Once, while visiting a friend, I was in his kitchen and saw a little postcard taped to the refrigerator door. It read: "Remember, God has something up his sleeve besides his everlasting arm."
That is good advice, and we should remember those words whenever we are under pressure, under threat, or under stress. No matter how bleak our situation, God always has something up his sleeve. He always has a plan and a purpose for our lives-and for the ages. His plan covers every detail, every need, every problem of your life.
Now, that doesn't mean that you and I will necessarily understand his plan in our lifetime. We could not begin to comprehend his Master Blueprint for the universe or for our individual lives. Our minds are finite and his is infinite. For reasons that are often baffling to us, God sometimes allows us to go through intense pressure and trouble. We all experience good times and bad times in varying proportions. No one understood this principle better than this faithful prophet of the Old Testament.
In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim, 605 BC, the Babylonian army rumbled like a juggernaut across the land of Israel, destroying Jerusalem and laying waste the villages and the countryside. Daniel and his people were captured and led away in chains into captivity in Babylon. There Daniel was educated in the philosophies and pagan ideas of Babylon.
Though Daniel was taught these alien and ungodly ways, he never embraced them or converted to them. He remained true to the God of Israel in his heart. Because Daniel embraced the true wisdom of his God, his reputation grew and he became a prominent advisor in the royal court of Babylon. He was one of the bright, rising stars of Israel who served in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. There, he experienced the fullness of God's purpose for his life.
Even though Daniel experienced suffering, anxiety, humiliation, and persecution as a captive of the Babylonians, God had a plan for Daniel's life. It was not a backup plan. God did not have to shift from Plan A to Plan B because of unexpected circumstances. The Babylonian invasion did not come as a surprise to God. All the events of Daniel's life were accounted for by God, and he worked all of those events together in Daniel's life to accomplish his positive purpose in a negative world. God had a plan to use Daniel as a strong witness for his truth and a strong encouragement for his people, even though they were exiles in a heathen land.
A Limitless God
Here is the beginning of Daniel's story:
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king's palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego (Daniel 1:1-7).
God provided for Daniel in exile. He placed Daniel in the king's most elite training and education program. He arranged for a mentoring relationship between Daniel and one of the king's most trusted aides. And Daniel remained faithful to the God of Israel. So, in verse 9, we see that God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs. God elevated Daniel to a position of far-reaching impact and influence. Not only did Daniel's influence affect the king, and through the king the entire kingdom of Babylon, but his influence has echoed down through the ages, affecting millions of believers, including you and me.
Daniel is a role model, an example to us of the power of one person to make a difference. His story speaks to us across the ages and reminds us of what God is able to do through the life of one yielded, faithful servant. As we witness the life of this committed young man, let's open our minds and hearts to believe that God can do anything-absolutely anything!-through our lives as well.
One of the key lessons of Daniel's life is that God is with us in times of trial, persecution, and temptation. We can always count on God to have a plan and a purpose for the difficult circumstances we face. His purposes are ultimately for eternal good.
God's power is never wasted. God's plan is never thwarted. Everything he does is focused on a purpose-and his purposes are not bound to any finite time or fixed place. God's purposes are for eternity. No matter what happens to you, if you will stand firm on God's principles as Daniel did, if you will trust God to work in you and through you and around you as Daniel did, you can have 100 percent confidence that what God has planned for your life will have an eternal impact.
This is great news! It means that when you and God lock arms-your finite, earthly arms linked with his infinite, everlasting arms-you cannot fail. You will have an impact on your world. You will have an impact on eternity. Every act of kindness you perform, every word of blessing you speak, every stand you take for truth and righteousness, and every godly relationship you maintain becomes a building block God uses to construct his kingdom.
In this life, you may experience what looks like a setback, a failure, the end of everything-but God has something up his sleeve. You may be surprised by the events of this life, but nothing surprises him. So take heart. You are never alone. Your faithfulness and willingness to stand against pressure and persecution will not go unnoticed. You are connected to a limitless God. The power he makes available to you is as unlimited as God himself.
Like Daniel, believers today live in a culture that is hostile to biblical values. It takes great courage and faith to live as followers of Christ in a post-Christian world characterized by moral depravity, injustice, idolatry, and more. In Leading the Way Through Daniel, Michael Youssef passionately shows readers that the resources Daniel relied on are equally available to them.