Success Without Compromise

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Success Without Compromise

Daniel 1                         June 13, 1999

Scripture: Daniel 1



          Each of you graduates this morning has achieved some measure of success to have arrived at the milestone you have reached. For Sarah, it is preparation for grade school. For Ben, it is preparation for high school. For Emily, it is preparation for college or work. We want to commemorate your success while challenging you to recognize the real means of success. There is much more that lies before each one of you. Certainly you will be tempted to compromise the means or meaning of success, as we who are older can attest to you.

Success without compromise is an illusive quality. In fact, success by compromise is really no success at all. We don’t need to look far to find examples in this ‘world of compromise’ in which we live. But we can also find positive examples of success without compromise. Daniel is one we can look at in the Bible, although there are many others - like Nehemiah. The central part of the story about Daniel in the first chapter, which we will talk about this morning, is that he and his three friends chose to eat vegetables rather than the king’s rich food. As long as we are on vegetables -------

Title:  Forgetting the Point of It All


   Max De Pree tells a true story about the wonderful tomato growers in central California. More successful at tomato growing than the tomato growers of all human history, they grew more tomatoes per acre than anyone ever had. But they did have one problem. That was to get their tomatoes into the salad bowls of Chicago and Boston un-bruised, because a magnificent bruised tomato is still only a bruised tomato.

   So they set agro-technology to work and accomplished two marvelous things. First, they got a machine to pick the tomatoes while they were still yellow but very firm. Then they put the tomatoes on an assembly belt, passed them under a certain kind of light for seven seconds, and they came out a rosy red--a rosy pink, almost red. And then they devised a packaging so that you could put a bunch of tomatoes in a Styrofoam crate, and lift it twenty feet high above solid concrete, and also take a bumper from a Chevy pickup, lift it twenty feet high above solid concrete, drop them both, and the bumper would come off worse than any one of those tomatoes. Agro-technology wins again.

   But they had one problem: The tomato that the chef sliced into his salad in Chicago and the woman bought from the market in Boston didn't taste the way a tomato was supposed to taste.


   -- Lewis Smedes, "The Journey to Integrity," Preaching Today, Tape No. 61.

They achieved a form of success with tomatoes that didn’t really accomplish anything because of all the compromise along the way. They delivered the product but not the goods. It was an enormous success at appearance that faded with the first bite of reality. What we are looking for this morning is true success, success without compromise. We see this in the life of Daniel and his three friends.

          From another perspective, the core message of the book of Daniel is that “God is in control” in spite of all appearances. When we believe that wholeheartedly, we need never look anywhere else for success. From the deceptively simple stories of faith under pressure in the first six chapters to the visions of the last six chapters in which we see the entire program of Gentile history, God is in control. He is in control from the details of everyday life in the present to the broad sweep of future events that will also, one day, contain the details of everyday life.

Daniel reveals God to us, and God reveals himself in relationship with his people. He reveals his sovereignty in the midst of historical process in the realities of life. What can we learn from history? History is a report of past events, but not necessarily a blueprint for behavior. History doesn’t teach us how to behave, but it does point us to God. Now God is always the same even though he may not relate the same way in every age. But as we understand God we are compelled to conform our behavior. In this way, Scripture transcends culture. The fundamental issue is the relationship between faith and culture. Daniel teaches us that the struggle is not to make the culture different, or “Christian”, but how a “Christian” can live in a hostile culture in a way that makes a difference. We will want to ask ourselves where God is calling us to make a stand in the midst of a constantly changing culture. Daniel does not give us a model of the ‘one biblical way’ for the believer to interact with his culture, but he does give us the motive – to show that God is in control. We each have to answer that question where we live and work. How can we carry out our belief that God is in control to the extent that it will ultimately convince others? To the degree that we do that, we find true success without compromise. Like Jesus said, “We are to be in the world but not of the world.” (John 17:16)

I.       A Difficult Trial - King Jehoiakim delivered into Nebuchadnezzar’s hand (1:1-7)

Daniel is truly one of the greatest men in Jewish history. Certainly he was a sinner in need of redemption like the rest of us because he was a man. But there are no failures recorded about his life. God blessed him with such divine vision and understanding that we cannot even begin to understand the Book of Revelation without him.

He was a teenager in the year 605 B.C. when Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem and began his conquest of Judah. There were several “deportations” of Jews to Babylon, and Daniel was in the first group because he was of the princely line. It was the practice of Babylon to deport the finest of the citizens and train them for service in their own government. At this point in history, Nebuchadnezzar was trying to control Judah without actually taking it over. His purpose with these select captives was to train them in Babylonian ways for political and propaganda purposes. They would be given a new home, new knowledge, new diet, and new names. The Babylonians saw themselves through their gods as champions over these lesser and inferior foreign gods of other cultures. For a man with true religion like Daniel, it would ultimately become a contest of faith.

          But we also see that this captivity and its outcome is something that God did. Three times in this chapter, God is shown to have brought about his purpose. In verse 2 it is God who delivered the king into Babylonian hands. In verse 9 it is God who caused the official to show favor to Daniel. In verse 17 it is God who gave knowledge and understanding to the four young men. It is likely that the events that happened to Daniel and his friends was the fulfilling of the prophecy that Isaiah told Hezekiah in Is. 39:5-7. But like Esther and Joseph and ultimately Jesus, what man may have intended for harm, God intended for good. Appearances can be deceiving. Trusting in God will never deceive us. God allows us to be placed on trial in order to display his power, mercy and goodness over our sinfulness that we might be freed from it. Daniel was being asked to do this for his people. It is likely that he was in the line of David. We may see in Daniel a picture of Jesus. In fact, Dan. 10:11 speaks of Daniel as “highly esteemed” or beloved in a similar sense as Jesus – the only other person in Scripture who is spoken of in this way. In Mt. 19:12, Jesus said that some are eunuchs by birth, some by the action of man, and some effectively by the personal choice of abstinence like Jesus was himself. Any way you look at it, God is able to bring about our total devotion to him.


Skipping ahead to the last verse of chapter one, we see the results of Daniel’s devotion. Daniel was still active 539 B.C. when the kingdom was taken by Cyrus, so he lived and ministered in Babylon for over sixty years. In fact, he lived through the reigns of four rulers (Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus) and three different kingdoms (Babylon, Media, Persia). His name means “God is my judge.” He held several important positions and was promoted greatly because of his character and wisdom, and because the blessing of God was upon him. Nebuchadnezzar named him chief of the wise men and a ruler of the land (2:48), a position similar to a modern prime minister. Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson, Belshazzar, called Daniel out of retirement and, because he explained the handwriting on the wall, made Daniel third ruler in the land (5:29). Darius named him leader over the whole realm (6:1-3). For at least seventy-five years, Daniel was God’s faithful witness in a wicked and idolatrous kingdom. His faith in later years was built upon that gift of faith in those early years that he fanned into flame as a captive in the king’s court.


Training for Service:


A.      A New Home (1:1-2)


          Just like we have heard of many communist regimes in the recent past and into the present, the Babylonian king wanted to systematically reprogram these young men. They would still be Jews, but they would be Babylonian Jews. They would be Jewish by heritage but Babylonian by practice and even by allegiance. They would appear to be one thing but in reality be another. They would be examples to other Jews to willingly serve the king of Babylon. They were chosen because they were good looking, well born, and intelligent. Because of these things they would be more influential. To begin this process, they had to be transplanted away from familiar surroundings.

          The king of this world and the culture of our day want to do the same thing with our young people. Youth are the most easily reprogrammed. He wants to take our finest young people from Christian families and place upon them the tattooed marks and studded piercings of allegiance to his kingdom of darkness, to reprogram the natural spirituality of their minds with the rythmic sounds of deepest hell, to destroy family relationships to their abandonment in drug infested violence and promiscuity. It is systematic and calculated. It is purposeful. If he can get them, they will best influence others. So many have become conformed to the world and have lost their power and their joy and their testimony for God. They have instead become Satan’s plants. We must have young people like Daniel who have a heart for God to lead the rest to salvation – a success without compromise with the enemy. Our young people must stay within positive influential distance of home. But even if they cannot, they are never out of range of the Living God, as Daniel reveals.

B.      A New Knowledge (1:3-4)


          Like the king wanted to do with Daniel and his friends, the world wants to do with you, our young people. It wants to brainwash you into its way of relative thinking – to exclude God from your faith and reason. As you learn within the world system, which you cannot help doing at some point, studying things that make you uneasy, you must do your best not to abandon your faith – remaining true like Daniel. You may learn the wisdom and language of the world, but it must not own you. All things must be, and are, subjected to the wisdom and language of God.

C.      A New Diet (1:5)


          Up to this point and even beyond, Daniel and his friends have not resisted their assimilation into Babylonian culture and society, but here they will draw the battle line. They have been ripped out of their comfortable and familiar surroundings to live in a completely foreign environment. They have submitted to a foreign educational curriculum. In the next two verses we will see that even their names will be changed so they will be suggestive of pagan deities in place of their given names that honor God. It is most likely that even their gender has been erased. So what is the issue with food? Why did Daniel choose diet as the moral and theological line over which he refuses to step? Certainly the food and the wine from the king’s table were dedicated to pagan deities and had a religious significance that offended the kosher conscience of Daniel and his friends. Certainly the richness of the fare was in a sense unhealthy compared to a legalistic diet. But he does not avoid all the food from the king’s table, most notably vegetables. And if he wanted to remain kosher, then why did he refrain from wine? Further, Hosea 9:3, a prophet of previous times, said that it would be impossible to keep kosher in the land of captivity.

          More likely the reasoning lies more closely connected to the story. They are in a process of education and preparation for service. Their minds and bodies are being fed by the Babylonian court. If they prosper, to whom should they attribute their success? By refusing to eat rich food, they trust that in their spiritual richness toward God, he shall make them appear rich physically. Their success shall be his – not the Babylonian’s. They know they are in a captive situation by the hand of God. So the question is how to redeem this situation for God. They want to be successful. But they want the world to know that it is God who made them successful beyond any human provision or ability. Their physical and intellectual abilities would obviously be gifts from God and not gifts from the pagan Babylonian culture.

          But their diet was private, not public. The king would think what he wanted about the excellent instruction of his culture toward these young men. So, at least initially, their purpose was for the humble safekeeping of their own hearts in the hand of an Almighty God they knew they dare not forget if they wanted to be truly successful. To reach a pagan culture, their religion was not on display, but their lives would be on display. At some point, someone would beg to know the difference. And indeed this would ultimately happen. So even though we are in this pagan culture, let us not embrace it too closely in our hearts lest we be consumed by its fires of vanity and pride. Daniel took this immediate caution with a long term view to being a viable witness to the greatness of God. Certainly there is a way for you individually not to compromise with the culture. It may be different for different people in different situations. For Daniel, it was food. He and his friends eat vegetables to the glory of God for three years.

D.      A New Name (1:6-7)

II.      A Daring Test – avoiding defilement (1:8-16)

          Note the wisdom that Daniel displays in presenting his test case to the guard that the chief official had placed over them. The chief official, although impressed with Daniel, did not offer the permission that Daniel sought. Daniel did not get angry or defiant or panicked. He simply chooses another strategy. He incarnates wisdom as a man who knows how to navigate life. He moves ahead by seeking and trusting the wisdom that God gives him. The ten day test presented to the guard would let him save face, even gain positive recognition if it worked, and allow him the rich food that Daniel and his friends wanted to decline. Ten days were not too much to gamble. There was everything to gain. How do you thing you would look on just vegetables and water? God must surely have been in it.

III.    A Divine Triumph – success given to Daniel and his friends {also note the extent of his ministry in vs. 21} (1:17-21)

          The superiority of Daniel’s wisdom, knowledge and understanding was not on the Babylonian scale of 1 to 10. It was off the charts. It was not on the same chart they were using. It was not a matter of degree, it was a matter of kind. The Babylonian wise men were not so much incompetent as they were false. Daniel’s wisdom had nothing to do with theirs. There ten day test ultimately proved them ten times better. It was the hand of God that was better than all the magicians and enchanters in the whole kingdom. Daniel and his friends had achieved success without compromise. They had triumphed over the culture. And again in the last verse we see that Daniel outlasts his conquerors.


          God may allow us or even prompt us to be placed at a disadvantage in a particular situation in order to reveal himself in and through us to a lost and pagan world. Daniel and his three friends were placed in a situation which was not of their own choosing.  They did well at learning and understanding this foreign culture, but they did not forget their God and succumb to it. Daniel applied wisdom in carefully choosing which battle to fight that might best reveal the one true God. As it turned out, his refusal to compromise in the area of food was the right choice. Judah may have failed morally resulting in the captivity of these men, but these men did not fail. God’s point in allowing Judah’s captivity was to purify the people. But even in the midst of downfall, God always has those who are his. And he uses them to reveal himself to the rest of us. The private devotion of Daniel and his friends held them faithful to God and would ultimately lead the way for the faith return of others. What they showed was not excellence in the ways of the world but the wholesale superiority of the ways of God. We also may be called upon to be champions to reveal God in the midst of our falling and failing culture.

          You graduates have chosen to be Christians (and I’m sure Sarah will also) and you (or your families) have chosen Christian education. In your pursuit of excellence you will find that there is no way you can attribute your success to the culture – only to God. We challenge you to continually make choices that reveal God and bring glory to him. Like Daniel, always remember whose team you are on, remember who you belong to.

Title:  Success Can Be Meaningless


   In Actions Speak Louder Than Words, Herb Miller writes: Two Kentucky farmers who owned racing stables had developed a keen rivalry.  One spring each of them entered a horse in a local steeplechase.  Thinking that a professional rider might help him outdo his friend, one of the farmers engaged a crack jockey.  The two horses were neck and neck with a large lead over the rest of the pack at the last fence, but suddenly both fell, unseating their riders.

   The professional jockey remounted quickly and rode on to win the race.  Returning triumphantly to the paddock, the jockey found the farmer who had hired him fuming with rage.

   "What's the matter?" the jockey asked.  "I won, didn't I?"

   "Oh, yea," roared the farmer.  "You won all right, but you crossed the finish line on the wrong horse."

   In his hurry to remount after the fall, the jockey had jumped on his competitor's horse.


   -- Judy C. Knupke, Newton Lower Falls, Massachusetts. Leadership, Vol. 12, no. 4.

          Sometimes in the race of life, we may appear to have won a victory when, in fact, we may not have won at all in the way that we intended. We may be riding the wrong horse. The winnings would then go to the unintended source. This is especially true for the Christian, the one who would honor God. Any success that we attain must have a direct channel to God’s glory. It must directly and visibly point back to the One through whom it was attained. We must stay on the right horse. If we fall off, we must get back on the right horse. For the Christian, the wrong horse is any indication that any success that we have attained is attributable to the world system, anything besides God. Daniel was careful to make sure that God got whatever glory was to be given. This is success without compromise in a world that continually seeks to compromise God out of the picture. If you want to be successful, and we all want that for you as graduates, understand that true success is always to the glory of God. The ‘breakfast of champions’ is not vegetables, it is God. Feast on God and you will never go hungry. He will never compromise those who do not compromise him. He is faithful to those who are faithful to him. He gives unending success to those who attribute their success to him. He willingly shares his glory when it is willingly returned. He wants faithful students willing to put him first in everything, whether it be in the dining room, the classroom, or the throne room.

John 3:21  “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." ---- What Jesus said of himself and all who come to him.

Title:  "Success" Doesn't Count


   A missionary wrote me:  "Sometimes adversity tempts me to discouragement in the face of seeming failure.  But I take courage and press on anew, as I remember that God does not hold me responsible for success, but for faithfulness."  Jesus did not say, "Well done, you successful servant." Success comes with faithfulness.


   -- Corrie Ten Boom in Each New Day.  Christianity Today, Vol. 34, no. 3.


Title:  Faithfulness and Success


   Some mistakenly conclude that faithfulness and success are diametrically opposed.


   -- Stuart Briscoe, Leadership, Vol. 14, no. 3.


Title:  The Road to Success


   We must make sure that we do not decide that we shall succeed.  If we decide to succeed then we may succeed without succeeding in God's way.  But if we go on from day to day seeking to do his will, then we shall be prepared to receive success from him if he wills it; and if he does not, then humbly to say, "It is God's decision that David shall not build the temple, but he will raise up Solomon."


   -- W. A. Visser't Hooft, quoted in That They May Have Life, by Daniel T. Niles.  Christianity Today, Vol. 33, no. 5.


Title:  Success Is Doing God's Will


   Doing God's will--faithfully, zealously, despite the absence of tangible rewards--is a worthy goal and a colossal success in itself.


   -- Craig Brian Larson, Leadership, Vol. 11, no. 1.


Title:  The Bible in Every Generation


   In every generation the Bible will challenge the values of the age and its definition of success.


   -- Haddon Robinson, Leadership, Vol. 14, no. 2.


Title:  Fortified Within


   There are two ways of handling pressure. One is illustrated by a bathysphere, the miniature submarine used to explore the ocean in places so deep that the water pressure would crush a conventional submarine like an aluminum can. Bathyspheres compensate with plate steel several inches thick, which keeps the water out but also makes them heavy and hard to maneuver. Inside they're cramped.

   When these craft descend to the ocean floor, however, they find they're not alone. When their lights are turned on and you look through the tiny, thick plate glass windows, what do you see? Fish! These fish cope with extreme pressure in an entirely different way. They don't build thick skins: they remain supple and free. They compensate for the outside pressure through equal and opposite pressure inside themselves. Christians, likewise, don't have to be hard and thick skinned--as long as they appropriate God's power within to equal the pressure without.


   -- Jay Kesler in Campus Life. Leadership, Vol. 5, no. 2.

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