Daniel 1:3-21 (Part 2) – Doing What’s In Front of You And Doing It to The Glory of the Lord!

Posted: May 21, 2016 in Book of Daniel

Daniel 1:3-21 (Part 2)

Daniel in Nebuchadnezzar’s Court

There is an old saying that “if life gives you lemons; make lemonade.” That seems appropriate to today’s take on the passage that we revisit this morning. For me there are many examples in my life where I have had to make lemonade, but today, I want to focus on one. Back in 2007 when I was living in the Charlotte area, the company that I was working for was bought out and our corporate office in Charlotte was shutdown. All 15 of us corporate office employees lost our jobs. As you may remember, late 2007 was right at the beginning of what is now called “The Great Recession”, the worst economic downturn our nation has seen since the 1930s. Finding a job in those days was difficult as few companies were hiring. However, I was able to land a job with Vaco Resources in Charlotte as one of their consultants. That consulting firm would hire out their consultants to companies for various finance projects. We would come in and do projects for companies that they did not have the expertise or the manpower to complete. Being a consultant with a consulting firm is kind of a feast or famine proposition. You can work on a project for six months but you can also be without and project and not getting paid for weeks and months. It is not what one would consider a permanent solution when you have a kid in college, child support to pay, and a myriad of bills to pay. However, in that economic climate, it was what was available. Immediately upon signing on with Vaco, I was assigned to a long-term project at America Fujikura, Ltd. (AFL) here in Duncan, SC where I now live (and have been living since August 2010). AFL is a Japanese-owned company and in 2006 Japan was rocked by major financial scandals similar to the Enron/Worldcom financial scandals that came to light here in the US back in 2000.

 

In 2001, the United States passed the Sarbanes-Oxley laws (named after the two congressman who wrote the legislation) in Congress (called the SOX laws). This required companies to take a close look at their internal controls each year and document how they were doing at keeping such scandals from happening. It was sometimes called the “auditors employment security act” because it created a need for more internal auditors, external auditors, audit consultants, etc. Well, when the same thing happened in Japan, they fashioned a law that was very similar to the SOX laws in the US. The laws were so similar the Japanese version became known as JSOX (Japanese SOX). It was AFL’s JSOX implementation project that gave me work to do while I was looking for a permanent job. It was intense work. We have a lot of documentation of internal controls to do. We had a lot of testing to do once we had documented all the internal controls. It was a six-month long project that begin in late October 2007 just four weeks after my employment at that Charlotte corporate headquarters job had ended. It was a blessing and ironic at the same time. The Charlotte job is what drew me away from the Greenville-Spartanburg, SC area where I had lived for 28 years. The move was difficult but I moved to the Charlotte area and now here I was again working in Duncan, right smack dab in the middle of the Greenville-Spartanburg area again. I didn’t care about the irony though. It was a job. It actually paid very well and I was doing something worthwhile. However, as the project was winding down, I was wondering what if anything Vaco was going to sign me up for next. What project was going to be on the horizon, if any. I was worried because during the early days of that recession, nobody and I mean nobody was hiring for other than entry level positions. AFL, though presented me with a tough decision though. As we had seen throughout the project, one of their subsidiaries out on the west coast, Fujikura America, Inc. (FAI), was a complete disaster from an accounting and internal control standpoint. The offered me the opportunity to go out to Santa Clara, CA to help clean up the finance function and get it JSOX compliant. Continued employment but on the West Coast. Stay here and having no income as the project in Duncan was winding down. What to do? Well, it was a tough decision. It was tougher than making the decision to leave Greenville for Charlotte. It was to be a six month additional project. With a lack of job opportunities elsewhere, the decision ultimately was one I had to make. You go where you get paid.

In May 2008, I struck out for California, leaving my girlfriend, Elena (who later became my wife), and my almost grown (23 and 18) daughters behind. It was only six months I told them. Time will fly by and I will be back before you know it. The project was to end by Thanksgiving 2008. It’s not that long! During that time I was out there, I really proved myself to the local management there at FAI. I solved problems that had previously gone uncorrected by the controller there. I got things pretty well in shape as much as I could not being the controller myself. Wouldn’t you know it? In October 2008, the controller who was there (a bungling fool of an accountant if there ever was one) got an opportunity elsewhere and left. The president at FAI was so impressed with me that he immediately offered me the job. I already knew the issues, the problems, what needed to be done so it was a perfect fit.

 

Again, it was a tough decision. Stay in California permanently? Completely across a continent from everything that I had ever known. As I remind you again, this was 2008, the beginning of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Come home to South Carolina with no work on the horizon or take a permanent job in California? Yes, that was a tough choice. It came down to the saying, “You go where you get paid.” I decided to take the job and the rest, my friends, is history. In late 2010, the FAI finance function was moved here to South Carolina and consolidated with the finance function of the rest of the AFL family of companies here in Duncan. While I was out in California, Elena moved out there with me and we got married. While out in California, I was able to make FAI’s finance team a top notch team that produced trustworthy financial statement. I was able to implement all kinds of improvements to the finance function there. What was once the worst accounting team in all of AFL was now one of the best. While out in California, Elena and I made great new friends at an amazing new church – the God given talent that was in that one little church plant! Wow! While out in California, Elena got saved. While out in California, I quit being a baby Christian and began to grow and mature. While out in California, we became passionate about serving the Lord. While out in California, life gave us lemons, but we made lemonade. Here I am 8 years later, still working with this very same company. FAI has been so good to me and my family. I would not dream of working for any other company.

 

When I think back to God’s providential care over my life, that decision to go off into the unknown of California was one of the most important decisions of my life. When you consider all that happened in Elena’s and my life while in California, it was the single most important decision of my life. Life turns on a dime sometimes. I sometimes sit back and wonder what life would have been like if I had not gone to California. I don’t think it would have turned out as well as it has. Sometimes, in life, when something seems like you are being forced down a road that you don’t really want to go down, you just have to do what’s in front of you and you do it with gusto and trust the Lord with the rest.

 

When I think of Daniel going into exile, my own life story comes to mind. He could have let it defeat him but he kept pushing on and doing what was in front of him. Let’s read what it says:

 

3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.[a] 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.

 

6 Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

 

8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your[b] food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”

 

11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

 

15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

 

17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

 

18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.

 

21 And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.

 

As you can see here, Daniel could have curled up in a corner and given up. He could have said, everything that I hold dear has been ripped away so I give up. That was not the Daniel way. He continued to live. He did the best he could in the situation presented to him. He must have figured that God had placed Him in Babylon for a reason. So, while there, He served the Lord with integrity and with excellence. So much so, that he rose to the heights of being a trusted right hand man of the emperor of the great Babylonian Empire. He simply chose to make the best of the situation he was in. You do what is placed in front of you. Daniel trusted that the Lord had a reason for him being there. So, did he quit and give up because His life did not go according to his own plan? No. He did what was in front of him. He trusted God.

 

The paths we are on may not be where we wanted to be according to our plans but there is nothing wasted and nothing coincidental in God’s plan for our lives. We must trust the Lord to work out the details of our lives and place those details in His hands. Meanwhile, we do what’s in front of us. We do it to honor God. We do what is in front of us with excellence and integrity. We do what’s in front of us with gusto and joy. We do what’s in front of us because we trust that God has us here at this time, at this moment, at this place, with these people to do the work that he has appointed for us at this time, at this moment, at this place, with these people. There is no coincidence. There is no randomness. It is all part of God’s plan for my life and your life. Do what’s in front of you until your destiny is revealed to you by God. He does have a plan. I can tell you that from my own life experience. Trust in the Lord. Do what’s in front of you now with excellence and integrity. Do what’s in front of you because God has you here for a reason at this point in your development. He is preparing you for what He has prepared for you. Live it. Love it. Make lemonade!

 

Amen and Amen.

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