Take your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel 1. Daniel chapter 1.
I told you this morning that I had two “light bulb” moments over the last few weeks. The first one involved our testimony and I presented it to you this morning as the “candlestick principle” the idea that if we have the light, we have an obligation to make it visible and how that should determine how we approach the community.
Tonight I want to share the second epiphany I’ve had over the last few weeks and it has to do with our children. Before I get there though, I want to say a word about the Sunday Night Service.
I want to change the format of the Sunday Night Service. Here is what I’m envisioning:
Adam is going to teach that first lesson tonight. In the coming weeks, we’ll add more Sunday school classes to the mix. My goal is to get you out of here by 7:30PM.
Why are we doing it that way? Well, initially the answer is COVID and us trying to do outdoor services on Sunday Mornings but that is only part of it. By decoupling Sunday school from the morning service, it’s going to give us more opportunities to do different things in the morning service. Remember the “Candlestick Principle” I talked about this morning. I want that morning service to be our “candlestick service”, the service we invite people to. That’s at least what I’m thinking now.
Another benefit of this is it will give me a time to give a different kind of message every week. Right now I’m preaching through books of the Bible on Sunday Morning and Wednesday Night. This is going to give me a chance to preach some more topical messages on issues we need to hear about like family, worship, etc..
Third, I’m kind of hoping this grows our Sunday school a bit. We’ll see.
So back to the message. Daniel 1. I want to read verses 1-6 this morning:
[Dan 1:1-6 KJV] 1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god. 3 And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring [certain] of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the princes; 4 Children in whom [was] no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as [had] ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans. 5 And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king. 6 Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah:
I want you to notice that, when the king of Babylon came to Israel, he found there a group of young people who were among other things:
In other words, they found a group of young people who had the potential to be leaders.
I want to present three points to you tonight, each one kind of builds on the other.
The first point is this:
It’s really easy to look around at our country right now and be pretty dire. It looks really, really bad. I wander about the kind of future my kids are going to get to have if things keep going the way they are going. It feels more and more like a foreign country every year. Like we’ve been invaded.
Israel was invaded in our text. Their people were brought to another country. A foreign country and forced to learn new customs and ways. What saved them? It was godly leaders who were in places of prominence. It was Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego and people like them. It was people like Mordecai and Esther.
If anything will save our country it will be godly men and women in places of prominence. I’m not talking about people in Washington, although we should pray for that. I’m talking more on the local level.
We need Christians who aren’t retreating from society, but leading in society. Daniels in Nebuchadnezzars court. Josephs, Esthers and Nicodemuses who have infiltrated local places of power and exert Christian influence on purpose.
But this brings me to my second point, if we recognize that we need Christian leaders, we must also recognize that…
If you are thinking “man, it would be amazing to have Christian leaders in our community but that’s not happening here.” You are absolutely right. Every now and then we see one, but its rare when it happens.
I know a few Christian doctors, but only a few. I have a friend who is both a lawyer and a deacon in his local church - but he’s just about the only lawyer I know who goes to church. There just aren’t many people who are in places of influence that are devout and faithful Christians and members of good local churches.
As a wise man once said “a dream without a plan is just a wish” and if you are thinking Christian leaders are just going to drop out of the sky ex nihilo (or out of nothing) then you aren’t really thinking. As the commercial said “That’s not how any of this works.“
Now, one reason for that is that Bible preaching churches have a tendency to be intellectual wastelands. If your pastor doesn’t read and study, then why on earth would anyone who has any real leadership potential want to go to your church? If we want to run people off every time they use a three syllable word, then we shouldn’t be surprised when there are no Christian leaders in our community. Leaders are readers and readers are leaders. I don’t think preachers need to be rhode scholars, but I think one of the reasons we have so few leaders in churches today is because we’ve tolerated a little too much proud ignorance from the pulpit.
But I’m getting away from my main point here. My main point is that we can talk all we want about how great it would be to have Christian leaders but that won’t make it magically happen. Wishing for something doesn’t make it so.
Let’s go back to our text. Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego are taken as very young men to go to Babylon and serve there. They were brought into the palace to be leaders.
Where did they come from?
This brings me to my third point…
Where did Daniel and his friends come from? Where did they learn their godliness? From their parents. But that isn’t all they learned from their parents, they also learned their leadership qualities from their parents.
In other words, All the awesome stories we read about in the book of Daniel - refusing the kings meat, refusing to bow down to the idol, the fiery furnace, the lions den - all of those stories wouldn’t have happened without deliberate effort on the part of their parents.
Turn with me to another passage. Turn to Luke 2. Luke 2 - the very end of the chapter. Luke 2 ends with a one verse summary of Jesus’ entire childhood and young adulthood. It tells us that Jesus submitted himself to His parents, and then it tells us in verse 52:
And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
I don’t understand this at all, but the Bible teaches that even Jesus had to learn to increase in leadership ability as a young man.
Listen church - we aren’t raising kids. God doesn’t call us to raise kids. God calls us to raise adults. The little boys running around here - they are going to be tomorrows men. They are going to be construction workers and businessmen and teachers and architects. They are going to be pastors and deacons and missionaries. They are going to be someone’s husband someday. Someone’s daddy someday. It will happen much faster than we think.
It’s the same with the little girls. The little girls running around here - they are tomorrows women. The girls will be teachers, doctors, and business owners too. They will probably be someone’s wife someday. They will be someone’s mother someday.
So listen, we aren’t raising kids, we are raising dads, we are raising husbands, we are raising wives and mothers, we are raising tomorrows leaders.
Ephesians 6:4 says:
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
I want you to take a closer look at the second phrase there. “Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
That word “nurture” there is the word “paideia” (pie-die-ah). We read the word “nurture” and we think like a mom nurtures her baby. That’s not what that word actually means here. Let me read you the definition of “paideia”:
the whole training and education of children (which relates to the cultivation of mind and morals, and employs for this purpose now commands and admonitions, now reproof and punishment)
In other words, God isn’t saying “Dads - Make sure your kids are safe and comfortable” here. What God is saying is that you make sure that your children have a godly education so that they can become the man or woman God wants them to be. We are called by God to deliberately raise our children, to shape their minds and morals, so they can be of the greatest service to God.
Let me state my point again:
“Christian parents need to be deliberate in raising our children to become Christian leaders.”
Notice there are two words there: “Christian” and “Leaders”.
Daniel would have never been selected if he wasn’t raised to be a leader, he would have never done any good if he wasn’t raised to be a believer.
We as Christian parents need to train our kids to be leaders. What does that look like?
A second thing is…
Luke 2:52 says “Jesus grew in favor with men”. Basically that means Jesus grew in His manners. Daniel 1 says that the children that were selected were “well favored” - meaning they had manners.
We have to train our kids how to interact with others respectfully. We need to train them how to have conversations with adults. How to show proper respect for elders. How to carry themselves and dress in a respectable way.
We have to train our kids to do things like say “yes sir” and “no mam” and to always speak to their elders with a show of respect. We have to train them how to handle themselves in public situations.
These things don’t just happen. You have to teach them. We have to teach our kids not to be socially awkward. That is our God given responsibility as parents.
Another area we have to train is…
Again, Luke 2:52 says Jesus grew “in stature”. Nebuchadnezzar was looking for people with “no blemish.” We need to train our kids physically to be leaders.
I think mostly that means not letting them become slouches and sloths. I don’t think God expects our children to be Olympic Gymnasts, but I do think our kids need to know how to “keep under their body” (as Paul put it) - they need to learn self control and posture and all of that.
Another thing we need to train is…
The book of proverbs is an amazing book of wisdom. It’s a book that teaches us principles about things like work ethic and saving money and friendships. It’s very much a leadership book - but it’s also written (and don’t miss this) from a father to his son.
The best place for our kids to learn wisdom is from their parents. Around the dinner table. While we are doing chores together. While we are hiking together or playing a board game. Kids need to learn wisdom.
One more thing along that same line…
God made us to work for six days and rest for one. Modern convenience has probably made us the laziest generation who has ever lived. But God made us to work and kids need to learn to work from their parents. A huge portion of proverbs is dedicated to the subjects of sloth and laziness.
Personally I’m grateful my parents made me work. We moved from Virginia back to New England when I was in fifth grade, and there were many days in winter that fifth grade year where I was outside with a snow shovel learning that it’s not easy to shovel a foot of snow off of a driveway. But my parents wouldn’t let me quit. They made me do mow lawns and rake leaves for the neighbors when I was 12 and 13 - even though they made plenty of money. They made me get a job in high school and then taught me what to do with the money I made. (By the way - they wouldn’t let me work on Sunday).
We have to train leaders. Leaders are thinkers, leaders have good manners, leaders aren’t lazy slobs, leaders have wisdom and leaders know how to work. Children should learn this stuff from their parents.
But listen, it isn’t enough to train leaders - we have to train CHRISTIAN leaders.
Daniel, Shadrack and the boys weren’t just leaders, we read about them because they were believing leaders. Believing leaders who were so strong in their faith that you could throw them in the middle of a pagan world and they wouldn’t change. We need to work just as hard at making sure our kids are Christians through and through.
Which means we have to disciple our kids. It means we have to give our kids a Christian worldview. It means we have to work hard to prepare our kids to live as Christians.
I think it also means we have to bring our kids into the church. We cannot have our kids separated all the time in age group classes. They need to be full fledged church members, who know how to worship the Lord as adults, by the time they would go off to college.