Greater Than Your Work
We find such a strange scene in Daniel 2. In that chapter, the most powerful man in the world at the time, King Nebuchadnezzar, had a dream that got him all worked up. He demanded that the smartest people in his kingdom tell him what he dreamed, and then the interpretation. They couldn’t, so he ordered that they be killed (because, what good are they at that point?). But Daniel was one of those dudes. He asked the king to give him some time to pray to God, which he did with his friends, and God revealed the dream and its interpretation to Daniel. So he went back to the king, told him the dream and what it meant, and then he got a big promotion and saved everyone’s lives. Weird, right?
What could we possibly learn from it that applies to how we live and follow God today? I think when we compare the two key people in this passage, we see the difference in how they work. Nebuchadnezzar was only working for himself, to build his own good and glory. And that’s why Nebuchadnezzar was restless in this whole chapter. In his work, he’s achieved the highest level of success. He’s the king, and he’s the king of an Empire that’s doing pretty well for itself. It’s like the greatest in the world. So he’s got everything, right? But after all of that success at work, he’s still incredibly insecure, he’s definitely got an anger problem, he treats people terribly, and he’s not sleeping well. A bad dream totally wrecks the most powerful, successful man on the planet to the point where he wants to kill everyone. Nebuchadnezzar achieved everything he could’ve possibly dreamed of, and was still a mess. It’s because he was working for his own reputation, his own fame, to be his own god, and it was never enough.
But Daniel, Daniel was working for God, to build God’s kingdom and glory. And this teenage kid responds with tact, wisdom, calm, trusts God, prays, sees God do a miracle, and worships God all while a death sentence was still over his head.
I desperately want the peace and rest that Daniel has. A 4th century African theologian named Augustine described the situation well, “The human heart is restless until it finds its rest in God.” The king couldn’t be at rest even with all he achieved, because he wasn’t at rest with God. Augustine was talking about Psalm 62: “I am at rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will never be shaken.” That’s what Daniel had. He was at rest in God alone. He alone was Daniel’s salvation, stronghold, his rock. His rock.
So how can you know if you’re working just to build your own kingdom, or to build God’s Kingdom?
- Do you know God’s Word? Daniel knew God’s Word so well that when something crazy came up at work, he knew that God could take care of it. What do you need at work? Maybe you need wisdom in knowing how to handle a delicate situation or relationship. James 1 tells us that if we lack wisdom we should ask God for it because he gives it when we ask. Maybe you need patience as you’re home trying to raise your kids (I don’t know why I said maybe…you do need supernatural patience if that’s what you’re doing). God said that one of the fruit of the Spirit that’s in you is patience in Galatians 5. You have God living you, ready to give you patience when you need it.
- Do you pray? When a trial comes up at work or the kids aren’t cooperating or it all just hits the fan, do you pray? Do you recognized that God’s in control of whatever situation is happening and you go to him about it? Daniel’s first act when his life was on the line was to call a prayer meeting! Would that be your first act at work in a stressful situation?
- Do you worship? This is great indicator if we’re just building our own kingdom or God’s kingdom. Do we praise him when he answers our prayers, or do we just forget about him and get on with it? Right when God answered Daniel’s prayer and revealed the dream and meaning, Daniel breaks out in song and praises God for his goodness (check it out in Daniel 2, it’s a great song!). Do you praise God when he answers your prayers?
- Do you submit to God’s plan? Daniel could have prayed, worshiped God for answering the prayer, but then realized that if he shares THIS interpretation with the King that he’ll probably get killed. So he might changed it so that he gets promoted, right? You, oh King, are the rock that destroys every other nation! But Daniel submits to God’s plan, God’s control over what’s happening.
Nebuchadnezzar didn’t submit to God’s plan. He heard the interpretation of the dream, he came into contact with God and God’s control over history in this dream he was in awe of it, amazed by it, but he didn’t submit to it. Nebuchadnezzar thought God was pretty cool, kind of amazing, but he didn’t submit his life to God. So what we’ll see is that he’s still miserable the rest of his life.
So what are you trusting for your peace and security, your rest? Are you trusting that it’s gonna come from the success you have rising up in your company? Raising your kids to be doctors and athletes? Achieving all of your life goals?
Or are you trusting in the rock, trusting in Jesus and his work that he did for you. Are you trusting that the work he did in his life of trusting God in all things, the work he did on the cross of dying by taking God’s wrath, the work he did in his resurrection of defeating death, are you trusting that your peace and security in life comes from that?
You can. And you can sleep really well knowing that God is in control of your life right now, and your future.