New Hope Notes
Exiles: Basic Training Spiritual Disciplines
Pastor Jon Burgess
I know when it comes to exercise and discipline, we are not really excited about it. But this message as you can see in the title is about just that, basic training. We all need to get back to the basics of spiritual training and disciplines. A lot of us are at that point where we are feeling like “I kinda want to do it, but not really” mode
Super Bowl 50 is coming and whether you are Cam Newton of the Panthers or Peyton Manning of the Broncos, we all know that they aren’t going to get the big win without going through the necessities of discipline. And here is what Paul says in Hebrews about discipline:
“There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.” (Heb. 5:11-14 NLT)
It says here that we all need to be coming out of the baby training and we need to grow and mature in our Christianity, we can’t stay in the baby stage. So Paul is challenging us here saying that in order for us to go a whole lot farther we need to simply get all the basics down. One of those basic actions is in putting God first. If we are faithful in giving to God’s missions then He will be faithful to us. This is one of the spiritual disciplines God calls us to do that will be a part of our growing stages. If you are able to, then tithe that 10% but if you can’t then give what you can and grow in your giving as you are able, but we need to tithe. When you have put God first, we start to come out of those baby stages.
Now here is something to think about and learn from: The principles of the three P’s are: Priority, Percentage, and Progression which will help us to mature. Basically to start a budget, we need to prioritize, we need to put God first, save second and live on the rest third. The second “P” is percentage. We are taught in God’s word that we are to give a percentage, which is 10% to support the church. There are probably many out there who can’t afford giving 10%. Give whatever percentage you are able to and then grow that amount as you are able to, but don’t stop giving. When you faithfully start giving then you will see God faithfully growing you to the next level. This brings us to the third “P” - progressive. The worst thing we can do is simply say “I’m not there, so I am not going anywhere” and then not do anything about it. Where ever we are at in tithing just start from that point and be progressive as God provides.
As we look at the life of Daniel, Meshach and Abednego we can see the basic training steps in their faithful and spiritually disciplined walk with God in spite of the pagan environment they were cast into because of the sins of their people. God exiled Israel into the hands of the Babylon Nation because they turned away from God. Like them we are also living in a pagan environment. We are in a post Christian era where a lot of people have fallen away from God. In the Book of Daniel we can find great teaching tools on how we can be a light in the darkness to 21st century America and the cultures that have overridden God’s truth. God is teaching us straight out of the text of Daniel chapter 2. The first thing we can learn from Daniel is this:
I. Get real through small groups.
Now, for the seasoned Christian, none of this will be new, but often we need to return to basic training principles in order for us to continue to progress. Because without the constant reminder of these spiritual basics we will never grow out beyond to what God is really calling us to do. One of the first spiritual disciplines is to have a community of fellow believers outside of the larger gathering as that of the church services. It does take sacrifice to prioritize to function in a smaller relationship beyond the larger sanctity of the church body, but, it is necessary
So we see here, that King Nebuchadnezzar had a disturbing dream. He called all his astrologers, magicians and pagan wise men to interpret his dream. They asked him to reveal his dream to them so they could conjure up its meaning. But the king said that they had to tell him his dream and interpret it. But they couldn’t unless they knew the dream first. So the king was very upset and the Bible says,
“This made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. So the decree was issued to put the wise men to death, and men were sent to look for Daniel and his friends to put them to death. When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact. He asked the king’s officer, ‘Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?’ Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel. At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him. Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.” (Dan. 2:12-17)
Now notice that Daniel spoke to the king in a way that helps build relationship. The words “spoke to him with wisdom and tact” implies that he did not cut him off as the others did. That is one of spiritual disciplines that Daniel demonstrates. Notice, too, that Daniel had a certain kind of trust with the king that he is able to go into talk with the king. The point to make now is that in contrast to the religions of the East, the roots imbedded in our Christian belief are ones of family or community. Where the pagan magicians, astrologers and wise men are in competition with each other, Daniel returns to his friends, his small group, and says “we have to do this together”.
Where do you go when you’re in trouble? Do you have a place of fellow believers that you can go to for help with a difficult situation? Or do you have a group you can pray with? Daniel does and he goes to ask their help and support.
There are three reasons why being a part of a small group is important:
1) God wants us to go through life together not separate. It’s like coals on a fire, one coal alone is not capable of igniting a fire, and we need more than one. When we are all lit then we can ignite, encourage or support each other.
2) Don’t stay out there alone thinking that there is nothing there for you. The small group is handcrafted, each group is unique, and no two are exactly alike. In fact we are each unique because we are all handcrafted by God. When we join a group we immediately change the makeup of that group, together we ignite or bring to the group things that make our groups unique. It changes the moment we enter into a relationship with other brothers and sisters that are going after God. It is here where we can hear God speaking to us or where God wants to speak through us. A small group is handcrafted not one size fits all.
3) And finally, a small group calls us from being inward to being outward. In other words, it brings us from standing alone wallowing in our own problems to working with others, through others and for others and we get to go through life together. It’s like if I’m standing on a stage giving a speech, it all seems like I am the only one going through something alone and I can assume you guys all have perfect lives. But in a small group I can find out that there are others going through the same things.
Revelation is where God illuminates something to our understanding that we did not understand before. He shows us something in a brand new way. If we are facing a problem He shows us the solution. But we won’t get the revelation that God has for us unless we are looking through the lenses of praise and prayer. And what better way than to pray together in our small group? This is a natural part of discipline that God calls all of us to do. Like this example of Daniel demonstrates:
“He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven and said: ‘Praise be to the name of God forever and ever; wisdom and power are His. He changes times and seasons; He deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with Him. I thank and praise You, God of my ancestors: You have given me wisdom and power, You have made known to me what we asked of You, You have made known to us the dream of the king.’” (Dan. 2:18-23)
Throughout the Book of Daniel you will see the phrase repeated “God of Heaven” because it is the God of Heaven who sees and knows all our problems, but He sees them differently than we do. We see them as roadblocks, He sees the way through them. Until we get low before the God of Heaven we are not going to see the perspectives from on high. We have to all realize that the solution to this problem is not us. It’s God’s, He’s got it. We don’t. And the only way we are going to know where we are going is to put God first and rely on Him.
Praise and prayer are not passive things, however, they are active. It requires active participation not passive observation. Praise is not just for the musicians to give. We can’t sit back and let them do it alone, we have to go after it ourselves. Then in like way we are thankful to God as Daniel was thankful as he was praising God when the meaning of the dream was revealed to him through prayer and a small group of support. And in our praises, don’t just sing the words but mean it. These words are the springboard of our hearts to the God of Heaven.
And when we pray, please remember that there is never a time when we won’t need prayer. In fact, there should be an ever growing need for prayer. Even Jesus sought prayer every chance He had. So if Jesus needed that spiritual discipline, then how much more do we need it?
3. Get relevant through relationships.
Remember how in the last verse we read that Daniel handled the king with tact and wisdom? We will see now Daniel again used tact and wisdom not to criticize or dispute the king’s decree. As the Bible says, “Then Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to execute the wise men of Babylon, and said to him, ‘Do not execute the wise men of Babylon. Take me to the king, and I will interpret his dream for him.’ Arioch took Daniel to the king at once and said, ‘I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means.’ The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), ‘Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?’ Daniel replied, ‘No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you were lying in bed are these:’” (Dan. 2:24-28)
Daniel, here, responded to the king in a way that builds relationships. Even though these wise men magicians and astrologers were not believers, he prevented them from being beheaded that day. He dealt with the unbelieving king in a way that was honoring and wise. The best thing is that throughout these readings, we find that when we get before God in praise and prayer, the burden is no longer ours, God does all the heavy lifting. Daniel was able to do all this because of his tact and wisdom derived through his spiritual disciplines from the days of his basic training as he worshipped, and was faithful in his relationship with God.
Sometimes we forget that all that God has given to us is not meant to just stay with us, it’s meant to be shared with the world around us. We all love going to church as an assembly but what if Daniel just kept everything within himself and asked, “Why should I share it with these unbelievers?” Daniel went on to explain the dream but he related it back to the fact that the interpretation came to him through the God in Heaven and it touched the Babylon king. It would not have happened if Daniel wasn’t relevant in his relationships with others.
We’re not guaranteed tomorrow, all we have is the next few moments. So make sure that if these are your last words, that others know how much you care for them. When we take what it is that God has given us and we bring it out to the world around us, we discover that this is exactly what the world is longing for. Daniel didn’t keep it to himself and the king of Babylon himself started praising God saying, “Daniel’s God is the One True God and let us all serve Him”.
These are the basic steps to help us to grow out of the baby stages of milk and into the grinding of Kalbi or meat in general as we grow into the adulthood of praise, honor and worship of our one True God.
1) What can you thank God for right now?
2) What do you need direction or insight on right now?
3) What basic training principle do you need to learn more of in your spiritual disciplines?
4) How can you better your relationships with others? With small groups?
5) How can you improve praying with or for others?