479



Locations of visitors to this page
Courage: Refusing to Hide Our Convictions
02/17/2008
Scripture: Daniel 6
Track 7 of 11 in the Living Lives That Leave People Speechless series
Running time: 33 minutes, 37 seconds.


Click above to listen in this window.
Right-click to download MP3. With one-button mouse, control-click.

Be sure to scroll down to read the transcript.


Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.


"Courage: Refusing to Hide Our Convictions." Daniel Chapter 6 February 17, 2008

Dr. Madison Surratt was a math teacher at Vanderbilt University. Often voted most popular professor, he has a student center named after him. There is a teaching award that is given every year in his name to the most effective teacher. There is a plaque in the student center that records what is considered to be his most famous statement as a teacher. Apparently he came into one of his classes fairly early in his teaching career, and he made this comment as it's recorded.

"Today I'm giving two examinations. One in trigonometry and the other in honesty. I hope you will pass them both. But if you must fail one, fail trigonometry. There are many good people in the world who cannot pass trigonometry, but there are no good people in the world who cannot pass the examination of honesty."

Character matters. One of my favorite books, one of the most difficult books I've read in recent years was a book by Steven Carter called "Integrity". Carter is a law professor at Yale University. This is the first of a trilogy of his works. I found it to be among the most challenging books I've read in probably the last 15 years. In it he defines what it means to be a person of character and to live with integrity. He says there are three things that a person has to do in order to really be able to demonstrate that they are indeed a person of character.

The first thing is you have to discern the difference between right and wrong. That's a thought out kind of a thing, something you have to wrestle through it. And you have to make your choice what's right, what's wrong.

He says, the second thing you have to do, however, is to determine that you are going to live what's right no matter what. Even in the event of personal cost you will choose to do what's right.

But he said the third thing that really makes a man a person of integrity is that that person lives that out publicly and isn't afraid to say so. His rationale being that any of us can reason our way through to a decision and make a personal decision internally that we are going to actually try to live that out everyday, but until you make a public claim of it nobody can really hold you accountable to it so nobody will ever know whether you did or didn't live with integrity. It's another way of saying character matters.

I've been watching a video series by Andy Stanley called The Best Question Ever. He is raising a really fascinating question. Based on your past experiences, based on your current circumstances, based on your future hopes and dreams, is this a wise decision? What he is really getting at is, do you have the character to make wise choices under pressure? That's really what we are facing in our text today is the ability to be a wise person, to live in such a way that you demonstrate character and integrity in the public arena, even when it's going to cost you greatly. Do you have that kind of courage?

I want to read with you Daniel Chapter 6. We've not taken time to read each of these chapters, but this one, I think, is short enough that we can read it all, and I think clear enough that you can understand it, but you want to listen carefully for the marks of Daniel's integrity, his depth of character, his courage. We find ourself under the reign of Darius, sometimes known as Cyrus. Babylon has fallen to the Meades and the Persians, we know that for sure. "There have been a 120 satraps," according to Verse 1, "set up to rule throughout the kingdoms, three administrators over them, one of whom is Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to these three men so that the king might not suffer loss."

Now, listen to these phrases carefully. "Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the straps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 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." Now, there is a part of me that would like to make a snide remark about government, but

I'm going to avoid that right at the moment, other than to say, I don't think it would be that hard.

"They could find no corruption in him because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally, these men said, 'We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.'" Somehow the only way that they thought that they could find anything to charge him with would be if something about his Jewish faith contradicted something about the Meades and the Persians, because otherwise his character was flawless.

"So the administrators and the satraps went as a group to the king, and they said, O King Darius, live forever. The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisors, and governors have all agreed --" Don't you love that language? Everybody is doing it. Everybody says so. They think "'You should pass a decree and enforce the decrees that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next 30 days except to you, O King, shall be thrown into the lions' den. Now, O King, issue the decree, put it in writing so that it cannot be altered in accordance with the laws of the Meades and the Persians which cannot be repealed.' And so King Darius put the decree in writing."

"Now, when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows open toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed giving thanks to his God." Listen to this line. "Just as he had done before." Do you hear it? Not a single thing about his life changed just because there was now danger in the practice of it. He knew and he did it anyway. It's amazing.

"Well, the men went as a group and they found Daniel praying and asking God for help. They went to the king, and they spoke to him about the royal decree. 'Did you not publish a decree that during the next 30 days that anyone who prays to any God except you, O King, would be thrown into the lions' den?' The king said, 'The decree stands in accordance with the laws of the Meades and the Persians which cannot be repealed.' And then they said to the king, 'Daniel, who is one of those exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O King, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.'"

"When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed. He was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him. Then the men went as a group to the king and said, 'Remember, O King, that according to the law of the Meades and the Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.' And so the king gave the order. They brought Daniel and they threw him into the lions' den. The king said to Daniel, 'May your God whom you serve continually rescue you.'" Don't miss that phrase, by the way. That's a pretty powerful statement to make about a man. May the God you serve continually. He had left a mark even on the king by his faithful courage.

"A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles so that Daniel's situation might not be changed, and then the king returned to his palace and he spent the night without eating and without entertaining, being entertained. He couldn't sleep."

"At the first light of dawn the king got up and hurried to the lions' den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel 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?' Daniel answered, 'O King, live forever. My God sent his angel and he 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, O King.' The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him because he had trusted in his God." Do you hear that? You might want to underline that. Because he had trusted in his God.

"At the king's command the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions' den along with their wives and children, and before they reached the floor of the den the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones." That's the narrator's way of saying they really were hungry. Make no mistake about it. It wasn't that they just had a full tummy, that's why they didn't bother to eat Daniel.

"King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language throughout the land, 'May you prosper greatly. I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel, for he is the living God and he endures forever and his kingdom will not be destroyed. His dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves. He performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.' So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus, the Persian."

See, people notice when you faithfully stand for your beliefs. You leave people speechless when you have the courage to stand up for what you believe in. Your light is most visible in the midst of the darkness when you refuse to try to hide it. There are some things I think we can learn from this, at least observations about this text that I think would be really significant for us to think about as a congregation of people who have committed ourselves to be the church, to be the people of God, to stand literally on Christ alone.

And at least one of those observations coming out of this text would be this: We need indisputable character. That has to be the challenge that each of us accepts to live our lives like Daniel lived, his life anchored in the things of God so that our life is as blameless as possible. I find it absolutely fascinating -- I hope I'm not making more of this than is in the text, but I find it absolutely fascinating that Daniel spent the bulk of his life -- I mean, he was probably a teenaged kid of 15 or 16 when he went to Babylon, and yet three times every day he got on his knees facing Jerusalem. Jerusalem has been destroyed, the city is almost non-existent, the temple has been completely erased, there is nothing there, and yet he found his anchor in that place that had been identified as God's place.

I'm not asking you to face Jerusalem, but I am deeply convinced that the book of Hebrews talks about those people who are people of faith having their eyes fixed on a city that has not yet even been built, that in Hebrews Chapter 12 we follow a Christ who has blazed a trail into the future, which we don't even know exists for sure, because we can't know those things. But we have our hearts and our lives absolutely anchored in the one person that we know might have the future. We don't take our eyes off him no matter what, because we are convinced that no matter what this life brings Christ is solidly in control, and we build our character around that. We develop our lives to match up to his as best we can. We learn everything about him so that our character is as Christ-like as our character can possibly become.

Because what happens in the life of a christian is that our life begins to change as we begin to become that person in whom it cannot be discovered negligence or corruption. Now, I'm not asking you to be perfect. That's not what the bible means. The bible means blameless. It means that if somebody were to accuse you of wrong everybody's first response would be, oh, no, that can't be true. That couldn't happen, because this person has established themselves as a real disciple of Jesus.

It was just about a year ago, yeah, just pert near to a year ago that Coach Dungy and the Indianapolis Colts won the Super Bowl. It wasn't long after that kind of public arena where the first two African American coaches, who also happen to be the first two at least known christian coaches to coach in the Super Bowl, both make very public statements about their faith and their confidence in God. It wasn't long after that that Dungy was awarded by the Indiana folks an award for family and promoting family, and in the context of receiving the award he was accused of being anti-gay.

I've read enough of the reports that I found it utterly fascinating. Because, as a general rule, you get yourself in hot water like that, chances are you're going to be cut loose in a heartbeat. You stick your foot in your mouth, your problem. You ought to read some of the reports coming up of the main office of the Indianapolis Colts. They sound a lot like this. We trust Coach Dungy. Now, they will also say, he doesn't represent necessarily the policies of the organization, but there was not a single attempt on their part to say anything against him. We trust him. He spoke what he felt, and we believe that he has practiced that with integrity.

Do you hear that? That's blameless, that's character, and that's the kind of indisputable character that Christ is calling for us in the work place, in the school, in the family, out here where we live, with our neighbors. We want to be the kind of people about whom people would say we would look and we would try to find it, but we couldn't find any corruption and we couldn't find any negligence. The only way we'd ever find anything against that person is, well, the fact that their religion rubbed up against us the wrong way. In that they could probably find.

That observation alone, I think, makes this chapter so absolutely incredible that that kind of fidelity to God produces in us the kind of work habits that everybody ought to want. It ought to produce in us the kind of character and consistency of life that would make people sit up and say, man, if being a christian means that's what you're going to become like, I want it.

Here is a second observation in this text, not unrelated. Not only do you need indisputable character, but you need uncompromising courage. See, if we're going to be those people of character, you can guarantee that we are going to have to have the courage to live it out. Here is Daniel. I'm in trouble, man. I know the rules. You can't repeal the laws of the Meades and the Persians. You can't pray to anybody except Darius. I think I'll go home and pray. Oh, by the way, I think I'll just go ahead and open my windows. I don't think he is flaunting anything. That was his habit. That's what Verse 10 says. He went and did what he had always done. He faced Jerusalem through the open window, and he prayed because he had made that decision. He wasn't trying to be insensitive. He was just being himself.

I remember distinctly the first time I ever saw it happen. I was a brand new christian, and we were riding motorcycles up in the mountains. Lowman, Idaho, I went there about three years ago just to see if the restaurant was still there. It's since shut down. I guess they just couldn't live without our business. We'd stopped about noon at this little hole in the wall in this little wide spot in the road. My preacher who was about 6 foot 8 and pounds, my best friend, and I and we went in and we ordered hamburgers. And I remember sitting at the counter, and I was getting ready to take a bite out of what looked like a pretty good lunch, and I looked down the counter and here was this great big bulk preacher. My first response was he got sick riding. Then I realized that he was praying. I made a decision that day that that was a good thing, and that if he could do it, so could I.

So a couple of years later, I'm in college. I'm working to try to pay my way through school. I'm out to lunch with my boss, alone, in a little restaurant, and the table is about as big as those little tables along the wall at Panera, you know. I mean, you're going to bump into somebody if you bend over. And they brought our food. I bowed to pray, and my boss said, you sick? You all right? And I didn't know what to say. I was (long pause) praying. It was the first time anybody ever challenged that. Praying in public is just not a big deal, I mean, unless you live like in North Africa, but it was a test at that moment in my life about just how seriously I was going to take this thing of being unbending and being courageous.

Some of my kids went to school with the preacher's kids in Lincoln. Eric Gerds was just a great young man, just a good kid. This ought never to happen to a good kid. The problem is it only happens to good kids. Eric was just a normal everyday junior high 13-year old kid trying to live with the pressure of being the preacher's kid. I mean, that comes with enough pressure all by itself, and the junior high guys decided that they were going to force Eric to swear. It's not a big deal. You know, it's not like they were asking him to do drugs or go commit murder. They just wanted to get him to swear. Everyday my kids would come home and tell me how hard it was to endure watching these other kids just try to put him in positions where he would swear. And you know what happened? The harder they pushed, the tougher he got, and it's like, you can't make me do this.

You got that kind of unbending courage over the things that really matter? Not a swear word, but, I mean, the real courage that it takes to live out your faith everyday with unbending relentless courage that says, I will stand for Christ I don't care what it costs me. Remember the event? You can't forget it, can you? April the 20th, 1999. Among the most horrific days on American soil when two guys walk into Columbine High School and they ask a girl named Cassie Bernall, "Do you believe in Jesus?" And she said, "Yes." And that was the last thing she ever said.

And I just want to know, are we raising up people with that kind of courage, unbending, unrelenting courage, to just stand for what you believe, no matter what, when it could cost you everything? Do you have what it takes? Can you stand up and just be a christian under those kinds of circumstances, because that's really what it is?

And our culture does not make it easy. I have this sneaking suspicion, it's just a suspicion, but I have the feeling that it's a great deal harder for these two sitting over here and this one sitting back here than it is for you. Because nobody is bugging you in the castings department about are you going to be honest or not. You are either honest or not. You have made up your mind. But these teenagers in our school systems are under such incredible pressure to make bad decisions, and I just wonder if we've given the kind of honor to our kids or have we just continued to dump pressure on them, go to school and be faithful, and we swat them out of door.

Are we demonstrating as adults what they need to be learning? Because I guarantee you if you as a parent are not living a faithful life at home demonstrating this kind of unrelenting courage, you have no right to ask your kids to do that. They cannot live out your faith or your failure of faith and hope you will feel better as a result. So we've got to model it as husbands and wives, as business people. We have to model this kind of courage if we expect our kids to be able to make it in a world that is hard and harsh.

So what would it take -- what would it take to bend you? Something simple? The IRS comes along and says you can no longer take your charitable giving off your taxes, what would that do to your offering next week? The government said you can't meet as a church anymore, would you find a place? Would you find a way to worship?

We had a video I wanted to play for you this morning of David Ehrhardt. Many of you know David. David is one of the kids who grew up in our church. David went off to Bradley University. He has established himself with an incredible reputation. He is an unrelenting disciple of Jesus, and everybody knows it. I wish you could just hear it out of his own mouth. It's just the recording came out bad and it just didn't work well. So here is a guy who is a dorm dad on a college campus where kids know he is a disciple of Jesus, and it's not in your face. He is not putting anybody down. He is just living it out as faithfully as he knows how. They ask him why he does what he does and why he doesn't do what he doesn't do, and he just says, it's because I'm a christian. I don't need to do that. He is their designated driver. They know that he will come get them. He is just trying to live his faith. And when people challenge him with questions, he just tries to answer honestly from the heart and then demonstrate in his life that it's consistently the way that he lives. Man, you can't ask for that any more than that. I mean, that's got to be it, isn't it? That we stand up for what we believe and we trust God that he will get us through it, no matter what.

There is at least one other observation in this text, and that is that you ought to experience some unexpected results. Not only do we need this indisputable character and we need this uncompromising courage, we might as well just come to expect the fact that we are going to get some results that, man, they are not always what we want. Daniel should have been appreciated, you know. I mean, here was a man of absolute character. You could trust him. There was no corruption in him. There was no negligence in him. He was a good leader. And yet what happens? They put him in a lions' den. You think when you are doing all the right things things would go right. Not in our world, because they don't need that kind of competition. They don't want that kind of comparison to have to deal with. I don't know why we would be surprised. If you think about your bible, you're going to remember that anybody that tried to stand up and be right was always in trouble. I mean, just think about Cain and Abel for a minute. Think about Joseph and his brothers. Think about Jesus. Just because you do what's right doesn't mean that everybody is going to like it. And if I were you, I wouldn't be surprised by that. Because the enemy, the enemy, the bible tells us, is the father of deception, the father of murder. He is the father of chaos and destruction. And anytime we try to be what God calls us to be, we might as well just get used to the fact that there is going to be trouble.

But the other thing that happens in this text which is so exciting is Darius' response. Here is this pagan Persian king who says, and I repeat for you the text, "Everyone in every part of my kingdom must fear and reference the God of Daniel, for he is the living God and he endures forever. His kingdom will not be destroyed. His dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves. He performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He rescued Daniel from the power of the lions."

You see, when people of courage stand up unbending and let the light of Christ come through their life, even though bad things may come to them, Christ will be honored in unexpected places. This text is a clear call to live your life with absolute courage and unbending conviction in the belief that that will arrest people's attention and cause people to sit up and take notice. It does not mean that life will always be easy for you. It does not mean that like Daniel you'll become second ruler in the kingdom. It doesn't even mean that you'll be released from the lions' den. What it does mean is that God will be honored. And that for a disciple is enough because that's what we want ultimately is for God to be honored.

Now, that's only going to happen -- honestly and truly that is only going to happen when you allow God to have control of your life, and that's not a simple thing. It's an everyday get on your knees before God no matter what. It's an everyday, God, take my life, let it be whatever it needs to be for you. That's the conviction. And we are inviting you to that kind of courage today, to just stand up and be counted and let God take care of the rest. Don't hide your light at all, ever.