Editor’s Note: This excerpt from a sermon on the book of Daniel was originally shared in January 2020, at the KL2020 Gospel Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, just as news of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan was beginning to dominate the media. In the midst of an uncertain time, this sermon calls Chinese believers to follow God in the midst of chaos and danger. (Here are parts one and two.)
This excerpt has been condensed and edited for both clarity and length.
The Peace of Emmanuel
Daniel prayed, he praised, and he refused to worship anyone else as God. Yet his colleagues successfully threw him into the lion’s den. All the members of the Standing Committee in the People’s Congress celebrated his downfall. Daniel had done his part as a faithful follower of God. All that was left was to wait.
After you have prayed and done your part, the next thing is to suffer quietly. As Christians, it is when we do nothing that the best things happen. This is a hard thing for humans to learn: after we pray, we wait. Do we really believe God will act?
The Bible is both humorous and wise. It does not tell what happened after Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den. Instead, it tells us the king could not sleep. If the Bible had gone on to tell us that Daniel was anxious, that would be understandable. But it tells us that, once Daniel is with the lions, the king loses his peace. He does not lack and has no needs, yet he cannot sleep. Peace is not something you can buy with money.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
I believe Daniel had a very good night of sleep. Sometimes it is safer to be with beasts than with men. In all circumstances, we must learn to ask why we do not have peace and where our God is, remembering that God calls himself Emmanuel, God with us.
The next day, when Daniel wakes, everything has changed. The king discovered Daniel was still alive, and Daniel told the king that an angel from God sealed the lions’ mouths. As humans, we spend our whole life trying to figure out where to stand and which person to follow. When the king heard Daniel’s story, he immediately realized he must choose to stand on God’s side.
Brothers and sisters: you must stand by the truth, because the king can change his mind at any moment. In this case, when the king changed his mind those who had framed Daniel found themselves in trouble. The king was angry, and threw these men and their families into the lion’s den. As Daniel was vindicated, the others were punished.
The book of Numbers reminds us: “be sure your sin will find you out.” If you frame someone else, you end up framing yourself. God has taught us how to face danger: pray as usual. Pray, fight, suffer quietly, and wait for God to act. The king himself is now bearing witness. He said: “Peace be multiplied to you.” The king sends people to the lion’s den, but now he is wishing people peace! It is like Hitler suddenly said, “No more war! Not only that, there is no longer any need to fear me. Worship and fear Daniel’s God, because he is the living God.”
The Great Reversal
Daniel risked his life in the course of his work, but his work did not cost him his life. To the contrary, those who wanted to protect their jobs became the lion’s dinner, while those who risked their lives to be God’s witnesses became his special guests. Because of the testimony of one man, the entire empire of the Medes and Persians came to know there is a great God, above all the gods of the empire.
In this story, a group of hungry lions are fed; jealous officials are satisfied; a king who was tricked becomes a worshiper; and the beautiful Daniel becomes a beautiful witness. This is wonderful – but there is something more wonderful still.
Not only did God send his angels to seal the mouths of the lions, but Daniel was also able to say that he was blameless before the king. When we meet the lions, how many of us can say that we are blameless? Don’t let your wife or kids hear you make this claim. We are more like his co-workers than like Daniel. And the lions are prepared for those who are not perfect – those like us. But there is a reversal even more beautiful than the reversal of fates of Daniel and his colleagues. There is another who went through death, and emerged!
When someone dies, that is the end of the story. It is depressing: all power, position, wealth, and possessions are as nothing before death. No one can turn this around. But the Bible tells us of the greatest reversal of all: when Jesus was crucified, he was raised back to life after three days. The greatest reversal in the world is death itself.
Jesus did not rise from the dead to become a regular man: he became the King of kings and Lord of lords. As we stare into the mouths of the waiting lions, the great God of reversal gives us a promise. He says: “If you believe in me, you will be turned upside-down with me.”
In the den of the lions, Jesus died for us, that we could be reversed. To brothers and sisters experiencing persecution, please listen: meeting God in the lion’s den is even better than leaving the lion’s den. God turns defeat into victory. To meet God in persecution is better than to leave the persecution. Before the gospel can become the best news of all, it must first be the worst news.
Simon Liu is a church planter and works with church planting networks.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Pray for Chinese Christians to find their utmost joy in the cross of Christ, and their ultimate identity in the reversal of the gospel.