ARE YOU LOOKING FOR A HERO?
WHO IS or who WAS your hero?
- The Greek king, Alexander was known as ‘the great’, owing to his conquest of lands as far east as India
- And do you remember someone saying of himself that he ‘floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee’ and “I am the greatest!”?
- A few years ago there was poll about the greatest popular song and John Lennon’s “Imagine” was voted number one
But Alexander the Great, though an amazing soldier, was eventually betrayed and died just short of his 33rd birthday
Cassius Clay suffered from a debilitating disease that made him a shadow of his former self
John Lennon was murdered, though his ‘anti-religion’ song (‘Imagine’) remains very popular
Greatness is not all that it seems…as many film stars and ‘pop idols’ have proved down the years…Judy Garland, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Tony Hancock…to name but a few, died tragically
GREATNESS IS SOMETIMES IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
- The couple in love only have eyes for one another and think that he/she is the most wonderful person in the world
- The world champion athlete is awarded a knighthood and treated like a prince…(we normally reserve our praise for winners and not for those who tried hard)
- I think that Birmingham City is the greatest football club…but the truth is that they are a mediocre team
- Many people are silent heroes…they labour quietly behind the scenes… caring, encouraging, serving…their work is known only to God and their close friends
Yet from time to time in the pages of history emerges someone who can truly be called ‘great’
- Not the courageous man in America recently who jumped in front of an underground train and saved a man who had fallen on to the rails by lying him down between the rails…amazing bravery
- Or the people who stand alone and succeed against overwhelming odds…a ‘David and Goliath’ situation
- Or even Christians like William Wilberforce, Elizabeth Fry, Gladys Aylward, Jackie Pullinger, David Livingstone or the Ecuadorian martyrs…
- Or Thomas Bennet of Exeter, England who, in January 1531 chose to be burned at the stake rather than pray to the Virgin Mary
THE PROPHET DANIEL stands above even these wonderful people in godliness and steadfastness and may truly be described as ‘a hero’ …yet for the glory of God and not for his own prestige or reputation
Daniel had been captured when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians and, along with other capable people, taken to Babylon to be trained in the ways and traditions of that nation
- It is no fun being wrenched from your home and taken into captivity …even today there is a huge trade in slavery
- It might appear that everything was going wrong for Daniel and the others…defeat at the hands of a godless enemy…and captivity
But Daniel shows us that circumstances are, in some ways, ‘neutral’…it is how we respond to the situation that counts
- God uses circumstances to teach us, rebuke us, refine us and draw us to Himself
- When our lives hit rocky times (as every life does occasionally) we can choose to be ‘bitter’ or ‘better’
- If we allow Him to have His way, despite all the unanswered questions that flood our minds and the human pain that tears our hearts, He will eventually show us why it was necessary for us to suffer
- Remember Jesus’ words from the Cross: “Never the less, not my will but your will be done”
When our lives are shaken we often pray that God will intervene and stop it happening…only to discover that God is doing the shaking!
Even when things go wrong because of our own foolishness, true repentance allows God to restore the joy of our salvation and move us forward
Someone has said that when we say that we are being ‘tested’ we don’t understand that tests have to be ‘passed’, not avoided. If we insist on ‘playing truant’, God will make us take the test again and again until we pass it and move on to the next stage of spiritual development
- I suspect, however, that God only puts us to the test a certain number of times
- If we keep refusing to sit the test, He leaves us where we are… that may be why so many of us don’t grow spiritually…we have counted the cost and decided that it is too high
DANIEL IS UNDOUBTEDLY ONE OF THE TRUE ‘GREATS’
- Despite the difficult circumstances he remained true to God
- He showed himself to be a man of principle as he refused to eat the meat offered to idols and insisted on vegetables instead
- He did not want to be tainted by associating with anything that might compromise his faith and offend God
We are often tested first in the small things of life to see if we are ready for major responsibilities …
- Don’t envy people in positions of responsibility…they have had to pass many difficult tests first
- If someone tries to assume a leadership role without passing the tests in ‘small things’ he or she is doomed to failure
- That person will not have the spiritual maturity to lead, make wise decisions or encourage others
- When you are selecting leaders, don’t only look for talent and personality but also for someone who has passed spiritual tests
- Perhaps the main question to ask anyone who aspires to lead is:
“What tests has God set you; how did you respond; what did you learn as a result?”
Robert Murray M’Cheyne once commented: “It is not great talents that God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus”
WHAT FOOD OFFERED TO IDOLS MIGHT TEMPT YOU AND ME TODAY? There are many possibilities…
- Unsuitable TV programmes…
- Tasty bits of tittle-tattle…
- Using the money we once gave to missionary work for an extra holiday in the sun…
- Associating with the wrong type of friends…
- Going for a promotion at work that will distract us from our Christian service or make it more difficult to spend time with our family and friends…
Food offered to idols comes in many forms…sometimes disguised to look like ‘an angel of light’…harmless…so we must be discerning and wise in our response
DANIEL WAS ALSO GIVEN A SPECIAL GIFT BY GOD
- He was able to interpret dreams and understand visions
- I imagine that he was very popular! “Daniel, I’ve had this dream…can you tell me what it means?”
- He could have ‘made a fortune’ by fortune-telling! “Dreams interpreted…just one gold coin per session”
- But he chose to use his gift in the way it was intended…for the glory of God and in service to others
In Hebrews 11:24-26 we read that Moses had the same attitude:
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.
HOW WELL DO YOU AND I SCORE IN THIS REGARD?
- Are we people of integrity… trustworthy…kind…compassionate… selfless?
- Are we God-centred rather than self-centred?
- Do we use our talents for the benefit of others?
- Do people readily approach us to ask a question or seek advice… or hesitate because of our reputation for being awkward?
- When people speak about us in our absence, do they thank God for us or shake their heads and sigh?
- Do they see me as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ… or a half-hearted individual?
- If we were to meet an old friend we hadn’t seen for some years, would that person notice a growth in spiritual maturity or a slackening?
And of course the key question: What does God think about me?
The acid test for true discipleship is found in the words of Jesus: “The love you have for one another”
Sometimes that love has to be ‘tough love’
- It takes courage to say what needs to be said
- Though we must check our own hearts first before we speak
- May it be said of us that our behaviour in what we say and do help to convince people that God is real and that Christ is truly King of kings and Lord of lords
As if to set God’s seal of approval upon him, Daniel is eventually made ruler over the province of Babylon…chapter 2 and beyond
- Just as at the start of Jewish history, Joseph was made ruler over Egypt
WHAT AN EXAMPLE OF TRUE GREATNESS WE FIND IN DANIEL
- Making a stand from the start …even as such a young man
- He was probably still in his teens or early twenties!
- Refusing to worship idols or be tainted by such practices
- Putting others first and showing a godly calmness and maturity that sets a tremendous example to us all
AT THE END OF THE 2nd WW, General Patten was told to deploy his troops to seal off the escape route for 70,000 German soldiers
- Instead he liberated Paris to great acclaim
- But as a result the German army escaped and were able to defend Germany from the Allied forces for several more months
- The war was extended…thousands died needlessly
Patten had his moment of glory…but he was not ‘great’…and for all his undoubted ability is remembered with bitterness even today
How different with Daniel… who laid aside concerns for his own safety and reputation to serve the true and living God
WE SEE SUCH HUMILITY AND OBEDIENCE MOST CLEARLY in the submissive attitude of the Lord Jesus
- Who made Himself of no reputation and chose to follow the way of the Cross in obedience to the will of God the Father
May you and I dare to be a Daniel…dare to stand alone…dare to have a purpose firm…dare to make it known
- True greatness is rooted in obedience…in small matters just as much as large ones
- It is less about being mentioned in a history book than having our names written in THE BOOK!
AND IF YOU ARE DETERMINED TO FIND A HERO…look for the one who is least among you…for Jesus said that that person will be greatest in the kingdom of heaven
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus
Instead of a hero, we have a Saviour!