In-person worship services are suspended during the Victorian lockdown but online services will continue to be provided on Sunday.
Have you ever had to wait for God?
If you’ve ever prayed, then you’ve waited. But maybe you’re really waited. For years.
And as we wait, we can think ‘Does God care?’
Have you ever been disappointed by God?
If you’ve suffered, then maybe you’ve felt let down by God.
When we suffer, we can think, ‘Is God really in control?’
The questions, ‘Why do I have to wait for God?’ and ‘Why does God allow me (or my loved ones) to suffer?’ are questions we all ask.
Becoming a Christian doesn’t make those questions go away. Why do God’s people suffer? And why do we have to wait for God to keep His promises or to answer our prayers?
Those are questions believers ask too. Daniel did. His second vision, recorded here in Daniel 8, might not answer all of our questions, but it does help us to trust God when we don’t know why.
It’s a human think to ask ‘Why?’, isn’t it? We want to know where suffering and evil came from. God doesn’t tell us where evil and suffering started, but He does tell us how they will end! And knowing that will help us to endure and to be confident that God loves and that He is in control, even when we have to wait for Him and even when we suffer.
But does that mean that we shouldn’t care what happens? Should we forget the past and ignore the future? No! God tells us plenty about both to help us to trust in Him.
How can we change? There is a guaranteed way to change, and it’s not a 30-day, money-back guarantee. It always works. The way to change is to ask God help you be what He promises to make you.
God tells us His will for us in 1 Thessalonians 4:3: “This is the will of God, your sanctification.” So, if we ask God to sanctify us, to make us holy, He will.
Today, we’re going to think about just one way God makes us holy: in our thoughts and in our words. In Psalm 34, David tells us the resolution he made, a resolution that changes our hearts, our thoughts and our words:
- Make A (New?) Resolution: Continual Praise (v1-3)
- Feel An Eternal Motivation: Fear (v4-14)
- Depend Upon God’s Action: Keeping (v15-22)
Notice that the change doesn’t depend on our will-power. It depends on what God has done and keeps doing. That’s how we know we can change, and that’s why this change will last: it depends on God
Our task as God’s people is to gather and mature followers of Jesus. But following Jesus can mean being rejected by our friends, misunderstood and even hated by people around us. Some Christians lose their jobs or even their lives because they follow Jesus.
At the very least, following Jesus will mean missing out on some of what people seem to enjoy: living for the weekend, or for retirement, or for success and approval.
So, let me ask you a question that we all ask ourselves sometimes: Is it worth following Jesus? Is Jesus worth dying for? And is Jesus worth living for?
We need an answer to that, especially when we miss out or when we are left out.
When we do suffer does it mean that God has failed?
Is it God’s plan for His people to live a blessed life? Should we expect that great things are just around the corner for us, if we just have faith?
We cannot answer that question based on what we desire or even on our own experience. As always, we must turn to the Scriptures that God breathed out, that the Holy Spirit caused to be written down, to find the answer.
Daniel certainly experienced some success in his life. We’re told throughout the book how God gave him favour with the people around him. But Daniel also knew the pressure of living for God in a hostile world. He was barely a teenager when he had to decide if he’d live to please the king or live to please God (chapter 1). His friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were sentenced to death for refusing to fit in by worshipping what everyone else did. And in his 80s, Daniel was condemned to die in the lion’s den for his faith that the living God can save.
So, we can see in Daniel’s life what God’s plan for His people looks like. Is it God’s plan for His people to escape suffering? Is it God’s plan for His people to have a blessed life?
God’s message to us here is this: ‘Yes, it’s worth following Jesus, but not because you’ll escape suffering and live a blessed life here. It’s worth following Jesus because He is bringing absolute justice in the end and you’ll have a share in His perfect kingdom.’
If being a Christian was a crime, would they find enough evidence to convict you?
Living like Jesus is rare. Where do you see true, sacrificial love, a love that dies every day for the good of the others?
We never have to look far to find Christians who are in it for what they can get out of it. Honestly, we often only have to look in the mirror.
So it’s no wonder that Christians and churches are the subject of such hatred. Even if the world does the same evil, everyone knows that Christians should be better. And we should.
In Hebrews 11:33, Daniel is referred to (without mentioning his name) as one of those people who, by faith, ‘stopped the mouths of lions.’
But does God expect us to just be brave like Daniel? To just try harder to have faith like his faith?
As always, the answer is not ‘Try harder!’ The answer is ‘Follow Christ!’
As we think about this familiar story, everything that we see in Daniel should point us to Jesus Christ and how He calls us to live by faith Him. So, what will that look like?
When we left Daniel at the end of chapter 4, we heard these stunning words from the pagan king Nebuchadnezzar: ‘Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.’ (Daniel 4:37). The greatest king of his age, and confessed that the LORD God of Israel is the sovereign ruler of everything and everyone! Nebuchadnezzar seems to have really become a believer. Has the Government sphere has been reclaimed for God? Will his successors also follow the LORD?
There couldn’t be a more start contrast between Nebuchadnezzar and the next ruler of Babylon we’re introduced to. Daniel jumps years into the future. 3 other kings have ruled Babylon: Amel-Marduk (562-560 BC), Nergal-Shar-Susur (560-556 BC) and Labshi-Marduk (556 BC). They’re all named after Babylonian gods. And so is the ruler we meet here: Belshazzar (co-regent with his father Nabonidus 556-539 BC).
He doesn’t follow the LORD. In fact, he shows his pride and arrogance: He thinks he has got God under control! (v2).
He will not learn from his ancestor Nebuchadnezzar, so he has to learn for himself that ‘it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’ (Hebrews 10:31).
So what is God’s message to us today? It is this: If you know that God graciously forgives sin, but you do not turn from your sin to receive His grace in Jesus, you fall under His righteous judgement.