When we live in alignment with God's word, we live with integrity
One of the things we did with Work His Way is after our Saturday night service we have these After-Church Chats. We’ve had three of them so far. We’re going to finish our final After-Church Chat next Saturday evening. We do it about 10 minutes after the service. Our closer is going to be Jay Ward, a long time part of our church community. He also works for Pixar. He was the point man and has been now for a number of years on the Cars franchise. He has a lot of things that he has to be able to offer and share with us. It’s a way we’ve been amplifying what we’ve been sharing together in God’s Word. Some of you were here last week. Recall we talked about Daniel. That’s been a subset of what we’ve been looking at. We’ve been using Daniel and his story as a subset in the larger umbrella of the Work His Way series. I’m using him as a case study or example. There is a lot to learn from and glean from his story.
I want you to understand the flow of it. I think it might be helpful. I’m going to start by giving a bit of a historical context. It’s going to be very valuable to have a historical geographical sense of the place and time-frame that we’re talking about. It was an amazing time in history. I want to put that into context. Next, I’m going to look at the passage itself, which focuses on Daniel and the tension that was happening between him and what we might call his co-workers. From that, I want to take it to these application or staying points as I’m calling them. Things that you and I can think about as we head into the week or weeks ahead. How we might be able to move forward in terms of expanding our own integrity with God. I realize that when we look at the title “Alignment and Integrity” that can be an intimidating word. It might create an image of, “We’re going to have one of those talks where we’re being told we have to live up to this high standard.” Maybe we might come not out feeling great about our level of commitment.
I suppose there’s a part of that there, but my real goal is that all of us will be encouraged to be more aligned people who have a greater quality of life in terms of what we represent as the Lord’s heart. My concern is to be encouraging in this regard. The keyword of the word encouragement is courage. I want us to come out of this with more courage to want to live well and challenge things in our own heart and not be afraid of that. Last week, we talked about an incident that occurs in the Book of Daniel. King Belshazzar has a vision. There were these words that appeared on the wall in a room where they were having a giant party. The words were in a language not our own. No one knew what they meant. Daniel is brought in. He’s an older man now. He was brought to Babylon as a young man enslaved, but trained to serve in the highest of the court of Babylon.
Daniel interprets the dream. The king is relieved that someone is able to interpret the words that were on the wall. The words that were interpreted were not great words for him. They said you have been weighed on the scales and you’ve been found wanting. Your time is up and your kingdom is about to fall. This is where we pick up in Daniel 5:29. Daniel 5, “Belshazzar gave the command and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him. He should be the third ruler in the kingdom.” Daniel is given this great privilege of being given the third highest place in Babylon. As I mentioned last week, that’s like being told your third in command on the Titanic as it’s going down.
That very night Belshazzar, the Chaldean king was killed. Darius, the Mede received the kingdom. He was about 62 years old. We know Babylon was taken by the Medes and Persians. The city of Babylon itself was a historical marvel. I know we read about it now in ancient times and it’s like, “Eh, what does that even mean?” But it was at the time, well, between, I think it was the year 1770 BC to 1670 BC. It was considered by many to be the most populated city in the world. And it was absolutely stunning by all testimonies of the historic record. Archeologists what they found as well testified to the fact that it was an extraordinary place. Some of the things that it had were unbelievable and just stunning.
If you read in Genesis 10, it says that it was founded by the great grandson of Noah, a man named Nimrod. That city though becomes just this, again, amazingly, just stunning place. Where it’s located, it’s located and I just wanted to put up a map real quickly to give everybody a context. The city of Babylon was located, you can see two of the great rivers in the ancient world, the Tigris and the Euphrates. They flow into the Persian Gulf. They also are part of what’s known as the Fertile Crescent. And this is actually significant. We’ll talk about that in a moment.
The Fertile Crescent essentially stretches from the Nile basin, which isn’t where Egypt is all the way through. You can see where Israel is. You see where Jerusalem is. And then it goes all the way up into the fertile valley between the Tigris and the Euphrates primarily. That is where Babylon was located. Babylon itself was built around the river Euphrates. So part of it was on one side. Part of it was on the other. It was again, an amazing place. If we were to look at it through modern lenses today, you can see that this is actually in the news all the time. All the time.
Babylon is literally what we would call modern Iraq. And if you were to go a little bit east past, you could see it past the two rivers right next to Iraq would be modern day Iran. That was what Persia was back then. You keep going, you hit Afghanistan and Pakistan and part of India. And then you go a little further you’re in China. That’s the east, you go west, you head towards the Mediterranean. So much of the center of what took place in terms of the great military empires occurred there. We know that Babylon was, again, it contained one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The city itself was extraordinary. We put a little historical rendering of what it might have looked like at a city level.
We know that some of the walls that are around it just because they can do the research on it that they weren’t exaggerating. Some of them were six, I mean six lanes. What we would call six lanes wide, six chariots wide. It was like a freeway system. They had tunnels, subterranean tunnels with water. There was gold plated. It was just a beautiful place, but the most famous part of the city of Babylon at the time besides the water that was such a part of it had to do with the famous hanging gardens. And the hanging gardens, again, all we have is the historical record of ancient historians, but it was said to have been absolutely stunning Nebuchadnezzar built it for his wife.
They said that from the fertile plains, you could see it what looked like a mountain rising up out of the plains, but it was an artificial mountain. It looked green. Filled like it was filled with trees and flowers and colors. It was the famous hanging gardens. So this is a stunning environment. They thought the city was almost impregnable. Babylon is not only a city though, it was an empire. It was the first of the real great empires of the ancient world.
It ends up being taken by the Medes and the Persians who had been for years kind of beginning to flex their muscle. They joined in an alliance. It was interesting because it means the Babylonians and the Persians have been fighting for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years. Warfare has been a part of that world. It has been from the beginning as they were grappling for power, Babylon feels it’s very secured. They think the city is impregnable. We are told that Cyrus the Great. And again, I’m just putting the historical piece behind it. He has a plan to take the city. Belshazzar is having this feast. It’s a feast of defiance. Daniel’s brought in. Daniel says, “You’re about to fall. Babylon’s about to fall.”
Essentially what he’s saying is this great empire, its time is up and we’re about to witness it with our eyes. And sure enough, we know that that Cyrus essentially they think that there were two traitors that told them how to do it, but they eventually divert the river from the Euphrates River, some people think they even created an artificial lake. A third of the army of [inaudible] was hitting from the north, south. They meet in the middle of the city and they end up converging together in the darkness.
Babylon falls under Cyrus the Great as he’s called Cyrus the Conqueror. And there’s an interesting piece of scripture. I’m not going to go into it, but it’s in your handout. It’s from the Book of Isaiah. One of the things in the Bible, one of the most remarkable prophecies in all the scripture is in Isaiah where it talks about 150 years before it ever happens. It mentions Cyrus’s name. Many believe that he was shown that prophecy afterwards. And it’s part of what allowed him to release the Jewish people to return to their homeland because he himself would’ve been stunned by it. That’s an entirely different story though to explore.
Suffice to say, what happen when a new regime comes in, Cyrus appoints a king named Darius to oversee Babylon, then Cyrus organizes his government. And part of his organizing of his government, Daniel has been given a place of great prominence. So if you can follow with me in the sixth chapter right there, verse number one it says that “Darius the Mede received the kingdom being about 62 years old.” That’s verse 31. And we know that, again, it pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps.”
Now that word is not even used by us. This essentially means a regional governor, a magistrate. So he basically devised the land of Babylon into 120 provinces. Those provinces have been given people who oversee them. And then he appoints essentially three men to oversee the 120. So he has like an order of structure and a hierarchy. And so those three men who are three governors who are overseeing the regional governors, Daniel is one of them. Look what it says. “Daniel was the one of whom Daniel one and the satraps might give accounts so that the king would suffer no loss.”
Basically it would ensure that the king’s business was being done properly. “Then Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and the satraps because an excellent spirit was in him.” That’s verse three. “And the king gave thought to setting him over the whole kingdom, the whole realm.” So what happens is Daniel’s quality of work is so good. He’s so good that there’s real thinking going on. You got to remember, Daniel’s got two other guys who are basically his equals. So we’re talking about like a rumor hits into a corporation or a new business that someone who’s been an equal is about to get a potential promotion. It’s going to put him over the rest of them.
And on top of it, Daniel, he was like a foreigner on top of it. And we’re told here that the reason he was being considered is because look what it says. It says that, “There was an excellent spirit on him and the king gave that thought to him and the governors and the satraps.” Look at this. There’s a giant grew coming together trying to figure out a way to take Daniel down. They want to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom. Look at verse four. they couldn’t find. They looked. They couldn’t find any charge or fault. Why? The Bible says because he was faithful nor was there any error or fault found in him.
One of the versions, the NIV puts it this way. I asked if they could put it up. “At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel and his conduct of the government affairs.” But look at this. “They were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him because he was trustworthy, neither corrupt nor negligent.” So he was not only an honest worker. He was a quality worker. So when they went through his life, they’re looking at like, “What can we do?”
It’s like someone trying to find and this happens all the time. We read about in the news all the time now. Things are much more public, less private. It’s become a cultural epidemic, good and bad. There’s good and bad to it. What it has exposed is the ugly belly, the ugly underbelly of our culture is being exposed in ways that demand our attention and can either numb us or really bother us. That’s a whole nother story. Daniel is being focused on, they’re looking at his life in detail. They’re thinking, “This guy’s got to have something he’s hiding. There’s got to be some dirt in his closet. There’s got to be something he’s done. Some bribe he’s taken some way. He’s misused his power. Something about his life that no one knows about that we can exploit.”
There is a real cabal going on here, a real effort being made to figure out a way to take him down. His co-workers and his peers all got together and said, “How are we going to ruin this man’s reputation?” That’s what they’re thinking. And they look at his life and they come to the conclusion the guy’s the real deal. He’s he’s not perfect, but he is a man of profound integrity. This is a righteous man. He’s a good and godly man because he possesses an integrity, a kind of wholeness to him, a reliability, a trust. We say someone’s integrist. They have a trust. You can trust them. You can put weight on them. They won’t fall.
I believe it was Alexander Pope who said that, “An honest man or woman is a noblest work of God.” If that be true, then Daniel was a very exquisitely noble work. Again, they wanted to find something. They couldn’t find it. Robert Ringer in his book that I read years ago talking about integrity. He defined it this way. I asked if they could put it up. “Integrity is an adherence to our moral values. It’s basically practicing what we claim to believe in.”
He ended up defining this with a different word. He says when you have this kind of consistency of belief that’s being referred to here, he called it concentricity. He says, when a person is living aligned, if you guys can keep that up for a little bit more. If you can just put that definition up. If we live aligned between essentially what we say our moral values are. And we start like practicing what we claim, we believe he called that concentricity. I want to put up two circles because it was an illustration he used. One circle and now you guys can put these up. One has to do with what we believe and say, and the other one has to do with what we do.
So think of these two circles. This is why I tell people, this is what I believe is important and it’s what I say that’s important to me. And then over here is what I dol now here’s the thing. This is what concentricity is. All right? It’s when these two things, essentially not perfectly because there’s none of us who do that. But when they’re is a significant overlap between what we say we believe. We love God. I want to live in a way that honors Him and what I actually do. It creates a kind of beauty or strength to our lives.
I hear people say, “I want to live in peace.” One of the key ways living in peace is having as much concentricity as possible, as much, much alignment between what we say we believe and what we articulate is important to us, what we truly do and then how we live. If those two things are fairly aligned, especially again, I’m talking about especially if we’re serious about following the Lord. What we will find is we’ll have a tremendous sense of strength and confidence, that there’s going to be an enthusiasm to the way we live and a strength to it. That’s powerful.
But he says what happens is sometimes this happens and I’ve seen it happen in my life is that sometimes the circle of what we believe and say and what we do starts to fall apart a little bit. And there’s only a small overlap or we can sense that it’s slipping. Like there are things, attitudes that are re-emerging into our life or we’re getting sloppy at a spiritual level. Or we’re starting to reacquire destructive habits that honestly can’t help us. We’re starting to feel a little addicted and drawn by them. We’re losing ground. We sense it. We sense something is not working well.
It’s like the Lord’s voice for some of us will start to whisper, “You’re slipping here. You’re slipping here. You need to pull back and address this.” If you let this thing go, it’ll destroy things. You need to move back towards concentricity and alignment. A lot of times I find that the best way I can do it is if the Lord starts shining that light into my heart, I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel when I’m slipping. Something’s very obvious. Sometimes it just starts showing up in anger or fear. Or like I said, just trying to fill something with something that’s not even healthy at all. Won’t help. I feel worse after I’m done.
Like in those places, that’s the Lord trying to get our attention. And a lot of times the best thing we could do is just like, “Lord, I repent. I ask for your mercy. I want to regroup. I want to bring others into this conversation to help remind me why I’m doing what I’m doing.” And then I want to rebuild my momentum in a positive direction. So I start to rebuild things and I start seeing that those circles start being drawn back together. Because here’s what happens when we ignore that voice. Watch what breaks out.
If we don’t address it, what ends up happening is we start living a very hypocritical life. And when we do, we start to lose our self-respect. And that doesn’t show up all the way, but when you separate out what we say and what we believe and what we believe and what we say and from what we do and we do that long enough, that’s a problem. Because now I’m basically living a duplicitous life. I say this is important to me. I say I love the Lord. I say it matters. But if I’m living like this over here, there’s like two of me.
I remember reading a book. The first time I ever got introduced to the book was like kind of in high school. I even forgot about it. I didn’t even think about it. But later on when I was an adult years later, a couple decades later, I actually made a decision. I wanted to read this book on my own because I was wanting to read some of the American classic literature and I thought, “You know what? I didn’t really appreciate that.” So I reread the book by Nathaniel Hawthorne and the Scarlet Letter. And in that book, I remember him talking and there was a lot of things that happened in that book, but one of the characters has a crisis because … Actually, he starts his body starts to erode because of the guilt he bears and cannot express.
The duplicity he’s living in, starts to eat away inside of him literally. And the way Hawthorne described it. And again, using language that is far more poetic than we would use today and different. I said there was one quote that stood out to me years later I still think about when we think about what the danger of hypocrisy in our lives, giving plays to it. I asked them if they could put it up. Look what he says. He says, “We have had.” And again, bear with the initial sentence.
“We have had,” Hawthorne writes. “And may still have worse things to tell of him.” That’s that character he’s referring to. “But none we apprehend. So pitiably weak. No evidence at once so slight and irrefragable,” which is where we don’t use it all. It means impossible to refute. That’s a good word. Interesting. Irrefragable. Okay. “Irrefragable of a subtle disease that had long since begun to eat in the real substance of his character. For any considerate period.” Then Hawthorne says what you can say in literature. He almost like better than you can say it in any other way. He says, “For no man for any considerable period can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude without finally getting bewildered as to which one may be the true.”
It’s like, “If you do this long enough, it’s hard to tell who am I? The one or the other?” Fascinating. Hear me out. Jesus lived, if we can say it this way, you could legitimately say going back to that idea of concentricity that Jesus lived with perfect concentricity. That is one of the reasons why when He spoke and wasn’t just the tone or the words that He used. It’s one of the reasons why they said when He spoke, He spoke as one having authority because there was no distance between what He said and how He lived and the smaller, the gap between what we say and what we live, the more power we tend to have.
Do you understand that? [inaudible] the authority of our words tend to take on greater meaning and depth. They have more influence and effect. And Jesus when they heard him speak, He was like a walking moral eclipse. That’s why He could say something like this. “If you see me, you have seen the Father.” Because where’s the Father? Show us the Father. Don’t you understand? If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father. Fascinating.
Daniel was a man who lived and by the way, that’s what makes Jesus utterly qualified to give His life away to pay a price for us we could never pay for ourselves. There was no sin in Him. No guile. Perfect concentricity, alignment with the Father. Daniel was not perfect, but he was a man very healthily aligned. That’s what the scripture teaches us. He shows us an example of someone who has a lot of alignment in his life. I was looking at that and I said … Oh, go to fifth verse. It’ll be the last verse we look at, Daniel 6:5. There it is. It says, “Then these men said, ‘We’re not going to find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.'”
They got together, they tried to say, “Let’s figure out a way to take him down.” They come to the conclusion, “We’re not going to get it on the basis of his work. He’s he’s honest. We’re not going to get it on the basis of the quality of his work. He does good work.” Even his enemies had to admit it. They said, “There’s only a thing, can we think of anything? Someone must have come up with the idea. I think there’s one thing we can get him. He’s got a vulnerability. Do you see it? Do you see it?”
That’s that faith he has in his God. The way he commits himself to it. That’s the spot. That’s where we need to focus right there. We’re going to talk about that next week. Here are my staying points coming off of what we just shared. What I mean by that is think of a tent with a cloth that’s being kind of covering the tent, like a fly that you’re hammering down on four sides or just four stakes in a tent. One, two, three and four just holding it in place. I was thinking about four staying points, four things that Daniel did that allowed him to hold his place and to be a fairly concentric person.
It’s a reminder for me of what we can do as well. I’m hoping one of these might connect with us. What I’m going to suggest is one that God calls us to stay inspired even in difficult places. I’m going to intersect them with Daniel as much as I can. What I mean by that is to stay alive in our heart, to stay motivated, to stay passionate about life. I realize there’s a couple of things that can really suck the life out of us. Difficulty is clearly one of them, a trial or trauma we’ve got going on in our life and a besetting situation it gives us. It is hard.
You got a couple of those things hitting you at once, brutal, brutal. Sometimes it’s something like aging. Although it’s impossible to watch something we just watched. I was thinking about that video. I was going, “Hmm, she’s 100? Wow.” I have nothing to complain. I want that spark. If I get there, which is far less likely. But if I do, I would love to have that, a heart that’s excited about the Lord being a blesser. Man, look at that. That’s like a walking testimony, a goal. When I was thinking about it, life has a way of beating us down. Relational conflict, work. Work. Some of us, work is like, I’ve been hearing you. You’ve been telling me, “You don’t know hard it is. It’s just like it beats me down.” Tensions. I don’t know.
This is where I connect back to Daniel. Stuff can beat the dreamer out of us. But God wants us to live life with a sparkle as much as we can. The joy of the Lord is my strength. You get the impression that Daniel was a man who was alive. He was able to interpret God in a land where people didn’t know the language of God. He could interpret it. And I would hope that we could be like Daniel and let our light shine too. And to be a difference maker for good in the environments the Lord has allowed us to be. And remember, Daniel had no choice in his environment. Some of us might say, “You don’t know how bad my situation is.” I know. I don’t necessarily, but I can say this. Very few of us would ever have a situation quite like Daniel’s because had no options. He could not go home. He would never see the people he loved again.
He had been completely taken from a place and moved. Historically, there are of course analogies, but not today. So much here. We don’t like the situation for the most part. It may cost us, but we can try change it. He couldn’t get out. He had to live with the life of God in his life in a very challenging environment and yet be a difference maker. And this is the thing. No matter who was running the kingdom. One fell, another came. He’s the same man. And that reminds me of the second staying point, which is this, stay committed. Because Daniel models a committed life. He had a few things that were non-negotiables and his devotion to God was one of them. He was committed to the Lord through thick and thin.
I can say, “Oh, you’re just saying that.” But there is no record of Daniel ever questioning God’s goodness and faithfulness. And I said, “Oh, okay. Yeah, he never questions God goodness and faith.” Do you understand what we just said? How easy it would’ve been for him to say, “This is what your people get. So I have no life with my own people. I’m here. I’ll not see them again. I’ve been taken and this is it.” He could have easily said, “You know what? Why should I be leaving you? What have you done for me? No one else bound here does. And if this is what believing you gets me then …” I mean, I look at him and go, “Wow.”
If you look at it, if he wanted to focus on his circumstances, he had plenty of reasons to be discouraged. But even more than that, he could have had a lot of reasons to renounce his faith and say, “You know what?” And maybe if he didn’t just let it go right away and say, “Well, I renounce you, God.” He certainly could have had enough in him and said, “You know what?” You can just let it drift away. No one will care anyway like a piece of wood floating downstream. There goes my faith. I’m in Babylon now around very sophisticated, progressive people. Who needs the God of Israel? But he didn’t do that.
There was like a tenacity to his faith and a stubborn sense of identity that just held him in place with God. Didn’t matter what. You know what? And that reminds me of the third staying point, which is this, stay with it, which is to me perseverance. Like don’t quit. Don’t give up because things aren’t going our way or because we’re discouraged. Again, I refer back to it. Look, we read the passages. I have to believe there were times where he hurt. There had to be times where if he’s like a normal human being, he starts feeling hurt. “I don’t have a lot of people. I miss home. I miss my people. I miss my people. I miss my family. It’s like I feel isolated, hurt.”
I wonder if he had a broken heart. A few things are harder to overcome I thought about this morning than a broken heart. A sadness that lingers. Sometimes it’s just a hurt we can’t figure out completely how to get rid of it. I wish I didn’t feel it, but I do. What do I do about that? What do I do when it feels like something is lingering or hurt is lingering in my heart like a wound I cannot bear? Some of you know what I mean. It’s hard. It’s like I want to lose it, but it’s there. I feel things. Remember, you heard me quote this couple months back quoting the heart has reasons that reason knows nothing of. Sometimes. “You shouldn’t.” “I know, but that’s how I feel.’
Inevitably, we’re going to have down cycles. The key is in those down cycles, don’t cycle out. In the down cycle, don’t cycle out. Cycle towards the Lord. The last thing and this is where we’ll leave it. Stay focused. If we want to prevail and flourish, we don’t have all the time in the world. Kingdoms rise, kingdoms fall, history moves. Daniel lived with concentric intentionality. He was aligned, which means you and I are going to need … The key to his success was his private world and we’re going to see that as well.
It was his tenacious commitment to having time with God that gave him the staying power ultimately. And that’s what allows us to keep our focus in the right places as well. Focus and alignment come in the place when we get away. You know what? Listen. Daniel, we know had times where he insisted he had to meet with God. It was a key part of his life, strength. His ability to align was connected to his ability to focus. His heart stayed tendered before God. He was able to prevail in a very hostile environment at a spiritual level.
It ruled over his emotions, not have his emotions rule over him. Keep away from things that would’ve destroyed him, caused him to turn away from God. Look, it’s not just true for Daniel. Think about it. It was true for Jesus. If it was true for Jesus, He would get up early. There were times where Jesus would rise early at a practice of rising early to align Himself with the Father. In times of the greatest heat and intensity at a spiritual level, He would pull away to line himself up with the Father. If that is true for God, when we’re under duress when we’re under just like a lot of pressure. And we’re seeing all kinds of stuff going on, find a way to not only bring others that you can trust into that conversation, but get some space with the Lord to realign the focus.
It is a key to strength and prevailing. Okay, we’ve got a lot more to share, but not here. We’re done right now and I want to pray over what we just shared. Okay? So even now, Lord, I thank you for the time that we have invested here. And I thank you for your words, which are life to us. And I just pray your blessing for each of us that, again, we’re getting ready to have our time of giving in the closing song. And I am so grateful for the commitment of those who carry the weight of this church. I really am. Even at a financial level, I am grateful for that, deeply grateful for a quality of people who care so much about it.
But at the end of the day, Lord, we’re about finding a way to help all of us live out our faith in ways that are real and that are increasingly healthy. And so I ask for a higher degree of concentricity in our lives that we would be more like Daniel in the way we work, in the way we work through things that are working in us. And don’t let those things define us, but learn how to prevail above them and beyond them.
So I welcome your Holy Spirit to do what we can’t do in our own power sometimes. Again, sometimes those wounds are so real, those hurts so profound, the loss that it feels like we get free of it, but you can help. Help us, Lord. You can help us. So I just pray for your blessing. Bless this closing time of giving and bless this song as well as we sit with it and close it out. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen, Lord.