Friday, January 8, 2016
Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, the most powerful man on earth, had a bad dream. He summoned all his magicians and soothsayers to interpret the dream. But, to make sure they weren’t faking an interpretation, he demanded they first tell him what the dream was. Well, they couldn’t do that, so the King was going to have them executed.
Enter Daniel…Hebrew slave, born in captivity to the Babylonian empire. To make a longish story short, Daniel was minding his own business, and the whole mess got dropped in his lap. He went to prayer and boldly followed God’s leadership to disclose the king’s dream and what it meant. Daniel was rewarded with the king’s favor, wealth and position in the kingdom’s hierarchy, along with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
End of story…we all lived happily ever after; right?
Not so…Daniel and the three Hebrew boys didn’t have entirely smooth sailing. It was still an adventure living in Babylon, avoiding the intrigue and sub-plots of palace life in a hostile land that was not their own; especially that fiery furnace event!
In the New Testament Paul understood that kind of messy, vague life, where you’ve got a clear vision to serve God, but there are plenty of temptations and trials to throw you off course. His advice to us is to live, not as fools, but wisely, keeping sober and on our knees, so we will know what God wants us to do, as the Holy Spirit fills our hearts and lives with purpose, leading us to follow God’s will.
The key to living wisely with boldness is never to do a bold thing without God’s direction, and never hold back from boldness when God has said to do something. When Jesus turned his disciples loose to go minister he warned them:
Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. Matthew 10:16(NLT)
Daniel understood that; he didn’t go to the king until he’d spent time on his knees before God. You need that for developing both shrewdness and harmlessness.
Before he was renamed Paul, he was a persecutor named Saul – more of a zealot to eradicate the church than anyone. Saul found out just how painful it can be to go against God’s will.
So did I. I once preached a very bold sermon to a congregation; actually, I only thought it was bold – it was really just a stupid reaction of anger that I hadn’t prayed over, and let God direct me. I wound up alienating half the church and confusing the rest.
And I believe that is where the difference is to be located between living wisely and boldly as opposed to living as a fool – anger and selfishness. If you have a passion to do something for God, and locate any bit of anger or self-righteousness in your own heart over what you’re contemplating – don’t do it…you’re not following God, you’re just being foolish.
When you find yourself tempted to do something foolish…take time to pray, sing a song of praise; make some music in your heart to praise the Lord. Then ask your closest friend, God’s Holy Spirit, what it all means. He just may give you the words your Nebuchadnezzar needs to hear.