Weekly Newsletter – May 1, 2023
FROM THE HEART OF DR. REXELLA VAN IMPE
THE MYTHS OF OUR AGE Part 2
The myth of prestige
The pursuit of prestige often ends up on a dead-end street. But you see the chase going on almost everywhere—in social groups, in politics, on the job, and even in the church.
What is success? To succeed implies the favorable outcome of an undertaking, career, etc., or the attainment of a desired goal (to succeed as a businessman or businesswoman). Prestige is the power to command admiration or esteem; or reputation or distinction based on brilliance of achievement, character, etc.; renown.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not implying that it’s wrong to want to be successful. What needs emphasizing is the futility of success just for the sake of making a name for one’s self and achieving a degree of status and prestige.
I read of Dean Jones, a successful film and TV actor with many prestigious credits to his name. Yet, while his beautiful California canyon home was burning, he was able to sit on the front lawn and sing “Amazing Grace,” much to the amazement of the firemen and arson investigators. I imagine even Dean was surprised at himself at the time. Later he was able to say, “I understood, not just at an intellectual level, but in my muscles and bones, that through praise and trusting God we can be triumphant in any circumstance…I never lost the peace of God during the whole episode. It was beautiful.”
Here was a man whose house was going up in smoke, but he knew how to hang loose from it all. His happiness wasn’t tied up in some timbers, brick and mortar—the things his success had purchased for him.
There are many beautiful accounts of those who have experienced that kind of peace. It’s a priceless treasure, and it isn’t dependent upon rave reviews in the morning paper after a performance the night before. It’s not established on the shaky foundation of someone else’s opinion regarding something you’ve said or done. Instead, God’s peace is like an inner ballast which keeps one from tipping over when the storms of life beat against you. My husband and I have experienced it many times. You can experience it, too. You can know what the prophet Isaiah meant when he wrote: Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee (Isaiah 26:3).
The roots of the success mentality
This myth of success and prestige is encouraged through what I call the “success mentality” that pervades our culture. We have instilled into us from early childhood that someday we will grow up and be somebody. Of course, we want our children to set high ideals and strive to attain their best, and we should be glad and thankful our parents encouraged us to see fulfillment in occupations and pursuits uniquely suited to our individual capabilities. This is entirely biblical. God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well (see Romans 12:6). Succeeding verses mention some of the many different vocations into which men and women are called. Previous verses urge the reader not to copy the behavior and customs of this world but to be a new and different person with a freshness about all we do and think. The promise is that then we can learn from our own experience how God’s ways will really satisfy.
But along with instilling into children the virtues of diligence and a willingness to work to achieve success must be the balance of teaching them that man’s final end is not just to become successful for success’s sake. God has given us whatever abilities we have, and our chief end in life is to bring honor to Him and to glorify Him.
This means, among other things, that we acknowledge that what we have been endowed with in the way of creativity—any special genius or skills—has come from Him. The apostle Paul in many places emphasized that our adequacy is from God (see 2 Corinthians 3:5, for instance). Paul warns about working and doing anything out of selfishness or empty conceit (see Philippians 2:3). Paul had attained status among his contemporaries, but after his encounter with the reality of Christ, he wrote that what had preceded him thus far in his life was as rubbish in order that [he might] gain Christ (Philippians 3:8, NAS).
The supreme goal of Paul’s life was to know Christ better.
This search to be “somebody” can be seen in some of the letters we receive in our office. Every time I join the staff in reading them, I come away with a fresh realization that mankind is on an unending quest—the underlying basis of them is almost always the same. Perhaps a writer has discovered that upon achieving the educational or occupational goals he established earlier in life, he has reached the desired plateau only to discover that the “certain satisfying something” he had anticipated is not there. Thus, despite success, prestige, and even material gain, he finds himself still empty and often devoid of the joy of living. Discouraged, even baffled, bewildered, and befuddled, these individuals are writing, asking, “Why? Why am I not satisfied?”
I found it sadly significant that the half-time headliners for Superbowl XL played in Detroit on Sunday, February 5, 2006, was the legendary rock band, The Rolling Stones. Of course, they performed their signature song, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction!” (Their appearance provided eloquent confirmation to the truth of their testimony.) Unfortunately, their anguished anthem has also become the theme song of millions of people today.
I can assure you that if my husband and I were counting on the success we have achieved in our work to fill up the empty gaps in our lives, we would be miserable, unfulfilled individuals. The successes and prestige can be snatched away very quickly. Listen to what the Bible has to say about this—
Do not love the world, nor the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever (1 John 2:15-17, NAS, emphasis added).
A CLASSIC MESSAGE OF HOPE FROM DR. JACK VAN IMPE
Daniel 6:16 – 18
Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God who thou servest continually, he will deliver thee.
And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel.
Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting, neither were instruments of music brought before him; and sleep went from him.
Darius found himself between a rock and a hard place. He had to do the deed, and Daniel was brought to what all assumed would be his imminent death. But note what the king said in verse 16, “Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee.” What a vote of confidence for Daniel. Darius was rooting for his friend Daniel and was praying that his God would see him through the disastrous ordeal. But would it be enough to spare Daniel the pain and physical destruction of his body?
Many people have asked me, “Why did Darius use a lion’s den when the fiery furnace was still in existence?” This is because the Babylonians-the former rulers-made it their practice to use a furnace as the primary vehicle to execute dissidents and enemies, as they’d attempted to do with the three Hebrew children. But now, under a new administration-the Medes and the Persians-this was not the appropriate means of execution. Here’s the reason.
The Medes and the Persians gave their allegiance to a religion called Zoroastrianism, and they worshipped the fire god, Atar. For them to use fire to execute their enemies would be to desecrate their teachings, putting them on the verge of religious sacrilege. Their alternative to fire was a large den of ravenously hungry lions, not the cage of sleepy beasts we might see lying about when we visit the lion section of a local zoo. This lion’s den was an immense square cavern carved out of the ground to about the size of a large home. In the middle of the cavern was a partition with doors.
From above, the workers could manipulate the doors to make them open and close. When they wanted to clean the den, they would jump down on the one side in safety because the lions were held back by the partition. When they wanted to throw raw meat-or their screaming enemies-to the hungry beasts, they would do just the opposite. Now, it was Daniel’s turn to be lowered to the floor of the cavern below. The lions were hungry, pawing at the partition, ready to eat whatever would be placed on the other side of the door. We can only surmise what was in Daniel’s mind as he waited for the panel to open.
With the stone on the den now firmly in place-sealed by the king and then again by his officials-the drama was ready to unfold. Apparently Darius did not choose to see what he feared might be the inevitable. Instead, he returned to his palace where he spent yet another sleepless night. The usual dancing girls, animated orchestra, rich foods, and night of revelry were canceled. Instead, Darius fasted-praying, in his own way, for the God of the Hebrews to put His cloak of protection around his friend.
I’m OK, O King.
Daniel 6:19 – 23
Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in hast unto the den of lions.
And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel; and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?
Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live forever.
My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouth, that they have not hurt me: foreasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.
Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.
Perhaps you’ve had a loved one who was sent to the hospital emergency ward. You prayed all night for his or her recovery. But you’ve received no word. All night you wondered, worried, and prayed for the one you loved. Then, early the next morning, you jumped into your car and rushed to the hospital to check on the person for whom you cared so much.
Well, that’s how Darius must have felt when he rose from his bed at the breaking of dawn the next morning. He didn’t stay around for his usual bath or breakfast, or to be waited on by his servants. He had only one objective: to go to the lion’s den and check on the condition of his friend. I can almost feel his heavy breathing as he made the trek from his sleeping chamber to the large cavern where the lions were kept. Would Daniel be alive? Or would there only be a few scraps of bones?
When he arrived at the den, his voice cracked and trembled as he cried out, “Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?” The time between the king’s cry and Daniel’s response must have seemed like an eternity to Darius. Then, the king heard what he wanted to hear-what any friend wants to hear about a friend in trouble-that he was all right. The score was:
It’s no accident that the writer of the Book of Hebrews would later write about this victorious deliverance when he stated: “Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions” (Hebrews 11:33). God had indeed paralyzed the mouths of what may have been as many as two hundred hungry lions, and Daniel’s life was spared. Picture the scene: A king and his friend are reunited, as Daniel is pulled back up through the opening in the cavern. The prayers of both men were heard as God again venerated Daniel’s loyalty, faith, and allegiance.
Keep the Lions Handy – and Hungry
And the king commanded, and they brought those men which had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions had the mastery of them, and brake their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den.
The wheels of justice moved swiftly that day as the king commanded that all 120 princes, two presidents, and their families be rounded up and brought to the cavern. The law of the Medes and Persians stated that whatever punishment was meted out to a leader, his family would also experience. So if we consider an average family of the day to be four persons, there could have been as many as five hundred individuals dropped through the ceiling into the lion’s den, where the beasts-thwarted from having a good meal the night before- ripped their prey to shreds. Some, in fact, were killed mid-air since the verse says,
“the lions had the mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den” (6:24).
No more would Darius be subjected to their jealousy and rage. The punishment they’d designed for Daniel was now their own undoing. By also killing his leaders’ families, the king had eliminated the possibility of reprisals, and even potential assassination attempts on himself.
These were not toothless lions as some have suggested. They were the same beasts that had simply skipped a meal to be used to destroy the jealousy-filled conspirators against God’s prophet. The message of this passage? Be careful not to attack the prophets of God-God’s duly ordained ministers. Psalm 105:15 says,
“Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.”
It is your duty and mine to obey God, and to give honor and respect to those who declare the word of truth. Some of today’s “lions” waiting to devour God’s servants may not be of the four-legged variety, but they, too, will surely pay the price if they demonstrate by their actions that they are failing to live in obedience to God’s warning about His servants.
A New Proclamation Is Issued
Daniel 6:25 – 28
Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.
I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.
He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.
So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
Zoroaster and Atar, the god of fire, could not do the job. The lions couldn’t do what the enemy had set them up to do.
Treachery born of avarice had not won the day. It was the living God who again stepped in and reminded the Gentile establishment that enough was enough. I’ve always wondered why Darius did not fall on his knees and get converted right there on the spot. Perhaps he did, and we just do not have the written account. But I have a sneaking suspicion that as he made his decree for all his subjects to serve Daniel’s God, in his heart he may have said, “My beloved Daniel, I want your God. I want a God in my life who can paralyze the mouths of two hundred hungry lions. I want a God to do what Zoroaster and Atar cannot do. I want a God who is faithful and true, and not subject to human whim.
Have you ever been there? Where all your best laid plans, investments, manipulation of people and events have simply not given you what you really wanted from life? I’m sure we’ve all had those experiences. That’s why we must remember that there comes a time when only the Holy Spirit can do the job. Jesus said, in John 6:44,
“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.”
This is one of the key messages of this chapter. You see, this is more than simply a story about Daniel in a den of hungry lions. It’s a narrative of God’s enormous power, great love, compassionate mercy, overwhelming friendship, and the timeless reality that He will always have the last word in every situation-lions present or not. These first six chapters are prologue to the great prophecies yet to come-simply reminders that earthly kingdoms will always come and go, but the kingdom of God is an eternal one, the warm-up message for what we will now begin to analyze in chapters seven through twelve, the prophetic portion of the Book of Daniel.
CHANGED LIVES-one at a time
Dear Dr. Rexella Van Impe,
I want to thank you very much for sending me without fail the electronic weekly message which gives me inspiration and refreshing my Spiritual hunger and thirst. It is always coming in with the right subject of hope, love, compassion, perseverance, and Faith building effect to my spirit and am sure, also with the others receiving it from your Ministry.
My heartfelt gratitude and surely, you are the blessed ones who shared these truths and facts about the Gospel, and it’s Revelations.
God be always with you and bless you.
I wanted to say how much I enjoy all the services you provide to us followers. I am a 64 year old disabled minister who has studied to show himself a workman approved and not ashamed of the Gospel. Your ministry is a blessing to me… I am blessed by all of your media outreach. I have your Bible and am enjoying reading it enhancing my own knowledge of the Word. My heart burns with excitement as I study the end of days. I am thrilled knowing that the return of the Lord is the next thing to be fulfilled. I rejoice with you in your ministry…
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