Recently our Prime Minister reinstated imperial honours. People who are Knighted or Damed in Australia are now receiving the highest accolades that Australia offers. The world awards many prestigious honours, but none of them can compare with highest earthly honour: to have the Bible list you as one of the greatest people to have ever lived! And only three people have ever attained to this most prestigious honour.
What qualifies a person for the Biblical honour of "greatness"? And why haev so few people attained it? Since Biblical greatness is no longer attainable, does the Bible give principles for attaining regular greatness?
The Bible ranks Daniel as one of the three greatest men to have ever lived.
Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord GOD.
What made Daniel great?
you are indeed wiser than Daniel;
no secret is hidden from you;"
Daniel was taken from his home and family while a teen. As Judah's invaders, the Babylonians, first stormed Jerusalem, they looked for, and took, the brightest and the best to serve the King of Babylon. Daniel was selected. As a boy he was different. He had a keen sense of God. When parents taught him how to read, he listened attentively because this would enable him to know more about God through reading the Scriptures. From a young age, Daniel became a reader - in an age when most boys his age just wanted play games and fool around and didn't want to read. Daniel's parents showed their son that the Scriptures should be read often, privately, publicly, aloud, reflectively and especially prayerfully. Later, at an age into his eighties, the once boy Daniel maintained this habit and was able to prayerfully deliver his countrymen from their captivity in Babylon (cf. Dan. 9).
¶ 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.
Daniel's prayerful reading of Scripture as a teenager opened him up to supernatural experiences with God. Not only was Daniel well read on matters of science, philosophy, and politics (as we note in Daniel chapters 1 and 2), he was firstly a reader of Scripture. But he quickly became Scripturally spiritual as well. That is, as he prayed to God in response to the Scriptures he was reading his spiritual discernment (his spiritual "ears") became sharper. Thus, we read of him hearing from God in extraordinary ways and able to prophesy God's Word with startling accuracy. What makes this all the more remarkable is that Daniel did this with little to no support - and in fact, often had to maintain such high spiritual disciplines in the midst of hostile opposition.
Few of us will ever face the opposition that Daniel had to face in his lifetime. He had an entire government adminstration passing legislation directed at indicting him with criminality (remember the 'Lions Den'?). Yet he maintained his happy devotion to God through Scripture reading and prayer! Daniel was horribly and repeatedly slandered. Most people who commit their lives to love and serve God will discover (initially to their surprise) that they will have others spread slanderous untruths spread about them. The Enemy often knows where we are vulnerable to hurt. Accuse a Bible teacher of lacking mercy and he will be put out - but accuse of being 'false' and 'lying' and you will be putting a virtual dagger into his heart. Accuse a pastor of being disorganised and he might be upset (he might even agree with you) but accuse him of not 'caring' or providing 'pastoral care' and you'll wound him deeply. Daniel was accused of disloyalty, treachery, and virtual witchcraft - you can begin to imagine how he must have felt in the midst of this slander (at least he could put faces to his slanderers. Today with the internet, slanderers can be 'faceless' - even on the ironically called: Facebook.)
Daniel displayed the traits of greatness from the earliest age. A simple trust in God. An undivided devotion to God. A commitment to be a daily reader of Sripture. A person of prayer. But many people start well. What sealed Daniel's greatness is that he finished well. As an old man he had a simple trust in God, an undivided devotion to God and a commitment to daily Scripture reading and prayer.
Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.
Added to this was Daniel's grand vision of what worship was. He saw not only these spiritual disciplines as worship. He saw his diet, his work, and his leisure as expressions of his worship. Thus, he strove for 'excellence' in everything he did, not to be merely 'professional', but to worship God.
¶ 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.Daniel 1:8
Where are the Daniels today? If you are a 'Daniel', we need you.
What lessons can we learn from Daniel? I personally find Daniel one of the most inspirational people the world has ever hosted. He is listed alongside Noah and Job as among the greatest men to have ever lived and rightfully so. The principles which governed his life and qualified him for greatness are still the same today. But I also wonder whether they are translatable to an entire church - a congregation of local believers? As I pondered this great question I was led to reflect on the church at Antioch. If ever a church exhibited the qualities that Daniel did, it was Antioch! In the church at Antioch we observe greatness. I'm sure if you ponder why the church at Antioch is honoured in the Book of Acts as the greatest local church in its day, you'll soon see that it is possible to reproduce it today. Surely Antioch was a "Daniel" type church and equally as surely we need more Daniels and more Antiochs today - for greatness' sake!
¶ Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.