One of our players, Dylan suggested doing a lesson on our identity in Christ. Another player, Chandler, suggested doing basic Bible stories. So, on our West Coast trip I combined both requests and started a series in Daniel. Most of our team studies are held in the hotel the night before a game.
As we sat in a circle I asked the guys to describe themselves in one or two sentences. When they finished, I went back around and asked, what does your Instagram description say about you?
What they realized is the “Bible” answer they gave prior to, “nice guy, helpful, always happy” wasn’t the same description that thousands read about them on Instagram, “athlete, baller, money maker”, etc.
To summarize our lesson in Daniel chapter 1, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon besieged Judah three times. The last time he destroyed Jerusalem and razed the temple. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were captured and taken to Babylon. They were among the young men the King of Babylon chose from the royal and noble families, who were smart and good looking, to be trained to serve him.
We then discussed who these young men were. Reminding them they were Israelite/Jews…and what does that mean? They served the one true God (not many gods like the Babylonians). They were to follow God’s commands and specific dietary restrictions, observe specific holidays, etc. They were expected to live a life different from other cultures around them as a testimony of what it looked like to live under the righteous rule of God.
We then READ Daniel 1:4-7
4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.
6 Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.
We discussed that the goal was to indoctrinate them, have them assimilate into Babylonian culture and way of thinking, maybe forget where they came from and give them a Babylonian identity. However, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego decided to resist the attack on their identity…
We then READ verses 8-14 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”
11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
I asked the guys, why do you think these men chose to take a stand on that particular issue? Food and wine? We discussed that it’s a visible form of resistance. They probably ate with other Jews who were captured. They were able to demonstrate their faith, not just talk about it. Be faith walkers not just faith talkers.
And what happened to these men? We continued reading… 15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.
18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.
As we concluded, the guys found several lessons we could learn about our identity in God.
#1: It’s hard to hold on to your identity when you’re alone. We need community, accountability.
#2: Your identity is not based on your environment. Just because you’re not in Israel (or Auburn) your identity doesn’t change from one location to another. Your relationship with Christ goes wherever you go.
My FINAL THOUGHT to the guys was…Who you are in God (or Who God says you are) must be the foundation of your identity. Everything else, every other definition, that shapes how you see yourself (athlete, son, brother, husband, your race, your nationality), is a far second to who God says you are. Daniel and his boys had everything taken from them, but their identity in God remained the same. When all other things fail you, God won’t.
I gave them 5 quick hitters that you see below on who God says you are. In addition, I handed them a print out of 100 verses that they could look up on who God says they are. The guys responded well and a few days later Chance, one of our freshman came up and thanked me, saying he enjoyed Bible study. My prayer was it was encouraging to them all.
Who does God say you are?
Chosen (John 15:16)
Made for a purpose (Ephesians 2:10)
A precious child of God (John 1:12)
Forgiven and set free (Ephesians 1:7)
Loved forever (Jeremiah 31:3)