Colossians 3: 23-24
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Romans 12: 2 (MSG)
Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
Daniel 1: 8-9; 2: 46-48
Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself in this way. Now God had caused the official to show favour and compassion to Daniel….
… Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honour and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. The king said to Daniel, ‘Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.’
Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men.
This week we have been thinking about the purpose of work and how we can flourish in the workplace. However, some of you may be asking questions along these lines:
What if I am currently in a job that I hate or from which I derive no sense of fulfilment?
How do I express my faith when my colleagues are hostile towards anything remotely Christian?
Is it possible to thrive in a work environment which is negative and toxic?
In the Old Testament, a young Jew named Daniel was uprooted from all he knew and loved, and was forced to live in the foreign culture of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar’s battle was for hearts and minds, and so Daniel and his three friends were chosen for their potential and selected to undergo an intensive period of training. Their names were changed, and an attempt was made to change their culture too. Other gods were worshiped in Babylon and the pressure to blend in was intense.
However, far from being conformed to the Babylonian culture, Daniel remained clear both in his faith and in his focus. He experienced the faithfulness and presence of God in what was a ‘second choice world’ becoming a trusted adviser to three kings and a man with a strong reputation for integrity.
Over time Daniel came to see that, even in the midst of difficult circumstances, God was in complete control. He was convinced that he was in Babylon because God had put him there and that helped him to find meaning in what would otherwise have seemed a meaningless situation.
Two principles fashioned Daniel’s character:
(i) He Set Clear Boundaries
“But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine.” (1: 8)
Daniel’s dedication to guarding his heart is seen at the start of the story when he refused the rich food and wine from King. He would not eat that which was outside Jewish food laws and also the first portions of the king’s food and wine were routinely offered to the Babylonian gods. Daniel made a resolution that certain things were non-negotiable and by laying down such markers he knew he would be able to chart his course.
Honouring God in our workplace is easier to do when we have set boundaries and stick to them. There will be times when it will not be popular to say ‘no’, but your ultimate allegiance is to a higher authority.
(ii) He Developed Godly Disciplines
“Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened towards Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.” (6: 10)
Many years had passed by and a new king, Darius, had taken the throne. Some were jealous of Daniel’s influence and tried to find ways to depose him. But there were no skeletons in the closet, nor was he susceptible to bribery or corruption. Those who wanted to see Daniel fall knew that the only way to trip him up would be in relation to his faith. So they appealed to King Darius’s proud heart by suggesting that the only object of prayer for one month should be Darius himself and this act of devotion would demonstrate that he was the greatest among men or gods.
Daniel, however, had a well-known routine of praying three times a day with his windows open, facing his beloved Jerusalem. So when the decree was issued he saw no reason to change what had become a daily discipline and holy habit.
Daniel was thrown to the lions yet God delivered him, and this resulted in the king praising the God of Daniel and acknowledging:
“For he is the living God
and he endures for ever;
his kingdom will not be destroyed,
his dominion will never end.” (6: 26)
Daniel’s story shows us that even in the most difficult, hostile and uncomfortable environments, we can not only survive, but demonstrate God’s Kingdom and make a discernible difference to the culture. Perhaps, like Daniel, God has placed you in your workplace to express something of your Creator’s character and excellence as you work with integrity, energy and enthusiasm.
We look forward to seeing you at our ‘Encounter More’ conference this weekend and also on Sunday at 9.30 am, 11.30 am and 7.00 pm when we will also host some incredible guest speakers and worship leaders.