Learning Jesus (3)
And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm. Daniel 1.20
Learning to please the Lord
Daniel and his friends provide an excellent example of learning with a proper focus, and for the purpose of serving God and others. This was a considerable challenge for these young Hebrews.
As Daniel and his friends took up the challenge of King Nebuchadnezzar to study and prepare for service in the royal court, it’s clear they were determined not to make the mistake of Solomon.
They would enter the king’s curriculum, but only on God’s terms, not Nebuchadnezzar’s. Daniel persuaded the man in charge of their preparation to allow them to make certain adjustments in the curriculum. They would not compromise their focus on the Lord by indulging in the king’s cuisine. They knew what Ezekiel, their contemporary, had taught about the diet they were to follow while in exile (Ezek. 4.9-13), and they determined to stay on the path with the Lord, rather than stray into the swamp of self which had mired Solomon all those years before.
Daniel and his friends were being placed into a new social and cultural arena, removed from their familiar Hebrew surroundings, and inserted into the royal court of Babylon. The change of context meant that Daniel and his friends would have to learn some new things – language, literature, history, culture, protocols of court, and more.
This was no weekend seminar.
But these young men sensed an opportunity to serve the Lord and, though they must have found a good bit of their learning to be a burdensome task, they determined to keep their studies and preparation within the framework of God’s overarching will for His people, and they did not hesitate to press ahead.
Further, they may have known of Jeremiah’s instruction to settle down, settle in, and seek the shalom of their captors (Jer. 29.7ff). We know that Daniel possessed a scroll of the book of Jeremiah later in life (cf. Dan. 9.1, 2). Is it possible he had heard his preaching, or seen his book even at this early age? For Daniel must have sensed in the king’s offer an opportunity not only to serve the royal court of Babylon, but to bring the shalom of God to His enemies, with who knows what kind of consequences.
Thus anchored in the Word of God, Daniel and his friends were ready for whatever learning the Lord required of them to fulfill the mission to which He was sending them. This is what all disciples of Christ are called to do.
Ten times better
Thus Daniel and his friends accepted the king’s challenge and devoted themselves to learning everything they could about their new context and calling, at all times throughout the course of their studies, keeping their eyes on the Lord. At the end of the course, they proved to outshine all the other students, and all the other graduates of the king’s program from previous classes. Daniel and his friends were “ten times better” than everyone else in the capital, even those who had been serving the king for many years.
We know how the story of Daniel works out. He continued to be advanced because of the skill and wisdom he demonstrated at each level of service. At the same time, Daniel did not hesitate to bear witness to his God and to explain that the things he knew and did and taught were because of his devotion to the God of heaven and earth.
Daniel provides an excellent example of how we can expect devotion to learning, pursued unto the Lord, to cause the Kingdom of God to advance in us and through our efforts.
Excellence in all things
The apostle Paul exhorted the people of Thessalonica to press on for greater excellence as disciples – learners – of Jesus Christ. They were growing as witnesses for the Lord and teaching and encouraging one another during a difficult time of trial. Their faith, learning, and example were known and admired throughout the Christian world of the day (1 Thess. 1.8).
But Paul did not want them to rest on their achievements. He exhorted them to “abound more and more” and to “increase more and more” (1 Thess. 4.1, 10) in such works of love, so that their wisdom and witness would have even more powerful effects.
They had proven to be true disciples of Jesus, devoted to learning Him and making Him known. But they needed to stay the course of such sound learning, and to increase in good works “more and more.” It’s not a stretch to think that Paul might have been thinking of Daniel and his friends as he encouraged these faithful disciples to keep growing in the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are called to be diligent in seeking wisdom from God through a lifelong course of discipleship and learning. To follow Jesus as disciples, we must be devoted to learning, beginning with the milk and solid food of the Word of God, and from that platform, everything we need to fulfill our individual callings from the Lord. In every subject, for every skill, we must strive for excellence, to be “ten times better” than everyone in our Personal Mission Field – not to vaunt or indulge ourselves, like Solomon, but to serve others and give faithful and consistent witness to our Lord.
This is the standard God holds out for those He uses to advance His Kingdom.
1. What is excellence? Why does it make sense for followers of Jesus to pursue excellence in all things?
2. What are some things you might do to increase and abound in excellence in your calling from the Lord?
3. What obstacles can keep you from pursuing excellence?
Next steps – Preparation: What are some areas of your life which, if you could improve by learning, might open doors of opportunity to bear witness to the Lord?
T. M. Moore
You can download all the studies in this series, “Disciples Making Disciples,” by clicking here.
Know, Love, Serve
The great thing about following Jesus is the more we learn of Him, the more we love Him; and the more we love Him, the more we will serve Him in every aspect of our lives. This is the argument of our book, Know, Love, Serve. A free copy is waiting for you by clicking here.
Don’t forget to visit our free Personal Mission Field Workshop for this month (click here).
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.