I find some of the most interesting biographies that can be read are in the Bible. I got hooked on studying great characters in the Bible and extracting characteristics from their life. Over the years, I have made them the source of many series of messages.

One of the outstanding characters of the Bible is Daniel. Who is he and what makes him worthy of our interest? He is evidently the son of a Jewish Priest or another high official in Judaism. He lived during an era of Judah’s decadence, but in spite of his surroundings, he developed character. It was during this time that a powerful King from the east conquered all the territory around the eastern Mediterranean, including Judah. The King, whose name was Nebuchadnezzar, did not take the entire city of Jerusalem captive, but only a select group who could be trained to serve in his court. Daniel was one of those captives. He was one who is described as “youths in whom there was no defect, who were good looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning in knowledge, and who had the ability to serve in the king’s court and they were to be taught the language and the literature of the Chaldeans.” [Daniel 1:4]

When Daniel arrived at the King’s court, “…he made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice of food or with the wine which he [the king] drank; so, he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.” [Daniel 1:8]

Daniel so conducted himself during this time of captivity that he immediately became known throughout the court. “Daniel began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and leaders because he possessed an extraordinary spirit, and the king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom.” [Daniel 6:3]

As I studied these leaders in the Old Testament, Daniel immediately caught my attention. How can I attain this level of competence so that I stand out among others? This becomes more significant in light of the culture around me that teaches me that it is whom I know, and how to step on others who may be in my way, not an excellent spirit in the midst of comprises and competition, that gets me what I want. Thus, if I wound others, or they get in my way to where I want to go, it does not bother me to eliminate them in any way I can, to get to where I want to go. It was the king who saw in Daniel an excellent spirit and gave Daniel what he had. It was not Daniel who blasted his way to get what he wanted. There is a significant difference.

So, as I study the text, it makes me ask, how do I attain an excellent spirit in my world? Is it something I attain or is it something God gives me? To me, the answer becomes quite evident. I observe several things that lead me to this conclusion. Notice the text does not say that it was Daniel’s physic that the king noticed. It was his spirit. We have reversed this truth in such a significant way today. The emphasis is not on my spirit [attitude] but my body. The culture around me gives me so much help in my physical presence, how I look and act, but so little help in how I show character.

First, I notice that Daniel was a man of purpose. “Daniel made up his mind, [purposed] that he would not defile himself with the king’s meat.” Daniel found himself in a place of peril, i.e., the Chaldean Court, but he purposed in his heart. To find “purpose” means we establish who we are and where our boundaries are, and we set our moral compass to guide us to that end. Purpose gives me anchorage. It keeps me from moral drift. Daniel knew who he was and purposed in his heart that where he was would not change who he was.

Daniel was also a man of prayer. When the king asked his counselors to interpret his dreams, Daniel went to prayer. Amazingly, not only did Daniel have the interpretation of the king’s dream, but he also told the king what his dream was! Daniel received this information because he and his companions prayed, in the midst of the godless culture they were in. To pray means there are limitations to what I know. I need the confidence that God hears me when I pray, and this gives me confidence that there is a power that is beyond my own inefficiency. I must recognize my own limitations, frailties, and weakness. It is dangerous to feel so self-sufficient that I need not ask for help. Life is much too important to live with that self-sufficiency. When was the last time you prayed to an all-sufficient God?

Then, Daniel was a man of power. When I use the word “power” I see the bodybuilder, with muscles bulging and his “six-pack” so evident. That is not what I mean by power. One of the things that prayer does is to lead us in “perception.” Perception is a quality of the spirit that comes through prayer. It is by practicing prayer, which gives me perception, and this can put me in the place of power. The highest courage is not the courage of the battlefield; it is moral courage, the power to say “no.” A man of purpose and a man of prayer, who has learned the inner gift of perception will become a man of power. Have you met that person, or, are you that person?

Dare to be a Daniel!

As I follow the life of this man, I observe consistency all through his life. He is taken prisoner when he is yet a young man. It is then that he purposes in his heart who he would become in this foreign land. Daniel becomes an old man in this place. Many Jews who were taken captive have returned to Jerusalem under the leadership of Nehemiah and Ezra. But not Daniel. When he is in his 80’s, he is called by the Queen mother. Her grandson has just given a huge party and has called for the golden cups taken from the temple by his grandfather. From these sacred cups, Belshazzar drinks wine and there appears handwriting on the walls of the room. Belshazzar’s knees knock together in fear. [Daniel 5:6] Daniel is called for and asked if he can interpret the handwriting which said, “you have been weighed on God’s scale and you are found wanting.”

At the end of his life, he is still the man he purposed to be.

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