Character vs Culture

Josiah Jones // Apr 12, 2022

Your ability to be a solid friend, be a great coworker or boss, build a thriving marriage that is going to last the test of time, and become a good parent all rely on good character. So how do we become a man or woman of good character when the culture around us opposes us and is constantly changing?

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All right. Here we go! Another week of The Porch. My name is Josiah, and we are so glad you're here joining us tonight from our Porch.Live locations…the Porch.Live Indianapolis and Greater Lafayette, Indiana; the Porch.Live Midland, Texas; and my friends from Scottsdale, Arizona. Great hanging out with you guys last week. That was amazing. Then, finally, not to forget my friends right here in Dallas, Texas. Come on! Can I just say this? Y'all are the faithful ones. We have tornadoes happening around us, bad storms here in Dallas, and y'all are here, so let's go. Y'all are ready to lean in.

Hey, we have been in a series titled On God…standing firm in the midst of trials, standing firm in our faith when things are shaky. We've been studying in the book of Daniel. We've talked about having a fiery faith. In a culture that is crumbling around us, how do we have a faith that is immovable? Last week, we talked about this idea that it's not about us. The root of all sin is pride. I encourage you to check that message out. It was incredible. Tonight, we're pulling up to Daniel, chapter 6. Before we get there, I thought I'd start out with a story.

Several months ago, I woke up to finding out that I had been robbed. I don't know if you've ever been robbed, but this was my first time. It was when my family and I were sleeping, so it was kind of eerie. This is the crazy thing, man. My dog sleeps right next to the garage wall, and they had opened our garage, and that brother didn't even wake up. It's like, "What is going on?" So, I walk into my garage only to find out that we had thousands of dollars of stuff stolen from us.

So, I'm on edge, y'all. I just am. Several days later, I'm doing some work in my living room on my computer. I'm trying to wrap up the night. It's like 1:00 a.m. I'm kind of that late night owl kind of guy. I go to lock my front door, and, lo and behold, I peek out the window, and I see a car rolling up. They're on the other side of the curb. I'm like, "Oh, here we go. I found the culprit. Oh, honey, grab the gun." No lie. I got the gun right next to my front door. I'm about to just be bold.

I'm coming out to the front porch. I see this brother. He's a young adult getting out of his car, and he's walking on the sidewalk just a few houses down. I'm like, "Man, this is sketch." I was like, "Hey, bro! What are you doing?" He said, "Josiah?" I said, "Whoa! How do you know me?" He's like, "Oh, I go to The Porch." I'm like, "Oh! Even better. Okay. Hey, what are you doing, man, at 1:00 a.m.? I just got robbed a few days ago, so I'm kind of on edge and a little salty. Why don't you come on over here to my front porch, and we can talk. Let's do that."

Lo and behold, he said, "Hey, man, I was just going to my girlfriend's parents' house." I'm like, "Oh, parents' house. Okay, cool. So she's still in college." "Oh yeah, yeah. She's in college." So, we begin to talk, and I'm like, "So, what were you going to do at your girlfriend's parents' house?" I was like, "Do her parents know?" He's like, "Oh, no, not really."

I said, "Hey, look here, bro. It's late. I have two little girls. They're only 5 and 3, sleeping in the back of the bedroom. Do you think when they get older I'm going to want some man showing up to my house, and I don't know that man?" He's like, "Yeah, probably not." No lie. So, we're just having a frank conversation, and I just said, "Hey, look, man. I'm tired. You're tired. Here's the deal. Here's the invitation.

If you want to be God's man, I'd love to meet up with you at a later date, but what you are about to go do at your girlfriend's parents' house is not God's best for you. Here's the deal, man. You're calling yourself a follower of Jesus. I'm calling myself a follower of Jesus. Listen. I would love to talk to you about what it means to be God's man. I have a ways to go, bro, but I've been following him for about 15 years, and I'd love to take you to lunch."

A few days pass, and lo and behold, I get this email out of nowhere, and this is what it reads: "Josiah, would love to set up a time to meet with you. I'm interested in understanding what it means to live like a true man of God. Thanks." I start there tonight because as we open the book of Daniel, chapter 6, we're going to talk about what it looks like to be a man and a woman of character. I share that story with you tonight because, in a sense, I was just saying, "Hey, man. If you really want to learn what it looks like to be a man of character, then let's talk."

Tonight, I have to believe that you come into this place… Tornadoes are happening around us, and you're hungry for God's Word. You're hungry to lift up the name of Jesus. Some of you, for the first time, are like, "What does it really mean to follow Jesus? What does it really mean to be this man of character this guy is talking about?" You're in a good place tonight here at The Porch. We're going to be in Daniel, chapter 6. Daniel 6 is going to challenge us to be a man or a woman of character.

Everything rises and falls on character. If you want to be a great friend, then you have to have high character. If you don't want to be that friend who talks badly about someone behind their back only to boost up your self-esteem or you want to be a good coworker or you want to be a good boss…you don't want to get sent to jail for business fraud…you have to have high character.

If you want to be a man or a woman who stands the test of time in your marriage, you have to be a man or woman of high character. If you want to be a great dad or mom someday to your kids, then you have to be a great man or woman of character. So, tonight, we're talking about what it looks like to be a man or woman of character. I want to point out three things from this text that mark a man or woman of character.

We're going to see this transfer of power that happens several years later from King Nebuchadnezzar, who we've been studying about the last few weeks in the book of Daniel, to now King Darius' new empire. At the end of Daniel 5, there's this transfer of power from King Nebuchadnezzar to King Darius. We're going to pick it up in chapter 6. Here we go.

"Darius the Mede decided to divide the kingdom into 120 provinces, and he appointed a high officer to rule over each province. The king also chose Daniel and two others as administrators to supervise the high officers and protect the king's interests. Daniel soon proved himself more capable than all the other administrators and high officers. Because of Daniel's great ability, the king made plans to place him over the entire empire. Then the other administrators and high officers began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling government affairs, but they couldn't find anything to criticize or condemn."

It's funny. When you're a man or woman of character and people can't point out anything in you that might be wrong, then what do they do? Let's keep reading. "He was faithful, always responsible, and completely trustworthy. So they concluded, 'Our only chance of finding grounds for accusing Daniel will be in connection with the rules of his religion.'" See, when they can't point out anything in your character, then they will attack your God. They will attack your faith. Why? Because Daniel was committed to God and not man.

How do you become a man or woman of character in the middle of a crisis that maybe you find yourself in at work, where they can't attack who you are, but they might be able to attack your God? You commit to God and not man. Men and women of character are always committed to God and not man. Why is it important that men and women of character stay committed to God and not man? This is why it's important: because the circumstances of life, the circumstances of my life and your life, change. They come and go.

There are things that happen in our world that are constantly changing around you and me, but the Bible says that Jesus never changes. He's the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. If we're going to be a man or woman of character, then we have to commit to him and not to man who changes just like the wind. Do you think Daniel wanted to work for a king who enslaved him? Do you think he wanted to get plucked out of his family and now be a slave to King Darius? No. He had his entire identity removed, and now he finds himself working for an unruly pagan king.

But what does he do? He stays committed. How did he stay committed despite his circumstances? Daniel chose to believe God had him right where he was for a reason. You might find yourself in the midst of some circumstances tonight, and the temptation is to believe that God has it wrong or God can't be trusted. We're going to find out in this story that, no, God sometimes puts us in harm's way, in painful situations, to be a fork in the road for the people he has placed us in front of.

He was able to display the character of Christ by working with a spirit of excellence for King Darius, because he wasn't working for King Darius; he was working for the ultimate King. See, that's the key to be a man or woman of character in the midst of an ever-changing world. Colossians 3:23 says whatever you do, whatever happens in your life, work as though you're working for the Lord and not human masters.

Whatever is going on in your world, you don't work as though you're working for a human institution or a human master. You work as though you're working for the Lord with all of your heart. This was Daniel's life. You see, when God is the why behind the what, then the how remains the same. The how you work should be informed by the why, not the what. When your why is to seek God and not man, then what follows is you working for God and not for any man.

So, when the man changes, when the human institutions change, when the things of this world change, your why always stays the same, because you're working for God and not man. Galatians 1:10 says, "Am I trying to win the approval of man or of God? If I was trying to win the approval of man, then I'd never be a servant of Christ."

Have you ever had a bad boss? Some of you are like, "Yeah. It's all too real." Maybe this boss calls you into his office and says, "Hey, you're going to get the raise you've always wanted, the raise you've been working for, but under one condition. I messed up our yearly report, so I need you to fudge these numbers." In that moment, you have to decide, "Is the raise more important than who I'm really working for, what God has called me to do?"

Or maybe it's a relationship where someone wants you to compromise sexually. They're just saying sweet nothings and saying everything you want to hear and doing the things you've always wanted that man or woman to do, but you know what God has called you to do. He has called you to pursue a life of purity so you can be one with your husband or wife someday.

Maybe it's a parent who wants you to pursue a career that you know God is not calling you to pursue, but in the middle of conflict, because your parents have always dreamed of you being this or that, now you find yourself in the middle of "Hey, do I please my parents or do I please what God has called me to do?"

Maybe it's friends. I know, for me, after I committed my life to Jesus at 21, I remember distinctly getting phone calls from people I'd go out with and party. I just knew… My ditch was alcohol, so I could never just drink two. I always had to drink, like, eight or nine or ten. I just have this addictive personality that when I go all in, I'm all in. So it's good. When I came to Christ, I was all in. Like, "Hey, no one is getting in this. No one is talking me out of this."

I remember getting a phone call, saying, "Hey, Josiah, do you want to go out?" I remember specifically just wrestling with this desire. I was like, "Yeah, man, I want to go out. I believe I'm strong enough. I've got this," but then only falling prey to the very thing that would call my name over and over and over in the years past.

Maybe that's you. You know you're not strong enough. You're fighting the approval of man. You're fighting the approval of what these people think about you when you know you can't stand up against that temptation. See, we all have people in our lives who we seek to please, but that is why men and women of character aren't categorized by people-pleasing; they're categorized by "What does my God think?"

How about you? Are you committed to God or man? When you and the Bible disagree, who wins? Nervous laughter. It's easy for us to say when we just got done singing "Jesus" songs, and we're in this controlled temperature environment with the cushioned seats, and it's amazing. The problem with our generation, I believe, is that we form our commitments by our feelings, not by what this book has to say. Instead of someone saying, "Amen," someone needs to say, "Ouch," because that's true. Right? We form our commitments by our feelings, not by the truth of God's Word.

I remember one of the first times this played out in my relationship with my mom. This is probably why I struggle with people-pleasing. When I was going into the sixth grade, my mama walked out on us. Some of you have daddy wounds. I have a mama wound. I just remember her leaving, and all I wanted was to seek her approval. I remember her walking out and just saying, "Hey, I'm done."

The divorce was finalized, and I found myself a couple of years later with my dad and a stepmom and stepsiblings, a blended family, and doing that whole thing. The hard part about this relationship is that she has never owned her part, but am I going to be conformed to my feelings? My feelings say, "Man, I have bitterness. I have resentment for days. I'm angry."

Or does God's Word say, "Because of Jesus and because of all your sin, Josiah… He loves you in spite of your sin, and he forgives you when you ask"? So, do I take that same forgiveness he has granted to me and extend that to my mom? For those of you who are in relationships or been hurt by people, and they've never owned their part, how do you deal with that?

You deal with that by, every day, before my feet hit the ground, my knees hit the ground. I say, "God, I know I'm prone to anger. When something doesn't go my way, when someone doesn't meet my expectation, I know I'm prone to anger because of this mama wound, so will you forgive me for being prone to this anger? And I forgive my mom."

Even though she hasn't forgiven me, I'm going to walk out that play every single day. The moment I choose not to forgive my mom, then I'm going to hold something against that person who wrongs me, and I'm going to explode. How about you? Is your commitment based on your feelings or is it based on what this book says?

This was Daniel's life. As a result, the text says he was a man who proved himself more capable than all other workers in King Darius' kingdom. Why? Because he was full of integrity. He did what was right when no one was looking. He was a man of skill. He had a hard work ethic. He had a spirit of excellence, faultless and faithful, always responsible, completely trustworthy. He was committed to God and not man.

People didn't like that about King Darius. King Darius loved Daniel because of his character, but the people around him… When you're a man or woman of character, the people around you hate you because you expose their evil deeds. So, as we continue to read, if they can't point out things in his character, then they will attack his God. There's no middle ground. This is how you and I take a stand in today's culture. If you don't stand for something, I'm telling you, you're going to fall for everything. Let's keep reading.

Verse 6: "So the administrators and high officers went to the king and said, 'Long live King Darius! We are all in agreement—we administrators, officials, high officers, advisers, and governors…'" Are we all in agreement? Because I don't know if Daniel is. Look at what he's about to say. "…that the king should make a law that will be strictly enforced. Give orders 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. And now, Your Majesty, issue and sign this law so it cannot be changed, an official law of the Medes and Persians that cannot be revoked."

So, what does King Darius do, because he's prideful and he's a pagan, he's an unbeliever? He signs it. He's like, "Oh, that sounds pretty good. Instead of people praying to all of these other gods, why don't they just pray to me, and I'll just be god?" Hey, don't blame King Darius. We do that every day. We do that every day when we steal glory from God for the things we're experiencing in our lives, and we point to us as the ones who get the glory. Continuing in verse 10:

"But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God. Then the officials went together to Daniel's house and found him praying and asking for God's help. So they 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?'"

Look at the manipulation happening in this text. "'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, [you know, the one you love] 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.'"

Men and women of character are consistent despite any change. This is what we see in this text. They're consistent despite change. Look at this for a second. When I say "consistent despite the change"… Look at what Daniel did. When he learned that the king had signed this law… That's the change that's happening in his culture.

"…he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room…" That's the consistency of who he is. "…with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done…" That's consistency again. "…giving thanks to his God." "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." There you see consistency. He's consistent despite the change.

What does this show us? Despite whatever changes Daniel is facing, he's consistent. Are you consistent? When the culture around you is changing, when your friend group is changing, when things are popping up in the news and things are changing around us, what is said about you? Do you change? Does your belief system change? Does your faith have a tendency to weaken or does it only embolden?

See, the law changed, the king changed, the people around him changed, but Daniel was consistent. Just like those things change, we see things around us changing every day. You can decide your own truth now. "Hey, this book… Man, it's not truth. I mean, it's just one of many. What's true for you is true for you. What's true for me is true for me. It's just relative truth. You pick it. Whatever truth works for you."

You can decide what gender you want. Even Washington came out and said, "Hey, let's have kids be transgender. Let's let them make that decision. You can't drive until you're 16, you can't smoke until you're 18, you can't drink until you're 21, but I think it's a good idea to let kids pick their gender." Where do you stand? It's crazy. Abortion… You can get aborted in the womb up to 24 weeks, and some states are trying to lengthen that.

See, you can't decide on what you believe in the moment. You have to be consistent with who you are in Christ. Are you consistent despite the change? If you're going to be a person of character, then you don't just go with the flow of culture. Daniel's consistency to seek God prepared him for any changes that came his way.

In the same way, your habits today will prepare you for your decisions tomorrow. Do you know that? The habits you're creating today will prepare you for your decisions tomorrow, next month, next year, 10 years from now, because you're just becoming more of who you are today. So, take a look at your life. Do you like who you're becoming? Well, then keep doing what you're becoming. If you don't… We're a fork in the road tonight. You decide. You choose.

Daniel was true to his God. Nothing was going to change his character because of his consistency. Let me ask you something. What consistent habits do you have right now in your life that are helping you become a man or woman of character? Like, when you wake up, are you quick to scroll the Instagram or are you quick to run to this book? What would it look like, Porch, for the young adults in Dallas to filter every decision through this book?

Every stance you're going to take based on what culture says or what your friends say or what your boss says or your corporation says… What would it look like if you looked at every decision you were going to make, every belief you were going to hold on to, and you filtered it through the Bible? Are you quick to open it up and say, "God, I'm your servant. I'm listening. What would you have for me?"

So many people want to know about God's will, but he has given us a written will to open up and read. I believe that when you are faithful to obey his written will for your life, then he will explain the will of God…where you're supposed to work, who you're supposed to marry, what church you're supposed to connect to, what it looks like to believe in today's society. He's going to share those things with you. He's going to show them to you.

How about prayer? What do we do three times a day, morning, noon, and night? We eat. Some of your stomachs are growling right now. You can't wait to get out of here and eat. Hold up. Daniel prayed three times a day. He was consistent. What does it look like for you to pray? Like, what if you decided to get a notebook and you began to jot out, "This is what I'm thankful for. God, this is what I want to see you do in my life."

I was having coffee with JD the other day. I'm like, "Bro, what are you doing right now?" He's like, "I'm praying." I'm like, "Let me see that." He's like, "No. You can't see my prayers." I'm like, "All right. Cool. Well, what are you doing?" He's like, "Well, I'm praying, and then I mark off the ones when I see God move in my life, when I see God answer those prayers." That's incredible. What would it look like if you did that?

Scripture memory. The Bible says one of the ways we defeat the Enemy in our lives that's attacking us, the Enemy that's prowling around like a roaring lion seeking to devour you and me, and for us to defeat the sin that lies within us and the world that's coming at us is by hiding the Word of God in our hearts. The Holy Spirit can't remind you of anything you don't know. Are you memorizing Scripture?

I told you one of the sins I have a tendency of committing is being angry. When somebody wrongs me, I don't respond well. So, I find these, what I call, fighter verses that help me in those moments when I want to lash out or I don't want to speak kindly to my kids or I have the wrong tone toward my wife. I have these verses I've written down and I'm starting to memorize so the Holy Spirit can remind me in those moments where my flesh wants to take over, "That's not the way of life, Josiah; that's the way of death."

How about church membership? Where are you? How can you really go all in when you're looking at churches like a buffet menu? You go over here for the worship, go here for the teaching, go here for the community, but you're not really all in, and nobody is really shepherding you. No one is really caring for your soul. I would just say, by God's grace, I've submitted to the elders of this church. It doesn't have to be Watermark, but it has to be a church. How can you really be a man or woman who's rooted…they know you, and you know them…if you're never fully bought into a church?

Being in community. Every Friday morning, I meet with these men at 6:00 a.m., and they know where I've been in thought, in word, and in action. I'm able to confess those things, knowing I'm going to be fully loved in the midst of being fully known. It's a beautiful picture of how I see Christ tangibly through these men who love me no matter where I've been, no matter what I've done, and they're able to help me grow and not fall into the same things over and over and over.

Do you have a track record of faithfulness or do you have a track record of brokenness? What is your track record? One of God's greatest provisions for your life and my life is that we would lock arms with other men, and you ladies, you would lock arms with other women who love Jesus, who aren't perfect but want to be about his kingdom, who want to be about his business.

Where are you serving? Is it all about you when you come into this place? Like, "Feed me. Feed me. Feed me. God is great," but then you never give back. You never serve. You never lay your life down. You never die to yourself and live for a bigger kingdom that will be without end. If you were to look at the last week or the last month of your life, where have you made spiritual deposits where the kingdom is furthering because of your gifts and because of your time and because of your treasures? How are you leveraging those things for the kingdom of God?

The decisions you make today determine your tomorrow. Do you know that? When tomorrow changes, the laws of the land change, the government changes, the culture changes, your friends at work change, will you? The people of God maintain their witness to an evil world and are consistent despite any change by getting alone with the Lord, by connecting with his people, and by serving those around them. This is how Daniel stays consistent despite any change, even if it means being thrown into the lions' den. Let's continue. Verse 16:

"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.' A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den. The king sealed the stone with his own royal seal and the seals of his nobles, so that no one could rescue Daniel. Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night fasting. He refused his usual entertainment and couldn't sleep at all that night.

Very early the next morning, the king got up and hurried out to the lions' den. When he got there, he called out in anguish, 'Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God, whom you serve so faithfully, able to rescue you from the lions?' Daniel answered, 'Long live the king! My God sent his angel to shut the lions' mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.' The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God."

What do you trust in when the darkness of life is upon you, when the lions' den of life is crouching at your door? What do you trust in? Do you run to that bottle? Do you run to that drug? Do you run to that relationship? Do you run to that business and just get caught up with more work and try to make more money? Where do you run to when the lions' den of life is crouching at your door, when you're sitting there and feel like darkness is all around you?

Men and women of character are courageous no matter the cost. Did you see in verse 22? "'My God sent his angel to shut the lions' mouths so that they would not hurt me…' The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God." Even to the point of death, nothing could shake this man.

How do we get there? We believe God is true, we believe his promises are right and good, and we believe this earth we're living on is not the final destination; heaven is. So, no matter what happens to Daniel, he believes he wins. It's what Paul had, the guy who wrote three-fourths of the New Testament.

He says, "To live is Christ and to die is gain. You can take my life, but if you take it, I'm going to heaven. But to live? Wherever I'm going, I'm going to tell the world about Jesus no matter the cost, because to live is Christ and to die is gain." Do you have that mentality? Is this your mentality tonight? If it's not, then you have ground to take, and I have ground to take in my life.

Have you ever been in a dark place and felt forgotten by God? Maybe you didn't get the job or promotion you wanted, or the cancer was inevitable for a good family friend of yours, or maybe it was that relationship you thought was going to end in a marriage, or maybe, for some of you, you're like, "Relationship, man. Where are the relationships? I don't have those." I'm sorry. I'm praying. There are a lot of people here at The Porch. Come on, somebody. But don't trust them all, because there are wolves in this place. Just because they carry a Bible doesn't mean they can be trusted. But, hey, I digress.

Have you ever been in a dark place? Like, darkness. Like, a real place of darkness where you can hear the sounds of lions. You can hear the wrestling in your spirit. You know this thing is going to lead to a place of horror for you if something doesn't change. I told you, the first of that was my mom walking out on me, and then I found myself at 30 years old and single. Somebody looks at me and is like, "I don't think this guy has ever had a romantic problem." No, no, no. Listen.

When I came to Christ at 21, there was a decade of singleness. I was like, "God, I'm trying to do this thing. Where are you, man?" When you don't think God is working, and you're working for him, but you're thinking he should be working for you… Lying in my bed, wondering, "Am I always going to be single for the rest of my life? If I am, I still win. I get heaven." It's a hard place to get to, but I think that's where God wanted me to get to.

Then, thankfully, God allowed me to get married, and we were about to have our first child, a little girl. I remember getting a phone call from the doctor, saying, "Hey, she has heart issues. If you decide to have her, then you're probably going to deal with heart issues for her entire life. Do you want to abort her?" I said, "What? Did I hear you right?"

Then I remember a few years later walking into my house, and my wife… She's strong. She's not a weeper. She's not a crier. I just remember her crying, like, weeping uncontrollably. I'm like, "Baby, baby, what's wrong? What happened?" She said, "You're not going to believe this. I just got a call from my sister. She has stage 3 colon cancer." It felt like the air was sucked out of our entire house. I'm sitting here just consoling my wife who's weeping uncontrollably.

What do you do in those moments when the darkness is closing in on you and you're like, "God, where are you? How am I supposed to continue this?" It's in the dark times where you have to rely on God. It's easy to be courageous when there's no cost. Right? It's easy to be courageous when life is good. It's easy to put that Bible verse on your Instagram bio and come into this place and sing praises to God. You know, you have the praise hands. But what about when darkness strikes? Because it's coming for us all.

We live in a broken world, jacked up with sin, and it sent creation into chaos. We see death, we see tornadoes, we see COVID, and we see rape and murder and all the evil in this world. You believe God is real. His promises are true, and this earth is not our home. There's heaven. My book, the book I read, this Bible that I read, in Revelation, says there's coming a day when he's going to wipe every tear from your eye and my eye, and the former things have passed away. He's going to make all things new, and there's not going to be any more pain and suffering anymore.

It's in those moments where you rely on God. Where do you run to when the darkness settles in on your life? Do you rely on God? It's in the dark times of life where you get to proclaim that God is real. I'm telling you, when everything is perfect, people look at you and are like, "Oh yeah. No wonder you believe in God." But it's in those dark times of life where the watching world is watching how you and I are going to respond to this tragedy, this brokenness, and it can lead entire kingdoms and people to bend their knees before the living God. Do you believe that?

When you don't act like everyone else acts in the office, or you decide to stay home on the weekends instead of going out… I've been there. I've been in the lonely nights of my apartment when I was single to 31 years old. It's in those moments of darkness where you're able to share with the world who your God really is, and it can change entire kingdoms. Look at what verse 26 says. This is King Darius.

"I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel. For he is the living God, and he will endure forever. His kingdom will never be destroyed, and his rule will never end. He rescues and saves his people; he performs miraculous signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions."

And he can rescue you from what you're going through. Your circumstances might not change, but tell me something. Do we not have a God who has defeated sin and death? He didn't just die on the cross, but he defeated it three days later. There's no other religion that teaches that. That's what separates Christianity from all other religions. We have a God who's alive and powerful. If he's dead, then what we're doing is futile. It does not matter. We're wasting our time.

So, in summary, we see in this story that no matter what we face in life, no matter the outcome, God is looking for men and women of character. Will you commit to be that man or woman? Will you be consistent in your pursuit of him despite the changes in our culture, and will you finally respond with courage no matter the cost? This is what marks a man or woman of character.

As we close, do you know what's so incredibly cool about this story, about the book of Daniel? Daniel couldn't save himself. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were tied up and thrown into the fiery furnace. They couldn't save themselves. They had to rely on God. They had to rely on someone outside of themselves. This is the whole purpose of the gospel: that you can't save yourself, that I can't save myself. It doesn't matter what you do. It doesn't matter how good of a person you think you are. You can't save yourself.

This is why God sent his one and only Son, Jesus, 2,000 years ago, to live the life you and I could never live. He was perfect in thought, word, and action, which made him the only eligible one to die on the cross for your sin and my sin. A sinful man or woman can never do that. All of our sin went on him. He soaked up every last ounce of God's wrath, the wrath that should have been poured out on you and me because of our sin. He got what we deserve, and we get what he deserved. It's called the great exchange.

Not only that. Scripture records and history says that three days later he burst forth from the grave to defeat the sting of sin and death. What we see in this story is that Jesus is the greater Daniel. Check this out for a minute. Who else was misunderstood and had people plot against him to Pilate? That was Jesus. Just like Daniel had people plot against him to throw him into the lions' den, Jesus had people plot against him, his own people turn against him, to be crucified on the cross.

Just like Daniel was thrown into the lions' den and a stone placed over that den, Jesus was put in a tomb with a stone rolled over the tomb. Just like Daniel, through the power of God, was rescued from the mouths of the lions, the sting of death, and not a scratch was found on him… In the same way, Jesus burst forth from the tomb. Easter. We happen to celebrate it this Sunday. That's crazy, y'all. That's nuts.

He burst forth from the tomb three days later to defeat sin and death. That's good news. That's news you can't muster up. Nobody can tell me that man wrote this book, that man wrote that story. What do we do when we want justice? We take over. We get the guns out, we get the fists up, and we're taking over. No. Jesus came as a suffering servant to die on the cross for your sin and my sin.

This is what we have to do. We have to bend the knee and say, "God, I recognize apart from you I'm nothing. I can't save myself." Have you done that tonight? Have you made Jesus the leader of your life? Do you commit to God and not man? Are you a man or woman who is consistent despite the changes happening in our culture, and are you courageous no matter the cost? Let me pray that you would tonight.

God in heaven, this is a story about a man who had high character, a man who stood the test of time no matter the circumstances of life. I believe tonight you're looking for a man or a woman among us, or whoever is listening to this message at a later date… You're looking for a man or woman among us who's going to step into the character you're calling them to, but we can't do it apart from you. That's the crazy thing.

We can't be a man or woman of high character apart from you. Eventually, it'll get exhausting. We'll fall, and it won't end well, because there's none among us who's perfect. We need a perfect God, and you became that through the person of Jesus Christ. I pray tonight that you would raise up some men and women who haven't trusted in you, that tonight would be the night where they draw a line in the sand, nail a stake in the ground, and trust you for the very first time for the forgiveness of sins and life after death, that they make you the leader of their life.

For those of us who have done that, we would be moved to pursue you more and more and more no matter what life throws at us, and we would see that you're going to use all of those moments of hard, all of those circumstances, all of the changes of culture, to refine us and to grow us into the men and women you want us to be for your glory, our joy, and the world's good. It's in Christ's name we pray, amen.