Today on Summit Life with J.D.
Greer. Prayerlessness is ultimately rooted in pride. You don't pray consistently and fervently because you are convinced that if you reach down deep enough and try hard enough for long enough, you're going to eventually find the resources to overcome.
But at some point, listen, at some point that is going to fail you. Welcome to Summit Life, the gospel-centered Bible teaching ministry of J.D. Greer, pastor of the Summit Church in Raleigh, North Carolina.
I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. Today we arrive at the most famous story in the book of Daniel, The Lion's Den. Daniel provides an incredible example of courage in the midst of adversity, but as much as we make of Daniel's night with the lions, his courage was actually forged long before that fateful night. You see, courage is not just summoned in a moment.
Courage is usually developed through a lifetime. If you've missed any of the previous messages in this series, you can find them online or you can download all of the complete unedited message transcripts at jdgreer.com. Pastor J.D.
has titled today's message, Courage is a Habit. Well, if you have your Bible this morning, and I hope that you have one, if you'll take it out and open it up or turn it on or whatever it takes to get to Daniel chapter six. Daniel chapter six. Today, we are going to look at one of the top three most famous stories in your Bible, the story of Daniel and The Lion's Den.
But get this, in the 20 years or so that I have served here as your pastor at the Summit Church, I have never one time not once preached on this passage, not even once. This story is the last of the fast-paced Daniel doing battle in Babylon narratives in the book of Daniel. Actually, there's one more in chapter nine we're going to get to, but most of the rest of the book is prophecy. Daniel six is the last chapter that is written in Aramaic. If you remember the very first week, I told you that the first chapter of Daniel and the last chapters of Daniel, chapter seven through 12, are written in Hebrew, which was the language of Israel, but the middle chapters, chapters two through six, are written in Aramaic, which was the language of Babylon, because these events take place in Babylon and they're written so that Babylonians can read these stories also. Well, this is the last story. Daniel and The Lion's Den is the last story in Aramaic. It's the last account of Daniel and his three friends shining in Babylon.
Honestly, I'm a little bit sad because I've really enjoyed studying out these stories, so I hate to see this part come to an end, but this is the last one. We're going to use this story this morning to talk about developing the habit of courage. Developing the habit of courage. Courage, I want to show you this morning, is not something you summon up in a moment. Courage is developed through a lifetime of small, consistent decisions.
Courage is a pattern that you program into your heart. You know how when you type something into Google and it autocompletes for you? By the way, that just drives me nuts. Just because I search that one time for the current net worth of Zach from Saved by the Bell doesn't mean that every time I type in the word current, that's what I'm looking for.
Leave me alone, Google. But Google knows that you and I follow patterns, and so it autofills our search bar according to how we have trained it. The same thing is true with how you respond to adversity. Your heart autofills your response based on the patterns that you have established. The Greek philosopher Aristotle, he said, excellence is not an act, it's a habit. Aristotle, by the way, would have lived not long after Daniel. Everybody says excellence is not an act, it's a habit. I would say the same thing is true about courage. Courage is not an act, it is a habit.
It is a habit developed over years and years and years of repeated patterns. Daniel 6, let me remind you of the context real quick. Babylon has been overthrown by the Medes and the Persians. Nebuchadnezzar and all the royal family have been killed, and King Darius of the Medes now sits on the throne. Daniel by this point is well over 80 years old, still living in captivity in Babylon. We do not know what has happened to his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Presumably by this point they have already died. The new king, King Darius, in order to try to bring some stability and continuity to his government has kept on his court a lot of Nebuchadnezzar's wise men, and that includes Daniel. Daniel chapter 6 verse 3. But Daniel distinguished himself because he had an extraordinary spirit, so the king planned to set him over the whole realm second in command only to himself. You know, one thing that is consistent about Daniel is that no matter where he is, no matter what circumstance he's in or how he got there or how unjust the situation felt, Daniel stays positive, upbeat even, believing that God has a plan.
And that mentality creates new opportunities wherever he goes at multiple points in his life. When everybody else, and maybe you and I, would have looked at him and said, your life is over, Daniel. Daniel said, you know, I bet God has something for me yet. And could I just point out that Daniel is more than 80 years old at this point. So let me just go ahead and say it, and I'll just say it as plain as I can, old people can still do awesome things. By the way, Daniel's not the only old guy in history to do awesome things. At 83 years old, William Gladstone became Prime Minister of Great Britain for the fourth time. At 85 years old, John Wesley, they say, still preached with almost undiminished eloquence up to two or three times a day.
At 89 years old, Michelangelo painted his Last Judgment, which is now one of the most famous paintings in the world. At age 90, Thomas Edison was still filing for new patents at the patent office for new inventions he was coming up with. George Bernard Shaw at age 90 was still writing plays that would become classics. Harland Sanders was 65 when he opened Kentucky Fried Chicken after getting fired from about a dozen of his previous jobs. His career was a total failure up to that point. Winston Churchill won his first election at age 62. He had lost literally every single election up to that point. His career did not really begin until he was 62.
He was 71 when he led England into World War II. So for all of you seasoned people out there, do not let them tell you that you are done. God might have something for you yet, okay?
All right, got a few amens. Verse 4, the administrators and satraps, which is a word for like a governor, therefore kept trying to find a charge against Daniel regarding the kingdom. But they could find no charge or corruption because Daniel was trustworthy.
And no negligence or corruption at all was founded him. We see it every couple of years around election season, don't we? The commercials just start multiplying. So and so is a liar, you know? 32 years ago he said this at a party. He voted with big nursery to take candy from babies. They always seem to find something about everybody.
But here are these guys search and search and search and they can't find anything. And by the way, this is after six decades of public service on Daniel's part. That is pretty remarkable. The point is that Daniel has been utterly trustworthy in all that he did for 70 years, 70 years serving in the public square. Verse 5, then these men said, we'll never find any charge against this Daniel unless we find something against him concerning the law of his God. So they went together to the king and said, oh, may King Darius, may you live forever. Verse 7, and all the administrators of the kingdom, the prefects, the satraps, the advisors, and the governors, we have all agreed that the king should establish an ordinance, an ordinance that for 30 days, anybody who petitions any God or man, except for you, old king, that one should be thrown into the lion's den. The weak spot that they have found, and I've got to hand it to them.
It is pretty ingenious. The weak spot is built around Daniel's faith and the king's ego. Basically, they're like, oh king, oh king, your subjects need to learn that they can depend on you for everything. So let's make a rule that for 30 days, for 30 days, people can only bring their needs to you. We're not banning prayer for all time. We're just saying that for 30 days, people need to see that you can meet all their needs. So there can only pray to you for 30 days.
And in 30 days, they will see how amazing, how all sufficient you are, how able you are to take care of all your subjects. Verse 8, therefore your majesty established the edict and signed the documents so that as a law of the Medes and Persians, it is irrevocable and cannot be changed. The Medes and the Persians had this custom that once a law was passed, it couldn't be changed or altered in any way. The purpose for that, historians say, was to try to keep kings from passing arbitrary laws all willy-nilly just because they were in a bad mood.
They get beat at pickleball by a left-handed guy so they outlaw left-handedness. That kind of stuff happened. The next day, the king gets irritated with one of his wives so he passes a law that no women can ever argue with men. In the ancient world, kings did stuff like this all the time and that law would only last for a couple of days until the king calmed down. So the Medes and the Persians instituted this custom to try and keep the king from doing that. Plus, they thought, not allowing a law to be changed helped reinforce the idea that the king was divine because if you changed the law that implied that you'd made a mistake.
So they had this custom that you couldn't change the law once it was passed and this law passed. Daniel's response, verse 10, when Daniel learned that the document had been signed, he went into his house, he opened the upstairs window toward Jerusalem, and three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed and gave thanks to God just as he had done before. If you underline stuff in your Bible, underline that. He did it just like he had done before because there it is, the habit. Daniel has prayed three times daily now for 70 years. He'd done it in Daniel chapter one when they tried to force him to eat forbidden foods. He'd done it in chapter two when the king threatened to kill all the wise men because nobody could interpret his dream. His friends had done it in Daniel 3 when Nebuchadnezzar tried to force them to bow down to his golden image. Whenever Daniel had been in trouble, whenever Daniel had felt threatened, he had turned to God in prayer.
So this response was as natural to him, as routine, as breathing. So here's my question for you. What is your instinct when trouble comes? When you have been hurt in your marriage?
When your spouse is not treating you fairly and it's just not getting any better no matter how much you talk to them or no matter what you do? What's your instinct when you feel threatened? When you feel like you're being pressured at your job to do the wrong thing? Or you feel like you're being treated unfairly by your boss or one of your colleagues? Or when you're being pressured to toe the party line even though it goes against your conscience? Or maybe you want a friend or a boyfriend or a girlfriend that's pressuring you to do the wrong thing. You're being pressured to conform. What is your instinct?
I would say that our responses typically fit into one of four categories. Number one, panic. A lot of people their instinct is to panic. You get scared and you cave. Look, there's no way out.
The pressure's just too strong. All my friends are doing it. I'm going to be a social outcast if I don't.
I don't have that kind of social capital to spend so it's just easier to go along and get along. Everybody in my business is doing it. I'll never survive if I don't do this. This is this law. The Medes and Persians and it can't be changed.
And the king and all the other important people are behind it. I don't really have a choice here if I want to survive. Panic. Y'all, I love this verse. First Corinthians 10 13. No temptation. No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to man. But God, who is faithful, will never allow you to be tempted beyond what you were able. He will always, with that temptation, with that trial, He's going to provide you a way of escape that you might be able to bear it. God always provides a way of escape. Always.
He will always supply you with the strength and the wisdom and the ability to do the right thing. And that means you never need to panic because you were never trapped in a situation with only bad options. So response number one is people panic. A second common instinct response to this kind of pressure is pride. Pride. This one's kind of tricky because it can look on the outside like bold faith. Because essentially you're saying, I will not yield to you.
I can overcome this. The difference between this and faith is that when you peel back the layers of this response, what you're going to find is not a humble dependence on God. What you're going to find is a heart of self-sufficiency. This is more of a I'm better than you attitude. You can't beat me kind of attitude than it is I'm going to do what God wants and trust Him with the results attitude. By the way, the sign that you are operating in pride is prayerlessness.
Prayerlessness is the indicator light on the dashboard of the Christian life that warns you that pride has set in. You know how in your car dashboard you got these little indicator lights that tells you if your engine is running too hot? Let's get to know one another a little bit here, okay? How many of you fill up your gas once it's half empty? You're that person. You're like, if it's half empty, I'm stopping to fill it up. How many of you wait until the little countdown says one mile left? How many of you that you're that, okay? And then your prayer life just totally takes off, doesn't it?
That you have never prayed so desperately and fervently and vowed to be a missionary when you're trying to get at the gas station with one mile until empty. Okay, all right, how about the indicator lights? How many of you, the second that the light comes on, you take your car to the shop? If that's you, all right? How many of you treat that light like more of a suggestion, right? You're like, I'm just going to wait and see if this thing kind of works itself out, right? What are you laughing at, Veronica?
So probably that it burns you at some point, I would guess, because those little indicator lights alert you to problems that are going on deep in your engine that you can't see. Prayerlessness is the indicator light that your heart is running proud. Many people think that prayerlessness is just the result of a lack of self-discipline. You're like, you know, I mean, I believe in prayer, but I just don't pray. I don't pray enough for the same reason that I don't work out enough or eat enough alfalfa sprouts.
It's just a lack of self-discipline. But prayerlessness is ultimately rooted in pride. You don't pray consistently and fervently because you are convinced that if you reach down deep enough and try hard enough for long enough, you're going to eventually find the resources to overcome. But at some point, listen, at some point that is going to fail you. And I know that if you're a believer, because God is going to put you into a situation that you can't overcome.
In fact, I would suggest that some of you are there right now, aren't you? You come in here this morning overwhelmed by the challenges of parenting, utterly defeated by your marriage, financially underwater, crushed by a relationship that you just can't make work. An issue has come up in your health or the health of a loved one that has you scared to death this morning. At the end of Daniel chapter 4, King Nebuchadnezzar, after God had humbled him and he turned his heart toward God, he said, we looked at it a couple weeks ago, all those who walk in pride, God is able to humble. You see, that's true for professing Christians also. For you who know God, his agenda in your life is to humble you out of the pride of self-sufficiency. If that is you this morning, my word to you today is very simple.
Turn away from pride and turn toward God, and if that happens, you'll begin to express that by a daily consistent time of prayer. Panic, pride, your third response, preemptive strike. Something for something, tit for tat. I will protect myself by fighting. You hurt me, I'll hurt you back. You play dirty, you play dirty, I'll play dirtier.
When Daniel found out about this law, he could have tried to engineer some political trick, some scheme to get back at him. Quid pro quo is how most of us try to survive. We live in peace with others. We maintain peace with others through mutually assured destruction with them. The way that I'll keep you from hurting me is by making it clear that if you do, I'll hurt you back.
Worse. Some of you have marriages that are surviving because mutually assured destruction. You hurt me, I will hurt you back.
And then you'll think twice about messing with me. So we got panic, we got pride, we got preemptive strike, and then there's Daniel's response. Number four, prayer. Let me just lay this at God's feet. Daniel's like, ultimately these are God's problems because I don't even belong to me anymore. I belong to him, which means that these problems don't belong to me either.
They belong to him. All I'm responsible for is what he tells me to do. Friend, I will tell you, this is such an incredibly peaceful way to live. It is so peaceful because you let Jesus shoulder the weight of your problems. Jesus described the Christian life as easy, not because it's all sunshine and giggles and roses. In fact, most of us would say that when we became Christians and many ways our lives got harder. Jesus says it's easy because we are yoked up with him.
Come unto me, Jesus says, Matthew 11 28. Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, and you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Let me try to help you make sense of that. A yoke typically had places for two oxen, and those two oxen would pull the load together. So that meant if one ox was stronger, then the other ox got the benefit of that stronger ox's strength. Imagine you were strapped into that yoke to pull a tractor trailer, but strapped in next to you was the world's strongest man. I think John Muller. All right, Pastor John is 6'5".
He looks like a character out of a French romance novel, am I right? But just to say that you're strapped in with one of those guys who's a lot stronger than you. The load might not seem that heavy to you because the stronger guy is pulling so much of the weight.
In fact, it might even seem to you like you're just out taking a walk. And so it is with Jesus and my problems. When I trust in Him, He shoulders the weight of my marriage problems. He shoulders the weight of my work problems. He shoulders the weight of my parenting problems.
Ultimately, they're not even my kids anymore, they're His kids. He shoulders the weight of my personal struggles. In each of those things, He carries the weight. I'm just responsible to do what He directs me to do.
Success is the Word that belongs to Him. Faithfulness is the Word that belongs to me. What a friend we have in Jesus.
Oh, what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer. Cast your burdens on the Lord, Peter says. Cast them and He will sustain you. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Don't lean on your own understanding or your own ability to figure it all out. In all your ways, acknowledge Him.
In all your ways, cast your burden on Him, and He's the one that will make your path straight. So panic, pride, preemptive strike, or prayer. So again, I ask you the question, what's your default?
You got one. What auto-fills in the search bar of your heart when hard times come? When you type in P, what fills in the rest? When you feel threatened? When you feel panicky? Is it pride? Is it panic?
Is it preemptive strike? Or is it prayer? Daniel chose prayer because he trusted in God, and so that evening he prayed as peacefully as he had every single other one. Friend, I can tell you from experience that there is a peacefulness in that prayer closet that you will not find anywhere else. I don't care how much you meditate, how much zen music you put on.
I don't care how much money you have, how much you exercise, or what you do. There's a peace in the prayer closet you can't find anywhere else. Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer, that calls me from a world of care and bids me air my Father's throne, make all my wants and wishes known. In seasons of distress and grief, my soul has often found relief and oft escaped the temptress snare by Thy return, sweet hour of prayer. So Daniel prays, Daniel prays, and of course the other wise men see this.
So they run to the king, scarcely able to contain their excitement. Verse 12. Verse 12, they're like, you know, King, we hate, I mean, I mean, King, we just hate to tell you this, but after you signed that irrevocable edict, we all saw Daniel pray, and we all just happened to be on the balcony right across from his house, all looking through our binoculars at the same time as his regularly scheduled prayer time, and we all saw him. Sadly, King, you know, you know the law of the Medes and the Persians cannot be changed, so we've prepared the lines right this way, sir.
Darius, of course, sees right through their ruse immediately, and he's pretty upset about it because he liked Daniel so much, but he's also bound by this ridiculous custom, so he feels like he has no choice but to throw Daniel in the lion's den. Verse 16, so the king gave the order. By the way, I know a lot of y'all think I hate on cats too much, but could we just take a moment and reflect that a pagan king who could have concocted any kind of torture decided that the most cruel and unusual punishment that he could think of was trapping you in a cage with cats? Friend, the scriptures speak for themselves, okay? And all God's people said, a few of God's people said, amen, okay? The king said to Daniel, the king said to Daniel, may your God whom you continually serve rescue you. A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den. The king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signet rings of his noble so that nothing in regard to Daniel could be changed.
And the king went back to his palace and spent the night fasting. Unlike most of the books in the Hebrew Bible, this book is not set in Israel. It's set in the heart of an enemy pagan empire where God's people have been taken captive and they're living as exiles. And what you're going to see in this book, what we'll learn is that the power to make a difference is only found in the commitment to be different. I'm excited to be able to offer to you along with this a new Bible study that will help, as we often do here at Summit Life, take you deeper into the teaching and the scripture, help you to reflect on it, help you think personally about it, show you some exegetical insights that maybe I can't cover in the sermon. I want to get that to you soon as you're going along with the series because I think it'll help you press deeper in what this timeless message is from the book of Daniel and how it applies to you. I'm Molly Vidovitch. Be sure to join us tomorrow as Pastor J.D.
teaches us how we can have courage like Daniel. That's Friday on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program is produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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