Courage Rewarded – by Chuck Obremski

Daniel 1:8-16
Notes taken from Chuck Obremski’s sermon FG1199 Courage Rewarded – Daniel 1:8-16

It’s easy in our world to become cynical and think that everyone is the same…case in point.

Two pilots are on an international 16 hour flight…and a conversation ensued. The captain was Jewish and the first officer was Chinese. There was silence and tension in the cockpit. After about 30 minutes the captain spoke and said, “You know, I don’t like Chinese.” The first officer replies, “Why is that?” The captain said “Well you bombed Pearl Harbor.” The first officer responded “No, no that was Japanese that bombed Pearl Harbor. I’m Chinese.” The captain responded, “Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese…you’re all the same to me.”

About 30 minutes of silence ensued until the first officer said, “You know, I don’t like Jews.” The captain said, “Why is that?” The first officer said, “Because Jew sunk the Titanic.” The captain responded, “What are you talking about…it was an ice berg that sunk the Titanic…not Jews.” The first officer says, “Ice bergs, Goldberg, Rosenberg…you’re all the same to me.”

In the last lesson we met four men of courage…who refused to go with the flow or go the easy road. Their lives were an act of courage. Not all men are the same, some are different, some stand out from among the crowd.

The question is…are we a Daniel in of standing out and being courageous in a crowd and culture that is opposed to the things of God?

1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia [a] and put in the treasure house of his god.
3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility- 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. [
b] 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.
6 Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.
8 But 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. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your [
c] 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.”
11 Daniel 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. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.
18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.
21 And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.

Three things to help us better understand not only Daniel and his friends, but also this rare character trait of courage…that seems to be lacking in our culture today.

Nebuchadnezzar had been passing through Jerusalem and he remembered the stories about Jerusalem and its great wealth. It’s important to remember though…that God gave the nation of Israel over to Nebuchadnezzar. The nation had been disobedient before God. God had warned them repeatedly through the prophets that they must repent from their sins and turn from it. The prophets warned that if they would repent then God would step in a discipline them.

As a father lovingly discipline his children…God disciplines us. God will use people around us to enact his judgment. As God’s people…as we get out of hand…or go in a wrong direction…he warns us about the sin in our life. He tells us “you’d better repent, or else I’m going to have to step in and discipline you”. Often times, God uses people around us to enact his judgment.

Nebuchadnezzar didn’t realize it…but he was a vehicle of God’s discipline to God’s own people. Daniel and his friends were taken into captivity. Ashpenaz was told to take the royal family back to Babylon into captivity. His instructions were to bring back youths in whom there was no defect and that were good looking, intelligent, endowed with understanding. Discerning knowledge and had an ability to serve in the king’s court.

The game plan when they were brought back to Babylon was to brainwash them…to change them. First be changed mentally…be taught the language and literature of the Chaldeans. It all starts with our mind. Learn a new language; learn a new way of thinking. Forget everything they had learned up to that point…it’s time to start fresh and forget it.

We see that today at work or school…that we are to start thinking in the new way. Everyone thinks theirs is the best way.

Also changed their social circle. They put them together with other people who were just like them. Chosen men that had been taken captive. Spend time with people who are just like you…spend time with those in the elite category. Change your social circle, remove some of the friends that you had. You’ll now have new friends. Changed their environment.

This brain washing technique is very similar to things today. First we want to change the way people think and then we change their environment. We’ve got the whole package…as long as we change the way they think. Religious beliefs are going to be changed. This is indicative of their name changes. The names they had assigned all had religious significance. They were in essence saying we are going to dilute you of everything you learned, change your social circle and the friends you are with. We are going to give you everything…physically, materially, and change what you believe. Your allegiance to your God and your love for your God will have to put aside or left behind in Jerusalem…if you are going to be successful in your new environment.

They faced a subtle temptation. Not persecuted or treated harshly…on the contrary. These prisoners were being cut in on a piece of the action. Cut in…made part of everything that was going on, to enjoy the best that this world has to offer. Offered a top notch education, the best food, the best wine, the best clothing, the best shelter.

They were appointed a daily ration from the king’s best food. Eating the same food as was prepared for the king. Not too rough. Subtle what’s going on here. At the end of the three years…they were then guaranteed job placement. A great package. The only thing they had to do was to make a few compromises along the way.

Very subtle…all you have to do is make a couple of corrections in the way you think, in the way you conduct yourself…and what in you believe…and all of this is yours. Go with the flow…don’t make any waves and you do what you are told to do…all of this could be yours. The sky is the limit on what we can do for you. All they had to do…was set aside whatever they knew to be right and their belief and love of their God. So how did these young men respond to such temptation and pressure to conform?

The convictions of Daniel and his friends. (vs. 6 – 18). The key phrase in this passage is Vs. 8…Daniel resolved to not defile himself. But Daniel purposed…made up his mind. These men were being offered the world…which seemed like a small price or compromise. I can have all of this the food, education, shelter, clothing, exclusive country club membership, guaranteed job placement…I can have it all of that and all I’ve got to do is compromise in this one little area.

That doesn’t seem like much to pay. After all…God would understand. He knows the predicament that we are in. He knows we’re in prison and have no options here. But what is remarkable here is that Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not cave in.

Think about it as a teenager how vulnerable must he have been. Think of the strength and courage of this young man. Today we have laws to protect vulnerable children. Daniel was a healthy, hungry teenager away from the protective environment…and exposed to all that the world had to offer. What about those kids today…away from home at college or starting a new job for the first time.

Would it be feast or faith? Daniel was 800 miles from home…and being offered the world on a silver platter. Would it be feast of faith? That was his choice.

When you left the protective environment of home for the first time…was it feast of faith? What did you choose, what have you chosen…what are you choosing daily? Daniel chose faith.

Things of courage that stand out.

Daniel’s courage decision was made in his heart. Purposed in his heart…he made up his mind. Daniel knew where to draw the line, he knew where to hunker down, hold fast, stand firm. He knew that if I take this little step across this line…then there is no stopping where it’s going to end up. He knew where to draw the line. Drew a line in the sand…and said…I won’t be bought. I’m going to do what’s right…I’m determined to do what’s right. Even though I’m far away from home…even thought the people whom I grew up with aren’t around anymore…and that doesn’t make a difference. I know what’s right and I know what’s wrong…and I’m going to do what’s right. This is the birthplace of courage…in our heart and mind. It starts with our thoughts and heart.

That’s why the brain washing technique started with what they thought. They wanted to change their mind about what is right or wrong.

1 Samuel 16:7
1 Kings 3:9
1 King 11:1-4

God warned Solomon. It happened…because his heart was no wholly devoted to God. There was that area in his life that he compromised.

King David prayed this…in Psalm 51:10 – Create me a clean heart.

Clean me up…take my heart and scrub it. Take my mind and scrub it. Get rid of all the thoughts that I have that are wrong before you. Get rid of everything that I entertain in my mind that isn’t pleasing to you…in any way, shape or form. Create in me a clean heart, oh God.

God knows we’re a mess. He knows we struggle with our thought life.

The Bible tells us we are to treasure God’s word in our heart…so that we don’t sin against God. That the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword. Able to judge the thought and intentions of our hearts.

Track 17 – Why is the heart so important? Mark 7:14 –

That which proceeds out of the man…that is what defiles the man.

Jesus was warning them and us that our thought life always leads to action. Our actions always begin with our thoughts. Don’t you understand that when you sit around and think evil thoughts…that ultimately you’ll do evil deeds. You sit around thinking about fornication…that you want to have sex with your girlfriend or boyfriend outside of marriage. That’s all you’re thinking about…the more you think about it, the more you want to do it. The more you want to do it…all you’re lacking is an opportunity. And the more you think about it…then one day you will do it. It all starts in the mind with our thought life.

Don’t you see the same about slander. You start to think evil about someone. You start thinking about what you want to say about someone…and who you want to say it to. You can’t believe that this has happened or that has happened…and you can’t wait to find this person or that person…and then you’ll share it with them. It all starts in our mind and heart. What we’re lacking is an opportunity to share it with someone…that will listen to us…that will give us an ear.

Thefts…hey I want that. Coveting…we think in our mind…I want what they have. People devise plans elaborate schemes. It takes a lot time and effort and energy to rob a bank.

We have some of the most brilliant people in our country that go into fighting crime…and a lot of thinking going into committing crime. Sometimes… a lot thought that goes into it. Coveting, deceit, and sensuality, pleasing yourself in a sensual way…pleasing yourself, envy, slander, and pride.

Remember what Jesus said about adultery. If you lust for a woman in your heart…you’ve already committed adultery with her. Why? The more you think about committing an act of adultery…all you are lacking is the opportunity to do it.

The point Jesus wants us to understand that in pride and foolishness. Pride…we sit around and think that we are always right and never wrong. No matter what the evidence is…no matter what it is to the contrary…we sit around and we think, justify and rationalize our own positions in life. Jesus said that don’t you realize all your actions proceed from your thoughts. That’s why it critical…it is imperative that we take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. 2 Cor 10:5

Daniel was a living, breathing walking example of this…as were his friends. These were men that took every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

Daniel’s decision was made in his own heart…in his own mind…he was wholly devoted to God. The first time compromise was offered…he already understood what is. He saw the package. He realized how dangerous it was. But Daniel made up his mind not to defile himself.

It wasn’t any longer the conviction of his parents…or his friends…or the environment that he grew up in that was so comfortable. It was time that he grew up.

As parents…we are told to train up our children in the way they should go. They should go God’s way. Love God with all their heart, mind and soul. Love their neighbor as themselves. Dedicated wholly to God…parents need to train up their children in the way they should go. Teach them, train them, discipline them when they step out of bounds and do what is wrong before God.

Children are then responsible and accountable to God for their own actions. A point in every child’s life where they must own their own convictions. That happens only after those convictions are tested.

Most parents…don’t want their kids to forge out their own faith. A scary thing…we want to protect them from themselves. There comes a point where we have to trust them…that we’ve done what’s right before them. There comes a point where we have to trust God that God wants them to grow in their love for the Lord…even more than we do. There comes a point where we have to let go…and let God take over. Hardest thing to do.

Daniel’s parents didn’t have to struggle with it…because he was taken from him. All they could do is pray and trust God that he would do the right thing in his new environment. Daniel passed the test. He was allowed to forge out his own convictions. He was allowed to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling. He was able to draw the line and be courageous.

That is more of a statement about the trustworthiness of God than Daniel parents. God says that if you train up a child in the way he shall go, when he is old he will not depart from it.

A testimony to the faithfulness of God. Did Daniel’s parents always do the right thing? They made their mistakes. They did their best…tried their hardest. Help him to see that they loved the Lord…and that he wanted the best for him. But they made mistakes. We can trust God in this whole process.

Daniel was courageous…his courage was based on his obedience. Obedience to the word of God. His determination was based on the word of God. Not on his mom and dad or other’s rules. He discerned the plot behind all this and that is what gave him determination.

But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself…referring to God’s dietary restrictions. As Daniel grew in his home…he had been trained in the way he should go. Be obedient to God. This specific area of his life was the dietary restrictions. For the Jewish nation…great detail on what they could and could not eat…or drink. He couldn’t drink wine…or eat certain foods. Against God’s law. Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice foods or wines he drank.

There were certain things that Daniel knew he was not allowed to eat. He knew God’s law. He treasured them in his heart so he would not sin against God.

Some of us would say well maybe that’s not part of the dietary restrictions…let’s go through Leviticus 11 and see if we can find an out.

There was greater issue in Exodus 34. That if something was offered to a false God…then they were not permitted to eat it at all…it became unclean.

Think about Daniel’s position…he was offered the same food that the king was eating. He know it’s against the dietary restrictions of God’s law. He’s got a clear understanding that if it was food given to the king…it had been given as a sacrifice offered to the false god of this particular nation…so that they would be blessed. He knew there was no way he could eat the food or drink the wine. Now he’s got a problem.

But some of us are always looking for an out. But wait…maybe it wasn’t offered to an idol or false god. When in doubt…don’t! If you are not sure of something that is pleasing before God…then don’t do it. Dig into the word of God, study it…get godly counsel, pray about it. If you are still in doubt…don’t do it.

James 4:17

Daniel’s life was all about this…when he was in doubt…he didn’t do it. There was genuine cause to doubt here. His determination was based on the word of God. If all that we have to offer our children are our rules and regulations…that’s not going to get them through the next step. Because half the time they are going to think our rules and regulations are nonsense. Once out of that umbrella that we give them…they think…we don’t have to do it anymore.

What’s wrong with drinking, what wrong with drugs, what’s wrong with protected sex outside of marriage, what’s wrong with debt or materialism, or my friends? What’s wrong with homosexuality…I see it all around. What’s wrong with abortion, lying, cheating, and stealing? After all everything is now situational ethics. As long as something good comes out of it…it doesn’t matter how we get there, or what road we take. If there is not a clear understanding of God’s position on these subjects and areas of life…there will be a lot of pressure to conform and be politically correct.

Example…of Reggie White and his statements that homosexuality was sinful. He took a stand…a godly man…a visible spokesman…and the media distorted what he said. Tried to make him look like an idiot.

In the 20/20 interview…they gave him the opportunity to retract his statements…because there was a job at the end of it. Tone it down….and we’ll give you a job. But he knew the word of God.

He knew that homosexuality is no greater than any other sin. God ranks it with lying, cheating, stealing, murder, coveting, jealousy, envy, strife. It’s just another sin. No big sins or little sins with God…it’s all sin. As far as God goes…all sin is an abomination before God.

But we try to dice it all up and segregate it and say that fornication…sex outside of marriage…is not that bad as long as you love one another. We are trying to find ways to embrace that which God clearly says in his word are wrong. We will be under the same pressure that Daniel was under.

It’s not very politically correct or loving to say that something someone is doing is sinful before God. His point was this…is it more loving than to tell someone that what they are doing is sinful before God and face the certainty of judgment before God, or to step up and be heard in our culture that all of us need to repent before God because judgment is coming one day. What’s a more loving thing to do.

Analogy…your friend is sleeping in a burning house…but you in love don’t want to wake them up…despite the fire and their impending death if they don’t get out of the house.

Daniel was a young man of courage…who stepped up to the plate and said I am not going to defile myself. I’m not going to do what’s wrong before God. I don’t care what it’s going to cost me. I don’t care…because I know the word of God…and I can’t compromise. I know what it says…and I’m here to declare the truth.

Hey…who cares about being politically correct…let’s be right before God. Daniel knew the word of God and was determined to obey it in every situation…regardless of potential consequences. That is the kind of courage we need…in a culture that is so hell bent against God.

Daniel was determined to remain faithful…courage under fire. Romans 12:1-2 His mind was renewed…by the reading of the word.

Notice how Daniel does this…he isn’t rebellious…or have a bad attitude…or a get in your face style. Vs. 8.

He sought permission…he said I know what you are trying to accomplish. Is there another way we can do this? A way that would be pleasing to God…and pleasing to the integrity in his own heart. But he did it in a loving way.

We must approach people in authority in a respectful way. Yet…realize that you are not going to compromise.

And God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the officials.

In the book of Nehemiah it tells us that he prayed first before going to see the king…and we need to do the same. If you have a person of authority wanting you to compromise…then you need to pray for God to pave the way. The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hands of God…and God can direct it in whatever way he chooses. All that may be lacking is our prayer for God to soften their heart.

God granted Daniel compassion in the commander’s sight. The commander sympathized with Daniel…but he feared the king. But Daniel had a plan already. I know what you are trying to accomplish. Let’s see if this plan can accomplish the same goal.

Vs. 11…

God didn’t change of recognize the new names Daniel and his friends were given.

Eating the vegetables (grain) and drinking water would in no way violate God’s law. Daniel had a plan…and it was based on his dependence upon God. He knew that God would honor him if he did what was right before God.

Vs. 14…so he listened to them. Notice that Daniel’s friends were on board too. They got involved…and helped sell the program. At the end of ten days…of eating the grain and drinking water…they looked better. It was God’s rewarded their dedication. There was no way that this diet changed their life in 10 days.

They must have prayed during that ten day. But if they did not look better and were instructed to eat the king’s food…Daniel would have taken a stand. I’m sorry I still can not compromise…and you’re going to have to do whatever you are going to have to do. May God’s will be done.

But at the end of ten days…they looked better. So the overseer…continued to give them grain, vegetables and water.

Get more out of this passage than to say…I need to eat my vegetables and drink my water. The big picture…can you be a little more courageous? Am you be wholly devoted to God? Can you do what’s right before God? Can you draw a line in the sand and say…I’m not crossing that line. Because I know the word of God in my heart…and I’m not going to sin against God. His decision was made in his mind…his decision was made in his heart. His determination was based upon on his obedience to the word of God. Not to the rules of his parents. But there was a point in time where he too had to give his heart to the Lord. As does every child that grows up in a Christian home. Every individual person has to make that same decision. And then that person’s decision, their heart to wholly devoted to God…to be used by God. He trusted on the Lord.

No matter what the outcome…blessed be the name of the Lord. His dedication was rewarded in a tangible way.

At then end of the three years…they were presented before the king. Out of all of them…not one was found to be like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. He found them ten times better. They were so far heads and above everyone else…it wasn’t even close.

When people see your life, do they see someone whose life is heads and shoulders taller than the rest of the culture in which we live? Ten times better than the norm? An employee ten times better than everyone else they’ve every seen? A student ten times better than as far as attitude and convictions and dedication to doing what’s right? Ten times better on the atheletic field? As far as their attitude or respect for authority, dedication and willingness to work hard…to be the best they can be…to excel in what they do? When they see your life do they see someone so far ahead of everyone else that they are dying to know why? That is the audience we get with people around us when we take a stand for the Lord. When we are dedicated to him…wholly devoted to him. When we know the word of God in our heart. When we know what compromise is…when we recognize it for what it is. A subtle temptation…a subtle package all dressed up nice and neat and ready to be handed to us on a silver platter and we say no. No…I’ll have none of that. Men and women who have dedication and determination to know the will of God even when they are away from home on a business trip or away at college…or when they are somewhere where no one knows who they are. They are still determined to do what’s right before God. Is that what they see in your life? God honors that. But what is really honoring in the life of Daniel is real simple…and it’s called courage. He rewards courage. God reward courageous people. Does it mean we will never be persecuted or made to look the fool? Absolutely not. If people have the opportunity…they will go out of their way to make you look like a fool.

What Reggie White did on national TV took a lot of courage…and it was right before God. The only thing that should matter to the people of God…is that when we stand before God one day he will say, “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master.”.

Because one day Daniel wasn’t with these guys anymore. He wasn’t in the pressure to conform…he wasn’t in the Babylonian empire. He wasn’t there anymore. One day Daniel died…and he gave an account of his life before God. As will we too.

Do you long to hear those words? Then stop compromising and start being courageous.

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