As you may be aware, I really admire the prophet Daniel – perhaps his name has something to do with it or the fact that he hung out with lions. Ever since I was a child, I always aspired to be like him. Why? He was just perfect! Anyways, I am ecstatic to do a post on him – a revelation I had received on him on January 6, 2017. Please do read the first chapter of Daniel before continuing in order to receive a more profound insight.
King Nebuchadnezzar reigned over the Babylonian empire. Recently, he had conquered Judah and returned with captives and spoils. Upon musing on what should be done with the captives, the king decided that Ashpenaz should bring some young men of Judah’s royal families to the palace. However, he had a requirement – a hefty one at that.
“Select only the strong, healthy, and good-looking young men,” the king instructed his chief of staff. “Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted with knowledge and good judgment, and are suited to serve in the royal palace. Train these young men in the language and literature of Babylon.”
Only the elite were eligible! In this scenario, not only was being “a jack of all trades” a must but so was being “a master of many”. To stand in the king’s court, perfection was not a choice – it was vital. Among the ones who fulfilled the criteria were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. They had it all going for them – beauty, brains, and brawns. There – “squad goals”! Or, should I say “super squad goals”? Anyways, they were among the chosen few to stand before the king. Regarding the “beauty” and “brawns” aspects, though the ubiquitous saying “inner beauty is more important than outer beauty” is true, the outer beauty is what others see first. Thus, it is essential to keep ourselves well-groomed and fit. Regarding the “brains” aspect (I mean gifting but just go along with the pun will you), as noted by Solomon in Proverbs 22:29, “a man who is skilled in his work will stand in the presence of kings”. Overall, Daniel and his friends were well-rounded. As a result, they were well-equipped for the task at hand.
The trainees were assigned a daily portion of food and wine from the king’s own kitchen. However, Daniel purposed in his heart not defile himself with the food and wine presented by the king. Perhaps, the food and wine had been offered to idols. As per the Ten Commandments, God was stringent on anything regarding idols. Maybe, the food was esteemed by Daniel “unclean”. As noted in the Book of Leviticus, God had painstakingly instructed the Israelites what they were permitted to consume. Perhaps, it was the advice in Proverbs regarding the consequences of wine. Whatever it was, he was convicted and determined not to defile himself with it. He deemed them “unacceptable”. Thus, he simply abstained from consuming such a diet since it clashed one way or the other with what God had commanded. Why, he did not want anything standing in way between him and God! Despite the appealing, delectable dishes and drink served to him, he abstained. He could not give in to such a temptation.
Like Daniel, we too must identify what hinders our relationship with God. While I was interning in New York, Pastor Bill would constantly bombard us interns with a question: “What is your kryptonite?” Basically, he was imploring us to figure what weaknesses pulled us away from our higher calling. Is it social media, friends, soap operas, etc.? I do not need to jot an entire list for you. It does not mean it necessarily has to be classified as “evil”. The fact of the matter is does it take you away from God? As you too acknowledge, we each have a price to pay and our own cross to bear. In Luke 9:23, Jesus tells the throng, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow Me.” We are required to die to ourselves daily. It is not that Daniel was a vegetarian. To receive the anointing, we must be “sanctified”. Meaning, we have to be “set apart”. We have to distinguish ourselves from this world. As counseled by the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:12, “Do not copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Like Daniel, are you too willing to give up the things that distract you from a higher calling? Perhaps, you feel that it is almost impossible to give up such a behavior or custom. Well, Daniel was proficient with the Scriptures. In Psalm 119:11, King David declares, “I have hidden Your word in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” Likewise, like King David and Daniel, hide His Word in your heart. In fact, the Apostle Paul delivers a promise of God regarding such a predicament in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure”. The Apostle Paul boasts in 2 Timothy 1:12b, “For I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” Rest assured that God never goes back on His Word. In Romans 4:21, the Apostle Paul encourages us to be “fully convinced that God is able to do whatever He promises”. Also, do note that Daniel and his friends were torn away from their families during the capture – these young princes were alone in an unknown land. Therefore, their decision to obey God was not influenced by their parents – their parents did not need to pester them to know and do what was right. Yet, they knew how to conduct themselves. Do you do what is right whether your parents are watching you or not? Do you behave likewise on Whatsapp, Instagram, university, or any place they have no control as such? Your behavior points out to whether your fear God or man. As per the Apostle Paul on his stance in Galatians 1:10, “Obviously, I am not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” Despite the odds, Daniel and his friends knew that they would be held accountable by God for their actions.
In the fall of 2015, I had registered for the course “Introduction to Theater” to fulfill the Humanities and Art requirements in my degree plan with Arizona State University. It was a very intriguing course – some of the assignments included me having to go to ballet shows and spy on people in malls (yes, totally not creepy at all). However, on the last night of the course, I was required to write a paper on creating my own play which embraces diversity including homosexuality. My heart sank a bit – I knew that embracing homosexuality was immoral to God. Yet, receiving full marks on the paper would keep my GPA high. However, that would mean that I would have to embrace homosexuality which I was entirely against. As some of you know, I really like my A+s. It was a church night – my parents were upstairs sleeping after the service. I did not feel like barging into their room to ask for advice, but the final assignment had to be submitted that very night! Flopping back on my chair, I knew I was in a dilemma. Taking a deep breath in, I asked the Holy Spirit to help me. I was the reminded of what Daniel did. God gave me wisdom on how to embrace different aspects of diversity without including homosexuality. I spoke frankly to God: “God, I am going to do my part and trust that You will do Yours.” Though I had not addressed homosexuality in my paper, I clicked the submit button trusting God to grant favor with my instructor. I did not tell my parents about the incident. A few days later, I checked my grade on the assignment – an A+! A smile came across my face. He came through for me – “He did His part”!
Mustering up, Daniel requested the Ashpenaz if he and his friends could be excused from the diet. God had instilled respect and affection in the chief of staff towards Daniel. You see, Daniel was well liked too! Since he was following the commandments he was given even without his parents, he found favor. Proverbs 3:4 certifies that by doing so “you will find favor with both God and people, and you will earn a good reputation”. However, rather dubious, Ashpenaz turned down the young lad’s request fearing the change in diet would weaken them. Nonetheless, Daniel did not let that discourage him. Later, he went to the attendant appointed by Ashpenaz appealing for a test round. The attendant agreed to grant the boys a ten-day trial period of eating vegetables and water. Once the trial was completed, he was awed by the results. Why, their demeanors were healthier and better nourished compared to the other trainees! Thus, he officially pardoned them from their previous diet. Obviously, it was not the food that caused such a splendid outcome. It was God Who was honoring their decision to obey Him.
In addition, “God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom”. Plus, “God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams”. In fact, God revealed to Daniel more about the future than He had to any other prophet in the Old Testament! Once the training was complete, Ashpenez brought all the young men under his wing to stand before King Nebuchadnezzar. The king conversed with the all the young lads. However, no one impressed him as much as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah! Thus, they entered the royal service! “Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom.” In Psalm 90:17, Moses prays, “And may the Lord our God show us His approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!” God showed Daniel and his friends His approval by making all their efforts successful.
In the spring of 2017, Pastor Bill also imparted to us interns a “whatever it takes” mentality. Meaning, we were required to give it our all. Plus, he commented that “the good will always be the enemy of the best”. This reveals the Spirit of Excellence. The Spirit of Excellence is not limited to just church. Why, He knows no bounds – omnipresent! Meaning, “He is everywhere”. Thus, we are called to be “overachievers”. Later on, Daniel 5:6a states the following: “For as much as an excellent Spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and showing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar.” Did you read that? The Word says that an “excellent Spirit” was found in Daniel. This distinguished him from his peers. Having such a Spirit cause us to excel any facet of life. As instructed in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
In John 15:7, Jesus promises us, “If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
So long as we do our part, He will do His. The gifts of Daniel and his friends were appalling – none could match it! Why? John answers us in 1 John 4:4b, “greater is He that is in you, than He that is in the world”. He is omnipotent! Meaning, He is “all-powerful”. Who is He? Promised to us by our Lord Jesus in John 14:26, “But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative – that is, the Holy Spirit – He will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” The Advocate is His Holy Spirit. Not only is He willing to remind us the words of Jesus but to also teach us “all” things! He is omniscient! That means He is “all-knowing”! Why, that certifies Him has the greatest Teacher ever! As mentioned by Paul in Hebrews 13:21: “May He equip you with all you need for doing His will. May He produce in you, through the Power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to Him. All glory to Him forever and ever! Amen.”
As noted in 1 Peter 4:11, “Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God Himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to Him forever and ever! Amen.” In 1 Corinthians 10:31, Paul encourages us, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” In whatever we do, we should glorify Him. That is the purpose as to why we were created – to glorify the Creator! As noted in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” Our works serve as the testimony to our faith. The Apostle Paul encourages us in Philippians 2:12-13: “Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.”
I pray that this post encourages and inspires you. Fun tidbit: the meaning of Daniel is “my God judges well”. Uncle Bobby Conner further interpreted the definition to me as “no matter what, I’ll always come out on top”. The same can apply to you if you follow in Daniel’s footsteps. It is my heart’s desire to see the Spirit of Excellence in each of you that you may excel in everything that He may be glorified. Stay blessed! One last verse before I end:
“Now all glory to God, who is able, through His Mighty Power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”
Ephesians 3:20 (NLT)