We can probably all think of several people throughout the Bible that we consider leaders. Some were more effective than others, and I believe we can learn something from each of them.
Daniel has been the subject of many Sunday school lessons throughout my life. I learned about his friends Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego and their close encounter with God in the fiery furnace. Who could forget the story of Daniel and the lion's den? I figured I knew the basics of who Daniel was. However, once I started really studying the book of Daniel, I realized that there was so much more to be learned from this leader.
I was struck by several characteristics of Daniel, as well as a type of "cause-and-effect" relationship he had with God. We first come across Daniel when he is between 14 and 17 years old. He and other Israelite boys are brought to King Nebuchadnezzar's palace to basically be brain-washed in the ways of the Babylonians. This is where Daniel starts to stand out. I want to share some things that make Daniel a great leadership example.
- He held fast to his beliefs even when it meant losing his standing
- In 1:8-16, Daniel refused to defile himself by eating the food provided by the king. This pagan food would have been provided as an honor to the multiple gods of the kingdom. Even though Daniel's action went against the king's command, he kept his allegiance to God.
- As a result of Daniel's faithfulness, God granted him favor in the sight of the chief eunuch. He was provided proper food and was healthier than those who ate the King's food.
- He was equipped for his calling
- In 1:17, we see that God gave Daniel, Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego "learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams."
- God had equipped these young men to fulfill his calling on their lives
- He does the same thing for us!
- He used good judgement when he spoke, even in the midst of a crisis
- In 2:12-16, we see that the King is very angry when none of his magicians, enchanters, or socercers could interpret his dream. He is so angry that he orders all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed (Pretty much he wanted to kill all the smart guys). The king's men are coming after Daniel and his friends with the intent of killing them. Daniel spoke with "prudence and discretion" to the captain of the king's guard. I don't know about you, but prudence (the ability to discipline oneself by the use of reason) and discretion (showing good judgement, the ability to make responsible decisions) would probably not be my first reaction when somebody showed up to kill me!
- Sure enough, Daniel keeps his cool and requests to see the king so that he may interpret his dream (remember how God had gifted Daniel back in chapter 1?)
- He gave God the glory and remained humble
- In preparing to go before the king, Daniel enlists the help of his friends by asking them to "seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery"
- When God reveals the dream's interpretation to Daniel, he "blessed the God of heaven." Check out Daniel's praise in 2:20-23, it is a good summary of the theme of the book of Daniel
- When Daniel interprets the dream, the king is amazed. Daniel remains humble and tells the king that the mystery has been revealed to him "not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king."
- Daniel had an "excellent spirit"
- In chapter 6, Daniel was over 80 years old, and had become the favorite of the King (now King Darius by the way). Daniel had become an excellent leader and was known for his wisdom, ability, attitude, and good reputation
- Interestingly, it's at this point that people begin plotting against Daniel and he is thrown into the lion's den. In the quick fall from prominence to being left for dead, Daniel holds strong to God. God honors his faithfulness again by sending an angel to the lion's den and protecting him through this trial.
- Daniel sought God through prayer
- Chapter 9 is probably my favorite part of the book of Daniel.
- Daniel fervently prayed for God's mercy. There are several beautiful sections of scripture that reflect Daniel's obedience and faith
- Once again, God is faithful and sends the angel Gabriel to speak to Daniel and give him understanding
Fascinating, right? There are so many qualities of Daniel that I strive for. I believe the world is desperate for leaders who will emulate all of these things. I feel a bit like Daniel in chapter 1. I have no idea what God is preparing me for or what he wants to do through me, but I hope to react like Daniel and hold fast to my faith and believe what God tells me. The same God that guided Daniel is still guiding us.