After a hearty "Good morning" Brad thanked all the people who helped make the Harvest Fest such a successful event again two weeks ago. Announcements included mention that Family Nights will begin in October. Meals together and groups for all ages will help build and strengthen our church family. Volunteers are still needed for certain tasks.
Brad also expressed gratitude for our community of faith as everyone has been so generous in the aftermath of the Shannon's loss of their home. Needless to say they have no intention of spending all their money and time in a hotel and hope to find a mobile home they can move to their property before winter.
The worship began with our quartet singing "Somebody Touched Me." After another song and a time of corporate worship the offering was taken. Leonard read Daniel 1 to set up today's message.
Reflecting On Your Biblical Story
Each of us has a story. The book of Daniel is about Daniel's resiliency in difficult times. The first chapter is the focus of today's message and Brad aimed to bring home three main points.
1) Daniel did not expect to be in Babylon.
In many respects Daniel growing up was a golden boy with a future in leadership. He came from a family with high social status, was strikingly handsome, intelligent and had great prospects.
Unfortunately, after years of decline, Israel was not a nation with great prospects. While Daniel was still a young man the Babylonian armies ransacked Jerusalem, destroyed God's temple and made captives of its people. This was a painful experience as Daniel lost his culture, lost his relationship and even lost his name. Life did not turn out the way he had planned.
There's a world of heartbreak in the first two sentences of this chapter. What do you do when you find yourself in Babylon. How do you respond when life goes different than you had planned? What do you do? How did God let this happen?
2) Resolve and resiliency.
There was a study of people who experience great suffering to determine why some are defeated by it and others seems to thrive and grow through the experience. The key ingredient in the latter group is their resiliency.
In the study there were three characteristics common to those who were resilient. The first we see here exhibited by Daniel. Inside there is a deep resolve to honor their deepest values. We see this in verse 8... which leads to taking intiative, not resignation. Daniel determined his path, to honor God. This gave him courage to take a stand and not be just a helpless pawn in his life circumstances.
"What resolve do you need to make?" Brad asked. "What got you into your Babylon?" God is calling you to be like Daniel. Too many people spend their time making excuses. "If only I had more time." Or, "If only I had a better church."
Brad then stated emphatically, "This is your one and only life and it is short."
A second characteristic of resiliency in hardship is their commitment to community. Spiritually resilient people are committed to living in community. They don't go it alone. Connectedness is not only important, it is vital.
Daniel had three friends, Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego, who went through this experience with him.
Dr. Julius Segal, in his book Winning Life's Toughest Battles, details some of the ways in which James Stockdale's fellow POWs communicated to him and one another in an effort to keep his spirits alive. In the midst of horrorific torments, the men encouraged him with the snapping of towels, and an assortment of sounds to communicate to him in code. Men risked their lives to keep community alive, and here where relationships are easy to come by we fail to value them.
Do you have a community? If not, make it a priority. What a difference it has made for Brooke and I. People need to hear the code that they matter.
3) Suffering and meaning.
For spiritually resilient people, their suffering gives them meaning. It's not the intensity of the suffering but the meaningless of it that causes people to give up.
Daniel discovered God's hand was at work in his circumstances. God was not sleeping. And so with us, God is present and at work.
Resolve to be faithful. Trust God that He is at work in your situation.