was grounded in God, in faith, and in trust.”
Isn’t that a beautiful description of the Christian life? I wish that could be said of me one day! So how do you get started with this, the most important habit in life? You’ll notice in your program this evening that I’ve given you a short breakdown of what I would do if I were starting out. First, like physical exercise, don’t get overly-zealous, trying to run 5 miles the first day. I’d start out with just 7 minutes in the morning and gradually add to that once a new habit is formed which usually takes about 40 days.
So how should you use your time? Here’s how I suggest that you use the 7 minutes: Spend the first half minute asking the Holy Spirit for His direction and protection from Satan’s distractions, He is the One who was sent into the world to make Christ real to us.
Then spend the next 4 minutes reading your Bible. I tell people to start with the Gospel of John because not only is that easy to read and highly entertaining; it’ll also give you a better understanding of who Jesus is, which is what our faith is all about.
Finally, spend the last 2 ½ minutes in prayer. You’ll notice I use the acrostic ACTS. Start by Adoring God for who He is, followed by a time of Confessing your sins to Him, to make sure nothing is keeping you from enjoying His presence. Psalm 66:18 warns, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Then Thank Him for all His blessings in your life. In fact, make a list of them, and you’ll be amazed at how it improves your attitude and prepares you for the day. Finally, Supplication—a big word which simply means to pray for others and their needs too, especially their need to know Jesus.
And don’t wait! Start tonight or tomorrow morning! Begin to rebuild your inner world, and you’ll soon find yourself with new strength and peace with which to handle the outer world, which is always in chaos. And you don’t want that to define you. You don’t want the chaos, and neither do I! You want to become God’s Friend, bearing fruit for Him and enjoying His peace, His power, and His presence. Amen!
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