HOW TO EAT AN ELEPHANT WEEK 4
Chuck Allen // @achuckallen // firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you ever feel like you are being overcome and overrun by the ever-changing culture around us. For some of us it becomes easier to simply give up trying to hold on to biblical values and go along with the culture.
Values are those things that predetermine our actions and reactions on a daily basis. Take any faith system that you have and it doesn’t matter what you say you believe, because you will inevitably live what really value. You can come to church 52 weeks a year and act righteous and spiritual…but go to the jobsite or office or tennis courts and live, act and sound like a totally different person!
Values answer most of life’s questions. My top 4 values include
- I deeply value my relationship with Jesus
- I deeply value the love and trust that I share with Jenny and our girls
- I value being stretched and grown and to never stop learning
- I value never giving up in seeking peace and freedom
Look with me in Daniel chapter 1 – If Daniel is saying anything to us across these centuries he is challenging us to not give up and to be consistent.
8 But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods. 9 Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel. 10 But he responded, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has ordered that you eat this food and wine. If you become pale and thin compared to the other youths your age, I am afraid the king will have me beheaded.”
11 Daniel spoke with the attendant who had been appointed by the chief of staff to look after Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. 12 “Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,” Daniel said. 13 “At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king’s food. Then make your decision in light of what you see.” 14 The attendant agreed to Daniel’s suggestion and tested them for ten days.
15 At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king. 16 So after that, the attendant fed them only vegetables instead of the food and wine provided for the others.
Daniel was a young man who would not compromise and would not quit. Daniel stated to the chief of the eunuchs that he would not defile himself by eating the King’s unkosher meat. (Daniel 1:8) His boss was reluctant but Daniel was determined. He wouldn’t give up, he remained consistent. Finally, his boss “consented” to a test to see if Daniel’s diet would suffice.
The single characteristic of those who succeed wildly in this life is this element of consistency. Hence the series name – How to Eat an Elephant! Joseph, in an Egyptian dungeon, didn’t give up. Paul, in a Philippian prison, didn’t give up. Daniel, in Babylonian captivity, did not give up. And God did not forget any of them.
So often in a culture that is crumbling, like ours we’re tempted to ask, “Where is God?” He was there with Daniel and He is here with us. Note the quote, And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand. (Daniel 1:2) Notice that God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs. (Daniel 1:9) God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom. (Daniel 1:17). God was in control of every one of Daniel’s circumstances and situations.
I love what the Bible says in Daniel 1:9, Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs. When we establish standards like Daniel, God shows up on our side. Standards are value driven into the very core of our being! They shape us into the image of Jesus or into the image of this world.
Daniel had purposed in his heart. Daniel had made his choice. Daniel had set his mind. In the very next verse we find God intervening. It wasn’t Daniel’s stand that influenced the chief of the eunuchs, it was God Himself.
Remember, God has the remote control in His hand. He can turn us up or turn us off. He can change our channel or mute us if He so desires. He is in control.
Let’s face it – we are prone to give up what we stand for when we’re out in our culture. We seem to be geared to think that if we don’t compromise we might lose our position or even our promotion. Remember verse three of the old hymn Come thou Fount of Every Blessing? Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love; That’s us – prone to wander from God…as He patiently continues to soften our heart and turn toward His will and His way for our live
Maybe you are listening or watching with hundreds of people online or you are in this room today – maybe we are constantly prone to wander because we have never truly chosen to abide in Jesus. The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel may have an answer as to why we are so prone to wander – In chapter 36:25-27, he writes…
Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.[a] 27 And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.
Maybe our wandering hearts is that we have never allowed Jesus to give us a new heart!
Daniel had figured out who he wanted on his side. It wasn’t his boss, it was his God. He knew the truth of Proverbs 16:7, When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
So, what is the point? If we’re going to eat the elephant and succeed wildly, we will understand that this bible lesson is designed to not just tell the story of Daniel, but to instruct us with some lessons. Starting with a simple lesson –
Don’t play politics. We should live in such a way that they line up with the Word of God and please Him in the process. And then we can watch Him work on those around us as he did in Daniel’s day. It is not enough to simply be resistant if we’re not consistent.
Some start well but give up and go with the crowd around them. We started this series out with two questions: What would you do if you knew that you wouldn’t fail? and What would we do if we know other folks would laugh at us?
Daniel purposed in his heart that he wouldn’t live trying to prove something to someone with a bunch of self-righteousness. This was no show. This was a matter of his heart. The Bible reminds us that a soft answer turns away wrath. Daniel has a disarming way about him that honors God. He not only calls upon us saying “Don’t give in, be resistant,” but he challenges us by saying, “Don’t give up, be consistent!”
Imagine if I planted a tree in my front yard, but after awhile, I decided it would look better in my backyard. Then after a few months, I realized it would be better in the front yard.
So I dig it up and plant it again in the front yard. Not only will that tree fail to flourish, but it also will struggle to just survive.
Most of us are like that with God. We decide to go to church, read our Bible, join a group and pray regularly. We do this for a month, and then uproot ourselves and disappear for a few months. Then we come back again. Then we uproot ourselves and go back to the old life again. Eventually, we come back and are at it again. But we will never grow and stretch spiritually that way.
At 56, I remember what it was like to be young, fit and flexible. I think the most difficult task is the being stretched and flexible part. So, this week I experienced what it’s like to be stretched a little bit- well, a lot!
I participated in a Hot Yoga Class. I have a whole new appreciation for the fitness and strength of the folks that can do all that! My 56 year old body kept saying you can’t do that! And everybody in the class knew what the instructor meant when she got into warrior pose or cat and the cow or resting baby or downward dog.
My body was screaming at me and my mind was in overdrive. Not only was I being stretched physically, but I was being stretched mentally…then at the end, I found myself praying for several of you that have contacted me this week and was the last one out of the 92 degree room. The stretching was good for me. The quietude was good for me…but I have to stay at it or I’ll never train my body to improve.
It’s like that in our daily walk with Jesus. He wants to stretch us in every way. Jesus came so that we could abide in Him. Jesus came that we might be stretched and molded in His image to act, react, speak, love and lead like Him!
Jesus said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4). That is the secret of consistent spiritual growth & spiritual health: to abide. To abide means to stay in a given place. For followers of Jesus, it means to maintain unbroken fellowship with God. It is regularity. It is consistency. And it results in producing lasting fruit. Fruit that remains.
That’s when we have to stop and know what good fruit looks like, feels like and feels like. So, God gives us the answer in Galatians 5:22-23
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
When we know better, we do better and we live better. So a healthy assessment of how well we are going to eat the elephant and succeed wildly in 2016 is to ask ourselves – am I leaving a path of broken promises and wounded relationships? Or are we leaving a path of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?
Another way of abiding is walking with God. As 1 John 2:6 says, “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” Walking speaks of consistent motion. That means making time for the God every day.
That’s why we have made this so easy for you – make a commitment to listen to the daily audio podcast from Sugar Hill Church. 5 minutes each day – 5 days a week – Monday through Friday.
You can listen on your commute, your run, your time in the gym, or alone in your quiet spot. Some of you could stop after you get your coffee and chick-fil-a biscuit and sit in quietude for 5 minutes. If you are too busy, then get up earlier. Go to bed earlier. We all find time for what we believe is important. So, logically we can understand that we need to make 5 minutes with God a significant way to eat the elephant and succeed wildly!
The true mark of a real follower of Jesus is the test of time and fruit that remains in your path. Are you producing spiritual fruit? The only way we can leave good fruit in our path is to abide in Jesus. See that? We can’t leave good fruit without Jesus in control of our lives!
You choose – Consistency as you abide in Jesus, or all over the board in your own power. Got is patiently, lovingly calling today…waiting on His kids to say I choose you, Jesus…I choose You!