1/23/2015 1:00:00 PM
We’re sometimes guilty of thinking of the prophet Daniel as a wise man in his 80s whose faith enabled him to spend a night in the lion’s den without so much as a scratch on him. But remember, he was kidnapped as a teenager and brought from Jerusalem to Babylon to serve King Nebuchadnezzar. And the biblical record shows that Daniel was every bit as faithful to God as a teenager as he was when he became a seasoned citizen.
Two stories from Daniel’s early life not only model that faithfulness, but also show how to demonstrate leadership skills when you’re not currently in a position of leadership. That’s important because, as my former Bible college instructor John Maxwell notes, there simply isn’t enough room at the top for everyone. But when opportunities for promotion arise, they’re far more likely to go to someone who acts like a leader than to someone who’s merely biding his or her time in a job.
Daniel and his friends – Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego were put in a junior executive training program of sorts, which is recounted in chapter 1. You know the story: Daniel resolved not to eat food he believed was unclean, and he convinced Ashpenaz, the leader of the boys’ training, to allow Daniel and his friends to have nothing but vegetables and water for 10 days. This dietary approach is known today as the Daniel Fast, which may have much to commend to it nutritionally but doesn’t make those who practice it any more spiritual than anyone else.
Daniel’s proposal to Ashpenaz was a good model for us because he sought the permission of the one directly in charge of him. He sought to fulfill the purposes of his superiors. Importantly, he found a way to be obedient to God without being disobedient to civil authority. That should always be our first preference. The results were supernaturally amazing! Daniel and his friends were found to be 10 times better than the other trainees, and were hired to work in the king’s court.
What impresses me about this account is that Daniel didn’t invoke his faith to Ashpenaz, as we might under similar circumstances today. A Christian witness begins in the workplace, on the job, by Christians doing a job well, as unto the Lord. Ashpenaz and ultimately Nebachadnezzar didn’t recognize Daniel’s faith initially; they recognized that he had talent first. Let your skills and work ethic speak for you and you will get an opportunity to witness to the Source of your strength and the Reason for your hope.
If we excel at what we do, men will take notice and be interested to hear what we have to tell them about God. Solomon said it this way: “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men
” (Proverbs 22:29, ESV).
About a year later, Daniel had another opportunity to show himself worthy of leadership. In Daniel 2 Nebuchadnezzar, frustrated by senior advisers’ failure to interpret his dream, ordered all of his advisors killed – a fact that Daniel learned when Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, arrived to kill him. The Bible says Daniel replied to Arioch with “prudence and discretion” – a most admirable response when one’s life is on the line!
Rather than displaying brash rebellion in the face of unjust secular authority, Daniel asked for and received an audience with the king, that he might interpret the dream for him. Daniel never panicked because he trusted in God. People who respond to a crisis with trust in God are prepared before the crisis ever comes.
Immediately after securing an appointment with Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel sought out his friends – Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego – for prayer. It’s the first instance of group prayer recorded in Scripture. Daniel could have relied solely on his gifts and his character, but he chose to call on God first. That night, God delivered the interpretation of the dream to Daniel and Daniel gave thanks to God. Too often we’re like the nine lepers Jesus cleansed in Luke 17, not returning to thank Jesus for the miracle, and not like the one (a Samaritan) who did.
Once Daniel received the interpretation, two telling actions demonstrating obedience and humility:
- He begged that the other advisors be spared, though he had no compelling reason to do so other than perhaps to have them see God at work in his life.
- He credited God and God alone for the interpretation before Nebuchadnezzar.
After Daniel revealed and interpreted the dream for the king, Nebuchadnezzar honored not only Daniel, but God: “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery
” (Daniel 2:46, ESV). Then, the king put Daniel in charge of all the wise men of Babylon, probably at the age of 20 or so.
Do you seek increase, promotion and advancement in your employment? Then pray for that, certainly. But be sure to act like a leader in the meantime. Leadership is influence, and you can influence others no matter where you are on an organizational chart. That’s especially important for the Christian believer. Like Daniel, when you get your superiors’ attention with your skills and work ethic, the opportunity to share your faith will surely follow.
- January 23, 2015