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  • Adam Schell

No Matter What

So just about every summer, Ashley, Hannah, and I take a big trip…and, the truth is, Ashley and I have been doing this since we first got married. And, over the years, we’ve had the chance to travel to a lot of different places. We’ve been to amusement parks and National Parks. We’ve been to some of the biggest cities in the country and we’ve stopped off in some smaller towns too. We’ve visited historical destinations and we’ve visited new attractions.

But the first thing that we do when we start thinking about our big trip each year is to decide where we want to go. Now, when we first started thinking about where we wanted to go this year, we envisioned taking a massive road trip out west where we’d visit National Parks from Colorado to Montana…but the more we looked into it the more we realized that we’d spend more time in a car than we would enjoying any of our possible destinations. So we changed plans.

And ultimately we decided that with Hannah starting into the fifth grade this fall – where she would start learning more about American history – that we should take her to two of the most important cities in our nation’s history. So we want to Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia.

But deciding where you’re going on vacation is usually the easy part. After you’ve made the decision that’s when the work starts. Because once you know where you’re going you have to book hotel rooms and make travel arrangements. You’ve got to figure out what you’re going to do when you get there – and in DC and Philadelphia, that means that you have to make some reservations.

We decided that we wanted to try to visit the White House and the Capitol Building while we were in Washington, D.C. But you can’t just show up at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and knock on the front door. No, you have to reach out to your senators or representatives months in advance to even have a shot at touring the White House. And, by the way, we were able to tour the White House and even got to see the first lady while we were there…so that was pretty cool.

But the planning doesn’t stop with just hotels and itineraries. Because after we figure out where we’re going, how we’re getting there, where we’re staying, and what we’re doing then I usually spend some time trying to figure out where we should eat. And when you visit a place like Philadelphia – a place that has a particular food they’re famous for – you gotta find a few places that serve cheesesteaks. So I think we ate at four different cheesesteaks restaurants during our stay in the city of brotherly love.

And when all of that planning is finished, when the trip is just a day or two away, then it’s time to pack. So you’ve gotta spend some time checking out weather forecasts and trying to figure out exactly what you’ll need because there is nothing worse than going on a dream vacation and realizing that you forgot to pack your cell phone charger or your deodorant…and, yes, I can tell you that from firsthand experience.

And then – after you’ve done all of those things – you can finally take your trip, go on your vacation, and move forward with everything that you’ve planned.

And this is the point that we, as a church, find ourselves at right now. Back in November of 2017, our church had to make the difficult decision to begin a new journey together. We decided that for us to continue to follow God’s calling for this church, we needed to sell our old property and relocate. So that’s when we decided to take our trip.

And since we made that decision, there has been a whole lot of planning and a whole lot of preparation that we’ve had to do as we have been working to find our next church home. But now it’s almost time for us to move forward with our plans. In just a couple of weeks, on October 15th, we’ll get the keys to our new church home and, come October 23rd, we’ll be worshiping together in our new space.

But before we can move forward, there are still a few things we need to do to prepare ourselves for what’s ahead. Because, if I’ve learned one thing from all the trips I’ve taken over the years, it’s that there’s no such thing as a perfect trip.

There is no such thing as a perfect trip.

It doesn’t matter how much time you spend planning; it doesn’t matter how long you have to get ready; it doesn’t matter how many lists you make, or even if you check them twice; there is no such thing as a perfect trip.

I’ve been on trips where my luggage got lost and didn’t show up for days. I’ve had trips where I’ve got a flat tire in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night and had to put on the spare when it was almost pitch black. And I just told you, I’ve been on trips where I’ve lost a phone charger or forgot to pack deodorant.

So I have no problem saying that things aren’t going to go perfectly for us as we move forward. So we need to take a little time to prepare ourselves for whatever may happen as we transition out of our temporary home here at UofL and into a more permanent space. And to help us get ready, I want to spend our time together today looking at the story of someone else who was in a period of transition. And I want to see what we can learn from his experience.

So, if you’ve got a Bible close by go ahead and grab it and start turning to Daniel 6. And, while you’re finding Daniel 6, I’m going to share a couple of verses from earlier in the book that helps set the stage for the rest of the book. So here goes:

1 In the third year of the rule of Judah’s King Jehoiakim [which was around 605BC], Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem and attacked it. 2 The Lord handed Judah’s King Jehoiakim over to Nebuchadnezzar…

Now when Babylon conquered another nation, their king, Nebuchadnezzar, wanted to demonstrate his dominance over this new nation. And to do that he commonly took the wisest men and the most beautiful women from that area as captives. And, in Daniel 1:3, we’ll see that’s exactly what Nebuchadnezzar did when he conquered Judah. We’re told:

3 Nebuchadnezzar instructed his highest official Ashpenaz to choose royal descendants and members of the ruling class from the Israelites— 4 good-looking young men without defects, skilled in all wisdom, possessing knowledge, conversant with learning, and capable of serving in the king’s palace…

Ashpenaz was to teach them for three years so that at the end of that time they could serve before the king. 6 Among these young men from the Judeans [was] Daniel...

Daniel 1:1, 2a, 3-4a, 5b-6 (Common English Bible)

So like I said a minute ago, these verses set the stage for the rest of the book of Daniel. And, in these verses, we learn that the nation that Daniel was from was conquered by an outside empire and that Daniel is hauled off from his own home to someday serve the guy that just conquered his people

So, I think it’s safe to say that, Daniel was facing a major transition. He was hauled away from his home – essentially taken as a prisoner of war – and he had no idea what the future held for him. But while Daniel’s life was moving forward in an unexpected way, he made a commitment that would shape his future. Daniel committed to follow God.

Daniel committed to follow God.

And there’s a big reason why Daniel commits to following God that’s lying just under the surface of this story. But it’s something that we can easily miss out on because, if we’re being honest, most of us don’t know much about Israel’s history. But there’s something extremely important that takes place in Israel’s history about 120 years before this story that helps Daniel commit to follow God.

About 120 years before the Babylonian Empire and King Nebuchadnezzar, invaded the southern part of Israel where Daniel lived another empire invaded the northern part of Israel. This empire, the Assyrian Empire, came and did essentially the same thing the Babylonians did. They defeated Israel and, to show their dominance, they took prisoners of war. And they exiled these prisoners throughout their empire.

But, unlike Daniel, these exiles seem to have lost their faith in God. And rather than standing out from everyone else – like Daniel would do – these exiles assimilated into their new nation. And when they did, their faith was lost...and not just to them, their faith was lost to the world.

So when Daniel was exiled 120 years later, he knew that he had to keep the faith – he knew that he had to trust God – or his entire faith, his entire religion, might be lost too. Or to put it another way, if Daniel didn’t keep his faith there would be no faith left to keep.

If Daniel didn’t keep his faith there would be no faith left to keep.

So Daniel committed himself to follow matter what. And we see how this commitment plays out in Daniel 6. But before we start reading, there’s one more bit of history I need to point out. In Daniel 6, Daniel is no longer serving King Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon. Instead, he is serving Darius and Persia. And Daniel is serving Darius and Persia because Persia had conquered Babylon.

But let’s get back into Daniel’s story and see how his commitment to follow God plays out. We’ll start reading in verse 1. It says:

6 Darius decided to appoint one hundred twenty chief administrators throughout the kingdom, 2 and to set over them three main officers to whom they would report so that the king wouldn’t have to be bothered with too much. One of these main officers was Daniel. 3 Because of his extraordinary spirit, Daniel soon surpassed the other officers and the chief administrators—so much so that the king had plans to set him over the entire kingdom.

Well, it seems like things are going pretty well for Daniel. He is one of the main officers of the king, and he’s doing so well that Darius may put him in charge of the entire empire. So Daniel’s commitment to follow God has done him well...but that’s not the end of the story.

Let’s pick up in verse 4 and see what happens next. It says:

4 As a result [of Daniel’s success], the other officers and the chief administrators tried to find some problem with Daniel’s work for the kingdom. But they couldn’t find any problem or corruption at all because Daniel was trustworthy. He wasn’t guilty of any negligence or corruption.

5 So these men said, “We won’t find any fault in Daniel, unless we can find something to use against him from his religious practice.”

So the other advisors and officers are jealous of Daniel’s success, and they decide to do something about it. But they know that Daniel is above reproach, so the only thing they can do is use Daniel’s trust in God against him. So these advisors cook up a plan. They’re going to convince King Darius to issue a royal edict that no one is allowed to pray to or worship anyone or anything except for Darius. But a royal edict wouldn’t change Daniel’s commitment to God.

So as soon as the edict is signed, Daniel goes home and he prays and praises God. And, of course, the other officers knew that Daniel wouldn’t obey the royal edict. So they were just sitting there waiting to pounce as soon as he started praying.

The other officers drug Daniel before the king. They told the king that Daniel had violated this royal edict. And then they forced the king to take action, telling him that the edict he just signed said that anyone who worshiped anyone or anything besides King Darius would be thrown into a pit of lions.

And we’ll jump back into Daniel 6 to see what happens next. We’ll pick up in verse 14. It says:

14 When the king heard this report, he was very unhappy. He decided to rescue Daniel and did everything he could do to save Daniel before the sun went down.15 But these men, all ganged together, came and said to the king, “You must realize, Your Majesty, that the law of Media and Persia, including every law and edict the king has issued, cannot be changed.”

16 So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and hurled him into the pit of lions.

The king said to Daniel: “Your God—the one you serve so consistently—will rescue you.”

17 A single stone was brought and placed over the entrance to the pit. The king sealed it with his own ring and with those of his princes so that Daniel’s situation couldn’t be changed. 18 The king then went home to his palace and fasted through the night. No pleasures were brought to him, and he couldn’t sleep. 19 At dawn, at the first sign of light, the king rose and rushed to the lions’ pit.

20 As he approached it, he called out to Daniel, worried: “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God—the one you serve so consistently—able to rescue you from the lions?”

21 Then Daniel answered the king: “Long live the king! 22 My God sent his messenger, who shut the lions’ mouths. They haven’t touched me because I was judged innocent before my God. I haven’t done anything wrong to you either, Your Majesty.”

23 The king was thrilled. He commanded that Daniel be brought up out of the pit, and Daniel was lifted out. Not a scratch was found on him, because he trusted in his God...

25 Then King Darius wrote the following decree:

To all the peoples, nations, and languages inhabiting the entire earth: I wish you much peace. 26 I now issue this command: In every region of my kingdom, all people must fear and revere Daniel’s God because:

He is the living God. God stands firm forever. His kingship is indestructible. God’s rule will last until the end of time. 27 He is rescuer and savior; God performs signs and miracles in heaven and on earth. Here’s the proof: He rescued Daniel from the lions’ power.

Daniel 6:1-23, 25-27 (Common English Bible)

I want to read those last couple of verses to you again because they are so important. After Daniel came out of the lions’ den, King Darius – the guy who just issued an edict saying he was the only one worthy of worship – said this about God:

He is the living God. God stands firm forever. His kingship is indestructible. God’s rule will last until the end of time. 27 He is rescuer and savior; God performs signs and miracles in heaven and on earth. Here’s the proof: He rescued Daniel from the lions’ power.

We need to remember these words as we move forward as a church. Our God is a living God. Our God stands firm. Our God’s kingdom is indestructible and will stand until the end of time. Our God is our rescuer and savior. Our God can do whatever he so chooses.

And Daniel knew that from the beginning of his journey. He knew who God was even when he was being hauled away from his home by an enemy army. And Daniel knew that if he was faithful to God, God would be faithful to him.

The same thing is true for us. If we remain faithful to God, God will remain faithful to us.

If we remain faithful to God, God will remain faithful to us.

And just like Daniel’s commitment to his faith inspired King Darius to believe, our faith in God will inspire others. Our story will help others commit to following God too.

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