A Life of Excellence and Integrity

This week’s lesson focuses on living a life of excellence.  We will be studying from the book of Daniel and we will see how Daniel and his friend’s lives of excellence before the Lord, were a catalyst in which they were enabled by God to live out the destinies that He had planned for them.  Dear one, you too can purpose in your heart to live a life of excellence before the Lord.  You and I can choose to live a life of integrity and of great character so that the name of Jesus will be lifted up and God will be glorified.

Handout:  A Life of Excellence and Integrity

Sadly, we live in a world where living a life of excellence is on a downward spiral.  There are so many people who are only out for themselves and what they can gain and to some it doesn’t matter who they trample on or what they have to do to reach their goals.  It is exactly as foretold in the Bible teachings.  Jesus as well as many others taught of how it would be in end times.  However, we as children of God, sons and daughters of our Sovereign Father, we through Christ can live a life of excellence and integrity even in a world that does not.  We will study a wonderful example of living an excellent life by looking at the lives of Daniel and three of his friends.  First though, let’s look at the definition of excellence and integrity.
Excellence is the fact or state of superiority which is above being affected or influenced.  Of great value, of a higher nature or kind.  Living above “the norm.” 
Integrity is having virtue.  It is adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. 
Someone who has integrity will live in honesty and with good ethics according to God even when no one is around to see them.  Having integrity is living unto the LORD and knowing that he sees and knows all.  As children of the Most High, we should live in and pursue excellence and integrity in all things, just as the ones we are going to study in the Bible.
Turn in God’s word to the book of Daniel the first chapter if you will. 
Daniel 1:1  “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. 2And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god. 
 3And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the princes; 
 4Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans. 

 5And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.   6Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 7Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego. 
Here we have Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon who was greatly feared.  It was known that he had taken over many lands and after victory he usually took what he thought was the most valuable people back to Babylon and left the other ones there to live peacefully in whatever land they chose.   This was to keep wise and talented people living and working for Babylon’s civil service.  It also promoted great loyalty from those in conquered lands.  Daniel and his friends were among the group who met the qualifications in which Nebuchadnezzar was looking for to take back to Babylon.  So they were captured and taken to this far, away place where things were much unlike what they were used to.  It was a totally different culture that worshipped false gods and did not follow God’s laws.  They are brought there and expected to study and learn the language of Chaldea or Babylon which was Aramaic (Syriac).  They were to study according to the Babylonian academic program, which would have been astronomy, mathematics, and history as well as alchemy and magic.  
Nebuchadnezzar appointed a certain amount of his specific food and wine that Daniel and his friends as well as the other captives were to eat and drink while they were studying for three years and then they were to stand before him so that he could test them in the knowledge they had obtained while studying there.  So here they are in this new place, far from their home and loved ones.  They were told they had to eat this food that they knew was against God’s laws for them to eat at that time.  In Leviticus chapter 11 God’s word records what the children of Israel were and were not supposed to eat.  There were certain foods that were forbidden to them at that time according to the laws God gave to Moses.  
In addition to all of these differences, Nebuchadnezzar also changed their names.  Names were of great significance to Daniels culture.  Nebuchadnezzar wanted them to totally forget where they came from and to make them Babylonian.  The name Daniel means “God is my judge” in Hebrew.  His name was changed to Belteshazzar, which means “he whom Bel favors.”  Bel was the chief god of the Babylonians.  This king was changing everything about them!   Put yourself in the place of Daniel and his friends.  Can you imagine how disheartening this must have been?  What will Daniel do now?  
What would you do?  Daniel knows well that anyone who goes against the King’s wishes, risks being killed.  He also knows that he isn’t suppose to go against the laws and wishes of God.  What a predicament he and his friends are in.  We may say the choice is easy, but until in that situation we don’t really know how it would truly be.  Let’s read on.  
8But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. 
 Notice the words here.  It doesn’t say, Daniel submitted deciding that everyone would understand and the majority of the captives were eating the king’s meat, and drinking the king’s wine, so God would understand that his life was in jeopardy if he didn’t, so it would be ok if he just went ahead and ate this forbidden food.  NO!  It also doesn’t say that Daniel got angry, had a tantrum, throwing his fists around in the air causing a scene and refused to eat and drink of the food that the King had appointed and he yelled and screamed and protested until he got his way.  NO, Daniel was young but he was very wise.  He REQUESTED of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself, and then he trusted God to take care of the rest.  Dr. Charles Stanley always says, obey the Lord and leave the consequences up to him.  That is just what Daniel did while showing tact, excellence and integrity.  He behaved himself very wisely, this is key.
9Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. 
God had brought Daniel into favor and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.  God saw his choices of excellence, and he made a way, and he will make a way for us too.  Praise the Lord!
Proverbs 3:1-4 “ 1My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: 2For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee. 3Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: 4So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man. 
That is just what God did, he made sure that the prince of eunuchs saw the wise way Daniel conducted himself and caused him to love and favor Daniel.  Living a life of integrity and excellence will always be seen by God and he will honor it and you.  Praise His name!
 10And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king. 
 11Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 
 12Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. 
 13Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king's meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.  14So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days. 
 15And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat. 
 16Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse. 
As children of God, it is ok to adjust to another culture if we choose to as long as we do not go against God’s ways or his commands.  Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not go against what God had commanded even if it meant death.  The prince of eunuchs knew the risk he took by going against King Nebuchadnezzar’s wishes, but out of love and favor toward Daniel, he decided to do as Daniel requested and gave them vegetables and water to drink for ten days and when he saw that it was good and that they looked better and were healthier than those that ate the king’s food, he allowed them to continue to eat what was good for them according to the laws of God.  I know the food God wanted them to eat was far better for them, but also I believe God promoted their health because they chose to obey his word.
Proverbs 3:5-8  “5Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  6In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.  7Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.  8It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.” 

I’m sure satan tried to put temptation in Daniel’s mind trying to get him to go on as the others did and eat of the kings meat, telling him that it was ok or telling him that if he didn’t he would be killed but Daniel trusted the LORD and knew that God would make a way out.
1 Corinthians 10:13 “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” 
Dear child of God, our Father will ALWAYS make a way of escape when we trust and follow him.  You may or may not be in a situation similar to this one that Daniel was in, but whatever situation you are in, know that you can choose to live above what everyone else is doing.  You can choose a life of excellence and integrity before the Lord and trust that no matter what you are being tempted with, no matter how big or small it may seem, if you purpose in your heart to follow the Holy Spirit, he will make a way of escape for you and you will come out a victor!  Thank you LORD!
 17As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. 
 18Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 
 19And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king. 
 20And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.  21And Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus.”
In later chapters, it records how the Lord saved Daniel from death by revealing a dream and it’s interpretation that King Nebuchadnezzar had when no one else could.  It also records how God delivers Daniels friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego from the fiery furnace after being thrown in when they would not bow down to a false god.  The Lord brings all four of them into promotion in Babylon and then rescues Daniel from a den of hungry lions by shutting the lion’s mouths after he was thrown in because he continued to pray to God.  Daniel also went on to write down the prophecies of things to come in last days that God reveals to him in dreams. 
Daniel was not interested in self-promotion, but he was interested in pleasing God by living a life of excellence unto him.  With Daniel’s obedience to God, he was promoted anyway, and far more than he could have done himself.
Just like Daniel, we should not be interested in the things of this world, but instead focused on living our lives in honor of  and to God.  There is nothing like living in the favor of God.  What if you gained world fame and wealth?  What if you gained all of it that you could ever dream of  or hope for but in order to get there, you went against God’s ways.  It would not bring joy or peace.  
Now think about living a life of excellence in that of God’s ways and living in his favor.  There is no amount of wealth or prestige that can even begin to compare to living in the peace and favor of our Father!   If it is in his plan for you or I to be promoted in life, we will be according to his timing and terms.  I can promise you that no matter where God places you, if you are doing your best to seek him and living a life of excellence, no matter where he has placed you, it will be home.  God is our home no matter where we are, no matter what circumstances we are in, he can and will bring peace to us when we ask, believe, and trust him.  He places everyone where he can work out his plan for each life.  We are not here by chance, God has a plan!  You are important to God and his work.  God sees all that we do, he sees our hearts.  Don’t be led astray by the things of this life that will pass away, don’t be led away from the Father’s ways by things that only bring pleasure to this flesh for a short time.  The repercussions thereof may last a lifetime and cause a world of pain, suffering, and eventually death.  Always excel and rise above, we can do that through Christ and He will take us places we never even dreamed of.  He can take us to new heights in himself.
Think of all the others that were taken captive with Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.  The ones that took of the king’s meat and went against what God’s laws, we don’t even know their names, what became of them?  Those that followed the Lord and his ways, they went on and left legacies  behind that God used to help millions by a record of their lives of excellence and integrity.  
Job 36:11 “If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasure.”
It doesn’t mean that everyone that lives a life of excellence will be famous in this world, but those who do live unto the LORD, God will honor them in his way and it will be in the best of ways.  Living unto the LORD means doing it out of love for God not living it only thinking of what can be gained.  God will do as he sees good and just that is for sure, but we need to live for him in all things big or small to show our love for him and to honor him and to glorify him.  It’s all about him and lifting him high so that he is honored.  We show our love for God by obeying him.
John 14:15 “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
John 15:10 “If ye keep commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. 11. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”
It is wonderful to do big things when everyone is watching.  What about those things that seem insignificant?  What are you looking at when you are alone and online?  When no one is around and satan tempts you to look at a site that is not good, when satan is telling you that one peek will be ok and that no one will ever know.  What do we do then?  What if it’s something that we think isn’t to bad and everyone else is looking at it or everyone else is doing it, and again no one else will know or see, what then?  What are you watching on television, what are you reading. What are we allowing our ears to listen to?  But it’s just a harmless little joke or song, or it’s a great movie, so what if it only has one bad word, or one tiny little scene that isn’t pure?  What about that joke, it’s so funny and it only has one little naughty idea or thought, it’s not that bad it won’t hurt to listen to it, it won’t hurt to retell it?  Wrong!  How do we treat our family at home when others are not around?  When you are out alone and you accidently drop a candy wrapper or small piece of paper on the ground, do you leave it there or do you pick it up and put it in the trash bin?  Oh the road driving, do we break the speed limit laws when no one is around to catch us?  Are we considerate of those strangers around us honking their horns angrily in traffic?  Are we praying for God’s peace or are we honking right back in frustration?  Are we taking pens, paperclips or “little” things from the office and bringing them home?  There are so many “little” things that we sometimes miss that we need to be aware of in living according to how God would have us.  The word says that it’s the little foxes that spoil the vines. (Song of Solomon 2:15) Father, please help your children.  

A life of excellence unto the Lord, there is no other way to live!  We can do this, we have the power of God inside us, we have the Holy Spirit leading us and we have Christ making intercession to God for us!  We are more than conquerors through Christ.  (Romans 8:37) 
Don’t let Satan tell you it’s too hard to rise above.  He is a liar.  Through Christ we can live a life that is excellent and pleasing to our Father.  We are victors in Christ!  If you have not been living a life of excellence and integrity, you can begin today.  Just ask God to forgive your past sins and mistakes and ask him for help in starting right now in your new life of excellence that will honor him and obey his guidance.  He is faithful and just to forgive and to help us to get on the right paths.  God Bless you.
1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Dear Righteous, Heavenly Father, 
Thank you again for another opportunity to study your word and learn from it the valuable lessons that you have placed there for us.  Your word is truth and life.  Father, thank you for who you are and for all that you have done, for all that you continue to do, and for all that you will do.   We bow before your excellence and majesty.  Father we ask today that you help us to live a life of excellence and integrity before you.  We ask that your Holy Spirit lead and guide us into a life of virtue for your glory in all things big or small.  Father we cannot do this without you but with you we know and believe that all things are possible and that you have made a way for us.  Father thank you for providing for us yet another week and we ask that you continue to protect, provide for, and comfort us as we live in this world waiting for the time when we get to be with you forever.  Father, we thank you for your favor and we thank you for your many, many blessings in our lives.  We know they all come from You.  We ask that you show us how you would have us to be and help us to follow your lead and to obey your will.  Father we want so much to please you and to touch your heart so that your name will be lifted up.  We ask that you send the convicting power of your Holy Spirit to our lost loved ones and that you help them to believe on the name of your only begotten Son Jesus and that they will believe in and accept him before it’s too late. Thank you Father for loving us and for your mercy and grace.  Father we ask that your hand be upon this ministry and those that come and read, and teach others from it.  Father we ask that you use it for your glory and that your name will be exalted and that you will get the praise and honor that is due to you.  Keep your hand on us and help us to follow in your ways.  Father we ask you to bring countless others so that they will come to know you, love you,  and lift your name up high.  Thank you Lord for hearing and answering our prayers.  We will ever worship, praise, and honor you, in the lovely, holy name of Jesus, AMEN.

July 22, 2018