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October 22, 2017 When Death Knocks at Your Door

 

 

Scripture Reading: Daniel 2:1-5; 10-19.

 

[I. Introduction] Daniel and his friends had been taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar in 606 BC when he invaded Jerusalem. They were captives in Babylon. They had good reasons to despair. But they did not. They made the best of their situation. They learned the language of their conquerors. They learned the laws and submitted to the duties that were assigned to them. Because God favored Daniel he was full of wisdom and he used his wisdom to serve the king.

 

Things were looking up for him. Then the king had a dream. He demanded that his magicians and enchanters tell him both what his dream was and its meaning. The second part of such a request is easy, isn’t it? Anyone can give an interpretation for a dream. Anyone can give an interpretation because there is no way to determine whether the interpretation is correct. Someone can just make up anything and say, “That is the interpretation.”

 

The first part is impossible for a man or woman to do. No one can know another person’s dream unless they are told by the one who had the dream.

 

Nebuchadnezzar was a smart man. He knew these things. That is why he demanded that they tell him what his dream was. They could not because man cannot.

 

In his anger the king orders the execution of all wise men. They came to Daniel. They probably knocked on his door. Things were getting better for Daniel, but death knocked at his door. Daniel was young. Considering how long he lived after these events, he was likely a teenager. Death is particularly disconcerting when you are young because there is an awareness that there are many potential years ahead of you and there is so much still to experience. Death cuts all that short.

 

Of course, death will visit us all one day. But for many, it comes too soon. I had a friend. His name was Kit Lauer. He was a wonderful husband and a loving father. He had two children who adored him and appreciated him greatly. He was the assistant pastor of the second largest church on Maui, Hope Chapel. He passed away from Leukemia when his son and daughter were still in college. He was in his early 50’s, I think. That is too soon. His wife and children still needed him. His church needed him.

 

We live in a fallen world, marred by sin and disease and we, like everyone else, will face devastating disappointments.

 

A seven year old girl is also diagnosed with leukemia. Her father, a believer, was just laid off from his job.

 

A godly elder weeps because his daughter’s marriage falls apart. But then, she is killed in an automobile accident. And then, he loses his job.

 

Real events. Real people.

 

It is not just Death that may knock at our door. Death has two brothers, Despair and Disease, that also like to pay people visits.

 

In the greatest book ever written by one man, Pilgrim’s Progress, the main character, Christian, is captured by the giant named Despair and he suffers dreadfully for a long period of time.

 

What do we do when Death or Despair or Depression knock at our door? Daniel showed by his response how we should respond.

 

[II.] When Death or his siblings knock at our door we must fall to our knees.

 

            Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, 18       and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. [1]

 

After simply asking for time to give the dream and the interpretation to the king, the first thing that Daniel did was inform his close friends of the grave danger and to have them “seek mercy from the God of heaven.” This is a call to prayer. For Daniel, prayer was a priority.- It was the first thing that he sought.

 

Think of the alternatives to prayer.

 

  • He could have used his wisdom, ten times greater than the other wise men of Babylon, to figure out a scheme.
  • He could have used his position of power, since he was more trusted by the king, to ask for special favor.
  • He could have attempted escape. Even if he were to die in the wilderness, wouldn’t it be better to take a chance on survival than risk certain death in Babylon?

 

But all of those alternatives are nothing more than man’s efforts to fight death.

 

In 2010, when I was working for a federal agency in a seemingly secure management position, Despair came knocking on my door. I say seemingly secure because I was an award-winning manager.  Through my efforts, my team consistently produced the best results among eight other managers. (Actually, there were two of us who often alternated with the best statistics in a two-state territory.) But through the efforts of a disgruntled employee, I was demoted back to a field officer. I could have planned to work my way back. But I began praying. I solicited the prayers of friends and they prayed as well. The Lord opened the door for me to take an early retirement and attend seminary only two months later. This was somewhat unheard of since one usually applies 10 months to a year in advance. There is much to do! But door after door opened and I was accepted.

 

We are often tempted, especially men, to seek our way out of our predicaments by our own efforts, our own plans. Oh, we may pray that the Lord would bless our plans and our efforts. But we often do not petition the Lord first. He may have a completely different direction for us. He is a miracle-working God! We are only a solution-finding people.

 

We must seek God first when things go awry in our lives.

 

There is a power to prayer that is found in the acknowledgment of our weakness and inadequacy, and our dependence on God. One of the powers of prayer is desperation.

 

A man sat in the office of his pastor. He was broke, out of work, and was not even sure what direction his life was supposed to go. But he was smiling. He said, “For two months I have been doing everything I could think of to get back on track. I have tried to get a job using every skill I had. I’ve searched the classified ads, walked from place to place, called contacts, mailed resumes, and driven a million miles for interviews.” But it was all for naught. He then realized that he had been neglecting the Living God. The Lord Jesus had taken a back seat to his job seeking. As he began to pray he felt as if he heard the Lord say, “Stop trying to do this your way. Depend on me.”[2]

 

As soon as this man submitted to God in earnest prayer, God began opening doors for him. As he sat in his pastors office he had not yet secured a job, but he sensed the Lord’s presence and favor. He was confident in his God.

 

You must know that the Lord is for you even when nothing seems to be going your way. Daniel trusted in Yahweh, the true and Living God, and the Lord is desiring your trust.

 

The final matter to see about prayer is that God’s people prayed together. Do not think that when Daniel asked his fellow captives to pray that Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah all went to their private rooms and prayed alone. No. We see time and time again in both the OT and the NT that God’s people prayed together. There is power in corporate prayer that goes beyond the individual prayer.

 

A friend of mine had two children and he and his wife very much wanted a third child. They had been trying for several years to no avail. I’m sure he and his wife prayed together, but he and I started praying earnestly for another child twice per week. After two months he told be the blessed news that his wife was pregnant. She gave birth to a healthy baby. God answers united prayer!

 

[III.] The second thing that we learn from Daniel’s response is praise is always in order when the Lord answers prayer.

 

Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20          Daniel answered and said:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,

to whom belong wisdom and might. [3]

 

“Sure it is easy to praise God when he answers your prayer. But mine are not answered,” some may be thinking.

 

Neither does God always answer in the way we expect. He sees beyond your actual request and He sees the desire of your soul. He answers to meet the deepest needs of who we are, not our superficial requests.  Hence, many times he answers our prayers but we do not even recognize He has done so.

 

Even Daniel’s answer to prayer was not auspicious. He was telling the king that his kingdom, everything that he had worked to build, was going to be conquered and another would soon rise after it. That is not the best news to a king. That in itself might be enough for a bloodthirsty king, as was Nebuchadnezzar, to call for death.

 

But Daniel told the king the truth and he praised the Lord.

 

When prayers are answered in the way we have requested, for God does that, we ought to praise him. It is so good to praise Him because we are all too focused on ourselves. We seek our own interests too intensely. When we praise the Lord, even when our prayers are seemingly not answered we take our eyes off of ourselves and we praise the One who is worthy of our praise.

 

[IV. Conclusion] We live in a fallen world. Death knocks on our door at times. Disease knocks. Trouble comes. Despair knocks. Depression knocks and keeps knocking at times.

 

Our response should be like Daniel’s. Not because Daniel was a supersaint. But because his response is exactly what we need.

 

When you pray, look for ways the Lord has answered your prayer in ways that you never expected or imagined. He knows your deepest needs better than you do. I am convinced that when we enter Paradise we will have the opportunity to see our past lives. We will see the prayers that were answered in the very way we asked. But we will also see how the Lord answered in what we thought was a denial. We will see God’s magnificent wisdom in our own lives.

 

Don’t wait until heaven. Pray when trouble comes. Indeed, pray at all times as the apostle Paul encourages us to do. But praise him now. Get alone with God and praise his name. Take your eyes off of yourself. Get together with others for prayer and for praise.

 

Did you know that Christians who stay to themselves are easily deceived by the enemy? They are! Even those who know their Bibles well can be taken in by the deceit of self-absorption. We need one another.

 

Let’s hear some testimonies on how God has answered prayer in your lives. They will be an encouragement to others.

 

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Da 2:17–18). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] This account taken from The Gospel According to Daniel by Bryan Chapell, p 36.

 

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Da 2:19–20). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.