Courageous Faith: An Excellent Spirit

An Excellent Spirit sermon notes download

An Excellent Spirit

Passage: Daniel 6

Father’s Day - Sunday, June 18, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand our need to learn. (Feel) Feel a desire to grow. (Do) Study the Word and God’s people.

 

Introduction: When I see many of the pictures that portray Daniel in the lions’ den, I have to chuckle.  Look at this famous one held in the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Painted in 1615 by Peter Paul Rubens, it is a beautiful example of classical idealism. But if you are like me and this is how you have imagined the lions’ den event, you’ll be surprised to know that this picture has almost no basis in reality. Look at how old the man is in the picture—maybe 25? As you are turning in your Bibles to Daniel 6, we need to recalibrate our mental pictures. Daniel is about 90 years old by Daniel 6. He is a very old man, but one with a powerful and lasting influence. That is what I want to discuss on this Father’s Day.

 

Guys, there is no way any one of us fathers will be perfect. But we can all have a powerful lasting influence on those around us. That is what Daniel had. What is interesting about Daniel is he never had any children. In fact, he was almost certainly a eunuch.[1] He was never married—no family, kids or grandkids—but I guarantee you there is not one child in our church that has not heard of Daniel. That is what I call influence.

 

There are three distinguishing characteristics of men who have a lasting influence. Let’s go to Daniel 6 and find out what they are. As we begin reading, let me set the stage. Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon the Great are no more. In chapter 6, the Medes and the Persians have taken over and a new government is being formed. Darius the Mede is now king[2].

 

1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; 2 and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.

 

Darius immediately spotted Daniel. We are told specifically it was because he had an excellent spirit.

 

1. Men with a lasting influence have excellent spirits (Dan 6:1-3)

a. Daniel’s excellent spirit flowed from his closeness with God. Back in Daniel 4:8, when Nebuchadnezzar was describing Daniel, he said that within Daniel was the “spirit of the holy god.” Daniel’s excellent spirit began with his intimate, personal walk with God. Before we can influence anyone else, we must allow ourselves to first be influenced by God.

b. Daniel’s excellent spirit had both a spiritual and physical aspect. We are told that Daniel was distinguished because of his excellent spirit, so it must have been visible. Daniel’s inner life (his spirit) was visible in his outer life (the way he acted). Men, if our inner lives are chaos, our outer lives will be too.

c. Daniel’s excellent spirit revealed right thinking. In Daniel 5:11 the queen of Babylon described Daniel. Listen to what she said: There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers. Men with excellent spirits are wise, intelligent, and full of light, the idea being right thinking that leads to right actions, minds filled with light not darkness.  What we feed our minds will pour out of our spirits.

d. Daniel’s excellent spirit was reflected by good habits. We will find out in a moment that it was Daniel’s habit to pray three times a day. That is a great habit; it can’t be his only one. People who develop good habits grow exceptional spirits.

 

Because of this excellent spirit, the king was going to make Daniel the number one official in the kingdom. This displeased many of the governmental leaders around him. 4 Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”

 

They made themselves special investigators and were looking for corruption, but they could find none. So they devised a plan. 7 All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions.

 

This was actually a clever and shrewd plan, because they knew Daniel was a man of prayer.

 

2. Men with lasting influence pray. (Dan 6:10-11)

Look at verse 10.

When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. 11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God.

 

The key phrase here is “as he had done previously.” Daniel was not acting out of spite for the new king. He was doing what he did every day; he prayed. This was a key aspect of his inner life that flowed outward. Men, we don’t have to show off our praying; we need not open our windows and face Jerusalem. But if we are to have a lasting impact, it will take God working through us. We must be on our knees! “God, help me lead my family. Grant me strength. Would you save my children? Help them to find joy in obeying their mother. Bless my work.” These quick little prayers call on the living God to engage in our everyday life. He has infinite unlimited power and loves us, why would we not call on him?

 

The jealous government leaders of course catch Daniel praying. They tattle to Darius and pressure him to follow the very law they helped him create. But Darius is visibly upset by what has transpired and most certainly realizes that he has been manipulated. Look at verse 14.Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him.

 

But the government bureaucrats know the law even better than the king. In verse 15 they declare to him,“Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.” So the king did what he knew he had to do. 16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17 And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel.

 

3. Men with lasting influence persevere. (Dan 6:20-21)

It is one thing to be a man of prayer. But it is something entirely different to be a man of prayer with your life on the line. One of the reasons we respect Daniel is because he was unwilling to compromise his faith—when he was young with the king’s food and when he was old with his prayer life. His consistency and perseverance in the face of certain death is why we admire Daniel. Men, our consistency and perseverance in doing right (from our youth to gray hair) is key to having a lasting influence on those we love. We have got to be there.

 

Bob Bell just went to be with the Lord. He was in his 80’s and had lived a full life. His funeral was beautiful. Much of the joy was because Bob had been a faithful, committed follower of Jesus here at Calvary for 40 years. Pastors, deacons, styles of worship have all come and gone. But Bob and Jean persevered. There is not a person who knew Bob that did not respect him. His lasting influence on me? He showed me the power of being committed to a group of people for the long haul. 

 

Daniel was thrown in the lions’ den. The door was closed and he spent the night with lions bred and starved so that they would tear prisoners to pieces. The next morning Darius was anxious to find out Daniel’s fate.

20 As he (Darius) came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.”

 

While I thought Darius would have been overjoyed, I obviously do not think like a king, because he immediately went into full-out justice mode. 24 And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions…That phrase “maliciously accused” is an Aramaic idiom. Literally translated it reads “the men who had eaten his pieces.” It is a wordplay on what happens in a lions’ den.[3] These men who had been trying to devour (“eat his pieces”) Daniel with their plan were now literally going to be eaten by lions.

 

The irony shows up at the end of verse 24…they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces. The Persians were famous for their swift and severe justice. That is what makes Daniel’s perseverance so powerful. He stood firm, knowing that the hammer of Persian justice comes down severely on those who disobey.

 

Men, let me recap. Daniel, 2500 years after his death, still influences us today because of his excellent spirit, his tenacious habitual prayers, and his dogged persistence in following hard after God. There are no perfect men. No one expects you to be the perfect man, dad, grandfather, or husband. But you can be a tremendous positive influence.

 

Grow your inner life—because it flows out.

Pray and call on the living God to move in your life.

Persevere—your faithfulness over the long haul is the key to a long term impact.

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

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[1] There are certain indications in Scripture that suggest Daniel was made a eunuch. 1) He was never married. 2) He was a slave in a time and place where castration of slaves was common. 3) In 2 Kings 20:18 some of Hezekiah’s descendants, we are told, would one day be taken from Israel to serve in the palace of the king of Babylon as eunuchs: “And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood that will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” Daniel 1:3 describes Daniel and his friends as under the authority of the “chief eunuch,” a man named Ashpenaz (see www.gotquestions.org).

[2] There are many websites and articles that discuss the fact that we have no archeological evidence for the existence of a man named “Darius the Mede.” That is not a problem for the Bible scholar if you understand the language. The Aramaic word “Darius” means “Lord.” So whoever the king in this story was, he was “Lord of the Medes.” Darius almost certainly is not a proper name but a title. Skeptics like to highlight this apparent conflict with the Bible and archeology, but no conflict exists.

[3] Stephen R. Miller, Daniel, vol. 18, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 187–188.