It seems that everyone you know has problems – but some are overtaken by them. Listen to the people in your life. Each one has something going on that makes them uncomfortable. Some have MANY things in their lives that are difficult. Still others are inundated by life’s troubles. Many people think their problem is as simple as “not having enough money” or “running out of time”. When you talk to families, the problems they mention include “communication” or “boundary issues”. When you talk co-workers, they may tell you they “just need another job”. When you get time with dear friends – a couple you have known well – they may tell you of “intimacy issues”. People will tell you of literally dozens of things they think would make them happy – if only they could change the conditions of their life. Behaviorists and life coaches have assembled some of the problems they hear of most from their clients:
1. Dread: Many of us live with a sense of foreboding about life. We are afraid we will not have enough money to make it through the month. We are afraid of some people because of unresolved issues in our past. We face new situations with such fear that we are often robbed of enjoying them. With each passing year, we have to work harder at keeping a sense of humor – because so many serious issues are raising uncertainty inside us.
2. Drift: Many people feel like life is passing them by, and they aren’t going anywhere. They want to make a difference somewhere, and to someone – but it just isn’t happening.
3. Disgrace: Some have deep feelings of worthlessness, or a sense that decisions they made in the past have left them with a deep stain deserving of punishment. They may feel they have an incurable flaw – and they are deeply sensitive to any kind of rejection.
4. Desolation: Some people believe that no one loves them or truly cares about them. They feel alone in this world, as if their presence here matters little to anyone. Often this feeling follows the loss of a life partner sometime after they are alone. Though it is often temporary – it is a deep chasm of emotion.
5. Defensiveness: Some have held old grudges and been bitter for a long time – and those old memories push out when they feel someone may hurt them. Some present themselves as victims – avoiding responsibility for their lives, while other recoil and strike almost without provocation. At the pace of life, many of us report that we have a tendency to respond too quickly to any perceived crisis –often without the tact we wish we would have had. We forget that under the pressures of the day, things can look worse and seem more intractably complex than they truly are. We fail to take the time to gain any real perspective.
6. Doubtfulness: Some people so overthink their lives, they can barely live them. Inner reflection becomes stubborn inertia – and they “get stuck” in their own head.
After years of listening to people talk about their problems, I would like to offer a bold assertion. I think I may know the single biggest problem each of us have – and it is the SAME problem for young and old, single and married, wealthy and poor. It is the problem that acts as the lens to all other problems.
The biggest problem we have is HOW WE VIEW OUR PROBLEMS.
How a man or woman handles the adversity of life may be the best window into their true character. Under pressure, we show much of our true self. Can we see it differently?
Key Principle: Adversity can be another tool for shaping our lives in the hands of a creative God!
Today we continue with the story of four Hebrew men in a pagan culture. These young believers were yanked from their homes and dropped into a world that was foreign in every way– language, culture, and morality. They faced times of temptation, as well as times of peril. Our lesson today includes a record of what happened when they were forced to stare down the barrel of a gun that was sent for their collective executions – an excessive penalty because of others that failed at their task.
Daniel’s life was in peril. The king he served had a dream and told his advisors to both recount the dream and interpret it, or face death by dismemberment. The ill-equipped counselors trembled and bartered for time. In a flash of temper, the king commanded mass executions be planned, and all the wise men of Babylon be gathered for the “culling of the intelligencia”. News got to Daniel, when his “escort to execution” arrived, and he asked for time to seek God, along with his companions.
It occurs to me that Daniel could have been really discouraged that he was again facing difficulties that weren’t directly related to his own failures. His captivity was a result of the failed kings of Judah, and the current threat was the result of a rash king surrounded by slippery godless counselors. Yet, placing blame is wholly unhelpful when facing an imminent firing squad. What Daniel needed was God’s help, or he would soon be visiting God’s eternal home. Rather than grouse at God or blame his fellows – he dropped to his knees in humble request for compassion from Heaven. Serious problems require a serious response – and there is none more serious than prayers offered while staring down the barrel of a gun. Fighting with God keeps us from falling before God – and that is where we belong when in trouble.
Why does God allow problems to assail His followers? Why doesn’t He insulate them from the effects of the Fall of Man? The truth is that times of trouble are often the most significant times for God to show Himself, and teach principles of truth about life we could never hear in the clatter of peace, prosperity and success.
Let’s look at six truths we can grasp when times of trouble rush in upon us:
Truth #1: Moments of trouble are one of God’s chief times of uncovering great truths (2:1).
Daniel 2:1 Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him.
Before we dig into verse one, did you notice the term “second year”? Since we know from Daniel 1:5 and 1:18 that Daniel and his friends were already on a three year course, and we see in Daniel 2:13-14 that he appears to have graduated – the term “second year” can pose a problem. There are essentially two possibilities:
• First, Daniel was named a “wise man” with his friends while he was still in training. That is not as likely as the second idea.
• Second, Nebuchadnezzar served for several years under his father Nabopolassar. Once he defeated the Assyrians and their Egyptian allied armies, Nabopolassar turned the throne to his son, Nebuchadnezzar II. Within months of his abdication in 605 BCE, Nabopolassar died of natural causes aged about 53 years. It could be the point of the timing was the second year of the SOLE REIGN of Nebuchadnezzar – or about 604 BCE. One ancient source, a Chaldean historian named Berosus (only now available through other extant sources) stated that Nabopolassar was aged and infirm, and gave up a part of his army to his son Nebuchadnezzar, who defeated the Egyptian host at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and also drove Pharaoh Necho out of Asia. Nebuchadnezzar then marched to Jerusalem and Jehoiakim surrendered to him – the beginning of the seventy years of Babylonian, captivity.
Here is the point of the record of the dream in Scripture…What looks like LIFE DRIVING FORCES aren’t just a series of coincidental events – it is the work of a Providential God! Difficulty is often God’s hand at work shaping His people – sometimes even through the enemy’s powerful plans to defeat them! What the enemy means for one’s destruction – God can use for their good.
Stand in the throne room of Nebuchadnezzar the morning after he roused from half-sleep, grumpy because of his fitful nightmarish restlessness. He was being pushed around by forces stronger than himself, and being a great king wasn’t insulating him from discomfort.
Don’t forget the even celebrities, millionaires and Presidents can have tooth aches. No one is truly in control of life this side of Heaven, no matter how much they think they are. One tiny piece of lead changed a Presidency when I was a child. It was a tragedy, but it reminded the whole country that NO ONE is able to control everything! The king was being pushed by a problem.
Here is the truth: You can be pushed by problems or led by God – it all comes down to your choice of Who or what to follow in life.
While it is true that we must NOT lay our problems passively at another’s feet- but address them and take responsibility for them… it is also equally true that we must have the humility and honesty to recognize that we do not truly control the earth we live on, or the body we live within. Look up. You didn’t hang the stars… One of the truly startling things about the naturalists that pervade in our time is their utter arrogance. They speak boldly – as if the sciences are so thoroughly true and the research is so absolutely consistent. What will shake even the most secular man or woman’s confidence in that arrogance is to look closely enough at the tons of research – only to discover how utterly inadequate we are to discern truth. The king was grousing, and God was simply making a point and creating a drama to display Himself to a guy who THOUGHT he was in charge of the world.
Truth #2: Problems force an unbeliever to use the system they created without God (2:2).
Daniel 2:2 Then the king gave orders to call in the magicians, the conjurers, the sorcerers and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king.
Look at the kinds of EXPERTS that were on the payroll of the king:
• There were the “magicians” (khar-tome’: a horoscope reader; as in drawing magical lines or circles. This is someone that reads the world to find answers in the cosmos – a more modern version of superstitious animism. “The universe knows” is their mantra.
• Then there were the “conjurers” (ash-shawf’: a necromancer, or exorcist). This is someone who claims to be able to breach at will the veil between the physical and spiritual world and speak to those beyond the veil (the dead). They use as evidence the ability to hypnotize to persuade people, snakes, etc.
• Next there were the “sorcerers” (a rendering of the Hebrew “mekhashphim”: literally mutterers, men who professed to have power with evil spirits. From kaw-shaf’: to whisper a spell, enchant or practice magic or witchcraft). In the Bible, some of the harshest punishments are given to them, as they claim to direct the spirits of the enemy of the Lord and His people.
• Finally there were the “Chaldeans” (kas-dee’: literally the inhabitants of Chaldea, with a long tradition of wise sayings and formulas). These are the imported experts from think tanks with interesting pedigrees.
These men were educated by the world’s standards. They were degree carrying professors that were FULL OF THEMSELVES. Later, we will note Daniel’s reaction – which was startlingly humble. He was their total opposite. Lost man looks within. Believers know that anything in there is already broken – so they get direction from the Word and in prayer – because the answer is not within. Beyond the Word hidden within (and that is subject to a fading memory) and the Spirit prompting (and that needs to be checked against the Word) – there is little in myself that I can truly trust.
The more educated a man or woman becomes, often the less dogmatic they are about the field of in which they were educated. Do you know why? The answer is this: The best process for learning will inevitably reveal how weak and flawed we are. It is harder to trust ourselves when we see how much the research led us to the wrong conclusions in the past. Don’t fear education – despise the indoctrination that is attempting to pass as education. Real education begins with the knowledge that we aren’t the standard – because the reverence of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The Bible calls those who do not believe in God by the simple term: “fool”. Consider this: when a fool attempts to make others into fools – the result is not real education at all – it is foolish indoctrination with hellish result.
Truth #3: Problems reveal the hopeless cynicism that lurks beneath the surface of the unbelieving world (2:3-9).
There is an old English saying: “There is no honor among thieves”. It points to the problem of building a life surrounded by people with little character. The king of Babylon had such a life…
Daniel 2:3 The king said to them, “I had a dream and my spirit is anxious to understand the dream.” 4 Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic: “O king, live forever! Tell the dream to your servants, and we will declare the interpretation.” 5 The king replied to the Chaldeans, “The command from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you will be torn limb from limb and your houses will be made a rubbish heap. 6 “But if you declare the dream and its interpretation, you will receive from me gifts and a reward and great honor; therefore declare to me the dream and its interpretation.” 7 They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell the dream to his servants, and we will declare the interpretation.” 8 The king replied, “I know for certain that you are bargaining for time, inasmuch as you have seen that the command from me is firm, 9 that if you do not make the dream known to me, there is only one decree for you. For you have agreed together to speak lying and corrupt words before me until the situation is changed; therefore tell me the dream, that I may know that you can declare to me its interpretation.“
The king made clear several times EXACTLY what he wanted. The advisors did all they could to move his firm pronouncement, but the king was stuck on his plan. You have to sympathize with the advisors – even if you don’t like them! There is nothing so dark as recognizing you have met your own end and you are powerless to stop the events that are leading you to it.
Someone has said: “Problems seem most acute when we spend an inordinate time trying to do something about things we can’t do anything about.” Isn’t that a word for our time? Each day we tune into news about a world that seems spinning out of control. It isn’t, but because it isn’t in OUR control, it can feel that way. That is why I find comfort at my Heavenly Father’s feet.
I must be honest with you. If your fulfillment and happiness is dependent upon other people – you had better be sure they are flawless people that cannot and will not turn to selfishness – or you are in deep trouble. I highly recommend you consider placing your full trust in an unchanging God revealed in the Scriptures. My experience has taught me that people are unreliable. My Bible has made clear that my experience is not unique.
The king should have consulted a good football coach like Lou Holtz of yesteryear. He said: “Don’t tell your problems to people: eighty percent don’t care; and the other twenty percent are glad you have them” – Lou Holtz quotes (American Football coach, 1937-1980).
The advisors were stuck, not just by the size of the task, but by the disbelief of the king. He knew they messed with him to tell him what they wanted him to hear. You can tolerate “apple polishers” and sycophants when times are good, but when serious and painful issues arise, you must have around you trusted souls – and they are few and far between.
Truth #4: Problems expose the limits of experts without relationship to their Creator (2:10).
The room was filled with EXPERTS but not with any people who knew God. The elaborate costumes and pageantry could do little in the face of a task that required a certain and reliable link to the spiritual world. Daniel’s journal continued:
Daniel 2:10 The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who could declare the matter for the king, inasmuch as no great king or ruler has [ever] asked anything like this of any magician, conjurer or Chaldean. 11 “Moreover, the thing which the king demands is difficult, and there is no one else who could declare it to the king except gods, whose dwelling place is not with [mortal] flesh.“
The next time you hear of “men of science” proving things that are beyond their ability, bear in mind the futility of their quest. If there really is a God in Heaven as the Bible teaches, and there really are one quintillion stars, as astronomers estimate, and there really are literally billions of planets spinning in millions of solar systems, what is the likelihood that a guy in California has the skills and ability to put his mind around all that is and come to the conclusion of how it works?
Let me take this argument from naturalists that are pressing on us. One author stated:
“Let’s agree that there is no empirical evidence showing that God exists. If you think about it as a rational person, this lack of evidence is startling. There is not one bit of empirical evidence indicating that today’s “God”, nor any other contemporary god, nor any god of the past, exists. In addition we know that:
• If we had scientific proof of God’s existence, we would talk about the “science of God” rather than “faith in God”.
• If we had scientific proof of God’s existence, the study of God would be a scientific endeavor rather than a theological one.
• If we had scientific proof of God’s existence, all religious people would be aligning on the God that had been scientifically proven to exist. Instead there are thousands of gods and religions.
The reason for this lack of evidence is easy for any unbiased observer to see. The reason why there is no empirical evidence for God is because God is imaginary.” (From website of “godisimaginary.com).
Hmm. Look at the sheer arrogance of the person making such claims.
Their claim is that there is no empirical evidence for God’s existence. The Bible answers simply: “Look up! The organization of the cosmos is not a random phenomenon – but bears every resemblance of a design carefully executed by an Intelligent Creator.
Their claim is that because they don’t call God’s existence a “science” but rather “faith”, He doesn’t exist. The Bible’s claim is simple: The world can make any definitions and claims they like – that doesn’t make their limited observations into absolute truths.
Their claim is that if there was scientific evidence for God, the study of God would be in the field of scientific endeavor, not to a limited study of theology. Look into history that is bigger than the back of a cereal box. For centuries, people like the scientist Isaac Newton – the professor of physics, practiced the craft for EXACTLY the purpose of exposing truths about the Creator. In fact, naturalists deliberately drive teachers that want to do so out of state schools and then have the audacity to use that as proof that science must somehow disprove God. That is like a board of education removing all references to a former President from textbooks and then using the textbooks to prove the guy never held the office!
Here is my point: George Bernard Shaw was right when he wrote: “Science… never solves a problem without creating ten more.” It isn’t because they aren’t trying; it is because they have a limit to what they can observe, and limited minds to do the observation.
Go back to the throne room where Nebuchadnezzar just unloaded on these experts. Note the list of people that were invited and their claims that they could pierce the spiritual world. Why were they now claiming, when placed under the hot lights, that they had no such power (see “whose dwelling place is not with mortal flesh”)! When all is said and done – men who claim to know the reaches of eternity from looking into a test tube are overselling their ability. Science can observe some phenomena and help explain some processes – but it cannot see the edges of all that exists, and it cannot explain WHY it exists – that is beyond the ability of man. Only arrogant men claim to know what they cannot know – but sensible people know they are overstating their knowledge.
Truth #5: Problems create a platform for the clear presentation of God’s ability to fix life (2:12-16).
Can I ask you to see a truth that can potentially change the way you look at tomorrow’s hassles? Consider how every problem is a platform for God to show YOU something, and show OTHERS something through your life. At this point in our story… enter a quiet, unassuming and godly man named Dan…
Daniel 2:12 Because of this the king became indignant and very furious and gave orders to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. 13 So the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they looked for Daniel and his friends to kill [them]. 14 Then Daniel replied with discretion and discernment to Arioch, the captain of the king’s bodyguard, who had gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon; 15 he said to Arioch, the king’s commander, “For what reason is the decree from the king [so] urgent?” Then Arioch informed Daniel about the matter. 16 So Daniel went in and requested of the king that he would give him time, in order that he might declare the interpretation to the king.
Daniel heard about the problem after the experts had left the throne room and went home to write their respective “Last Will and Testaments” and kiss their kids goodbye… Watch closely how Daniel responded to the man who brought the news.
• First, Daniel measured the rank of the man with whom he was speaking, and spoke with the discernment of both the situation and the man. He didn’t use bluster, but asked and listened.
• Second, he used a form of the word “ta’am” – the word for TASTE. He tactfully, tastefully, politely but directly asked what situation caused this turn of events.
Daniel recognized that HE couldn’t solve the problem, but he know GOD COULD. He shared with the lost king that if he asked, God COULD make all of it known. He asked for time to see if God WOULD fill the need. (2:16). By now, some Bible students are asking a question inside: “Why did the king let Daniel have time when he was so pushy with the other so-called experts?” I think the issue came down to ONE THING: track record.
Daniel got the benefit of the doubt because Daniel hadn’t tried to personally gain favor from the king in any way. He didn’t use the perks and powers given him to anxiously get MORE PERKS AND POWERS. The king was no idiot. He was a seasoned veteran of one of the world’s largest armies. He was groomed for the task of leadership by a father who was very successful in his own right. The king was a fine judge of character, and knew that Daniel wasn’t blowing smoke up his royal tunic.
Now focus your eyes on Daniel. The believer isn’t in the business of using God’s power to gain power or prestige for himself. A godly man must proceed with caution and wait on God to succeed… or in this case meet God face to face because God didn’t speak. Daniel didn’t need to panic, he needed to pray and seek God’s face for important news. If God chose to solve the problem – the testimony of the Lord would grow. If He did not choose to speak, Daniel would have little unconfessed since the next event in his life would be his last event. In many ways, our problems are God’s opportunity to preach through the sermon of our lives.
Truth #6: Problems give an opportunity to draw us to each other, and eventually to worship and praise of our God (2:17-23)!
Our account of Daniel’s last meeting with his friends before God broke into the story is found in the next few verses. This was a prayer meeting that was as focused as any you will ever experience. No one slept through it. No one let their mind wander. No one was focused on the temperature of the room, the comfort of the chairs or the eloquence of the praying partner. This was a meeting with God – and there is nothing else like it on earth…
Daniel 2:17 Then Daniel went to his house and informed his friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, about the matter, 18 so that they might request compassion from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his friends would not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven…”
God answered the prayers of the men. He didn’t HAVE TO, but He CHOSE to do so. Daniel got the answer in the same night air that brought the problem to the king in the first place. What he did NEXT reveals what he was INSIDE…
Daniel 2:20 Daniel said, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him. 21 “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding. 22 “It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him. 23 “To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, For You have given me wisdom and power; Even now You have made known to me what we requested of You, For You have made known to us the king’s matter.”
Daniel worshiped and praised God with some choice words about His wonders.
• God sets up kingdoms and takes them down at will. It isn’t up to the UN, the Congress or the World Court – God can dry up an ocean, or flood a desert. He is unstoppable!
• God can raise up a man or woman to the highest position among their peers – and can just as easily recall them to the dust of the ground. The author of life can place a period in any life He chooses, on any page He chooses.
• God can expose the darkest, shadowed truths – forcing them to roll out into the light. Men become wise by listening and following His Word – humbly, openly and honestly. There is no truth in any other, and there is no knowledge that can be gained apart from Him! Reverence for HIM is the beginning of knowledge.
• God sees what no one else can – period. He has the answer before we have the question – because the answer is found inside of His character. He alone can fulfill, and He alone can truly explain.
Can we not see it clearly? God uses our troubles as His megaphone to a world adrift – but only if we stop fussing at Him and start following Him. Small troubles can build our strength and toughness, while great troubles can offer us a platform from which God can speak. Old troubles can soften us to be an encourager to weaker ones about us – as they pass through the conditioning of their own struggles. It is true…
Adversity can be another tool for shaping our lives in the hands of a Creative God!
Remember these four things:
• We must not run from trouble, but face it squarely.
• We are not big enough to handle it, but God is – and we don’t have to do it alone.
• The “all things” a believer can “through Christ that strengthens him” includes whatever problem you may be facing today.
• Snow White was right, “Someday my Prince WILL come!”