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February 18, 2019, 8:00 AM

An Intentional Life


           During our time in this series we’ve covered a couple of words that I believe are vital to every believer and specifically to us here as part of this body of Christ – transparency and accountability. Now I’m going to throw one more word into the mix; that’s intentional. You see a true follower of Jesus displays certain spiritual disciplines in their life that require obedience. We’re going to mention those disciplines today but, only a mention, because they’ll be the subject of another series. But all of them require an intentional desire to live a life that is obedient to God.

You see – You cannot drift into obedience. You must be intentional.

 

Our Scripture today is Daniel 1:8-22. I think most of us here are familiar with the prophet Daniel and his story. But just a little here for context. Israel had been taken into captivity by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Daniel was given a position of influence in the kingdom. Eventually the King died and Darius took the throne and he befriended Daniel.

 

But there were men who were jealous of Daniel’s influence and position. So they conspired against him and convinced King Darius to make a law that the people could only worship the king and no other person or god - ‘knowing’ Daniel’s prayer habits. The punishment for disobedience of this law was to be thrown into a den of lions. But Daniel “resolved” to pray as he always had to the God of Israel. So those wicked men had Daniel arrested and Daniel had to be punished.

 

King Darius fought the law on Daniel’s behalf, but he couldn’t change the outcome. Daniel was cast into a den of lions. But instead of being their dinner, he was protected that night by an angel who held the mouths of the lions shut. The next morning the king shouted down to Daniel and he was relieved to hear his voice call back. Daniel was brought out of the pit and the men who plotted against him were fed to the lions. The Bible says that their bodies never even reached the ground before the lions had devoured them.

 

Well our Scripture is in the early part of Daniel’s time as a captive, but what I hope you all draw from this is Daniel’s consistency. In our story Daniel would not stop praying just because some manmade law said he had to. And we’ll see that same character in our Scripture. Daniel lived a life that was intentional. I used the word resolved just a minute ago. You’ll hear it again in our Scripture. That word sums up so well exactly what it takes to live intentionally; to live a life that’s disciplined and obedient. It takes resolve.

 

So in the 7 verses leading into our Scripture, Israel, Daniel included, is taken into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon. The king selects certain individuals to be educated and fed a daily portion of the same food and wine that he ate so they would better serve in his kingdom. Daniel was one of these. But here’s the first time Daniel draws the line and shows his devotion to God. Daniel 1:8-22.

But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king's food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel,

“I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.”

Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink.

Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king's food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.”

So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king's food. So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.

As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.

And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.

 

You hear that word RESOLVE again. Daniel made up his mind that he was not going to be defiled by the royal food. You see I believe Daniel found strength in God and obedience through the law, including the dietary laws of the Old Testament. Now I’m not sure why he denied himself wine because it wasn’t restricted. But I believe he also stood his ground because he would not be seen as gluttonous when others of his nation were oppressed and hungry.

 

But whatever the reason, we can be assured it was rooted in his godliness and his integrity would not let allow him to bend – even at the risk of punishment or even death. Just like he would do later with prayer, He stood his ground and remained committed to his god-led principles. This is a life that’s intentional, disciplined and truly committed to the Lord. Consistent in his principles, because he’s living for God’s approval not for man’s.

 

You all know that I’ve asked for a few personal friends now to be put on the prayer list, seems like mostly for cancer. Such a horrible, twisted disease, and even though statics say people with cancer are now living longer, it’s about the quality of life and it actually seems to me like it’s on the rise, but maybe it’s just the older I get the more I’m surrounded by it. I don’t know, but no matter – it’s painful on the victim and everybody involved.

But when I started thinking about today’s message, one of my friends just really stood out as what an intentional life looks like. I asked him if I could share this story. Now I haven’t known Gary Meadows my entire life, so I can’t say that he has always walked a godly path. In fact, I’ve got a feeling he had a pretty rough life when he was younger. But I do know he lost a son at infancy and that always changes us.

 

I got to know Gary through my soccer world; coached two of his daughters for a year. Both really good players and both went on to play at the college level. Big guy with a big heart and a big booming voice. I know because I could hear him clearly all the way across the soccer field. I can’t speak to how long he’s been a believer; but I can speak to his godliness today and the power of His follow in Jesus Christ.

 

Gary has leukemia; diagnosed just a few months ago. They are doing everything they can to battle it. And I’m not saying he’s losing the battle, because ultimately he’s going to be healed whether here it’s on this earth or when he reaches heaven. And he knows that. His victory is in Christ. But the thing I’ve seen in him is a strength that can only come from a genuine faith in God. His life today is built around Phil 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

 

That’s what intentional looks like. Knowing that Christ our is rock; our cornerstone; our salvation and our eternity. Living to serve Him and glorify Him, not ourselves. It’s never about us. It’s always about Him.

 

Every morning Gary offers up a prayer on Facebook. Every morning. It’s never a prayer of self pity; God why me…? Or a prayer of complaint or even one that says God please fix this. Nothing like that. It’s always a prayer that glorifies God, a prayer of praise and thanks for another day. You know we take so much for granted. We just move from one day to the next without realizing what we have, what we’ve got right in front of us – until it’s taken away.

 

Every day is a gift and in Gary’s world that’s his reality. I’m going to share a prayer he lifted up a couple days ago. I think he must’ve just read Psalm 139.

“Dear Lord, Thank you for another day of precious life. Lord, you know me inside and out. You know about my disease and my wavering distress, you understand my fears. At the cross you endured unabating agony. You have gone before me into the darkness and emerged in power and glory. I lean on you Lord. I draw my strength from your endless love for me. I live in your limitless grace. My trust is in you Lord. In Jesus precious name, Amen.”

 

I pray that if I someday face a similar battle that I can find that kind of courage and strength. Now I try to encourage him from time to time and that day I wrote him and said, Gary, thank you for keeping us ALL focused on what’s truly important…our relationship with God. Life is a gift. How often we take that for granted. Every moment is to be treasured and used for His purposes. We are servants in His kingdom. You are a good man, gifted by God to share His message and your words and your life are greatly impacting his kingdom. God bless.

 

Well Gary and I have talked since then and when he gets out of the hospital he may very well come visit the little church in Abilene that’s been praying for him. Hope. You hear hope in those words. Something else to move forward for. That’s what we all live for. Hope for something better. And real hope is only in the Lord. And to earnestly reach for that hope can only come through a life that’s lived intentionally in Christ. A life that’s obedient. I’m going to say it again. We cannot drift into obedience.

 

It’s not easy to live an intentional life. It takes discipline and a desire for Jesus that goes way beyond anything this earth can conquer. So what does that look like? Well, it looks like Daniel in our Scripture who was resolved to live a godly life despite material pressures. It looks like Paul, who lived a life that was on fire for Jesus and endured intense persecution in His name. It looks like Gary, who wakes up every morning with a renewed appreciation for life.

 

We mentioned earlier about the Spiritual disciplines. Donald Whitney, a professor at Southern Baptist Seminary points out ten Spiritual disciplines. First are Bible intake or study of the Scriptures and Prayer. And it’s no coincidence these two are at the top of the list. We talk about the importance of these all the time. Why? Because they are the foundation of Christ’s church. God reveals himself through Scripture and prayer is our line of communication to Him that must always be open.

 

Then Whitney points to worship and evangelism, which I think should really be seen as discipleship – huge difference between the two. Evangelism sows the seeds of the gospel. Discipleship is about the walk.

Telling someone about Christ and then walking away… well, that leaves them to their own devices and Satan preys on that. Discipleship is about an intentional walk with the new believer to help them grow in their relationship with Christ. Then there’s serving, stewardship, fasting, silence or solitude, journaling and learning.

 

Without breaking down this list, let’s try to understand this idea of discipline with a story. Let’s say when Stan was a kid, his parents wanted him to learn to play the guitar. So he’d go home every day after school and his mom would make him practice for an hour and he did, reluctantly, while his buddies were out playing baseball or Atari, what he really wanted to be doing. So he half-heartedly strums until he’s finished, just so he can get outside. Now that’s not discipline. That’s drudgery.

 

But let’s say Stan’s visited by an angel one afternoon while he’s practicing and in a vision he sees himself at Carnegie Hall giving a concert. His fingers flying over the frets, making beautiful music, with an orchestra backing him up. Wow… that’s me Stan thinks! Then suddenly he’s back in his room holding his guitar with his stubby, clunky little fingers trying to pick out chords and scales. But the difference now is Stan knows what he can become. Do you think maybe he’s going to be a bit more intentional with his playing? Discipline himself so he can achieve that vision of Carnegie Hall?

 

But you see that’s exactly where we are in our faith. We’re clunky and awkward and we mess up all the time, but because of our faith we know what’s waiting for us at the end. We “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:14).”

How do you approach those disciplines we laid out earlier? Are they a drudgery or do you see the goal, what God has in store for you and live your life with the end in mind? Ask yourself that question. Do I live my life with the end in mind? That’s what goals are all about. That’s what Paul meant in his words to the Philippians. Live your life with the end in mind. I guarantee if you start to live that way, you’ll have a whole new perspective and begin to do life differently.


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