About 10 years ago I heard Steven Sample, who at the time was the president of the University of Southern California, speak at a leadership conference. He's a follower of Christ and an excellent communicator who often speaks at college graduations.
Regardless of the setting, Sample usually gives the same address, and it involves asking the graduates three questions: How do you feel about money? How do you feel about children? How do you feel about God? The last question often catches his audience off guard. As Sample notes in his terrific book, The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership...
Say what? Did he say God? Why would anyone bring up God at a commencement ceremony? I quickly assure the graduates that I'm not trying to sell them a set of religious beliefs. After all, the question is not how should you feel about God, but how do you feel about God in fact? What I have found…is that the vast majority of people—leaders and followers alike—duck this question altogether. Discovering how one feels about God is simply too difficult or frightening for most people to address in any serious or meaningful way…[but] it is probably to…[the leader's]…advantage to discover and confront those feelings sooner rather than later. Doing so will almost certainly help him locate his moral center, and in the process help him become a better leader.
Perhaps you've never wrestled with how you feel about God, but I have. Maybe it's because I teach at a seminary and have been a pastor for almost three decades that I've been told at times that I'm not supposed to wrestle with that. Still, sometimes I do. Depending on my behavior, situation, mood or my health, I've wrestled with fearing God, loving Him, feeling close to Him or even wondering if He really cares about me. That's one of the reasons why this story in Daniel 6 gives me hope, because it grounds me in theological reality. This narrative shows us what our God can do even in the midst of the most daunting circumstances that life brings our way.
Daniel's Faithfulness in the Face of DeathThe story begins with a change of regime from the Babylonians to the Persians and Darius, the new king, makes Daniel one of the top administrators of his empire. That's very important because at this point Daniel was at least 75 years old and was still an occupational success. In fact, because of Daniel's competence and ethics, Darius planned to set him over the whole kingdom. Daniel was first at work in the morning, finished the job every day and didn't cut corners. He might have been on the older side of life, but he still had his mojo. In a youth-oriented society such as ours, it's good to see that folks on the far side of 50 still can deliver the goods.