“Begin with the end in mind” (John MacDiarmid)

Notes on Sermon Preached at PCF on 20 November 2011

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Reference: Daniel 1

When   we start to go on a journey, we always start with the end in mind. We don’t simply go to the airport, bus stop, train station or get into the car and see what happens. We start by considering where we are going, then are able to plan the best way to get there, what transport to take and so on. We start with the end in mind.

Similarly, when we cook a meal we don’t throw ingredients together and just see what comes out. We take into account how many people we are cooking for, what we want the meal to consist of, and then plan accordingly. We start with the end in mind.

When a builder starts to build a house, he will start with the architect’s plan that shows a detailed view of what the end product will look like. Then he is able to put in foundations, order materials and start to build. He will start with the end in mind.

What is true of every area in life is also true of life itself. If we were to take a trip forward in time to be at our own funeral – what do we hope people will say about us? If we take a trip forward in time to the day we will stand before God – what do we hope will be said about us by God himself?

We need to determine what we want  from life, what we hope will be said about us when we are gone, how we hope that God will view our lives, and start the rest of our lives with the end in mind.

As we look at the life of Daniel, we can see that the end of his life, as shown by the end of the book’ is marked with his angelic visitor saying “well done” and telling him that at the end of time he will rise to receive his reward. Daniel was a man who started with the end in mind. How can we be the same? With that question in mind, let’s look at today’s passage.

1. A Promising Background

In many ways Daniel was born with the silver spoon in his mind. From a Royal background, good looking, intelligent, well-educated and personable, he was a young man who had everything going for him. Also he appears to have had godly parents who named him with part of God’s name. Not everyone is so blessed – God gives different attributes to different people. The point is that people who live with the end in mind use what God has given them – however much or however little – for Him.

2. An Appalling Situation

Despite this promising background, however, Daniel lived in difficult times. From the peak of God’s people’s  fortunes in the days of David and Solomon, Israel had over many centuries experienced a decline in godliness and were finally, as a consequence of God’s judgement, being removed from the land that had been given them.  They were terrible days as the nation finally experienced the full force of God’s judgement on their idolatry and their disobedience. There are certainly parallels with the decline of our own country as a political, spiritual and moral force as we have systematically turned our back on Him.

The point here is that whilst God will hold his people accountable for the way they behave, even in the darkest night there is a glimmer   of light. Even whilst Jerusalem is being ransacked by the cruelty of the Babylonians, God is   dealing with a young man to work on behalf of his people in exile. God never abandons his people, and he will never abandon us.

3. A Classic Conflict

It could have been worse for Daniel and his three colleagues. They were specially selected for a training program to be ready to join the Civil service. They were taken care of, fed and educated at the University of Babylon. The idea was for Nebuchadnezzar to integrate the best of the talent from his dominions into his own circle. So Daniel, a child of Jerusalem, find himself living in Babylon. Isn’t that just like us? We are citizens of heaven and we find ourselves living in the world. We are told not to be worldly – yet we live in the world. How do we cope with that?  People who live with the end in mind know that whilst they have to live in the world, they have to avoid being worldly. The answer is in the next point, where Daniel is faced with a choice.

4. A defining Moment

For everyone who chooses to follow God, there is a defining moment when God allows us to face a situation that will show whether or not we are really determined to follow him. For Daniel it concerned diet. Eating the King’s food was incompatible with Daniel’s faith. So we read those three great words “But Daniel resolved….” For Daniel keeping his faith was a total non-negotiable. He could not compromise his commitment to the word of God, even in an alien environment.

The cost to Daniel and his friends could have their lives – you simply didn’t say “no” to the king’s instructions! We know when we are committed to following God when there is a personal cost. It may cost us a friendship, a promotion, some money or popularity to follow God. This is one of those defining moments. And, praise God, Daniel takes the correct decision. If he had not, maybe there would have been no book of Daniel. What do you do when faced with a defining moment that determines whether or not you will follow God?

An example from 1924 is the great Scottish runner Eric Liddell who would rather forfeit his chance of Olympic gold than compromise on his duty not to run on the Sabbath.

People who start with the end in mind have non – negotiables by which they will live, principles that will never change no matter what the cost to them personally.

We can either take the path of least resistance, or we can live by principles as those who have an end in mind. Daniel is a shining example of one who lived by principle, who lived with the end in mind.

5. A Divine deliverance

Daniel can not have known what would happen to him if he chose to obey God. God could deliver him, or God could not. Either way Daniel’s action would not change.

In fact God delivered Daniel in a spectacular way.

Firstly he delivered him from the immediate situation by giving him the favour of his boss, and by giving Daniel a creative way out. Then God honoured him by giving him and his friends extraordinary gifts and abilities, and then, amazingly, Daniel is promoted to the king’s service. God knows how to honour those who take a stand for Him. As Eric Liddell was told in the film “Chariots of Fire” “He who honours me, I will honour”. We can not promise promotion, or even deliverance for every Christian who takes the decision to take a stand for God, but we can promise that in this life and the next, God will honour those who have honoured him.

Those who live with then end in mind, take that into account in every decision they make.

6. A Promising Start.

So Daniel has made a promising start. He is firmly situated in the King’s service, God’s man in a pagan environment. However it is only a start. Every day following that will give him the opportunity to live as someone who has the end in mind. There are many more challenges that will follow. But that’s another story.

John MacDiarmid

November 2011

Posted Under: Talks

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