Daniel was taken to Babylon in his teens and was an old man when the Persians took over. By the time Babylon had fallen the people had been in exile for around 65 years. Think about it, there were 65-year-old men and women who had only known Babylon. How many cultural changes had Daniel lived through by the end of his life? We don’t know many details of his life, but what God has chosen to reveal to us is the fact that Daniel remained faithful through all the different stages. Daniel was not constantly changing his core convictions to reflect the changing climate (like a thermometer), Daniel was steadfastly faithful and was positioned to change the climate (like a thermostat). This is not to say that Daniel didn’t have to continually adapt in order to live faithfully in the midst of changes; clearly, he did adapt. He did not adapt his key heart commitment to God, it was the North Star for navigating the many life changes he experienced.
“Don’t try to change the world” as a title for this short series is meant to be a reminder to order our life priorities. The desire for impact, for “world change”, is built into us by God but it is not to be our life’s purpose. We are to seek to honor God with our lives by being found faithful. Faithfulness is how God chooses to change the world. If “world change” is our goal, then we will very often miss all the ways in which our lives actually can and have brought glory to God and good to others.
Galatian 1:10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Q1: It is possible to please people and God at the same time. Paul is not presenting all of life as a binary choice. Either God or people. He is getting at the heart of things. What is the “heart” of what he is saying here? Why is having this kind of heart so important?
Between chapter 4 and 5, Babylon has experienced a leadership change and by chapter 6 the nation has fallen to Persia. This is a lot of epic historical “stuff” that doesn’t get much mention in the book. Daniel is historically accurate but it is not merely a history book. It is a part of the Bible’s long story of redemption in Christ. We do learn some “personal” lessons from Daniel, but the larger point is about the future Messiah. Jesus will quote from Daniel and call himself the “Son of Man” whose kingdom will reign forever. In the book of Daniel, kings rise and fall and future kings will also rise and fall; however, the true king, Christ, will someday come and his kingdom will never fall. That is the “big” story, and now to the “small” story in these chapters. Daniel, a man, is living a faithful life in his troubled times. His role in the larger story is to be found faithful.
Q2: What do you do to keep the “big story” of Christ’s kingdom front and center in your mind? What could you do differently or better to keep this larger story in front of you?
Q3: How does it, or how would it, change how you think and live to keep the “big story” front and center?
Q4: The universal key to the future door of opportunity is faithfulness in the present. How have you experienced this in the past? Have you been faithful and then later seen opportunity because of it? How are you currently having to live out faithfulness while trusting that it may bring blessing & opportunity in the future?
“The world hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I am not praying that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.”
Q5: There are three ways to live in the world. These have been called, “Christ above culture”, “Christ below culture”, and “Christ in culture.” (See sermon notes.) Discuss these three approaches in terms of how you have either tried to live or have seen people try to live faithful lives. Why did the Lord instruct us to live “in” but not “of” the world?
Q6: Daniel had plenty of enemies, but also at least three good friends. Are you bothered by what others say or think (or what you think they are thinking) about you? How can you train your mind to thrive in the friendships God has given you – the friends who “have your back” – and not be so impacted by the ones who don’t?
Q7: Are you on the shelf? What does it mean to be ‘on the shelf’ in terms of impact? If so, what does faithfulness look like now? Have you been on the shelf before? How did you do and what would you do differently in the future if you are put back there?
Q8: Are you fully engaged in a busy life and ministry and long for some “white space”? What are you doing to embrace contentment now? Whether on the shelf, or fully engaged…are you hunting the good stuff?
Thanksgiving: Verbalize together the “good stuff” of your lives.