Living in Babylon Today
Daniel 1:1-21 Welcome to Babylon
Daniel never expected that he would end up in Babylon. Picture Daniel. One of the brightest and best of Israel. We know a fair amount about him from 1:3-4.
He is from a family of high social status. He is physically flawless. He is a strikingly handsome man. If Joanna were doing this message, she would tell you to picture Kevin Costner who she thinks is strikingly handsome. Apparently Kevin is actually much shorter than he appears on screen. So picture someone who looks like Kevin Costner only more handsome and less dumpy.
Daniel is bright. He is quick to understand. He is qualified to serve in the king’s palace, which means he has a high level of what we would call ‘emotional intelligence’. He is devoted to God and God’s community. And he has all the dreams that young men like that have. Back in Judah his future would have been quite predictable. The whole world was in front of him. He would go to a good University and then on to glittering success in whatever field he chose. He would have a great marriage, live in an enviable home with the right postcode, raise a wonderful family, occupy a prominent place in the community. He would also do great things for God and God’s people. But life did not turn out the way he planned. There’s a whole world of heartbreak in these first two verses.
Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem and besieged it.The heartbreak is this: God made a promise a long time ago to Abraham, “I’ll be your God, and your people will be my people. And I will give you a promised land, and I will make you a new community that will bless the world.” That promise had sustained the people of Israel for century after century. At times, that’s all they had. There had been ups and downs through the years. They were in slavery in Egypt for many centuries. They were delivered under Moses. They wandered in the wilderness for forty years. They went into the promised land. And after a period of time they reached their peak under David and Solomon.
And Solomon built this glorious temple. But then there was a long, slow decline. For all his wisdom in governing a nation, he had not been a good father. The kingdom became divided. The ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom, Israel, are defeated and the people are driven into exile, never to return. All that is left is the small Southern kingdom called Judah. And then when Daniel is a young man with the world at his feet, Nebuchadnezzar comes, and with very little effort, destroys all that is left of God’s dream and Daniel’s. The temple is a memory. The sacred contents were now stored as trophies in the temple of pagan gods. Daniel will spend his life as an exile, in a foreign land. He will give his best years to an alien king. He has lost his culture. He has lost the relationships he cherishes. He has to learn a foreign language. He will live and die in a place that is foreign. He will never go home. And the greatest indignity? He even loses his name, and this name deal is quite significant.
In 1:7 Daniel and his three friends are each given new names. Each of their old names, their Hebrew names, was a derivation of the name of God. Either the little syllable ‘el’ as in Dani-el, Misha-el -- from ‘Elohim’, or the syllable ‘yah’ as in Hanani-ah, Azari-ah -- from ‘Yahweh’. Their very names gave evidence of their relationship to the one true God. Their names remind them that they belong to God. That is why Nebuchadnezzar gives them new names. This is his way of saying, “You have a new king now. You belong to me. I now define your identity.” The name ‘Daniel’ means “the Lord will judge.” It is a great name. The Lord will be my judge. Through his childhood and upbringing he had a name worth declaring. Every time Daniel had heard his name spoken, it was a reminder, that the Lord will set things right. The Lord will see justice is done. His very name had been a promise every time he heard it, every day of his life. But now he’s not Daniel anymore. The Lord is not setting things right. In fact, it looks like his promise has been shattered. The Lord is not his judge. Maybe you can identify with Daniel. Maybe you feel like you have ended up in Babylon. In fact, if you don’t think you are living in Babylon, you need to look more closely at your circumstances.
So what do you
do when you realise you have ended up in Babylon? Because sooner of later, you
will. Babylon is where you find yourself when life does not turn out the way
you planned. Maybe it happens when a relationship or even a marriage that you
had such dreams for ends. Maybe it happens when your greatest vocational hopes
die. Maybe it happens when somebody you knew and loved wounds you deeply. Maybe
it’s when you realize that a deep prayer that you cherished will never be
answered the way that you want it. You find yourself in Babylon, cut off from
the life that you wanted and planned on, and you may never get home. And worst
of all, you wonder if God even knows. How could God let this happen? Has he
forgotten his promise? Does he even notice? What do you do when you find
yourself, like Daniel, in Babylon?
There’s a whole field in the social sciences that involves a study of people who experience suffering, major crises, or trauma. Now these researchers studied POWs from the Korean War, POWs from the war in Vietnam, the hostages that were held 14 months in Iran, individuals and families who had survived a decade or more living in Virginia Water. And these studies find that, as you might expect, a lot of people are just defeated by difficult ordeals--just withered in their spirit. But interestingly enough, there are some people who don’t just survive these traumatic events. They actually enlarge their capacity to handle problems and strengthen their ability to persist, to endure, to be creative, to be tenacious, so that at the end they haven’t just survived, they’ve grown. They have actually grown on trauma. Researchers have come to call these people ‘resilient’. They’ve come to call this quality resiliency, the capacity to thrive in challenging, difficult situations. And they find that there are certain common characteristics, qualities of spirit that mark out resilient people. When we turn to Daniel, we look at one of the most spiritually resilient people in history.
In his youth, as we’ve seen, he lost everything. The foreign king Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem. Yet with God’s help, in Babylon, Daniel learned not just to survive, but to thrive.
Tonight I want us to walk through our introduction to Daniel in chapter one, and understand why it is worth devoting the next few weeks to studying this remarkable man. I want us to observe some of the characteristics that make for spiritual resilience.
1. Resilient people resolve to maintain integrity (Daniel 1:8)
The first such
characteristic we see in 1:8: Spiritually resilient people resolve--they make a
deep decision--to honour their deepest values. They refuse to live as passive
victims of circumstances beyond their control. They refuse to get tangled up in
stuff that would cause them to betray their deepest commitments. They resolve
to honour their deepest values, to honour God. Now, in many ways, 1:8 is the hinge
point of the whole story – certainly of the first chapter, and in some ways, of
the entire Book of Daniel. Everything turns here. Because up until verse eight,
it is the Babylonians who have determined everything. Up until this point, they’ve
been in the driving seat. Nebuchadnezzar determines to conquer Israel. He determines to cart off its most sacred objects and its highest potential
citizens. He determines to enrol them in his leadership academy. He decides on
the entrance criteria, the subject matter. The dean of the school determines
their names, their new identities, and the menu. They’ll be fed rich food and
wine from the king’s table. And the easiest thing in the world would have been
for Daniel to feel like he’s just a passive victim of forces way too big for
him. But from 1:8 on, the initiative in this story shifts.
And the writer
shows this in a really colourful way. This is kind of hard to pick up in most
translations, but the same verb gets repeated three times. A kind of literal
rendering of 1:7 would be, “The chief of staff determined new names for them.
He determined on Belteshazzar for Daniel and so on...” Then 1:8, “But Daniel
determined not to defile himself with rich food.” It’s the same verb repeated
over and over, but this time Daniel is determining -- Daniel the captive,
Daniel the prisoner, Daniel makes a decision. And the writer uses a real strong
word for a quality decision. It could be translated, “Daniel resolved in his
heart he would honour God. He would not defile himself.” He just decides.
And now he’s got to take action, so he goes to the dean of the school to talk about the menu. He explains that everybody is being fed roast beef, eggs, and cheese. They’re on the Adkins’ diet, and he’s a Weight Watchers guy. Now the text doesn’t say why this food would defile Daniel. Maybe it violates ceremonial laws. Maybe it was offered to idols because it was from the king’s table. It’s not real clear why, but it is clear that to Daniel he needed to draw a line. He needed to take a stand. And you need to know how much courage this took on Daniel’s part. Nebuchadnezzar was not the kind of leader who cut people a lot of slack. In 2 Kings 25, a puppet king named Zedekiah rebelled against him. Nebuchadnezzar captures Zedekiah and his family and had his sons killed before Zedekiah’s eyes, and then had Zedekiah’s eyes put out. The last thing he saw were his sons being killed by Nebuchadnezzar, and then he lost his eyes.
You’ve heard of leaders with hands-on management style or hands-off management style. Nebuchadnezzar had a “heads-off” management style. If people crossed him, he cut off their heads. How many of you have ever had a really tough boss? Imagine working for a boss that was so tough when he terminated people, he terminated people? That’s Nebuchadnezzar. That’s who Daniel is dealing with here. But Daniel determines something.
Daniel remembers his name. Daniel does not view himself as the helpless pawn of circumstances beyond his control. Daniel resolves in his heart. There’s just this magnificent courage and initiative here. And then we’ll see a lot of wisdom behind it. And spiritually resilient people are that way. They resolve that they will honour God. And then they figure out whatever it takes to do that. And they do not accept as an excuse that they live in forces that are too powerful for them to control. They seize whatever initiative is available to them. Now this is going to take some effort on Daniel’s part. He goes to the dean of the school makes his request. And the dean says, “But if I say ‘yes’ to you, you’ll end up looking weak and you’ll lack energy. And the king will have my head.” That’s his answer. And now we start to see Daniel’s persistence and resilience. Daniel says to himself, “Well, that’s not exactly a ‘yes,’ but it’s not exactly a ‘no.’” And so he goes to the guard in the next level down on the organisation chart and proposes an experiment. He says, “Let us try this diet for ten days, and then you be the judge.” Daniel exercises amazing initiative, courage, and faith that God will work.
And God does. In fact, we see in verse 16 that the guard is so impressed with what happens to Daniel and his friends that he takes away everybody’s steak and puts the whole school on the veggie platter. And Daniel goes to the head of the class. But friends, this only happens because when everything looked like it was lost and he was up against overwhelming forces, Daniel resolved in his heart he would not get tangled up with anything that would cause him to betray his deepest values. He resolved in his heart he would honour God. He would not give up his integrity. So let me ask you, anywhere you’re getting tangled up in life?
Let me illustrate this. “It happened at a traffic light near the edge of town. A man revved the engine of his huge shiny Harley Davidson motorcycle as he waited for the lights to change. You might have been tempted to stare at this guy, and he would have enjoyed it.
A sweat band was
fastened around his head; from beneath it a matted tangle of grey hair spilled
down the back of his leather jacket. Images of skulls and bones leered from his
clothing and his bare forearms. And his bike bore the emblem of a menacing
black widow spider. As he waited at the lights, an elderly man on a lime green
moped pulled up beside him. The ringy ding ding of the moped was drowned out by
the roaring thunder of the Harley. ‘Boy, that’s some motorcycle you’ve got
there,’ the old man choked. ‘Mind if I take a closer look?’ Smiling from behind
his oily beard, the biker gave him the once-over. ‘If it turns your crank,
old-timer, go ahead.’
The old man was a little far-sighted, but he wanted to take in all the scenery, so he leaned his face right over the bike and examined every inch. Looking up after a while, the old man grinned and said to the biker, ‘I bet that motorcycle goes fast.’ But no sooner were the words out of his mouth, when the lights changed, and the biker thought he’d show this old geezer what a real chopper could do.
He gave it full throttle, and within 30 seconds the speedo read 120 miles an hour. He chuckled with satisfaction. Suddenly he noticed a dot in his rear view mirror, a dot that was growing larger. Something was gaining on him. What could it be? He slowed down to get a better look, and whatever the thing was it flashed past him so fast he couldn’t identify it. The thing disappeared over the horizon, whipped around, and came right back at him. As it zipped past he recognized the rider. It was the old man on the lime green moped. How could this be? The biker took another look into his rear view mirror. There was that speck again coming back his way and growing larger. The biker tried to outrun it, but it couldn’t be done.
It didn’t matter because in seconds, the moped slammed into the rear of the Harley Davidson. The collision destroyed both bikes. You could hear the impact for miles. The biker extricated himself from the mangled steel pretzel that had once been his beloved Harley Davidson. The old man lay winded beside the smoking remnants of his crushed moped. Even the hardened biker was moved with compassion. He knelt beside the old man’s face and softly asked, ‘Is there anything I can do for you?’ The old man choked, coughed and replied, ‘Yes. Could you please unhook my braces from your handlebars?’”
Now you and I would never purposely hook our braces to anything dangerous. And yet many of us might be willing to lean over for a closer look. The world around us is littered with the mangled lives of men and women who never intended to get hooked. They only wanted to get a closer look at the shiny colours of some forbidden sin. The husband who never intended to lose his family, but decided it was okay to flirt around the boundaries of adultery. And now he pulls himself from the wreckage of a burnt out marriage. He got tangled up in Babylon. The business person who decides that cutting an ethical corner here and there will make a ride to the top quicker. Now she’s a collision waiting to happen.
Most people never intend to sabotage a marriage. Or destroy a friendship. Or wreck their career. Or shatter their reputation. They think they can get away with it, And they just drift into resentment or bitterness or revenge, and before they know it they suffer a relational crash that wrecks their life. Sometimes we get tangled up in more subtle enemies: hurry or success or a deception and we compromise. Some of you are here tonight, and you see yourself as a helpless victim. A pawn of circumstances beyond your control. Trapped by decisions made by others. And you think there is nothing you can do about it. Wrong. God is calling you to be like Daniel. Make a resolution in your heart that will take courage and wisdom to carry it out. You can do this. This is required for spiritual resiliency. This is required if you’re going to survive and thrive in Babylon. Regain your integrity.
Do the right thing.
I’ll let you into a secret. We all live in Babylon. So many people say, “I would get to know God better if…” or “I would get involved in ministry if…” or “I would be joyful if…”
or “I would seize life by the throat and live it the best I can if only...” “If only…” “If only I weren’t so busy.” “If only I had a better small group leader.” “If only my season of life weren’t so demanding.” “If only other people hadn’t made different choices.” See, we all live in Babylon. We all live in a world that will try to tempt us or intimidate us into settling for less than God’s best. To compromise on our integrity. Listen, friends, this is your one and only life. This is your day. You will only get one shot at tomorrow.
So what do you need to resolve in your heart? Do you need to end a relationship that’s dishonouring God? End it! Make the call. Do it tonight. Do you need to repent of unethical business? Repent and set things right. Do it now. Do you need to seek first the kingdom of God by reordering your time? Reorder your time. Is there some area in your life where you need to pursue healing and you haven’t been doing it because you’ve been seeing yourself as a victim? Then stop wallowing and take responsibility. Tomorrow does not have to like yesterday. This is your day. This is your life. You must resolve in your heart.
You must do
this. I’ll tell you why so much is at stake here. In the future, Daniel and his
friends would have to make some very difficult decisions. There was one point
where they were commanded to bow down and worship the king or be thrown into
the furnace. And they said, “Okay, throw us into the furnace because we’re not
going to bow.”
When Daniel was told one day, “Cease praying to your God or you’ll be thrown to the lions,” Daniel said, “Throw me to the lions, because I’m not going to stop praying.” See, if Daniel and his friends had not drawn the line here over their diet, if they had not kept their integrity in something small, if they had not declared to the world and themselves where their deepest allegiance belonged, they never would have had the strength to face the furnace or the lion’s den. Some of you have hooked your braces up to the wrong thing, and you’re feeling the pain right now. Resolve this night, “I will honour God. I will not hand over this one and only life that God has given me to any power in Babylon--not to any person, not to any relationship, not to any job, not to any boss, not to any habit, not to any force, not to any schedule. I’ll resolve in my heart that I will honour God.” Resilient People Resolve to Maintain Integrity. They recognize that it’s a life or death deal.
people commit to building community (Daniel 1:17-19)
For Daniel, he found strength in a little small group that formed with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. And we’re going to see these characters again. But they really were kind of a little small group. They ate together. They went through college together. They surely studied and prayed and faced decisions together. And they would one day face the furnace together. And having been tested, they would one day help to rule together. Indeed, by God’s grace, this small group of devoted believers would change the course of an entire nation. When you live in Babylon, you will not survive and thrive outside community. You just won’t.
intended us to live lives in isolation. Julius Segal, one of the primary
researchers in the area of resiliency, writes, “Few captives suffered more than
Vice-Admiral James Stockdale who served 2,714 days as a POW in Vietnam. On one occasion, his captors shackled his legs and arms and left him in glaring
sunshine three blistering days while guards beat him repeatedly to keep him
from sleeping. “After one beating, Stockdale heard a towel snapping out in a
code that the POWs had devised a message he would never forget. It was five
letters--GBUS--God bless you Jim Stockdale.” Segel writes that for these POWs,
the briefest experiences of community, of being connected, became literally a
life or death deal. Their devotion and ingenuity to making community happen in
spite of unbelievable obstacles defies belief. Segal writes how if one man
walked by another cell, he would drag his sandals in code to send a message.
Men sent messages to their comrades through the noises they made shaking out
their blankets, by belching, snoring, blowing their noses, or bodily noises
that I will not name but are mastered normally by 10-year-old boys.
This is so ironic to me. Where community is so difficult, people will move heaven and earth and risk their lives just for a moment of it. And when Community is so available – like our church family lunch together today with Tom Hewitt or our annual church family picnic in the park last Sunday - we often don’t even devote adequate time and effort to it. Community - that is deep friendship and spiritual intimacy - do not come easy. You have to fight for them. That is why our membership covenant is a covenant with one another.
That by God’s grace, we will determine to not neglect one another… we will… Many times I talk to somebody after a service who is struggling with some difficult problem. And I’ll ask, “Are you in community? Do you have a small group of trusted Christian brothers and sisters that support you, help you, pray for you, give you wisdom?” And so often they say, “No. I tried once, but it didn’t work out.” Tonight I plead with you to try again – try another group.
Try as often as you need to try. Make time for it. Pray, learn, grow, reach out. If you are not a member of a small group meeting to study God’s word, for prayer and community, you will not survive long in Babylon. And those of you who are here tonight who are in a small group, remember, the people in your group live in Babylon, and they get beaten up one way or another all the time, some more than others. There are people here right now who are ready to give up. Maybe one of them is sitting next to you. I wonder if you have any idea what a difference it makes when you take the time to say, “God bless you. I’m praying for you. Your life counts.”
See, people need to hear the code - GBU - not just hostages and POWs. People in this room need to hear the code. That’s why we major on the act that we are community church not just an Anglican church. We are building something here. Does it surprise you that people are so desperate to live within a covenant community? We a presently reviewing the wording of our membership covenant. There have been criticisms. Some misunderstandings. Let me reassure you. There are no plans to dilute our covenant. Instead we plan to strengthen it. We realise its deficient. We plan to include something to the effect that we resolve to protect the unity of our church. As a community, we must ensure that nobody leaves tonight without hearing somebody say, “I’m glad you’re here. You matter to me. Don’t you give up.” And its been heartening to see that the wider Anglican Communion is about to adopt a covenant and expect individual churches to endorse it. Just as individual parishes are realising signing an electoral roll form is no longer a sufficient basis for membership, so Diocese and Provinces are realising that it is no longer sufficient to call ourselves Anglican to be in communion. What have we learnt so far? 1. Resilient people resolve to maintain integrity. 2. Resilient people commit to building vibrant community.
3. Resilient people remember that life, even their suffering, has meaning and purpose in the eyes of God. (Daniel 1:20-21)
This is very interesting. Researchers say that the factor that causes people to give up most often is not when their suffering gets more intense, it’s when they believe their suffering has no meaning or purpose. It’s not the intensity of the suffering. It’s the meaninglessness of it. Again, researchers who study this sort of thing find that suicide notes rarely speak about failing health, rejection, finances, or even physical pain. They say things like, “There’s no point in going on. There is no reason for me to keep living.” See, Daniel was about to discover something in Babylon that he would have never known if he’d lived his whole life in Israel like he planned. He was to discover that there was somebody who was at work in Babylon. There’s one character in this story besides Daniel and his friends and Nebuchadnezzar and his servants.
See this in reverse. Daniel 1:17. “To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning.” Now look up at Daniel 1:9. “Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel.” Now look at Daniel 1:2. “And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand.” The writer of this story is convinced that God is at work right from the start. He has a purpose on what is happening. He knows what many of the Israelites did not know. He’s convinced that even the defeat of Judah and the loss of the temple that looked so tragic was not just a random meaningless event. God was not asleep. God had not broken his promise or forgotten his dream. God was up to something in Babylon in the place of great suffering. God, as it turns out, loved even Babylon. God will see this. God, as it turns out, even cares about old Nebuchadnezzar. God sees something in him. Whatever you suffer today or tomorrow or sometime in the future, God is with you.
I want to read you a story. Its told by John Ortberg. Its about a woman in a convalescent hospital that a friend of his used to visit when he was in college.
“The state run convalescent hospital is not a pleasant place. It is large, understaffed, and overfilled with senile, helpless and lonely people waiting to die. On the brightest of days it seems dark inside and smells of sickness and stale urine. I went there once or twice a week for four years, but I never wanted to go there. And I always left with a sense of relief. It’s not the kind of place one gets used to.
On this particular day I was walking in a hallway that I had not visited before, looking in vain for a few who were alive enough to receive a flower and a few words of encouragement. This hallway seemed to contain some of the worst cases strapped onto carts or into wheelchairs and looking completely helpless.
As I neared the end of this hallway, I saw an old woman strapped in a wheelchair. Her face was an absolute horror. The empty stare and white pupils of her eyes told me that she was blind. The large hearing aid over one ear told me she was almost deaf. One side of her face was being eaten by cancer. There was a discoloured and running sore covering part of one cheek, and it had pushed her nose to one side, dropped one eye, and distorted her jaw so that what should have been the corner of her mouth was the bottom of her mouth. As a consequence, she drooled constantly. I was told later that when new nurses arrived, the supervisors would send them to feed this woman, thinking if they could stand this sight they could stand anything in the building. I also later learned that this woman was 89 years old, and that she had been here bedridden, blind, nearly deaf and alone for 25 years. This was Mabel. I don’t why I spoke to her. She looked less likely to respond than most people I saw in that hallway, but I put a flower in her hand and said, “Here’s a flower for you. Happy Mother’s Day.’” She held up the flower to her face and tried to smell it. Then she spoke, and much to my surprise her words, although somewhat garbled because of her deformity, were obviously produced by a clear mind. She said, “Thank you, it’s lovely. But can I give it to someone else? I can’t see it, you know. I’m blind.” I said, “Of course,’ and I pushed her in her chair back down the hallway to a place where I thought I could find some alert patients. I found one and stopped the chair. Mabel held out the flower and said, “Here, this is from Jesus.’ That was when it began to dawn on me: This is not an ordinary human being.
Later I wheeled her back to her room and learned about her history. She’d grown up on a small farm that she managed with only her mother until her mom died. Then she ran the farm alone until 1950 when her blindness and sickness sent her to the convalescent hospital. For 25 years she got weaker and sicker with constant headaches, backaches, stomachaches, and then the cancer came too. Her three roommates were all human vegetables who screamed occasionally but never talked. They often soiled their bedclothes and because the hospital was understaffed, especially on Sundays when I usually visited, the stench was often overpowering. Mabel and I became friends over the next few weeks, and I went to see her once or twice a week for the next three years. Her first words to me were usually an offer of hard candy from a tissue box near her bed. Some days I would read to her from the Bible, and often when I would pause, she would continue reciting the passage from memory word for word. Other days I would take a book of hymns and sing with her, and she’d know all the words of the old songs. For Mabel, these were not just exercises in memory. She would often stop in mid-hymn and make a brief comment about lyrics she considered particularly relevant to her situation. I never heard her speak of loneliness or pain except in the stress she placed on certain lines in certain hymns. It was not many weeks before I turned from a sense that I was being helpful, to a sense of wonder. And I would go to her with a pen and paper to write down the things she would say. What follows is the story behind one scrap of paper. During a hectic week of final exams, I was frustrated because my mind seemed pulled in ten directions at once with all the things I had to think about. The question occurred to me: What does Mabel have to think about? Hour after hour, day after day, week after week, not even able to know if it’s day or night. So I went to her and asked, “Mabel, what do you think about when you lie there?’
And she said, “I think about my Jesus.” I sat there and thought for a moment about the difficulty for me of thinking about Jesus for even five minutes. And I asked, “What do you think about Jesus?’ She replied slowly and deliberately as I wrote, and this is what she said: “I think about how good he’s been to me. He’s been awfully good to me in my life, you know. I’m one of those kind who’s mostly satisfied. Lots of folks wouldn’t care much for what I think. Lots of folks would think I’m kind of old-fashioned, but I don’t care. I’d rather have Jesus. He’s all the world to me.” And then Mabel began to sing an old hymn, “Jesus is all the world to me, my life, my joy, my all. He’s my strength from day to day, without him I would fall. When I am sad, to him I go. No other one can cheer me so. When I am sad he makes me glad. He is my friend.’ How could she do it? Seconds ticked and minutes crawled and so did days and weeks and months and years of pain, without human company, and without an explanation of why it was all happening. And she lay there and sang hymns. How could she do it? The answer, I think, is that Mabel had something that you and I may not have much of. She had power. Lying there in that bed, unable to move, unable to see, unable to hear, unable to talk to anyone, she had incredible power.
Mabel’s race has been run. Her story is done. Yours and mine hasn’t finished yet. Here’s what we need to know: God was with Daniel. And in what seemed like a God forsaken place, he became the highest advisor to the king in the most powerful nation of earth. God was with Mabel, this 89-year-old woman. She died alone and unknown in an obscure hospital bed. But today thousands of people in many countries have heard or read her story. They have been given an amazing gift by this woman who thought she died alone and forgotten. God is with you, whoever you are, whatever Babylon you find yourself in. We’ll see this in the coming weeks. God is up to something in Babylon, so you resolve to honour him.
Because resilient people resolve to maintain integrity. Because resilient people commit to building vibrant community. Because resilient people remember that life, even their suffering, has meaning and purpose in the eyes of God.
With grateful thanks to John Ortberg. Drawn largely from a sermon of his entitled, “Pursuing Spiritual Excellence.”