It’s Reformation Sunday, a day often celebrated in our church year as a day when Martin Luther from whom we get the name “Lutheran” took his stand against the religious leaders of his day. You perhaps know the famous words that he supposedly spoke in defense of God’s Word and a salvation not by works but by faith in Jesus. He supposedly said, “Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.” It was that stand and those words that brought about Luther’s expulsion from his order, his excommunication from his church, and had him branded as an outlaw of the empire.
What you maybe don’t know is that according to US News and World Report, the Lutheran Reformation has been ranked as the second most important event in history in the last thousand years AND Luther himself is considered to be the third most influential person of the last thousand years – pretty amazing stuff! And yet what is perhaps more impressive is that all of that, all of that history, all of that influence and impact happened because Luther was a Christian, a believer. And his faith influenced not just his life, but the life of those around him, and in fact, continues to influence the people of this world even today.
Now, why is that important for us to note this morning? Well, I’m in a room full of Christians, men, women, and children who know what Paul wrote in our second lesson that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” You see all of us in this room, to my knowledge, believe that it is by faith in Jesus that we are saved, not by works. And that truth of Scripture, which Luther so long ago boldly confessed, changed the world. So, here is my challenge to you today: Change the World.
Easier said than done though, right? And, maybe, maybe that’s not you. That’s not your personality. That’s not your style. I’m not one to stand up and raise a ruckus, no thanks. So, how about this? Change the world by doing all the small things. What do I mean? Well, today’s story before us from the book of Daniel, it’s all about the small things.
This story is a familiar one. I think we all know the story of Daniel and the Lion’s Den. And what do we know about it? We know that Daniel defied an edict from King Darius that said that all prayers and all worship were to be directed to him, the king. We know that Daniel didn’t listen to that edict; he defied the king and prayed to God instead. And, we know that because of his defiance, the king had no choice but to cast him into a den of lions, but those lions didn’t kill Daniel, no, he was spared and lived to tell the tale.
And unfortunately, that’s often all we remember from this story – that God delivered his servant Daniel from the mouths of the lions. What’s worse, often it is taught that the moral of this story then is that if you trust in God enough, he won’t let bad things happen to you. And that is absolutely false and if you believe that you’re in for a world of hurt because just glance at our gospel lesson for today and you will see that Jesus promises a whole lot of angst and pain in this life for those who trust in him. That brings us back to Daniel.
It’s true that Daniel defied a king. It’s true that Daniel was saved from a den of lions but don’t let those big things block out the seemingly small things that Daniel did. And the first small thing that Daniel did isn’t actually even in our lesson. If you go back some 60 years in Daniel’s life, Daniel was a talented young man working for his country, the nation of Israel. But then the Babylonians came, conquered Israel, and took Daniel into exile. You know what Daniel did in exile? He got involved. He worked for the heathen nation that stole him away, and his work continued when the Medes and Persians took over.
Eventually, Daniel became one of three administrators in the land, and those three administrators ruled directly under the king, King Darius. But at some point, Darius decided Daniel deserved a promotion. He wanted to make him his #2 in the land. This of course caused some jealousy among the other administrators and governors, and they looked for a way to discredit Daniel. In verse four of Daniel chapter six, we find out that their first attempt failed because Daniel had three qualities going for him. He was incorruptible. He was diligent, and he was good at his job (v.4).
That’s a small thing worth noting. I don’t know what all of you do. I don’t know where all of you work or if you do work, maybe you’re retired, or some of you here are in school, but I do know that one of the small things that God’s people can do is to be involved. Be active in this world as you live a life of faith. Now, I get it. Look at this world, do I really want to be involved in that? I mean go back to what Jesus said in our gospel lesson, you will be hated by everyone. So, why bother, why get involved? Well, why did Jesus get involved? Why did Jesus step into this world? Because he knew this world needed him. He knew you needed him. So, he took those small steps as a child, only so he could one day take those staggered broken steps to a cross. There he saved us…he saved us all.
This world needs to hear that. It needs you to save it. It needs you to do the small thing of reflecting your life of faith and your Savior’s love in your words and actions. And it is a small thing, but it might one day bring someone to the means of grace, and into their Savior’s arms, and that’s a big thing.
Here is another small thing worth noting in our lesson for today. After not being able to catch Daniel in any foul play at work, Daniel’s jealous compatriots tried a different tactic. These other leaders convince Darius to sign a law, an edict, that said for the next thirty days prayers could only be made to him, to Darius. The king liked that it stroked his ego, and the edict was signed. It was done.
So, what could Daniel have done? I suppose he could have stopped praying entirely, prayed to Darius, or, perhaps the most obvious choice, he could’ve closed his window. He could’ve prayed in private. You think about that for a moment. Daniel close your window, right?! That would have changed this story entirely. That would have saved him from all this anguish and anxiety, but instead, he fell on his knees and prayed “just as he had done before.” It was just a small thing.
Prayer might at times be a small thing to us, one of the last things we think about doing. We look ahead at what’s coming for the week, or we lay in bed worried about the current state of the world, our finances, our health, or about a family member, whatever – and we all do it – but had, before we looked ahead, before we made plans before we worried, had we prayed. Had we lifted our voices to God for help and guidance and relief, maybe those supposedly huge looming events and problems would seem not so big compared to our loving, and caring, and all-powerful God. A small thing, like a moment in prayer, suddenly, is huge. Prayer, today, for Daniel was huge. Here is why: that act of prayer was an act of trust.
Prayer is placing your fears, and your thanks, and your doubts, and your joys, and your problems, and your friends, and your family, and everything into God’s hands. It’s trusting that he will do what he thinks is best with whatever you’ve got going on in your life. And for Daniel, his habit of prayer reflected that trust, because he knew he was being watched, and he knew that this could mean a den of lions. And you know the rest of the story: Daniel was cast to the lions, but the next day “no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.”
God saved Daniel from those lions, and Daniel trusted God. Notice though the words before us don’t say that Daniel trusted God would save him from the mouths of those lions. No, where do we see God promising to do that? We don’t. So, what did Daniel trust? He trusted God would keep his Word. He trusted in God’s promise to always be with him. He trusted in God’s promise of a Savior. He trusted that God would take him home. You see even if those lions had killed Daniel, the king opened that den, and it was…ugly…pieces of Daniel everywhere. Even if that had happened, God still saved Daniel, Daniel would have been in heaven.
It’s a small thing, trust, but we do it all the time. For instance, this cross right here when it first was hung, it made me nervous. You know why? Because for a few summers, I worked construction, and it was drilled into me that you should never work under a suspended load. Well, check this out, when I stand right here, I’m practically under a suspended load. But here’s the good news. You’ll notice that this cross above me has four wires holding it up. During installation, I was all but assured that just one, just one, of those wires could hold that cross up there. I was also informed that those wires were attached to anchors in the ceiling that only a natural disaster could shake loose. And, finally, I was told that if any of the wires failed or the anchors came loose, I might have some enemies in this congregation.
My point is I trust the word of those individuals who installed this cross. I shouldn’t. I don’t know them. I’ll probably never see them again, but here I am confident that this cross won’t fall…because they said so. We do that a lot, we trust. Sadly, often we trust in the wrong people and the wrong things, and, well, it doesn’t go well for us. But what if you could learn, like Daniel, to daily fall to your knees and to put your trust in God. Because you see God has given you his Word, and he doesn’t lie, and he’s not looking for you to do anything in return, he just asks that you trust him. And here is why he wants you to trust: because he loves you, and he wants what’s best for you. Sure, that might mean that in this world everyone’s against you, it also might mean that in this life not even lions can get you, that’s up to him. But the more you learn to trust him, the more you’ll be okay with his will and his way, and that, my friends, will change your world because one day he’ll keep His Word and will take you out of this world.
Look, everything can be against you, your family can despise you, lions can roar at you, but none of that removes God’s promise that Jesus is your Savior and heaven is your home. Trust that and then you can go and do all the small things. You can be involved in this world, you can stand up like Luther, bold and brash in your faith, or you can kneel like Daniel, humble but confident that God will be with you, you can change the world.
You can do all this because the God who shut the mouths of lions threw his Son, Jesus, into the den of this world’s lions, and there he wasn’t just wounded, he was killed, he suffered hell, but then, then when the stone was rolled away…empty. He lived. He lives and grants you daily breath; He lives and you shall conquer death; He lives your mansion to prepare; He lives to bring you safely there.
Listen, I’m not Luther, and you’re no Daniel, but, honestly, that doesn’t matter. What made Daniel great, and what made Luther famous was that they did what many today might think is small and unimportant, they trusted God. They didn’t let the pressure of the world, of society, or of fitting in be something that would influence their life of faith. They didn’t budge on the small things. They worshiped. They prayed. They clung to the truth of God’s Word and to their Savior, Jesus, and then they actively lived in this world. They were involved, but they looked for the world to come. Today, they’re home in heaven. One day in Christ you will be too. Trust that and then go do the small things. Who knows? Maybe you will change the world. Amen.