THE HARD WAY
Chuck Allen // @achuckallen
Have you ever wondered why some people choose to learn things the hard way? King Nebuchadnezzar was that type of person. Nothing came easy for him. He was a perpetually slow learner when it came to God. If given the choice between a hard way and an easy way, King Nebuchadnezzar would choose the hard way.
Are you that type of person? My Mom used to tell me that I was hard headed kid. That was her way of telling me that I was stubborn. And she was right, I’ve learned a number of hard lessons in life because I did things my way.
Let’s take a look at Daniel chapter 4 today: Let’s start in verse one:
King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! 2 It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.
This is like a movie preview: Nebuchadnezzar is letting you see the end from the beginning…the result of the lesson learned. Can you imagine how many things you might do differently if you knew the end lesson learned?
Why do folks learn the hard way? Have you ever wondered? In verse 4 verse 4, the King clearly hasn’t learned his lesson as he goes back for the wrong advice from the wrong people. 4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace. 5 I saw a dream that made me afraid. As I lay in bed the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me. 6 So I made a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. 7 Then the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers came in, and I told them the dream, but they could not make known to me its interpretation.
The lessons I have learned, and you might have as well, were learned the hard way – usually because one of the following three reasons:
1) PRIDE: King Nebuchadnezzar was a very prideful man. Prideful people are close minded. They have their own ideas and often feel threatened by other people who might oppose them. And while King Nebuchadnezzar routinely sought advice, he didn’t always like the advice that was given him. He was a prideful man.
The wisest man that ever lived teaches that “Pride goes before a fall” Proverbs 16:18. Or more tangibly, “Pride goes before destruction” This was true of the King. His pride would soon become his downfall.
God spoke to him in a dream that Daniel interpreted. Nebuchadnezzar was likened to a large tree that would one day be cut down. Only the stump would remain. Daniel warned the King that what happened to the tree will one day happen to him. Pride comes before a fall. Nebuchadnezzar is a little slow to get it. He is so caught up in himself that he doesn’t take action. He allowed Pride to get in the way.
24 “‘This is what the dream means, Your Majesty, and what the Most High has declared will happen to my lord the king. 25 You will be driven from human society, and you will live in the fields with the wild animals. You will eat grass like a cow, and you will be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses. 26 But the stump and roots of the tree were left in the ground. This means that you will receive your kingdom back again when you have learned that heaven rules.
27 “‘King Nebuchadnezzar, please accept my advice. Stop sinning and do what is right. Break from your wicked past and be merciful to the poor. Perhaps then you will continue to prosper.’ 28 “But all these things did happen to King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 Twelve months later he was taking a walk on the flat roof of the royal palace in Babylon. 30 As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’
31 “While these words were still in his mouth, a voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom.
Pride is my greatest stumbling block in my walk with and it might be yours. As a matter of fact…if you don’t think pride is part of your daily spiritual battle…you might be a pride-filled person! It keeps us from doing what God wants us to do. And it prevents us from learning what he wants us to learn.
2) PROCRASTINATION: King Nebuchadnezzar put off taking action until it was too late. When Daniel interpreted the dream, he advised the King to renounce his sins by doing what was right and taking care of the poor. Sadly the advice that was most appropriate for King Nebuchadnezzar was forgotten for a whole year.
One year later, the King is walking around on the roof of his royal palace boasting about his greatness. He says, “Is this not the great Babylon I have built as a royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty.” Daniel 4:29 The pronouns “I” and “My” appear 3 times in that one statement. King Nebuchadnezzar is so full of himself that he put off spiritual priorities.
What about you? Are a procrastinator? We all procrastinate things of varied degrees of importance. We may procrastinate things like paying bills, spending time with our family, making apologies. And sometimes we feel pain and pressure of our procrastinations.
But there is one thing we never want to procrastinate. We never want to procrastinate spiritual priorities, the price is too high and the pain too great.
Nebuchadnezzar procrastinated making important life changes for a whole year. And as a result he was driven into the wilderness to live like a wild animal.
Here is a great life lesson – procrastination leads to poor choices, which lead to poor habits which lead to an absence of peace in your life and in your relationships!
The King is wrestling with PRIDE – We often see pride as being self-centered, or even aloof, but in it’s purest form, PRIDE is a total lack of trust in the sovereignty of God. In its basic element – PRIDE is the belief that we do not need God, because we’re going to better than He can in every area of our lives.
The King is struggling with PROCRASTINATION: The Dictionary defines procrastination as: to be slow or late about doing something that should be done : to delay doing something until a later time because you do not want to do it, because you are lazy, etc. The King, in his self-serving way is putting off the desperate need to allow God to take the ownership of his life! He is simply delaying the outcome and inviting mediocrity to prevail in his soul.
3) POSITION: I guess when you’re the King of the most powerful nation in the world, it’s hard to humble yourself. In Babylon there were a number of impressive building projects underway. Royal palaces were built. Hanging gardens were established. The King used his position to advance his own political cause.
He was obsessed with the idea of being a big deal. Nebuchadnezzar was position conscious. He built an empire by exploiting the poor. Daniel confronted the King’s preoccupation with self.
In verse 27 he advises the King to be merciful to the poor. King Nebuchadnezzar, please accept my advice. Stop sinning and do what is right. Break from your wicked past and be merciful to the poor. Perhaps then you will continue to prosper.
Sadly, King Nebuchadnezzar made no such effort. His huge empire was built on the backs of poor people.
Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t the first and won’t be the last to use position to advance a selfish cause.
Saddam Hussein idolized King Nebuchadnezzar. And we know about his fate. He ended up living in a hole out in the middle of nowhere. Sadly, this pattern has repeated itself numerous times in the History of the world. And haven’t we all suffered at the mercy of someone who uses their position or title to Lord it over us?
Maybe for you it’s an unpleasable parent, an unsympathetic boss, or maybe a professor who gives unrealistic assignments. Maybe it’s you, and God is making you aware of that tendency in your life. I can tell you this much – I know it’s easy to fall into the trappings of self sufficiency…I have learned the hard way most of my life. Whoever it is…don’t walk away thinking; I’ll never be like that guy…because, you might be that guy to someone right now!
A word to those of us that have positions or carry titles… We must never use the power that we have to advance our own cause. Use the position and power you have to glorify God and serve other people. Don’t be position conscious, be people centered. The position you have is no excuse to take advantage of those who are less fortunate. Nebuchadnezzar was unable to learn what God wanted him to learn because he was obsessed with being the biggest deal. That’s why we say around here at SHC that Jesus is the BIGGEST DEAL!
Nebuchadnezzar was position conscious, prideful and a terrible procrastinator. Truth be told, there is a little bit of King Nebuchadnezzar in all of us. As much as we don’t like to admit it, there have been times when we have all suffered from one or all three of these issues.
The good news is this: You don’t have to live like the King. You can live and learn God’s way. Not everything in life has to be learned the hard way. You can learn God’s way. Great, but how do we live and learn God’s way if we know that we all have a little bit of Nebuchadnezzar in us? Just do what the King didn’t do!
1) HUMBLE YOURSELF. This is what King Nebuchadnezzar didn’t do – so it was done for him. In verse 31 the Bible says a voice came from heaven saying “King Nebuchadnezzar your authority has been taken from you.” God humbled the King into submission by driving him into the wilderness to live like a wild animal.
God teaches us, through the Bible to humble ourselves. James 4:10 says, “Humble yourself before the Lord and he will lift you up.” Humility is an attitude and a lifestyle. When we humble ourselves before God, we’re saying, “God you are right and I am wrong.” That’s humility. And if we humble ourselves before God, there’s no limit to what He can reveal to us. God refused the proud and gives Grace to the humble.
Humble yourself before God and he will teach you things you never thought you could learn. Pride and arrogance is for the slow learning types. Don’t go there. Live and learn God’s way: Humble yourself!
Tha King came to a point of humility…one that he could have never imagined: 32 You will be driven from human society. You will live in the fields with the wild animals, and you will eat grass like a cow. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.’
33 “That same hour the judgment was fulfilled, and Nebuchadnezzar was driven from human society. He ate grass like a cow, and he was drenched with the dew of heaven. He lived this way until his hair was as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails were like birds’ claws.
When you are on the backside of the wilderness, you are driven to humility and you seek wisdom…especially from someone that has been there. So, if you find yourself on the backside of the wilderness…here is the good news – God is waiting patiently for you to be humbled before a God that can bring you out of the wilderness.
2) SEEK WISE COUNSEL. Nebuchadnezzar had it all wrong. He went to the wrong places for advice. When a terrifying dream came, he turned to the wrong people for advice. Like before, he called in all the self appointed ’gurus’ of his day to interpret. Probably all the same ones that had failed him before IN CHAPTER 2. And once again they struck out. So Nebuchadnezzar finally calls for Daniel IN VERSE 18.
Daniel gave the King wise and Godly advice. Where you get your advice says a lot about what’s important to you. So who’s first on your list of advice givers? Oprah? Dr. Phil? Facebook? Twitter? Astrology?
Nebuchadnezzar sought advice from the wrong people. I want to challenge you to seek GOOD ADVICE. Seek good advice and you’ll be glad. The King eventually received good advice but only after he had exhausted all other options. Why choose the hard way, when you can choose the God way?
Humble yourself by choosing to see God in the right perspective. Choose to make the corrections that you know are needed in your life TODAY – don’t wait until you are on the backside of the wilderness. And…
3) CULTIVATE A TEACHABLE SPIRIT. God gave Daniel profound WISDOM into deep spiritual things, because he was teachable. Are you teachable? Don’t you love it when God gives us an ’aha’ moment? God wants to reveal things to US that we never thought we could learn, but we must first be teachable.
Have a teachable spirit and God will reveal profound spiritual things to you. Be a Daniel, have a teachable spirit. Await the ’aha’ moments. Pray for them, prepare for them, get ready!!! God is going to blow your mind.
4) ACKNOWLEDGE THAT GOD IS IN CONTROL. Seven years have now passed, and finally King Nebuchadnezzar lifts his eyes toward heaven in recognition that God is King of the Universe. Look in verses 34-37.
Notice that King Nebuchadnezzar’s sanity was restored when he acknowledged that God was in control. When he acknowledged that God was sovereign and that He is King, a sense of normalcy resumed. He lived seven years of his life in the wilderness like that of a wild beast. And finally, he confesses the ultimate rule and reign of the Lord God. God wanted the King to acknowledge that he was God and tell the whole empire what he had done for him so that his name would be glorified among the nations. And God wants no less from us!
We may never know the full extent of the KING’S experience with God. But this much is true. Nebuchadnezzar’s doxology in verse 37 is stirring. “Now, I Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of Heaven, the Judge of all, whose every act is right and good; for he is able to take those who walk proudly and push them into the dust.”
Acknowledging that God is in control is the beginning of so many good things in our lives. I regularly hear Christian leaders speak of what God has been saying to them in their times of meditation and study and prayer and I’m often amazed. He tells them the most profound things, yet all I ever hear is: Chuck – get out of the way!”
Acknowledging that God is in control is saying Lord I’m going to move out of the way and let you be God. This is what Nebuchadnezzar should have done and didn’t do.
Let’s save ourselves a lot of grief and acknowledge God for who he really is. Move over and let God be God in your life. And you’ll experience a peace and sanity that you never thought possible.
You don’t have to live and learn the hard way. Start living and learning God’s way. Humble yourself. Acknowledge that he is control and yield yourself to his plan. Have a teachable spirit, and seek good advice.
Let Jesus have the last word: “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
How about that for a resume builder – God raises you up, praises you, blesses you, delivers you…and it all happens as a result of your humility, wise counsel, teachable spirit and acknowledgement that God is in control.
Simple, right? Then we can all choose this way today…choose God today!