The greatest stories of all time came from some of the darkest moments in human history. If you want to tell a good story, you have to have conflict. Story is conflict. That means if nothing goes wrong, you don’t have a story.
Say Billie Sue went to the grocery store and found the exact kind of cheese she needed to make her famous lasagna. She had just enough money to pay for it, and she made it home just in time to whip up a beautiful dinner. And she as able to really impress her future in-laws.
That’s a story, sure. But it’s not a very engaging story. I happen to know for a fact that in some parts of the world you can’t find the kind of cheese you need to make lasagna. Other times you don’t have enough money to buy what you need, or something goes wrong when you’re cooking. And, I’m sorry, but in real life you almost never get to impress your future in-laws with anything.
If you want to tell a great story, you have to talk about the dark moments, those times when life didn’t go according to plan but you kept hoping anyway. That’s where we find heroes. Heroes are the ones who persevere through darkness even though they have every reason to give up.
Without darkness, we’d have no heroes. Without danger, we’d have no bravery. Without fear, we’d have no courage.
Somewhere Christians get the idea that once you accept Christ as your Savior, your life turns ordinary. Christians don’t talk about the adventure of knowing Christ. We talk about going to church or singing in the choir. We talk about what we can do and what we can’t do and what we shouldn’t do–and what we do anything but don’t tell anyone about.
Is it just me, or does that life sound just like the ones other people lead? As Christians, we’re called to a different life. We’re called to live an abundant life. But the problem is, you can’t live an abundant life until you know what it is to have nothing. You can’t be courageous until you know what it is to feel fear.
Today’s verses are Daniel 6:12-16.
So they [the officials] went straight to the king and reminded him about his law. “Did you not sign a law that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions?”
“Yes,” the king replied, “that decision stands; it is an official law of the Medes and Persians that cannot be revoked.”
Then they told the king, “That man Daniel, one of the captives from Judah, is ignoring you and your law. He still prays to his God three times a day.”
Hearing this, the king was deeply troubled, and he tried to think of a way to save Daniel. He spent the rest of the day looking for a way to get Daniel out of this predicament.
In the evening the men went together to the king and said, “Your Majesty, you know that according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, no law that the king signs can be changed.”
So at last the king gave orders for Daniel to be arrested and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to him, “May your God, whom you serve so faithfully, rescue you.”
The story of Daniel and the lion’s den is probably one of the most famous Bible stories of all time. Even people who don’t know the Bible have heard about Daniel and the lion’s den. You can, of course, read the entire chapter in Daniel 6, if you want the details.
But this bit gives you the basics. Daniel broke the king’s law about praying to the true God, and he got himself sealed in a pit of lions for the night. Not exactly five-star accommodations, right?
Just about everyone knows the story. Daniel made it out fine. God sent an angel to close the mouths of the lions. But imagine what this story would be if Daniel didn’t have to face lions. What would have happened if the men never tattled on him to the king? What would have happened if the king never signed that foolish law into effect?
Well, there wouldn’t have been a story.
God gave us brains for a reason. We’re supposed to think and make wise decisions and sound judgments. But sometimes you have to do something that seems reckless. Sometimes you have to do something that might endanger you. Why would you do those things?
Why did Daniel get thrown into a pit of lions? Why did David go up against Goliath? Why did Joshua march his army around the walls of Jericho? Why did Gideon take 300 men with clay pots, torches, trumpets to face an army of hundreds of thousands? Why did Elijah call King Ahab out?
You do those things because God said they’re right. You stand up for what the Bible says. You obey even though you aren’t sure where you’ll end up or what you’ll have left when the battle is over.
Those times are hard because generally speaking we’re rational people. And every rational, logical bone in our bodies is telling us that we can’t do the impossible–no matter how hard we try. And that’s true. That’s so true. But God does the impossible all the time.
God wants to give us an abundant life, but we can’t experience abundance when we’re comfortable. What happens when you get uncomfortable is you stop focusing on things that don’t matter, and you cling to the things that do. And when you start holding on to the things that matter, you start realizing how wealthy you really are. If you know Christ, you are wealthier than any billionaire.
But you won’t really realize it until you let go. And in those moments when God tells you to do something that sounds dangerous, remember that there’s no safer place to be than walking with Him. Even if all the world sees is danger and threat and recklessness, if you’re keeping step with God, nothing can touch you.