Unbreakable  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  31:40
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Tough as Nails

Today we are starting a new series we are calling “Unbreakable”. In this series we are going to look at the first few chapters of the book of Daniel. For several weeks now, God has been putting Daniel on my mind. Specifically this early part of his life. As I was preparing for this series I came across a study by Pastor Ashley Wooldridge from Christ’s Church of the Valley called “Tough As Nails”. A lot of what we talk about will come from that study, if you are interested in finding it. He also put together a 25 day bible study that you can find in the YouVersion app if you search for “Tough As Nails Daniel” in the Bible Plans.
We are going to be talking about Daniel and some of the challenges he faced when he was younger. In some ways, many of the things that Daniel faced in the first few verses of the book are somewhat similar to what we face today, only much worse. Much worse that I hope any of you will ever have to face. We will talk more about the first few verses in a minute, but essentially what Daniel faces right away is a major cultural shift. In his study in 2019, Pastor Wooldridge stated that he believes “the book of Daniel is the book that we need to be reading for what we are going through in our culture today.” And I completely agree with him. I don’t even need to ask you this question...

Is our current culture moving: CLOSER to God FURTHER AWAY from God

You don’t even have to be a Christ follower to see that the moral standards of our country or even our state are continually moving further and further from God and His moral standards. There might even be things in your own life that you once swore you would never do when you were an adult. Things you would never do when you first surrendered your life to Christ, but over time you have gradually compromised in one way or another. It is so easy to do when culture is fighting so hard for you to give in and make compromises.
I will always remember my first big taste of culture shock when I realized that the culture I was a part of was shifting and changing around me. When I went to college people would talk with pride about their promiscuity and unhealthy behavior.
Pastor Wooldridge shared a story that his 15 year old daughter, Carly, told him. She enjoys making friends and getting to know people she is in school with and one day a girl who was sitting next to her in class leaned over and was very excited and said, “Guess what! Today I get my first sugar daddy!” Carly didn’t understand and thought she was talking about candy. She said, “That’s great! I love Sugar Daddy’s!” The other girl said, “I know, my friend is setting it up for me. I am so excited. I only have to sleep with this older guy once and he will give me enough money that I can get my own car!
Shocked, Carly said, “OH NO, you don’t want to do that! If it is about money we can help you get a job and make money for a car!” Then the other 15 year old girl responded, “Carly, you are such a prude.
The important thing to realize is that the problem we face isn’t a “teenager problem”. It is an “everyone problem”. The next generation is learning this behavior from culture. We live in a culture that frowns upon moral values. And the push further and further away from values is changing and getting stronger in every age demographic. When you turn on the news and you see how much our culture is changing every day, the question we have to ask ourselves is...

How can we be tough as nails in a culture of compromise?

How can you stand strong in your faith in a culture of compromise? Our culture is changing. Very fast. The good news is that we aren’t the only ones who have had to be a part of a changing culture. This is why Daniel’s story is so amazing. It is the perfect story for what we face today. Daniel’s culture was changing all around him, yet he had determination. An unbreakable faith. Incredible resolve. His culture didn’t just change, it was completely ripped out from under him and turned into something different. If you have your bible’s, go ahead and turn to Daniel chapter 1. While you turn there, let me give you a little background into what is going on in Daniel’s life...
Right in the middle of modern day Iraq sits the ruins of the biblical city Babylon. In 605 B.C., the King of Babylon was King Nebuchadnezzar. In that year, King Nebby attacked Judah and destroyed the capital, Jerusalem (including the temple). In that day, when nations would go to war, it was common for the winning nation to completely wipe out their enemies. They would come in, reduce everything to rubble, wipe out all of the people, and take over the land. King Nebby was different. He did something that was very smart. He took everyone captive and brought them back to Babylon and made them slaves. Removed them from their culture and put them in a new culture. Then he separated the elite, the most educated, talented, and best of the best and then he took them through a process of brainwashing. Changing their names, stripping them of their values, and injecting Babylonian values in order to use them to serve him in incredible ways.
This is what happens in the book of Daniel. Daniel and his friends are a part of that educated group of people that Nebby wanted to brainwash. As we look at Daniel, what we are going to see is that not only did Daniel have an unbreakable faith in the face of this rapidly changing culture… Not only did he stand strong tough as nails, but his determination and faithfulness to God changed lives of people close to him. The book of Daniel is a message of hope that should motivate faithfulness. Tim Mackie summarizes Daniel by stating...
The point of Daniel is for all generations of readers to find a pattern and a promise. The pattern is that human beings become BEASTS when they don’t acknowledge God’s Kingdom. The promise is that God will one day confront the BEAST and rescue His world.
I would highly encourage you to read through the book of Daniel as we go through this series. If you want a little guided reading, Pastor Wooldridge put together a 25 day reading plan on the YouVersion app that you can follow. You can find it by going to the reading plans section and searching for “Tough As Nails Daniel”. If you want to read through it the old fashioned way, I have put a few copies in the entry. Let me know if you didn’t get one and I will email it to you or print more.
Ok, let’s dive in to Daniel 1:1...
Daniel 1:1 NIV
1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.
This is 605 B.C. where Nebuchadnezzar came and destroyed Jerusalem, like we talked about a second ago. If any of you bible nerds are interested, look up 2 Kings 24 and you will see quite a bit of Jonah imagery in regards to this event. I think that could be an interesting study in your personal time. Anyway, remember that Nebby is going to take a bunch of people captive, make them slaves and brainwash the upper class. Daniel and his friends were among those people. How does Nebby plan to do that?
Daniel 1:3–4a (NIV)
3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility—4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace...
Not only did these people have to have a good appearance, but they had to be smart! They had to be teachable, educated, quick to learn. He wanted the “A” team. The first string. Gather up all of the starting quarterbacks, doctors and scientists. So how was he going to brainwash them?
Daniel 1:3–4b (NIV)
4...He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.
In other words, “Hey I know you’ve been studying God’s word all your life, but now you are going to learn and read in our language.” This is why, in our shifting culture today, people who hate truth and want you to believe that there is no absolute truth are trying to change your culture by starting with your language. God’s word says that He is the potter and I am the clay, but a compromising culture says, “No! Sure, you are clay, but you can make yourself into whatever you want.” Compromising culture demands that we delete or redefine words in the dictionary. It’s also much more subtle than that. It says, “You don’t need your BIBLE. Why spend time reading THAT when you can scroll endlessly through your friends posts on Facebook?” Today, our changing culture wants you to put down your bible and not think for yourself. Just believe everything they tell you. Listen to what they are teaching you. Read what they are writing. Separate from God and any of His morals and His love and learn our morals and how WE define love.
That is exactly what was happening in Daniel’s world. The king wanted to turn them away from their world view and their God and train them in the Babylonian values and gods. For 3 years they were going to brainwash them by changing their language and literature. Even their food and drink. God had a specific way that he wanted his people to eat and drink and they planned to strip even that away from God’s people to further separate them from Him...
Daniel 1:5 (NIV)
5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.
Does this not sound just like college? We send our young people off to a place and culture they are not familiar with for 2 to 4 years where, in almost every college, they are told that the bible is worthless, alcohol runs free, and it is an anything goes environment. I’m not against college. I don’t think it’s your only option, but I’m not against it either. I went to college. But I do believe that it is all the more reason to study Daniel because if you or someone you know is going to college you’ve got to be prepared. Daniel and his friends were prepared.
Who were his friends? The king chose the best of the best and among them were Daniel and his friends...
Daniel 1:6 NIV
6 Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.
Obviously, they were not the only ones thrown into this program. Their culture was changing right in front of them and there were probably hundreds or even thousands that were thrown into this with them, but these four stood out because of their values and their determination to stand strong. There is no question that our culture is shifting in front of us, so the question we have to ask ourselves is this...
When culture shifts will I shift with it?
I know as Christ followers we don’t want to shift with culture, but sometimes it’s hard! There is a lot of pressure and it is scary and unstoppable. If we try to put our own strength and courage up against the massive culture machine we will never survive the fight. We are far better served by being aware of how the enemy fights, how God fights for us, and how we can be prepared. It’s a lot less frightening if you know what you are facing and you are mentally prepared. That’s why I love Daniel so much. He was prepared. One of my favorite verses in the book of Daniel is 1:8. Not even the whole verse. In the original Hebrew it was 4 words. It translates as “But purposed Daniel in his heart...” In other words, “Daniel made up his mind...” He didn’t think about it for a while or let these cultural shifts catch him off guard. He simply made up his mind before they ever came about and he knew in advance that no matter what he would stick to his faith. That he would be unbreakable.
So, how can we be prepared so that we can be that tough? We need to be ready for the way culture fights. How does culture fight? Verse 7...
Daniel 1:7 NIV
7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.
Changing their names was the very first strategy the Babylonians used to strip them away from God. And it is the exact same strategy our culture will use today. If you are taking notes...

The first thing culture will do to pull you away from God is RENAME you.

Culture will give you a label, a name, or an identity that God has not given you. And you’ll begin to believe it.
-God gives you rights, but culture will tell you that you don’t have rights you have responsibilities.
-God tells you that He made you in His image, but culture says that you were the result of a random series of events and you are a happy accident as a result of a large series of unlikely coincidences.
-God judges the heart, but culture says your value comes from your appearance and your bank account.
-God says you are valuable, but culture says you are worthless. You will never amount to anything.
-God says you are loved, but culture wants you to believe that you are not good enough.
-God says that he knew us before we were born, he created us to do good, and in Christ we are a new creation. Culture says there is no god, no creation, no plan.
Look at how the Babylonians renamed Daniel and his friends. This is the very first thing they did to Daniel and his friends. Look at their God given names and what they meant compared to the names the Babylonians gave them...
DANIEL: God is my Judge.
BELTESHAZZAR: Lady, protect the king.
Think about that for a second. Daniel has spent his whole life up to this point with a name that reflected who he is and celebrated who God is in his life. Then the enemy changes his name. Tells him, “That’s not who you are. This is who you are...” and they gave him a girls name. “Daniel, you’re not a real man.” Throughout history you can find gender confusion in cultures that have turned away from God. If anyone tells you that Christian theology on gender is archaic, these “new” gender ideas are not new at all. They are actually part of many old pagan religions and pagan gods. Trying to create confusion. Trying to make you doubt what GOD says about YOU.
Hananiah, God has been goo to you! He is gracious! God is for you! He loves and cares about you! But look at what the Babylonians want him to believe about God...
HANANIAH: Yahweh has been gracious.
SHADRACH: I am fearful of god.
They want him to believe that God is out to get him. “You should be afraid of God. He isn’t FOR you, he’s AGAINST you! You should be afraid of Him.” They are trying to make him doubt God too. Trying to make him think that God doesn’t care about him.
What about Mishael? (Who is what God is?) No one is like my God! No, no, no. They gotta change that...
MISHAEL: Who is what God is?
MESHACH: I am despised and shameful before god.
Chad, God can’t love you. Look at all of the sin in your life.” Anyone else find the relation to culture today and the Babylonians almost unsettling? You know what, my sin may make me shameful and despised, but who is what God is? No one is like my God! Who else could be absolutely perfect and still love broken me? Who else would send their only son to take my place and pay my debt? Who else is able to keep me from stumbling and present me blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy!?! No one else could do that! No one else has helped. And that brings us to Azariah...
AZARIAH: Yahweh has helped.
ABEDNEGO: Servant of Nebo (Babylonian god).
God helps. That’s what God does. According to the Babylonians… “Nope. Never mind that. Now you are a servant of Nebo. He’s one of our gods.” This is the most common one in our society People don’t trust that God cares about them, so they turn to another god. Turn to a career, money, drugs, addictions, and on and on and on.
This is the point. These young men went to Babylon and were given new names. Culture wants to rename you. Strip you of what God says about you and make you believe you are something that God never ever said about you. So how do we prepare for that? How do we fight against that?

When culture shifts, you have to remember who God SAYS you are.

At some point in your life, someone has told you that you weren’t good enough. You were ugly/fat/to skinny/annoying/the screw up. Someone has probably told you something that has stuck with you. Even though 1000 Godly people have probably told you something encouraging to the 1 person who said something negative, it is the negative remark that stuck with you and has shaped who you have become, even though God never said that about you. If this rings true for you I want you to write down a quote from Pastor Wooldridge...
If you take on a name God hasn’t given you, you will miss the life God has for you. -Ashley Wooldridge
The Babylonians are changing Daniel and his friend’s names. So what does Daniel do? This is where we find out that Daniel has already made up his mind to stick to God. He purposed in his heart. He determined. He resolved. He set the truth in stone in his heart and could not be moved.
Daniel 1:8 NIV
8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.
Notice Daniel’s posture here. Resolve was in his heart, and respect was on his lips. If you keep reading the story, the official was afraid of the king and basically says the king will kill him if Daniel doesn’t do what he is told. Still, Daniel keeps his composure and gets the guard involved. Daniel had mad up his mind and was determined, so why wasn’t he going down kicking and screaming for this fight? I believe it’s because Daniel EXPECTED to be tested...

When you hold true to God’s standards, expect to be TESTED.

Just like Daniel, we have to be ready to be tested. Daniel goes to the guard that was assigned to him and his friends and notice how he keeps that same posture as he says, “Please...”
Daniel 1:12 NIV
12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.
Daniel was ready. He was ready to be tested because he knew he was who God said he was. He knew God’s promises. In scripture, the number 10 usually pops up when there is a test involved. God tested Pharoah with 10 plagues. He tested the Israelites with the 10 commandments. The only time God says to put him to the test is when he talks about the tithe, which is the tenth that is to be brought to him. Daniel says, “Please test us for 10 days...
At the end of the 10 days they looked healthier and better than any of the young men who ate the royal food. And at the end of the time the king tried to brainwash them they entered his service and the king found non equal to them. They were not just better than the others though...
Daniel 1:20 NIV
20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.
They were 10 times better! Put your trust in God, resolve in your heart and make up your mind to follow God’s lead and He will make you 10 times better. Then you will be ready when culture shifts. And it is shifting as we speak.

When culture shifts, you have to refuse to COMPROMISE.

I love the analogy Pastor Wooldridge uses. He asked his church...
I wonder if there is anyone here that knows you are living a compromised life. You know what God says but you haven’t quite trusted it. You aren’t living it out… It is time that we start living differently in culture. You have to decide, when I walk into culture am I going to be a thermometer or a thermostat? A thermometer just reflects the temperature wherever it goes. A thermostat sets the temperature… We have to start setting the culture, not reflecting the culture. God has called us [his children and set us apart to live for him.]
Daniel’s example forces me to examine my own life and ask a tough question...

Will I change the world or will the world change me?

If I want to change the world, the first thing I have to do is REFUSE to accept a name that God has not given to me. I have to remind myself who God says I am.
I am loved.
I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
God cares about me.
He has saved me and called me to a holy life, not because of anything I have done, but because of his own purpose and grace.
1 John 3:1a (NLT)
1 See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!...
What is more world changing than realizing that there is a God who created the universe, yet loves us so much that he has made us his children?
Remember who God says you are, be prepared to be tested and when the day comes refuse to compromise.
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