A couple weeks ago we played at West Virginia University. I was back in my home state but in a different neck of the woods, several hours from my hometown of Huntington. I wasn’t sure what to expect. WVU has a reputation of not being so kind to its opponents.
I thought we would continue our series examining our “Identity in Christ” with the story of Daniel in the lion’s den.
Daniel worked in the government for forty years and outlived three different kings. The administrators and the satraps [government officials] were jealous because the king always favored Daniel. They didn’t realize that Daniel had favor because his first allegiance
was to his heavenly king. Because of his exceptional qualities and ability to interpret dreams, the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. His faith in God was strong, but just as strong were the haters, and they created a plan to take him out.
READ: Daniel 6:4-9- 4 At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. 5 Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”
6 So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “May King Darius live forever! 7 The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. 8 Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” 9 So King Darius put the decree in writing.
During our Bible study I stopped and talked to the players about “haters.” Haters can come from outside the locker room. But, they can also form from within. We can only control what happens inside the locker room. As the season progresses roles can change, attitudes can change, and feelings often shift the mood and the morale of the locker room. We discussed how can we prevent negativity, or even “clicks” from forming that could lead to dissension. We then read an example on how to navigate those situations.
In Matthew 18:15-18 Jesus tells us, 15 “If your brother or sister sins (or hurts you), go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
Daniel’s response to the haters provided an example of someone who stands firm in the Lord despite opposition. Verse 10 says, when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.
I asked the guys if they had an example of a time they stood up for their faith despite opposition. We will all face some type of opposition/persecution if we are truly living for the Lord. I reminded them of Matthew 15:20 when Jesus said, “20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master. ‘If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also”.
The haters ratted Daniel out. The king was torn because he liked Daniel. He wanted to cover it up but his officials convinced him that if he did not follow through he would lose face. Therefore, they took Daniel and threw him in the lion’s den. The last words from the king were, “May your God, whom you continually serve, rescue you!”. It then reads in verse 18 the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting.
19 At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den.20 When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”
21 Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! 22 My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
24 At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.
25 Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth:“May you prosper greatly! 26 “I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. “For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. 27 He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.”
28 So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
I wanted to direct our focus to why Daniel was able to stand his ground. The answer was simple: His first allegiance was to God. He knew his identity was in God and nothing was going to change that. He knew that the one true God was always with him, would always protect him and would be there to rescue him.
We went around the room and discussed how this related to our identity in God and how this could shape our response when opposition or persecution comes. We also talked about times God has rescued us from the challenges life brings.
Even though I had never been to Morgantown for a game, I had heard stories of how rowdy the fans can get. I knew it would be a hostile environment. Therefore, I closed with this final question, how do you handle being in the lion’s den of the opposing team? Several players shared best practices and I truly believe this will help us down the road.