From the Very First Day
Posted on 06/24/2007 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.
Good morning! I don't know what you came to do, but I came to praise the Lord!
How could I NOT praise him?
I remember a time when I was lost and without hope, and Jesus found me and gave me hope.
I remember a time when I was empty and alone, and Jesus filled my emptiness and is always with my by his Holy Spirit.
I remember a time when I was confused and afraid, and Jesus opened my eyes, guides me safely through every fork in the road, and his perfect love casts out my fears.
I remember a time when I thought I was in control and had things figured out, but I was really a slave to sin and was stumbling around in the darkness, and Jesus came and set me free to walk in liberty and light, causing old things to pass away and all things to become new, and giving me clarity for my present and clear direction for my future.
He gives me every breath I breath. It is his life that keeps my heart beating. It is his protection that has delivered me from dangers of which I don't even know. And it is his goodness and love that fills me with joy in the midst of despair, peace in the midst of turmoil, and light in the midst of the darkest night.
What has the Lord done for you?
Let's all stand to our feet and worship him together!
Lord God, we thank you for being so good and so faithful to us! Thank you for your amazing love you offer to each and every one of us. Thank you for the unimaginable price you paid by sending your only begotten son to take the blame for our sins and die in our place. And thank you Jesus for overcoming hell and death, and for making us heirs together with you of all the richness of the Kingdom of God.
We bring before you the requests of our brothers and sisters who have asked us to join in prayer with them.
We pray for Robin's three daughters, Rachel, Sarah, and Leah. We ask that you reveal yourself to them, and that you reveal to them the truth about the paths on which they are walking. Bring them to the end of themselves, and may they seek you with all that is in them. And we ask that you give Robin direction in employment. Open the doors to walk through, and shut the ones that aren't your will.
We pray for Ken and Tonya, that you work a miracle in their marriage. May Ken seek you like never before during this time, not only as the God who can work a miracle on his behalf, but also as the God who longs to have an intimate relationship with him as Ken's central desire.
We pray for CeeCee, that you would continue to provide, and that you would open doors of opportunity, along with wisdom and direction.
We pray for Ronny's many requests for his friends and loved ones. Continue to give him faith and love to keep on seeking you on their behalf. Work through him in a mighty way, bringing healing, restoration, and Salvation to everyone he meets.
And now Lord, pour out your Holy Spirit upon us as we gather together in your name. Draw us deeper into the throne room than we've ever been before, and may we be forever changed by the glorious presence of the Lord.
We ask these things in the name of Jesus.
Remain standing and follow along with the overhead or click-touch the pulpit for a notecard, as we continue our time of worship with song.
THERE IS A RIVER
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of our God
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of our God
So I will rejoice
I will rejoice
and be glad
There is a fountain full of grace and it flows from Emanual's veins
It came and it healed me
It came and refreshed me
It came and washed my sins away!
Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord
Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord
And he will lift you up
(higher and higher)
And he will lift you up
Cast all your cares upon the Lord
Cast all your cares upon the Lord
Because he cares for you
Because he cares for you
Thank you Jesus...
Lord I love you...
Christ is coming...
Thank you Lord for your presence here. Let's not rush out of this time of worship. Can you feel the presence of the Lord? He's here today to spend time with you.
Lord, let your Holy Spirit continue to minister to your people as we continue to minister to you by looking into your Word, for your Word is Life.
You may be seated.
Today's message is titled, "From the Very First Day." And today's passage is found in the book of Daniel, chapter seven. Daniel is seeking for wisdom, direction, understanding from God. He had matters on his mind that most of us never have to deal with.
Let's read this, from Daniel chapter one, beginning with verse one:
1 "In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a thing was revealed unto Daniel, whose name was called Belteshazzar; and the thing was true, but the time appointed was long: and he understood the thing, and had understanding of the vision.
2 "In those days, I Daniel was mourning three full weeks.
3 "I ate no pleasant bread, neither did I put meat nor wine into my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.
4 "And in the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river called Hiddekel;
5 "Then I lifted up my eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz:
6 "His body also was like beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet the color of polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.
7 "And I Daniel alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision; but they began to greatly shake, so that they fled to hide themselves.
8 "Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my countenance was like death, and all my strength was gone.
9 "Yet I heard the voice of his words, and when I heard the voice of his words, then I was in a deep sleep on my face, with my face toward the ground.
10 "And behold, a hand touched me, and set me upon my knees and upon the palms of my hands.
11 "And he said to me, 'O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand on your feet, for I have been sent to you.' And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood trembling.
12 "Then he said to me, Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day you set your heart to understand, and to humble and purify yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come because of your words."
Have you ever sought to understand something? Have you ever struggled with questions about issues in your life? Have you ever struggled to understand why things happen?
All too often, we become so "needy" for an answer, that we accept the first one that comes along and sounds good to us.
We don't wait for much in today's world.
If we need information, we turn on the computer, type our keywords, and in an instant we have access to a vast body of information.
If we're in a hurry and don't have time to cook breakfast, we grab something at the local McDonalds, or eat what pops up out of the toaster as we rush out the door.
If we become "bored," we turn on a television or video game for instant excitement and adventure.
If we want a relationship or romance, many of us have a relationship with someone of our own choosing, instead of waiting for the voice of God, and romance with someone to whom we are not married, instead of keeping ourselves completely pure in all ways until our romance is blessed by the hand of heaven as we are joined in holy matrimony.
If we want to get somewhere more quickly, we simply press harder on the gas petal in our automobile, and hope that we don't get caught speeding.
Likewise, if we want an answer to a difficult situation in our life, or want to undestand a spiritual issue, we expect instant knowledge and understanding.
People often go for counseling hoping for a quick, effortless "fix" for their problems. When they hear the suggestion that their problem might require some real effort on their part, and perhaps a time of seeking and waiting, they often times never go back.
Yet throughout the Bible, when looking at the great men of God in their times before great victories, the pattern seems to be this:
In times of trouble, in times of confusion, in times of doubt, in times of turmoil, in times of persecution, in times of need, the men and women who receive answers, provision, understanding, and peace, are those who humble themselves and seek after the Lord God with all that is within them. And after they continue to do this for however long it takes, THEN they witness the awesome power of God at work in their situations, their needs, and their own lives and the lives of their nation.
The messenger told Daniel,
"...Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day you set your heart to understand, and to humble and purify yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come because of your words."
We may wonder how long it will take before God hears us.
We may set our hearts and our focus on seeking after God, and purpose within ourselves to be pure and holy in his sight, and to humble ourselves before him.
Then we wonder how long it will take for our prayers to reach heaven. It often seems to take forever. It often seems as though our prayers get lost somewhere between heaven and earth. It often seems as though no one is listening.
But the messenger told Daniel, "From the FIRST DAY that you set your heart to understand, and you humbled and purified yourself before God, YOUR WORDS WERE HEARD!"
Daniel sought God with fasting and prayer for three weeks. If Daniel had stopped before he received his answer, I believe his answer would not have come. And yet God heard him and took notice from the very first day that Daniel set his heart to seek ernestly and humbly after God.
How long do we remain in a state of humility and purity? How long do we lay aside everything else, as far as is possible, to do nothing but seek earnestly after God?
You may need to lay all else aside and humble yourself and seek ernestly after God for a week, a month, or a year before you receive the answers you need. But God is NEVER late. His time is always the perfect time. And if you don't grow weary and quit before you receive your answer from God, HE WILL ANSWER.
Why? Because he hears you from DAY ONE.
Have you already begun seeking after God, laying aside all else just to seek ernestly after his voice? Then he has heard you from the very first day. You have his full attention. Don't stop until he reaches down from heaven and you know that you know that he has spoken.
Have you only lightly tapped on heaven's door? Have you said a prayer here and there, pouring out your all every now and then? Have you prayed to yourself, wishing things would change? Make today the day that God hears you. Lay everything else aside, and DON'T STOP until you've been touched and permenently transformed by God, whether it takes a day, a week, a month, a year, or the rest of your life.
God hears you from the very first day that you set your heart to humbly and ernestly seek after him for understanding, truth, direction, immersion in his Holy Spirit, or provision.
From the very first day, YOU HAVE GOD'S ATTENTION. As long as you have God's attention, don't continue your search half-heartedly. As long as you have God's attention, give it your all!
Jeremiah 29:13 says, "And you will seek me, and find me, when you search for me with all your heart."
There are actually four things Daniel did which I think we should notice.
First, Daniel laid everything else aside and sought after God. But Daniel did not seek after God holding on to a feeling that he was a great, holy man of God. He did not seek after God while insisting that his thoughts were right and anyone who disagreed was totally wrong. He did not seek after God with the attitude that God HAS to answer his prayers because he's following a formula and God is obligated to answer in the way Daniel thought best.
Rather, the angel said that God heard his prayers not only when Daniel began seeking after God, but also when Daniel humbled himself.
We're all too often so caught up in our rights, in having people honor us or follow us, or in demanding a certain thing from God, that true humility is nowhere to be found.
And yet Daniel humbled himself. He set his attitude to match his realization of his deprived humanity in the presence of a holy, perfect, and all-powerful God.
Throughout Scripture, humility goes hand-in-hand with the fear of the Lord. If we think our own strength or the strenth of other mankind is any more than dust next to the God we are seeking, then we are holding on to pride, whether that pride is in ourselves or others.
Since it is impossible for us while on this earth to fully grasp the greatness of God, anything else we exalt will reach toward our maximum capacity to perceive the greatness of God, and our holy fear of God continues to decrease.
For many of the church, our fear of God has been reduced to the idea that God is a big teddy bear in the sky who turns a blind eye to sin and compromise and will embrace anyone who ever has a kind thought.
But this is not consistent with Scripture. God is indeed full of forgiveness and grace. His mercies are new every morning. He casts our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.
And yet he is holy, and no flesh can stand in his presence. He cries out from every direction to those living in sin, calling them to repent and come be washed and set free, but his judgement is coming swiftly and eternally upon all those who by their actions reject his ultimate sacrifice on the cross.
We need to realize that true humility accepts our utter mortality, and the fact that we are not promised our next breath. An hour from now, you could find yourself apart from your body, fearfully waiting for the gavel to fall, revealing your judgement which was sealed at the time of your death.
True humility also does not presume that God owes us anything. Rather, we owed a debt so large that the whole human race could not have paid for us, high treason against the King of the Universe. And yet he paid that debt and gave us power over sin, not because of our goodness, but in spite of our lack of it.
And together let's admit to God and to ourselves today, "Lord God, I am nothing, and you are everything. You owe me nothing, all you give me is out of your will, your mercy, and your love. The power of mankind is but vain futility, and only your power, which always accompanies your will, can achieve anything worthwhile. I am not promised my next breath, and I am utterly helpless and hopeless without you. Forgive me for my sins and clothe me in your righteousness, helping me remove every single rag of my own righteousness and my own human pride."
So Daniel sought the Lord, and he humbled himself. If we are to find the answer for which we're searching, let us do the same.
The third thing Daniel did was this: he purified himself.
Not really having a true fear of the Lord, we think we can somehow compromise with things that displease God and still have God move in and through our lives in great ways.
And God does move all around us, in us, and through us, all the time, often in ways we do not know. But so does the other guy, and we do his bidding every time we compromise with anything which displeases God.
We seem to get so mixed up about what really pleases or displeases God.
We think that earning a generous living somehow displeases God, while living in poverty and lack somehow pleases God.
We think that earning a generous living in a secular occupation is okay, but if a television evangelist earns the same amount from their work in the ministry, that somehow displeases God.
We think either that God is pleased no matter what we do as long as we have said a sinner's prayer, or we think that God is displeased if we ever do anything fun besides read the Bible, pray, and go to a church that supports that notion.
The problem is that we simply don't know God nearly as well as we think we do.
The more we know God, and the closer we get to him, the more we will fear and reverence him, and the more his Holy Spirit and the light of his nature will reveal in us layer after layer of impurity. And along with the revelation of our sin's existence, he will reveal to us the path to purification from that area of ungodly nature within us.
And as we seek God, humble ourselves, and seek to know God's nature better, choosing through his power to be conformed to his likeness, then the way will begin to open for God to move in and through us in ways we can't imagine.
So as Daniel sought God and humbled himself, he also purified himself, completely turning his back on all the carnality of the fallen human nature, and seeking hard and humbly after the face of God.
And as Daniel sought God and humbled and purified himself, we see from today's passage that there is one more thing he did. And that one thing is this:
And in his waiting, he continued to humble himself, purify himself, and seek the face of God.
Daniel did not skip a favorite TV show and eat fish instead of steak for three weeks.
Daniel did not pray an extra hour for three weeks.
Daniel did not go to church three times instead of once a week for three weeks.
Rather, Daniel turned everything else aside. From his first waking moment in the morning until he drifted into sleep at night, Daniel sought hard after God, eating and drinking only that which was necessary to keep him alive.
He was serious. He didn't play any games. He poured every single ounce of himself into seeking after God.
I dare say most of us never do this. We're too addicted to comfort. We're too convinced that it's not really important enough. Or we're too sure that God will move in the way we need and desire for him to move simply because we drink water instead of cola and pray a little extra.
In fact, we'd probably think someone quite odd if they were to seek after God the way we see modeled over and over in Scripture, the way that always seemed to be done before God moved in unbelievably miraculous ways.
We hear reports of God raising the dead, healing those confined to stretchers so they instantly leap up and dance before the Lord, bringing thousands to Jesus during a single tent service, turning whole villages to Jesus, and even of Jesus appearing to remote villagers and leading them to Salvation before a single missionary ever comes on the scene.
But most of these reports seem to come from places that are not nearly as comfortable as most of us are. Places without computers, places where the average person doesn't have running water, places where the kids don't have video games, places where there is no HBO or even any television at all.
These are places where people do not think it strange to pour every single ounce of their strength, their attention, their heart and soul, out to God, seeking him without comfort-numbed minds.
Comfort and prosperity is NOT evil. Just as money is not evil. But the love of it is the root of all evil. If we love our comforts and our dignity and our self-respect so that we cannot totally abandon them in our selfless pursuit of God, then we'll continue to be bound by appathy, powerlessness against sin, ineffectiveness in winning souls, lack of authority to cast out demons, lack of power to heal the sick and raise the dead.
Sometimes for us to throw all these things and our pride aside and pour every last ounce of ourselves into seeking after God, we have to be shaken.
It was generally in a time of distress and great need that produce our Biblical examples of men and women who cast themselves into the all-consuming seeking of God, and who then saw God do amazing things as a result.
Do we have the courage to ask God to bring us to that place of seeking? That place where we come to the end of ourselves so that we see all else as garbage next to finding and grabbing hold of God?
If we're serious, he will answer. He will allow us to see that it's not our job, our spouse, our government, our comforts, our entertainment, and certainly not our sin that is our provider of physical and emotional needs, and is not our source of the joy of living.
"Lord God, give us the boldness to ask that we be brought to the end of ourselves, to the place where we can seek after you with nothing held back; because it is then and only then that we will find you like our innermost beings desire, and it is only then that you will move in and through us in the way you have ordained before the foundation of the heavens and the earth."
Daniel's answer did not come the first day. Or the first week. But he continued. He persevered. He set his face like flint toward seeking God and God alone.
He did not realize that God heard him the first day, or that his answer was on its way. And yet the angel did not deliver the answer from God to Daniel in his lazy boy watching his favorite game show. His answer did not come to him on the golf course. His revelation of deliverance did not come to him while compromising with something he thought MIGHT displease God, but which he assured himself wasn't that bad.
Rather, the angel of the Lord met with Daniel in his place of seeking, and at the time appointed by God.
Are we willing to do whatever it takes for how ever long it takes to see revival break forth in our hearts? in our homes? in our communities? in our land? If we do, God will hear us, and he will heal our land.
It's important to note here that the angelic visitation wasn't the end result. Today's passage begins by saying, "but the time appointed was long," and in verse fourteen the angel tells him, "Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come."
God answered Daniel's prayers, his seeking, and his humility, by sending a promise of deliverance.
We need to realize that a heart that hungers and thirsts after God in such a way that everything else dims in comparison, is not a temporary state of being. We cannot manipulate God into doing something for us by putting on a temporary appearance of holiness.
The type of broken and contrite spirit that moves God is not one that dies down in a few days, weeks, or months. And this is because a heart set on temporarily pursuing God with all that is within us is a heart that is also set on diminishing our pursuit of God after he does what we are requesting of him.
This life is short. There are people dying and going to hell every second of every day. We desperately need to boldly ask God to bring us to that place of seeking, of brokenness, of the decision to seek him full-on for the rest of our lives.
And he will.
In closing, let's read the last two verses of Daniel chapter ten.
"So (the angel) said, 'Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth.'"
The promise of God to Daniel was that his people would be delivered, that God would fight on his behalf. But first, the messenger of the Lord would tell Daniel what is written in the Book of Truth.
God will perform the supernatural. He will work miracles. He will perform great and mighty things on our behalf and in our lives. But sometimes we first need to know what is written in the Book of Truth.
We can't take for granted that we'll always have several Bibles scattered throughout our homes, or even that we'll always be able to open a web browser and read it online. There are forces of darnkess hard at work to remove the things of God from the earth, and their time of power, although only for a short season, is coming.
Try visiting communist China and finding a Bible or visiting a Bible website, or a website that preaches the Gospel at all. You'll find that the websites simply don't exist.
If you live in a country that allows you to have access to the Word of God, don't take that liberty for granted. It is vital that we fill ourselves with the Word of God, memorizing it, putting it all around us, singing it, speaking it, continuing to hide it in our hearts. Not only will it help to deliver us from sin, but it will give us strength and solid direction when we are no longer able to read it.
So seek God. Humble yourself. Purify yourself. And make the seeking of God in this way a life-long pursuit. And we will see great and mighty things begin to happen in and around us, as God pours out his Spirit in these final days.
Lord God, thank you for speaking to us today by your Word. Thank you that you hear us from the first day we truly seek after you with our whole hearts.
We ask that you bring us to the end of ourselves. Bring us to that place where we throw everything else aside in desperate seeking after you.
We want to see you move in our lives, in our families, in our communities, in our schools, in our governments, and in our lands.
I'd like for the ministry team altar workers to come to the front now.
Lord, we desperately need you. Even if we think we have plenty and are doing well, we need you all the more, to break through our illusion of safety in the things of this earth, so we press through into a higher, deeper level with you.
If you want to be drawn closer to God, to seek him more fervently, if you want to see him move in and through you as he did through the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles, then come to the front to dedicate yourself to God for the purpose of following hard after him.
If you have not yet given your life to Jesus, but you want to become a part of God's family while you still have time, come to this altar and instant message one of the ministry team while you still have the chance.
You're all invited to head to the room on your left when your time of ministry is finished. Come gather in the presence of the Lord, and let's be heard by God today.