Recently Kristen, my wife, experienced a major triumph over someone who was criticizing her. Unfortunately for me, I was that someone. You see every time we moved, Kristen decided that we were going to have a garage sale and I was completely opposed to the idea. To me it's a lot of work for not much rewards. I had helped her with all the past garage sales, but this time I said, "Forget it. I'm just not going to help." Now, you must understand that we had had three garage sales in the past that were highly unsuccessful. The first one: we only made a few dollars. The second one: it rained cat's and dogs and we made enough to eat at Taco Bell. The third one: we made enough to go to Olive Garden. I was sick and tired of going through all that work for nothing. So I was going on strike. If she wanted a garage sale, she could do it by herself. And, being the determined person that she is she decided to do just that. So I started to tease her. Especially when I discovered the mistakes she was making in getting ready. I mean, she was actually going to have her garage sale . . . in the garage! Which, would be expected except our garage was detached and faced an alley! Everybody knows that you need to put your stuff out in your driveway so people can see your junk and be tempted to stop. Plus, she wanted to have it during the wrong season. In Maryland people do these sales in the spring. She started to lose faith. She admitted the night before, "I don't know if I'm going to do this. I just don't know." Then I finally admitted, "Yes I will help you."
Well, Sunday morning finally arrived and I slept in. When I got up and went downstairs to feed the kids, I heard a sound that struck terror to my heart. It was the sound of voices in my garage that I did not recognize. I knew at that moment that I had lost. Kristen was out early putting up her signs and arranging her merchandise. And at that moment I knew that Kristen was going to win. An hour later my wife and I and her cousin (who was visiting) could not keep up with all of the customers in our garage! People were asking questions, needing change and help carrying stuff to their cars. Then someone asked if our house was for sale. We haven't been able to sell our house for months! We were hardly getting a showing a week. And they asked to see the place. As I showed it they just kept exclaiming about what a wonderful place we had and how much they were interested. When I brought them back someone else wanted to see the house and he was even MORE interested. Finally when there was a moment to breathe, Kristen turned to me with such a cute smile.
Our topic today is how to triumph over your critics. Or, for the kids, how to shut down the meanie or the bully. We're going to look at the story of Daniel in the lion's den to see how we can do this. If you want to follow along in your Bibles, please open to Daniel 6.
They had gathered together for one purpose: to destroy a man. Daniel had become like a festering sore on the skin. They couldn't stand to have him around any longer. First of all, he was a captive. Actually, he was a captive of the captives. He had been captured by the Babylonians and had served in their courts. And their armies had taken over Babylon and they were the rulers. It was shameful to even think that he could be such a prominent ruler in the kingdom. Besides that, Daniel was such a goody-two-shoes! Here he was, surrounded by politicians. Most of them had gotten where they were through bribery, deception and even murder. So now, when they tried to use these usual tools-of-the-trade, Daniel refused to go along. And he was too powerful to ignore. Plus, his purity was a rebuke to them.
But this was not the worst part. Daniel claimed to serve a higher God than theirs. He even claimed that his God was higher than the king and the king's God. What blasphemy. And yet the king didn't seem to mind. He even acted as if he admired Daniel. This was so humiliating. The fact that Daniel's people were a downtrodden, captive race meant one thing: It meant that their gods were weaker than the God's of their captors.1 Which meant that Daniel's gods were doubly weak. Their god's had been overthrown by the Babylonian God's which had been done in by the Median and Persian Gods. And yet, he was so successful! They couldn't imagine that someone could be so successful and have such a defeated God.
On top of all this, the king was about to make Daniel the Prime Minister. Previously Daniel had been one of three equal governors. These, in turn, had overseen 120 minor rulers or Satraps as they were called. But now Daniel would be the chief officer of the kingdom. This would not be tolerated.
So, all 122 of them had gathered in an abandoned hall and to find something to with which to destroy Daniel. But, in Daniel 6:4 it says "but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him.
And this brings us to the first thing that can help us triumph over our critics. You see, Daniel didn't give his critics anything worth criticizing. Don't give your critics something to criticize. Kid's, don't give the meanie a reason to be mean. Live a life that is beyond reproach.
Is your husband getting on your case? Is your boss breathing down your throat? Is your sister always telling you to "stop it"? Check yourself first. Ask, "What am I doing to contribute to this?" Even when they are handling it wrong, see if there isn't some truth to their words. On the web I found a site that has some pretty good advice for dealing with your critics. It's put up by a man by the name of Chuck Gallozzi. He says that when you are criticized you should "Try to use this as an opportunity to grow. Remember, you are imperfect and others may see your flaws more clearly."2
As a Pastor, I think I can safely say I have had my share of criticism. And I have found this principle to be painfully true. I have rarely been criticized when I didn't find some truth to what they were saying. Of course, that just makes it even more painful. But hey, no pain no gain, right?
And this brings us to the question of what if we haven't been like Daniel? How can we face our critics then? I had a former conference president in one of my churches say, "David, you can always say you're sorry." He said, "So many times people have come to me with complaints and I just say, 'I'm sorry,'" and what else can they say? In following his advice I have found that "sorry" goes a long way with people and I believe with God as well.
Imagine those men, all dressed in their finery, pressed close together around the scrolls or clay tablets. All of them trying to find something wrong. The hall echoes as the various committees question and murmur and discuss the life of the man they hated so much. Hadn't he done anything wrong? Wasn't there a time when he had fudged the books, or taken a bribe or abused his power? No.
"Then these men said, 'We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.'"(Daniel 6:5) The only way to get Daniel was to make him choose between the law of God and the law of men.
You know, someday you and I may face this kind of test. We may be forced to face the worst critics of our lives. And we too may be forced to choose between the law of God and man. I recommend to you this story. If you want to learn how to survive that time of trouble, follow in Daniel's footsteps.
Agreeing upon their plan, all one hundred twenty-two of the governors and their attendants thronged before the king and said, "King Darius live forever! All the governors of the kingdom, the administrators and satraps, the counselors and advisors, have consulted together to establish a royal statute and to make a firm decree, that whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions." (Dan. 6:7)
And the king, so new to the throne, was overcome by the flattery and agreed to sign that fateful law.
The Bible says in Daniel 6:10 that . . . when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.
And this leads us to the next aspect of dealing with the critic in your life. When Daniel was criticized he maintained his connection with God. If you want to put your critics to shame, keep close to God. If you want to triumph over your detractors, stay tight with God.
This was especially important in Daniel's case. Because this was what the contest was all about. The wise men were trying to have their cake and eat it too. Either they would force Daniel to turn from his God, or they would have him killed. Either way, he would no longer be a threat to them.
Daniel knew he would give his enemies a great victory if he gave up on God. He knew that hope was based on nothing less than his God and His righteousness.
When I was a student missionary on the island of Pohnpei, I dealt with criticism in a very personal way. It seemed that everyone around me was criticizing each other and me. The Pastor criticized the principal, the principal criticized the pastor, the other student missionaries criticized me. At one point I was so discouraged I just wanted to quit the mission, my walk with God and the church. But then I started looking forward to the time of trouble. I realized that no matter what side I was on I was facing some terrible times. So, if it was going to be bad either way, I realized, I might as well go through it with God. It would be so much more tolerable and what a victory at the end! I especially determined to maintain my daily devotional life. That year, God worked some serious miracles. He removed some of my biggest critics and helped me to become close friends with the others. Since then I can say, oh, what amazing things God has done for me! Certainly I have failed him many times. And yet he has always picked me up. And how many victories he has helped me win. How many critics he has helped me handle! Yes, it's safest to stick with God when you are facing critics.
Let me read the beginning of Daniel 6:10 again. Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed . . .
Do you get the feeling that Daniel knew that the bill was in the works and that it had gone before the king? It makes sense. I can't imagine that this could have been kept a secret that easily. What does this mean? It means that Daniel made no protest. If that law was being made and I realized that my life was in danger, you bet I would be in before the king telling him what I thought! But not Daniel. He just calmly went about his duties and when the law was signed he went home to pray.
This brings us to our third way of putting our critics to shame. Daniel let God deal with his critics. He didn't take things into his own hands. If you want to put your critics to shame, put things in God's hands. If you want to triumph over your enemies, let God deal with them.
Not only does Daniel not protest to the king, but even after he is rescued, he does not seek revenge. He let's God take care of matters. "Vengeance is mine says the Lord, I will repay (Deuteronomy 32:35). And boy does He in this story.
Recently I had the dubious privilege of serving on a personnel committee of a certain nameless institution. One day I received a call from a friend of mine who worked at this place. This person informed me that their boss had just quit and that he wanted the job. For the next half hour I listened to a tirade against the previous administrator and against others on personnel that would certainly try to keep this person from the job. I found out later that this person had called other members of the committee. You need to know that this person did not get the job. When dealing with critics, it's best to put things in God's hands.
Here again, Daniel stands in shining contrast to his contemporaries. He refused to protest an evil deed. They protest a righteous man. He seeks no revenge, they seek vengeance for no good reason.
As Daniel slipped to the glazed tile floor of his upper room, a delegation from the "committee" watched. What fools they are willing to make of themselves. Can't you just imagine what the kids in the street must have thought? "Hey! What's prince Madai doing in that fountain behind the statue? Look! His robes are all wet."
"Sssh! Quiet child! I'm on important business."
"Hey look, there's Governor Parsin in the plants on that balcony! It looks like his robe is caught in the thorns!" It must have seemed funny at first. But then they just stayed there. All day.3 Hour after hour. I can just see the adults starting to peek out to see the show.
"And can you believe that they have been there since early this morning? The sun is about to set. Why are they so interested in Daniel today?
"They must have something up their sleeves."
Finally, after witnessing Daniel pray his normal three times a day, the princes departed satisfied. They knew they had their man. The next morning they would bring the news to the king.
When Darius realized that he had been had he was very displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him; and he labored till the going down of the sun to deliver him. (Daniel 6:14)
All day long Darius struggled to save Daniel. How could he have been so stupid? He must find a loophole in the law. Finally all of the governors and satraps gathered around the kind and said, "Know, O king that it is the law of the Medes and Persians that no decree or statute which the king establishes may be changed." (Daniel 6:15)
I can just imagine the king, slouched in his throne, defeated. He dropped his scepter to the brick floor and moaned, "Bring him." He nods to his guard.
As the sun set behind the Babylonian skyline, a strange procession is seen winding it's way out of the city. Median governors and Persian satraps dressed in the finest robes and march through the streets. In front of the procession guards lead an old man who seems more noble than the rest. More noble than the awkward king walking behind him.
When they reach the pit, the guards carefully roll the stone away. Looking down they check to make sure the lions are good and hungry. Then they wait for the king's command. He nods. With tears in their eyes they lift their old friend over the hole and pause. I can imagine them taking one last look at the king.
Weeping, Darius steps forward and grabs Daniel by the arm. "Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you." (Daniel 6:16) To Daniel's enemies it sounds like the king is just in denial. That's the only hope he has of Daniel being rescued.
Carefully the lower the old man, so as to let him fall as short a distance as possible. Then they let go and down, down, down he tumbles and out of sight. The stone is rolled back over the den and then the king does an interesting thing. He seals the den with his own signet and with those of the governors. If Daniel is rescued, the king could not be accused of helping him.
Slowly the king turns away with governors dispersing back to their homes. I can just picture the last governor to leave. He's thinking hard about what he has done. Was this really the best way? Was this too much of a risk. And then, perhaps, he hears a sound from inside the den. A sound that sends shivers down his spine. It goes something like this: "here kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty."
So what was wrong with those hundred twenty-two administrators? What was the root of their problem? And why did Daniel shine so brightly in contrast? You see, those governors were not loyal subjects of the king. They had only one king. Themselves. And that was why they must have hated Daniel. Because Daniel dared to impose another king on them. And they would not have this man to rule over them.
Even Darius succumbed to this temptation. He made himself his own king when he signed that law. And Darius should have known better. Because he was not the highest king around. History tells us that Darius was placed as king of Babylon by Cyrus the emperor of Persia. Darius' law was foolish! What about Cyrus? Couldn't people petition him? If Cyrus had been offended Darius **have jeopardized the alliance between the Medes and Persians. He could have jeopardized his own life. Ultimately, though, there was a higher god that Darius had insulted.
And that was what set Daniel apart from those around him. He worshiped the highest king. The high king of heaven. And with his help, he would triumph over any other false king. Yes, if you want to triumph over your critics, worship the true king. That's my main point. Worship the true king and you'll put your critics to shame. Worship the true king and you will be victorious.
There were many restless people in Babylon that night. The king is fasting and agonizing over his decision. The governors and satraps are wondering if they have made a mistake. And the common people are wondering why this had to happen to such a beloved prince.
Finally, before the sun is even shining, the king and his attendants dress and head for the tomb. Darius is quite the spectacle. His braids are out of place, his beard is unkempt. He will soon see what became of his dear friend. As he approaches the den he breaks into a run. Breaking with all royal dignity he races to the tomb. Behind him are curious onlookers and administrators. The latter as anxious as the king to know the fate of Daniel.
The seals are broken and the stone is rolled away.
Does this remind you of anything. How similar to another stone and broken seal and another hole in the ground. Yes, Daniel is a symbol of Christ in this story. Just like Daniel, Christ is hated for his goodness. Just like Daniel Christ was brought to judgment. Just like Daniel, his enemies resort to deception to destroy him. And on and on. Finally, there is the captive set free. Except God's son had higher purpose. He was thrown in the pit so we wouldn't have to be. And he was set free so we could live. And He is the king that Daniel worships. He is the one who made Daniel triumph. And his the one that will make us victorious over our enemies as well.
Daniel 6:20: And when he came to the den he cried out with a lamenting voice to Daniel. The king spoke, saying to Daniel, "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?
The king peers into the dark hole. He can just barely make out some movement. Will Daniel answer? Then out of the dark echoes that familiar voice:
"O king live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also, O king , I have done no wrong before you." (Daniel 6:21-22)
The king leaps back and shouts to his guards, "He's alive! Get him out! Come on! Pull him up. Behind him the gathering governors are turning white. Could this be? When Daniel reaches the mouth of the pit the king practically knocks him back in with his hug. Then he stops to ask about the angel that Daniel saw. As they are talking, the satraps begin to remember some important duties they had to attend to.
"Oh, excuse me, I must go. I can't miss my appointment."
"Uh, Oh yes, pardon me too, I need to be going." Then the king turns with fire in his eyes. "Just a minute! Guards, seize them."
And the king gave the command and they brought those men who had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions-them, their children, and their wives; and the lions overpowered them, and broke all their bones in pieces before they ever came to the bottom of the den. (Daniel 6:24)
What a tragic end for those who rejected the King. Not only did they destroy themselves, they destroyed their loved ones as well. You know, it's not so different now. Those who choose to worship themselves and their interests find the same fate. How many broken and destroyed homes are there because of this today. Even more so in eternity. How many people will mourn the destruction of their children when they reach the final judgment? It's a dangerous thing to choose the wrong King. It's a dangerous thing to criticize God's man, God's Woman, God's child.
So which King do you serve? Which king do I serve Are we serving ourselves? I know we can all think of times when we have been like this. A good way to know is to see how critical you have become. Dr. Ray Pritchard in his book Why Did This Happen to Me says that when we put other things on God's throne it can lead to bitterness when things don't go our way. He says that this can lead us to be critical of others.5
Are you putting other things on God's throne?
Whatever it is, it may be turning you into a critic. Or you maybe the one criticized. If so, if you make God your king you will triumph.
Is it someone at work? People at church? Your family? Make God your king and he will vindicate you.
Back to the Garage sale. Do you want to know how much my wife made that day? One-hundred and thirty-six dollars! And we showed the house to two interested buyers. You should have seen her that day. She was so pretty as she turned to me after every customer and said, "sixty." "Eighty." "One-hundred." Then we would just laugh and laugh. Finally at the end I told her, "Kristen, I now promise to help you with any Garage sale you want to do." Then she got serious with me. She said, "David, you know, this morning I was really discouraged. I didn't want to do something dumb. So I prayed to God that he would bless my effort and that I wouldn't waste my time. And look how He answered." And it was then that I realized that God had made my wife triumph over me. And all I could do was laugh and praise Him.
God helped Kristen triumph over me, He helped Daniel put his critics to shame and through Jesus He wants to put your enemies to shame. Are you willing to make Him your true king?
1. See I Samuel 5 and Isaiah 36:18-20.
2. Chuck Gallozzi, Dealing with Criticism. http://www.personaldevelopment.com/chuck/criticism.htm
3. Ellen White, Prophets and Kings, p. 542.
4. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia http://bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/ISBE/ID/2531
5. Ray Pritchard, Why Did This Happen to Me?
Hymn of Praise: #2, All Creatures of Our God and King Scripture: Daniel 6:21-23 Hymn of Response: #83
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