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Earlier this morning, I was listening to a talk by Ravi Zacharias – The Disciplines of a Godly Man. According to him, to be Christ-like, you need to learn when to draw the line.
When King Nebuchanezzar, the King of Babylon, attacked and conquered Jerusalem during the reign of Jehoiakim, he instructed the chief official to select the best men from Israel. They had to be handsome, intelligent, well-trained, quick to learn, and free from physical defects, so that they would be qualified to serve in the royal court. After three years of training, they were to appear before the king. Among those chosen were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, all of whom were from the tribe of Judah. The chief official gave them new names: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The king wanted them to be taught the Babylonian language and to be served the same food in the king’s court.
The heart of spiritual discipline is a relationship with God.
This was where Daniel drew his first line – the Line of Resistance. He did this by training his appetite. He said, “I do not want the abundance of the food or the enjoyment of the king.” He asked the chief official instead to give him a meager diet.
We all have hungers and passions that taunt us. And if we give in, we become a slave to our desires. You and I are responsible for training ourselves to control the various hungers that rage within us. We are filled with hungers – physical hunger, emotional hunger, intellectual hunger, relational hunger. It’s imperative that we train what we begin to enjoy and shun what can side-track us from honoring God.
David drew the line of resistance early enough to avoid being trapped in the lifestyle of the court. “Trying it out” can seem harmless in the beginning but it can quickly suck you in and before you know it, you’ve gotten so entangled in sin that you no longer know how to escape.
Second, Daniel drew the Line of Dependence. He didn’t depend on his own strength, intelligence or training. He relied on God.
King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream. And in that dream, there was a gigantic statue that had a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, legs of bronze and feet of iron and clay. Then suddenly a rock came out of nowhere and smashed the statue into pieces. When he awoke he commanded all his advisors to explain his dream to him. But no one could do it. In a fit of rage, he commanded all his royal advisors to be executed – including Daniel and his friends. Daniel then knelt before God and prayed to him for mercy and wisdom for him to discover the meaning behind the king’s dream. That night, God revealed the mystery to him in a dream. When he awoke, Daniel praised God.
“God is wise and powerful! Praise him forever and ever.
He controls the times and the seasons; he makes and unmakes kings; it is he who gives wisdom and understanding.
He reveals things that are deep and secret; he knows what is hidden in darkness, and he himself is surrounded by light.
I praise you and honor you, God of my ancestors.
You have given me wisdom and strength; you have answered my prayer and shown us what to tell the king.”
-Daniel 2: 20-23
Daniel was a man of learning. Yet he knew he needed to lean on God’s wisdom and not on his own understanding. The 20th Century is a century filled with knowledge and learning. And yet, it’s one of the bloodiest centuries we’ve had. Hate, racisim and evil abound. It seems we have lost our wisdom to determine right from wrong and good from bad.
The wisdom is gone. We have almost educated ourselves into imbecility.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Daniel then came before the king and told him his dream and its meaning. King Nebuchadnezzar bowed to the ground and said “Your God is the greatest of all gods, the Lord over kings, and the one who reveals mysteries. I know this because you have been able to explain this mystery.” And he gave Daniel a high position and many gifts.
If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar had a golden statue made and ordered everyone to bow before it. This time, Daniel was forced to choose – worship King Nebuchadnezzar and save his life or be faithful to God and possibly lose it. This was were Daniel drew his third line, the Line of Confidence. He refused to worship the statue of King Nebuchadnezzar even if it cost him his life. In the end, God saved Daniel from the lion’s den.
When you draw the line of resistance, the line of dependence and the line of confidence, those are the disciplines that will mold you to become the person God has destined you to be. When you draw the line as a man of God, people will watch your good works and convictions and be drawn to God through you.
It’s tough to draw the line in this world of ours. But with God’s grace it can be done. Let’s continue on in the race, fighting the good fight for God’s glory. For our reward is to be with him in eternity, and that is worth any line, any loss or any sacrifice.