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Faith in the Fire: God’s In Control #2 – When They Call For Help

13 Apr

faith under fireWhen They Call For Help

“…everybody has something that isn’t working in their life somewhere.”

Most of us in difficult conditions turn to our tried and true solutions first – you know, those little shortcuts and dodges that have bailed us out of trouble before. When these don’t work, we may confide our problem to a trusted friend or two. That failing, we may become desperate. We begin to entertain a willingness to open ourselves to things we haven’t considered
before.

In that condition, some of us are, perhaps for the first time, willing to listen to what God might have to say. If, at that point, there is a Christian near us whom we trust and who is ready to help us understand, we find ourselves listening with a new level of attentiveness. For some this can result in becoming lifelong disciple of Jesus.

This process of a crisis bringing the unbeliever to the believer for help has been repeated over and over. It seems to be a prime method God uses to call men and women to Himself.

In the Bible narrative we’re going to consider this morning, we have one of those “turn-to-God-in-time-of-crisis” stories.
This message is the second in a series based on the first six chapters of Daniel. We’re considering how God’s people should respond to the different calls of the world. The first message, based on chapter one, was called “When They Call For Compromise.” In it, we saw that we must resist the world’s attempts to homogenize us into its system.

This lesson: “When They Call For Help.” How should we respond when someone who doesn’t know God comes to the end of his/her rope and reaches out to us for help?

As we’ve noted already, often an unbeliever’s first serious consideration of his Maker comes in a time of crisis. In this case the unbeliever is the king of Babylon 600 years before Christ – a man named Nebuchadnezzar. The crisis is a dream he had (to him more like a nightmare.) We begin then, with the crisis of:

I. A Rattled King.
Daniel 2:1: “In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep.”

Because they possessed almost unlimited power and authority, Oriental leaders were notoriously temperamental and unpredictable, and here Nebuchadnezzar reveals this side of his character.

 

The Lord gave Nebuchadnezzar a vivid dream that he couldn’t understand, and it distressed him. That the Lord God Almighty would communicate truth to a pagan Gentile king is evidence of the grace of God.
That word “troubled” in this verse in the original language means “to be beaten, compelled, or pushed.” It was the kind of dream that causes one to sit up suddenly in bed, heart pounding, eyes wide, utterly terrified. It was so troubling that the King couldn’t go back to sleep. The plural “dreams” suggests that perhaps this same dream persisted night after night.

The King did what all people do when they hit a situation they cannot control. He turned to his familiar, tried and true solutions first.

Daniel 2:2-4: “So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king, {3} he said to them, “I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means.” {4} Then the astrologers answered the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it.””

Now get ready. The king is about to put these men to a test that will expose the limits of their power.

Daniel 2:5: “The king replied to the astrologers, “This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble.”

The king wants not only the interpretation of the dream, he wants them to describe to him the dream itself! Without some sort of supernatural power, that is going to be impossible for them. As you can probably imagine, it didn’t take long for these Chaldeans to realize they were in deep trouble!
This in itself set the stage for Daniel to exalt the true and living God of Israel who alone can predict the future. By issuing this impossible challenge, the king was unconsciously following the plan of God and opening the way for Daniel to do what the counselors could not do.

 

Daniel 2:6-10: “But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me.” {7} Once more they replied, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will interpret it.” {8} Then the king answered, “I am certain that you are trying to gain time, because you realize that this is what I have firmly decided: {9} If you do not tell me the dream, there is just one penalty for you. You have conspired to
tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me.” {10} The astrologers answered the king, “There is not a man on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer.”

What a revealing statement of the limits of human resources in the face of some crises! “There is no earthly solution to a problem like that, O king!” That was the best their most advanced wisdom of their day could produce.

Daniel 2:11: “What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among men.””

“Your predicament, O king, is outside the realm of man’s abilities.”

There is nothing surprising about such a declaration from our perspective. Most of us here have realized that there comes a point when man’s solutions run out. You have to wonder, though, what these guys had been claiming to the king about their powers and abilities prior to this that would provoke such a violent threat.

What we’re talking about here is this: all people, sooner or later, sense the limitations of human resources. The Chaldeans state it well: “It would take a god to do what you are asking!”

There comes a time in the life of every person when you realize you can no longer dodge the bullet. You can no longer get off easy. You can no longer sidestep or ignore the problem or dig yourself out of your predicament. You’re in trouble and unless there is something beyond the power of man, you won’t escape. At that point, sometimes for the first time, the possibility of a Supernatural Being who transcends human ability becomes relevant. You think, “perhaps there is a God.”

Zig Ziggler quips that there are three things that are hard to do. One is to climb a fence leaning toward you. Another is to kiss a girl who is leaning away from you. The third is to help someone who doesn’t really want to be helped. That is how it is most of the time we deal with unbelievers. They don’t want to be helped. But in time of crisis in the unbeliever’s life, that changes.

Those of you who have turned to God because of a crisis in your life, think back to the time you first changed your attitude toward the possibility of God in your life. How then do we respond to the world’s call for help? We must first:

1. Realize that unbelievers will come to us in time of crisis.  To borrow from a recent popular advertising slogan, “If you build it, they will come.” If you build an authentic, consistent Christian witness, unbelievers in the time of their crisis, will come to you. God will see to it, just like He did here.

As one poet reminds us: “If each man’s care were written on his brow, how of them who have our praise would have our pity now!”

You never really know what is going on in the life of that unbeliever next to you until a crisis brings it out into the open. Realize that unbelievers will come to you in time of crisis.

2. A Ready Witness.
With the things we’ve said so far in mind, it seems rather obvious, doesn’t it, that God, who is seeking lost mankind, would step in to provide a witness to help such a person? In that day it was Daniel. Today it just might be you or me.

That God would provide a witness is no surprise. What is always surprising to me is how He goes about it sometimes. That is what we see next.
Daniel 2:12: “This made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon.”

If you’ve ever heard or made the statement, “God works in mysterious ways,” you’ll recognize the truth of it here. Those words “destroy all the wise men of Babylon” would include Daniel and his three Hebrew friends who proved so faithful to God in chapter one. The King’s edict amounted to a death warrant for them. What is God up to? Mysterious ways indeed!

Daniel 2:13: “So the decree was issued to put the wise men to death, and men were sent to look for Daniel and his friends to put them to death.”

The Evil One is willing to sacrifice all his false prophets in the city of Babylon if he can destroy four of God’s faithful servants. Satan’s servants are expendable, but the Lord cares for His people.

 

Doesn’t it seem a bit strange to you that God would use a death warrant and the fear it would provoke in the minds of Daniel and his friends to bring the seeker and the witness together? Yet that is the way God did it.

Don’t ever think that the difficult circumstances in your life are without purpose in God’s scheme of things. We’ll see here that God can even turn a threat to your physical life into a blessing and an opportunity.

So Daniel got word of the edict. When the king and his soldiers knocked on his door, he was ready: Daniel 2:14-16: “When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact. {15} He asked the king’s officer, “Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?” Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel. {16} At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he
might interpret the dream for him.”

Those words in verse 16, “asked for time” are translated: “requested that he would appoint a time for him.” We saw back in verse 8 that the king had already denied the Chaldeans additional time to collaborate. What Daniel is discretely and wisely asking for here is an appointment with the king. Rather than just sit there like a dumb ox at the slaughter,
oblivious to what is going on around him, Daniel did the second thing we need to do when an unbeliever is in crisis: take the initiative with discretion and discernment.

Before I elaborate on that point, will you recognize what I didn’t say? I didn’t say, “call the preacher and turn the unbeliever over to him.” Of course, in some cases that might be appropriate, but I need to say a couple of things here. First, the unbeliever likely doesn’t know your preacher. He knows you. If your witness was authentic enough that he was
attracted to you he needs to hear what you have to say!

“What on earth could I say?”

You could tell him how God has made a difference in your life. You could promise to pray for him. If he sees the need for salvation you could have a few verses handy and show him what he needs to do. You could enlist a few other Christians to help you hold him up before God in prayer. You could spend time with him and encourage him to hang in there and not give up.

God has given evangelists and pastors and teachers to equip you for service, not to do your service for you! What am I saying here? I’m talking about taking the initiative with discretion and discernment.

When we recognize that God does things this way, that is, He brings crises into the lives of unbelievers so they will seek Him, and that He uses believers like you and me to deliver His message, we can move forward with enthusiasm knowing that God is with us. He can even help you in your ineptness!

What has always amazed me in reading Daniel’s response to all this is the degree of confidence he had in God – not in himself. “Before you kill us, Arioch, can you get me an appointment with the king?” He didn’t know what God was going to do! He hadn’t read the book of Daniel like we’re doing. He just knew that the king’s life was spinning out of control and that God was more powerful than any man or circumstance.

AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY says of discretion: “showing prudence and wise self-restraint in speech and behavior.”

When an unbeliever is calling for help, it’s not the time to go out and club him with you trusty Bible or hit him and shoot him with your ever-ready ax and two thirty-eights. Yes, Scripture will ultimately be important, but remember, the situation calls for discretion and discernment. These twin qualities are some of the most important characteristics of an effective witness for Christ.

Of course, we should never face a situation like this alone. Intercession from the rest of the body to invoke God’s help is important. That is how Daniel saw it.

Daniel 2:18-19: “He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. {19} During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven”

3. Solicit support from God’s people.
In this case we’re talking about prayer support of others which led ultimately to answered prayer from God.

If God is instrumental in bringing crisis to the life of the unbeliever and brings the unbeliever into contact with the ready witness, we must recognize that this whole procedure is primarily His, not ours. We are simply His tools. It is only reasonable that we should go to God and seek his help and guidance through it.

We need strength to do it right. Someone has written, “In relation to his people, God works only in answer to their prayer. In prayer we exchange our natural strength for the supernatural strength of God.” I like that because at times like we are discussion, we need that supernatural strength!

Solicit support from other believers and God.  O.K. An unbeliever has hit a spot where he has realized his need for God. You or I, realizing this, take the initiative with wisdom and discernment. We are confident God can help them, indeed, He has probably allowed the circumstance for this very reason. Then, God steps in and delivers them with a mighty hand! What now? I’ve called this next section,

3. A Revered God.
Let’s look again to see what Daniel did.

Daniel 2:19-28 (ESV)
19  Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.
20  Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might.
21  He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding;
22  he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him.
23  To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you, for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”
24  Therefore Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said thus to him: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will show the king the interpretation.”
25  Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste and said thus to him: “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who will make known to the king the interpretation.”
26  The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?”
27  Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked,
28  but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these:

 

  • Daniel 2:29-45 (ESV)
    29 To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be.  30  But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.
    31  “You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening.  32  The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, 33  its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.
    34  As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces.
    35  Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
    36  “This was the dream. Now we will tell the king its interpretation. 37  You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38  and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold.

39  Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. 40  And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these.
41  And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay.
42  And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle.
43  As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay.
44  And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, 45  just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.”

 

To sum up what the large image represented: four Gentile kingdoms:

  • The breast and arms of silver—The Medo-Persian kingdom (539-330 B.C.). Darius the Mede conquered Babylon ( 5:30-31).
  • The belly and thighs of bronze—The Grecian kingdom (330-63 B.C.). Alexander the Great established what was probably the largest empire in ancient times. He died in 323 B.C.
  • The legs of iron and feet of iron and clay—The Roman Empire (63 B.C.-ca. A.D. 475). Iron represents strength but clay represents weakness. Rome was strong in law, organization, and military might; but the empire included so many different peoples that this created weakness.
  • The destruction of the image—The coming of Jesus Christ, the Stone, to judge His enemies and establish His universal kingdom.

 

Nebuchadnezzar saw that his own kingdom would fall one day and be replaced by the Medes and Persians. This happened in 538 B.C. (Dan. 5:30-31).

When we consider these truths, our response ought to be one of joyful confidence, knowing that the Lord has everything under control. While God’s people should do everything they can to alleviate suffering and make this a safer and happier world, our hope is not in laws; political alliances, or moral crusades. Our hope is in the Lord.
What started out as possible tragedy—the slaughter of four godly men—was turned into great triumph; and the God of Daniel received great glory. Daniel gave the glory to God!

  1. Pass on the praise.
    It is a heady experience when God uses you to make a difference in the life of an unbeliever. It gets even headier if that unbeliever has fame or celebrity status like the king here. What do you think the temptation is at that point?
    Yeah, the temptation is to take the glory for yourself. This would have made an excellent opportunity for advancement in the king’s court for Daniel. Had he simply claimed to have power and special abilities himself, from human perspective, look at what he would have gained.

    Ah, but Daniel realized that his purpose was to glorify God, not himself. In so doing, ultimately, God would honor him.

    Daniel 2:46-48: “Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. {47} The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.” {48} Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men.”

    Have you come to the place in your Christian maturity where you are willing to pass on the praise for anything you might accomplish to God and leave your advancement in the ranks of life to Him? That is really what this is all about. It is to call attention to God, not us! It is His power the unbeliever needs to see, not ours.

    Do it that way and God will promote you. Do it any other way and you fail to accomplish the purpose of God.

    Conclusion
    Everyone has something that doesn’t work someplace… Everyone faces the reality of a crisis in their life sometime. …Everyone has a need somewhere, regardless of how together they seem to be.

    It’s true of people right in the sphere of your influence. People who have been watching your life and listening to you for weeks, months, or even years. When the crisis comes, you need to be ready. Because we build a credible witness of Christ in your life, they will come.

    Perhaps there is someone here among us this morning who is in a crisis but doesn’t know Christ. You’re the person who is listening to talk about God for the first time. I don’t want you to leave this building this morning without an opportunity to get help.

    If you would like to talk to one of our ministers or elders, please take one of the attendance cards from the rack in front of you and write your name, phone number, and anything pertinent to your situation and hand it to one of these men. One of us will call you privately and discreetly this week. We want to help you.

 

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2016 in Sermon

 

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