************ Sermon on Daniel 6:5 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 23, 2006
"The Plot Against Prayer"
A plot against prayer, an attack on prayer – that's what we have in front of us this evening. The enemies of Christ and His church, they never give up, they never quit trying. In fact, that's what we have seen over and over again in the book of Daniel – the attacks of the enemy. In chapter 1 the attack came in the form of the king's wine and rich food. In chapter 3 the attack takes the shape of a golden statue that everyone is expected to bow before. And in chapter 6 we see an attempt to outlaw prayer. We are reminded again of the age-long struggle between Christ and the Antichrist, the church and the world, light and darkness.
If there is anything good that we can say about Satan, it would have to be about his remarkable perseverance. Time after time he attacks Christ and His church. Time after time he goes down to defeat. Yet, he keeps trying anyway. If God's people would be as persistent in faith and prayer as Satan is in his attacks, there is no limit to the great things we could accomplish.
I The Satrap's Plot
A Daniel 5 ends with the death of Belshazzar, the Chaldean king. Taking his place is Darius the Mede. The opening verses of our Scripture reading indicate that Darius despises anarchy and prizes organization, good order, and proper administration.
(Dan 6:1-2) It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, (2) with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss.
Very quickly Darius came to realize that Daniel was a gifted man – good, capable, and honest in all he did. So the king pondered the possibility of promoting Daniel to the position of prime minister.
This planned promotion aroused the opposition of the other administrators and satraps. The reason was very simple: Daniel did too good a job in protecting the king's interests and preventing him from suffering loss.
Every month from 1975 - 1988 William Proxmire, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, would announce the "golden fleece" award for the government official or program that most succeeded in wasting the taxpayer's money. The Award was first given to the National Science Foundation for having conducted a study on why people fall in love. Other recipients have included the Army, for spending $6,000 on a 17-page specification for bottled sauce, and the National Institute of Mental Health, for funding a study on why bowlers, hockey fans, and pedestrians smile.Like Senator Proxmire, Daniel tried his best to stop government waste and corruption. His job, after all, was to keep the king from suffering loss.
Back then, you must understand, highly placed officials did not regard honesty as the best policy: they had the habit of supplementing their income by keeping some of the tax monies for themselves. Once Daniel assumed the position of Prime Minister, the administrators and satraps knew no theft or graft was possible anymore. Daniel was not a man they could make a deal with, for he carefully defended the king's rights and interests. With his aged eyes – he must have been 90 years old by then – he carefully reviewed all the financial statements submitted to him.
B The satraps and administrators tried to think of ways to get rid of this aged nuisance. They watched everything Daniel did to see whether they could detect some fault or mistake. Perhaps a little money stuck to his fingers too. Perhaps he charged personal trips to government expense. Perhaps he was a lecherous old man who preyed on children and teens. Perhaps his vice was gambling or drugs or prostitution.
Those of us in the ministry talk about living in a glass house. It seems that everything we do (and even stuff we don't do) is on display and talked about. Daniel was living in a glass house. Everything he did was examined under a microscope. Not a single act or word of his went unnoticed or unheard.
What was the result? What did Daniel's enemies find? Verse 4 tells us:
(Dan 6:4) ... 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. That's remarkable! Nothing could be found to hold against Daniel!
If your life and my life were put under a microscope what would the enemies of Christ and His church find? For believe me, they love nothing more than finding dirt; they love nothing more than finding a way to discredit the Gospel.
The best thing you and I can do for Christ is what Daniel did: live for Christ, put godliness into practice, be more than a Sunday Christian. You see, nothing is more damaging to the church of Jesus Christ than the hypocrisy of her members.
C Daniel was by no means sinless. He was an ordinary man no different from you or me. Yet, even in the midst of pagan Babylon he continued to love and serve the Lord. How come? Why was he able to remain faithful when so many others were faithless? In the NIV translation, verse 3 speaks of the "exceptional qualities" that existed in Daniel. The Hebrew word is "ruah" which is better translated as "spirit." There existed in Daniel an "excellent spirit" or an "exceptional spirit." This excellent spirit can only be the Spirit of Christ.
Now we know why Daniel was found to be so honest, trustworthy, and blameless. Now we know why Darius found Daniel to be so faithful in his work. Because of the Spirit of Christ at work within him, Daniel lived out his faith, he practiced what he preached, he did his calling on earth as faithfully and willingly as the angels in heaven.
In many Christians today is it readily apparent that they possess an "excellent spirit"? Some Christians say that in an evil world they cannot help but follow the ways of the world sometime. Others say – and I'm sure you've heard this before – "Business is business" as if the standards of Christ and His church don't count when it comes to business and making money. And still others want to have a little bit of fun from time to time, as if Christians lead joyless and boring lives. So these Christians surrender to all sorts of heathen customs and practices. You see them in church on Sunday, but you would never guess that there is an "excellent spirit" in them.
Daniel is not this way. He lives out his faith. He practices his faith. He did so as a 13 or 14 year old boy in the midst of Nebuchadnezzar's court. And he does so as a 90 year old man in Darius' court. Daniel lived in a glass house, yet his enemies could find nothing to attack him with because there was in him an excellent spirit. Oh, if all God's people could be like Daniel! Think of the testimony we would make to the world! Think of all that we could accomplish in the name of Christ!
Pastor Ed Dobson said in a Sunday sermon that he has written a letter to God, sealed it, and put it in his desk. Its message says, "Lord, if ever I might be unfaithful to my wife and bring disgrace on your name, take my life before I sin." And he meant it.That was Daniel's attitude. That should be the attitude of all of us: wanting death before bringing disgrace to the name and person of God.
D By now the satraps and administrators have a problem, a big problem. They want to get rid of Daniel. They need to get rid of Daniel. But because he lives out his faith, there is not a single charge they can bring against him. Therefore the decision is made to use his religion against him.
Their plot is simple and clever: "Let's find a way to outlaw prayer." It was easy to persuade the king. All they had to do was appeal to his vanity and to the unity of the kingdom. So a command was issued: for 30 days everyone in the kingdom was to pray to the king; for 30 days there would be one empire and one religion; for 30 days the king would play god. And, whoever prayed to any god or man other than the king was to be thrown into the lions' den.
Why were they so sure this plan would work? After watching Daniel they knew he would never last 30 days without prayer to God. They knew Daniel's faith would land him in the lions' den. Actually, they didn't know Daniel as well as they thought. To say that he would not be able to hold out an entire month is an injustice to Daniel. In fact, we know he wouldn't last a single day, for he went down on his knees 3 times every day to pray to God and confess his sins.
II The Devil's Plot
A So far we have been looking at the plot from a human standpoint. However, there is another and more important standpoint. I said earlier that in Daniel 6 we are to see the age-long struggle between Christ and the Antichrist, the church and the world, light and darkness.
The administrators and satraps wanted to outlaw prayer so that they could get rid of Daniel. The devil, however, has an entirely different goal in mind. He doesn't care at all about Daniel. Whether Daniel stays in power or not is irrelevant. The devil wants to outlaw prayer because he wants to stop the worship of God. At all costs, Daniel must be prevented from praying.
Didn't Satan try the same thing with Jesus? Remember the third temptation?
(Matt 4:8-9) ... the devil took (Jesus) to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. (9) "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." Satan doesn't care whether Jesus is king or not. What he wanted was to stop the worship of God. Satan is prepared to offer earthly kingships so people will stop the prayer to and worship of the God in heaven.
The devil, then, had a plot against prayer. And, this plot continues to this day. Using men as puppets, Satan has succeeded in outlawing prayer today in most public buildings. Our public schools, for instance, used to be places of prayer; no longer. And even the little bit of prayer that goes on before or after school hours, that too Satan is trying to stamp out. At many of our school campuses across this country students "meet at the flag pole" a couple of times per year to pray for their school and teachers and friends. This generates lots of anger and controversy. Now imagine this: people getting upset about voluntary prayer, outside of the school building, before school hours. What we have is a continuation of Satan's plot against prayer. Sessions of Congress continue to be opened in prayer. However, every year the ACLU brings a suit to stop this from happening. Again, Satan's plot against prayer.
B In my Bible the heading of chapter 6 says, "Daniel in the Den of Lions." This is indeed a proper title for the story – provided we remember that lions appear not only at the end of the chapter but also at the beginning. You see, even before Daniel was put in the lions' den he faced a much fiercer lion. I'm thinking here of what the Apostle Peter writes:
(1 Pet 5:8) Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
Many times we make the mistake of thinking the most dangerous lions are those in the den. But all that those lions can do is tear us limb from limb. Much more dangerous is the lion that destroys our soul and gets us cast into everlasting hell fire.
This is a good reminder that the dangers we don't see are generally much greater than the dangers we do see. When we watch Daniel being lowered into the lions' den, we hold our breath in fear and anticipation. Yet, by that point the greatest danger has already been overcome and the greatest fight has already been fought.
So I want to tell you, congregation, to watch out for the devil. Be self-controlled and alert or else he will pounce out and get you and destroy you for eternity.
C The biggest miracle of Daniel 6 – do you know what it is? It isn't what happened in the lions' den – though that was wonderful. The greatest miracle of Daniel 6 is that God's gracious hand saved Daniel when all of Babylon – goaded on by Satan – attempted to keep Daniel's hands from closing in prayer. The greatest miracle of Daniel 6 is that Daniel was able to keep on praying.
We can learn from Daniel here. To be alert against the attacks of Satan we must pray. We must pray and persist in that prayer or else we fall into the clutches of Satan.
But there is another lesson too. Daniel, we can say, feared God more than man. But often we fear man more than God.
III The Importance of Prayer
A Why was and is Satan so intent on putting an end to prayer? The prince of this world is not afraid of soldiers in full battle dress, but he does tremble before powerless old men on their knees in prayer. He knows that the strength of God's children is found in prayer. He knows that the life and future of the church is dependent upon prayer. He knows that God gives His grace and Spirit and gifts only to those who unceasingly ask for them and gives thanks for them in prayer. That's why Satan hates the sight of hands folded in prayer.
B Daniel was a man of prayer. When all the wise men were to be put to death because none of them could interpret King Nebuchadnezzar's dream about the golden statue, what did Daniel do? He called for a prayer meeting. When prayer was outlawed in the kingdom of Darius the Mede, what did Daniel do? He prayed. Daniel knew the power and importance of prayer.
C If there is one thing of which we should be more aware, it's the power and importance of prayer.
It's frightening how many Christians live with hardly any prayer. Start with yourself and your own family and add up the number of minutes spent in prayer. The numbers usually are not too impressive.
The failure to pray is the deepest cause of much of the misery in the church today.
Daniel was a man of prayer. And, in prayer he leaned upon the Lord and His strength. That's why he could stand against the devil and his attacks.
What was true for Daniel is true for you and me too. So let me ask you? Are you, like Daniel, a person of prayer? Do you, in prayer, lean upon the Lord and His strength? If you don't, let me tell you, you can't take your stand against Satan.
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