One of my favorite biblical characters bar none in the Old Testament is Daniel. One reason for this is perhaps because he was a man on incredible character. While I am sure that he made mistakes just as we all do, we can see throughout the narrative of his life that he had an uncompromising integrity that was maintained even under the threat of death. He is one of the few biblical characters of whom nothing negative is said. He was a man of impetuous character. Not only this, but if we look at the history of Daniel, he was a man that was so respected by his fellow man, that over the course of several dynasties, he is a confidant of rulers and leader of empires.
As the Israelite, Babylonian, and Persian empires rose and fell, they didn’t outlive Daniel as a principle mover of nations. The question might be for us, “What made it possible for Daniel to accomplish such great things?” The answer to this question, perhaps, lies in the character of Daniel as a follower of God. In Daniel chapter 10 we see the important aspects of Daniel’s character from a heavenly perspective.
11 And he (Michael the Archangel) said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. 12 Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. –Daniel 10:11–12
Michael, did not mention Daniel’s leadership, he did not mention a spotless character, he did not mention a great giftedness, but what he did mention is that Daniel… “set (his) heart to understand and humbled (himself) before your God”. Certainly Daniel had accomplished great things throughout his tenure as a leader among the Meads, Persians, and Babylonians. Perhaps monuments were built to his success. We will never know, because time, as it is in the habit of doing, erased all of these great and monumental tasks. What remains of this man is not a memorial to his might, a treatise on his character, or even a simple list of great accomplishments. What remains of Daniel is found in Scripture is a description of nothing more than a man who wanted no more than to understand who God was, and who was ready and willing to fall down at His feet. We see this character throughout the several occasions in which Daniel’s prayer habits are recorded. This is probably the chief of places in which these attitudes can be judged. One such prayer in Daniel 9 read;
3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly land rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. 7 To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame...
For all his accomplishments, Daniel had one gift that made it all possible. He was ready to seek God in prayer with humility. He was ready to cry out to God to do something.
I think that it is often the case that when we think of doing great things in our lives, we are frustrated by our lack of particular gifts, our copious failures, or we are overwhelmed by our own desires. There is certainly nothing wrong with wanting to do great things for God. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be great in everything that we do. The problem more often comes when we want to do great things for no other reason than that we ourselves want to be great. This often precedes us falling flat on our faces and being reminded of our manifest weaknesses. If we seek to do great things, let us take a lesson from those that God used before us. God can do anything with anyone regardless of their gifts, strengths, and compliments. The criterion of whom God uses to accomplish His work in moving nations or individuals are not as complicated or unreachable goals as we often perceive them to be. All God requires of us is to be men and women who seek Him above all else and who do so with a healthy humility of self. God does great things through people, but we often think that it is the people who are doing the great things. This is not the case. God does great things through people who recognize the reality of who He is and respond with humility and cry out for God to act. The encouraging thing about this is that we can all do this. It is not restricted based on personality or personal strengths. We can all recognize God, seek him, and humbly ask Him to work. The hardest part of this is getting out of the way and letting God use us the way He wants. One of my favorite quotes is by Henry Varley who once said, “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him. By God’s help, I aim to be that man.” I pray that we would see these men and women today who go down in history not as people on great monuments or with names plastered across the books, but as people on our knees humbly before God.