Heroes: More Than a Thought
September 22 and 23, 2018
Daniel 2: 10 – 30 and I Corinthians 2:6-10
Heroes: More Than a Thought
Dear Friends in Christ,
Last week, we began a three part series of sermons focused on our annual theme, which is “Heroes: Heaven Reaching out through Every Saint.” We’re exploring our way through the book of Daniel and paying attention to the way that God was working through those saints in their days of Babylonian exile.
In all three weeks of this series, we are admitting our tendency to look for God in places where God isn’t found. When we search for God in the midst of our feelings, we are tempted to despair. Next week, we find that when we search for God in the midst of our reality, our experiences, we are tempted to drift in our faith. Today we find that when we search for God’s truths in our intellect, or by reasoning life out, by thinking our way through, we are tempted to doubt God’s promises.
Today’s message is aimed at any of us who can talk ourselves into a tizzy, any of us who can worry ourselves right into a near breakdown, any of us who can drive ourselves crazy by the way we talk to ourselves. We see in Daniel an example of a young man who had the kind of faith that stayed on track, the kind of faith that took his worries in the right direction, the kind of faith that permitted God’s promises to rule.
In chapter 1 of the prophet Daniel, we see him and friends dragged off into the great unknown, and today we see them forced Into the realm of (the impossible). Daniel chapter 2 adds insult to the injury of chapter 1. In chapter 1, the brightest and best of Jewish young men were deported into exile away from family and friends. Their oppressors demanded that they would be immersed in a heathen culture, they were forced to adopt pagan names, and they were required to eat foods considered unclean by their own faith. No doubt feelings of loneliness, hopelessness, sadness, and anxiety swept over their souls as a rainstorm sweeps over the prairie.
Now in chapter 2, Daniel and his friends had to be thinking about how life had gone from difficult into the impossible. King Nebuchadnezzar had one disturbing dream after another, and one night a mysterious dream woke him up and kept him awake. Perhaps he suspected that this dream might have a symbolic meaning, it could very well be that one or more of the 4000 gods the Babylonians were required to worship were trying to tell him something.
And so he insists on the impossible, or else. Either you so called wise men, magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers tell me what I dreamed and what it means, or else, as my mom would say, the whole kitten caboodle of you will be cut into pieces and your homes will be turned into piles of rubble. Do that which is humanly impossible, or you will be tortured, killed, and your possessions will be destroyed. Do that which cannot be done, and oh, one more thing, there will be absolutely no mercy.
Two parts to our sermon today as we try to think our way through circumstances in life that defy logic. Part I is to see what heroic faith looks and sounds like, and Part II is to rejoice in God’s great desire to reveal the secrets of the kingdom to His people. Part I is to think about Daniel’s resolve which was to cry out for mercy, and Part II is to be strengthened in our faith by God’s promise to reveal the very mysteries of the kingdom to us, as needed.
Lesson #1 today is to think through Daniel’s resolve was to cry out for (mercy). In our text for today, Nebuchadnezzar seemed to be getting more and more agitated. When the so- called wise men, magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers insisted that he was asking for the impossible, the king concluded they were stalling, he wanted them to know his mind was made up, and he accused them of conspiring / colluding to mislead and deceive. They fussed and whined one more time, and in verse 12, Daniel records the king became so angry and furious and ordered the execution of every so -called wise men, magician, enchanter, sorcerer, and astrologer in all of Babylon.
Last week we saw Daniel’s resolve to hold onto the promises of His God instead of holding onto and understanding at a young age that faith is more the feelings that might be crushing your spirit. Today we see Daniel asking the king for some time to think, we see him understanding that faith in the one true God is more than the more than just trying to reason his way through his days of crisis, then we see him asking his friends to plead for mercy from the one true God concerning this mystery.
Somehow and in some way, it seems as though God’s Spirit had already worked in Daniel’s heart a confidence that with God all things were possible. Somehow and in some way, God had worked in this prophet an understanding that human wisdom would be of no use in this crisis, an understanding that all the wise men of the greatest kingdom on earth were helpless in this situation, an understanding that if help was to be found, it would have to come from another world, it would have to come from the true God and not from the false and the useless gods of Babylon.
The kingdom of God is like a large church in a small town where all kinds of people are wondering if they are in the realm of the impossible. They listen to what the politicians are doing and saying and they wonder if we are beyond the point of no return. They look around at the culture in which they live and see so many abandoning the core beliefs and values in which they were raised, and they lose sleep at night thinking about what their children and grandchildren will be facing, they commiserate with their coffee shop friends that in fact society is going to hell in a handbasket, they see tornadoes and windstorms ravage their countryside in a random sort of a way, they search their intellects and when life isn’t logical, they find deep down inside of them doubts one right after another rise up and begin to rule. And so collectively, they get on their knees, they cry out for mercy, they ask for answers, they listen carefully for the will of God to be made clear. And praise be to God again and again, God’s good and gracious will is made clear to them. Which is our second and final main thought for the day for this 18th Sunday after Pentecost.
Lesson #2 today is to rejoice that God’s will was and is to reveal (mysteries). Daniel records that he urged his friends 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. During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision.”
At which point Daniel praised the God of heaven, saying things like, Praise be to the name of God forever and ever; wisdom and power are his…..and he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning…He reveals deep and hidden things, he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells within him.
Dear friends, how awesome is it that God knows what lies in the darkness, and that as long as Jesus is sitting at the right hand of his Father, there is light at the end of the tunnel?
Paul said this about talking our way through the darkest of our days, “I have learned the secret of contentment, I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound….I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and n34eed, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Dear friends, how amazing is it that the Spirit of God has called together sinful little flocks of people all over the world, declared them to be his forgiven saints, and then invited them to reach out in His name with the secrets of the kingdom? Some of you are old enough to remember the show, “I’ve Got A Secret.” And all of you know how your ears will perk up when a friend whispers, “I’ve got a secret I want to tell you!”
The kingdom of God is like a little flock of believers full of folks who are growing up in their Christian faith. By the grace of God and through all the ups and downs of life, they are learning what their parents and grandparents were trying to impress on them years ago. They are learning that even when the darkness of financial ruin or marriage failure is closing in, even when friends are breaking their necks and thinking through what it’s like to not be able to move your hands, even when neighbors are pouring into your yard ravaged by tornadoes, even when death’s dark hands are knocking at your door, even then these folks know the secret of contentment. They know that all wisdom and power belong to God. That he works everything out for the good of those who love him That even though we are all in charge of our own little corners of the kingdom, God is in ultimate control. He decides when spring, summer, fall, and winter will arrive. He directs the affairs of the nations, even using evil rulers to accomplish his purposes.
Being a (hero) Dear friends, how surprising is it that heaven would reach out through saints like us to shine our Gospel lights all over the neighborhood. To be heroes in the lives of others. One of my favorite signs is posted at the assisted living place where one of our members is residing, “Everyone here is a hero to someone.” In closing today, three thoughts about what it means that faith is more than just the thoughts and ideas that are flooding through your mind, three truths from Daniel chapter 2 about what it means to be a hero.
First, being a hero means trusting that God’s ways are higher than our ways. Which is another way of saying that God’s greatest desire is that sinners repent and be saved and that all the circumstances of life are directed towards that end. This is the way heroes of the faith tend to talk to themselves….Jesus loves me this I know, the Bible tells me so….I know that my Redeemer lives, my sins are washed away, my debts are cancelled, I can do all things that God is asking me to do with Christ’s strength, there is a way through every one of my days.
Secondly, being a hero means asking good questions of God in heaven above. Questions like “Lord, will you have mercy on me one more time?” “Lord, will you teach me in this moment what is my purpose and how best I can serve?” “Lord, I do believe, will you help me with my unbelief? Will you help me not to doubt and will you help me not to waver and will you help me not to be tossed about by the waves and winds of life?
Third, being a hero means acting on those truths which have been revealed to us. After listing dozens of First Article truths which have been revealed to us, Luther closes out his explanation with these words, “All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey.”
In this next week, may I suggest to you that everyone here will have multiple opportunities to be a hero to others. It means trusting that God’s ways are higher than your ways. It means asking good questions of God in heaven above. It means acting on those truths which have been revealed to you. In the name of Jesus, and for the sake of others, everyone here is a hero to someone. Amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther