October 29, 2000
A decade ago I was working part-time at an apartment complex where Susan and I lived while I was completing a degree at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.
It was an interesting job and I worked with, and for, some interesting people.
In May of 1992 things came to a head at this place. I had worked there for 3 years and I had seniority. I had 3 different supervisors and worked with maybe 30 different people in that period of time.
On the Friday prior to Memorial Day I was told that the property was being sold to new owners, that a new management company was coming in to manage the place, and that we most likely would not have jobs by the end of next week.
Well the following Wednesday, we were done. And I can still recall the shock of losing my job. I had never had this happen to me before.
Well that night, I sat at home and thought, “God, its in your hands now.”
Can you recall a time when you had “the rug pulled out from underneath you?” It left you breathless didn’t it? We wonder what in the world happened? And why is this happening to me?
A lot of people, including some of you, I’m sure, can related to this story.
But, sometimes the rug is pulled out for personal reasons. You’re set up and then taken for a ride that leaves you on the floor taking stock of your condition and asking, “Why? Why me? What caused this to happen?”
This morning we are going to look at a second way Satan tries to pull the rug out from underneath us – individually and congregationally.
This second way is by causing us to be divisive not unifying. Now by being divisive, I don’t mean having an honest difference of opinion. That is to be expected. I expect us to have different perspective on issues. In fact, we sometimes, in some areas, need them.
By divisive I mean being have a certain spirit or attitude that is bent on keeping things stirred up for the wrong reasons. And somewhere behind those wrong reasons, I will wager you, is jealousy.
The story is told of a great English preacher, FB Meyer, and his struggle with jealousy when another great English preacher, G. Campbell Morgan, returned to England after being in America.
Meyer said to some friends, “It was easy to pray for the success of Morgan when he was in America. But when he came to England and to a church near mine, it was something different. The old Adam in me was inclined to jealousy, but I got my heel upon his head, and whether I felt right toward my friend, I determined to act right.
There is a story in scripture that really illustrates the effects of jealousy on a person’s life and that is the story of Daniel.
This morning our scripture passage is Daniel chapter 6 and I am going to read the entire chapter and, as I do so, please take the thoughts and reflections portion of your bulletin and be ready to privately answer those 6 questions that appear on it.
(READ THE PASSAGE)
Now, take a minute and respond to the questions. . . .
Before we look more closely at this passage, we need to know that Daniel had been in governmental service for quite sometime.
He was one of four young men when, as we read in chapter 1, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and conquered it as well as all of Judah.
Even then Daniel refused to become a part of the Babylonian culture and choose to eat food that was not defiled as he had been taught as a boy. Daniel served Nebuchadnezzar well as described in chapters 2-4.
Then during the reign of the next king. Belshazzar, Daniel again was called upon to help interpret his dreams.
Well, Belshazzar was killed and a new ruler King Darius of Persia became the new ruler of Babylon. And this is where we pick up the story in chapter 6.
Daniel had been around for a while and once again, God was with Daniel and he proved his ability in leadership with the new king. But, there was a problem . . .
We read in verse 3 – 4 that “Daniel soon proved himself more capable than all the other administrators and princes. Because of his great ability, the king made plans to place him [Daniel] over the entire empire. Then the other administrators and princes began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling his affairs, but they couldn’t find anything to criticize. He was faithful and honest and always responsible.”
When I was younger I always felt that the book of Daniel was a heavy and dark book of the Bible. I believed that it was heavy and dark because there was something dark and sinister at work in the days of Daniel.
And they were dark days for the Israelites. They had been taken away, exiled, from their home because they had been continuously unfaithful to God and finally God said enough.
But, God had a plan. He told them through the prophets, that one day they would come back to their homeland. Not all of them, but some of them. And they did.
God was also at work through Daniel. He had credibility with foreign leaders even though he did not embrace their way of life and their beliefs. I think that Daniel’s story is a story that we need to get better acquainted with because it is a story about living for God in the midst of a foreign culture. We live in one today.
Sometime however, within the last year, it dawned on me that what got Daniel in the lions’ den was . . . jealousy.
Look at verse 4 again, “then the other administrators and princes began searching for some fault in the way Daniel handled his affairs.” Why? Because he was going to be promoted above them and he was an outsider.
This was a new leader, Babylonia no longer existed. It had been defeated by the Persians, their neighbors to the north and east. (By the way, they are now known respectively as Iraq and Iran.)
The new leadership were Persians, they were threatened by this member of the old guard, who was not even a Babylonian. He was a Hebrew.
So they decided to set him by using his faith as a way to get rid of him.
There are, and there always will be, people who are jealous of us when we walk with integrity and respect as followers of Jesus Christ. We become targets because they are jealous of what we have and what we stand for and they are convicted, whether they realize it or not, of their shortcomings.
I think that we could make a case in this chapter that this was part of the problem for this jealous officials. It is possible to think that they could not even stand the sight of Daniel and the all the praise they heard about Daniel.
And they were so jealousy, so angry, so resentful of Daniel and his abilities that they even went to his home to spy on him so that they could make a case against.
You see, behind the jealousy of these leaders, was fear. They were afraid of losing their power, their influence, and their control. Daniel was a threat to their comfort, their plans.
We live in a culture of fear. So many of our decision are based on fear. We move to where threats to our children at school are, we hope, less. We work long hours because we fear economic ruin if we don’t get more money or we fear looking bad because we don’t have the latest whatever to look good so we add to our workload.
And anything or anybody that gets in the way of our goals for comfort and security becomes a threat and when circumstances change or the other person gets a position or place that threatens our plans or security, fear, envy, and jealousy take root.
It happens in school, in marriages, in families, in the workplace, in government, and . . . in the church. And the result is division and not unity and the lion called jealousy begins to roar, attack, and consume us.
How do we get the lions’ to be quiet and go away? How do we seek to build unity and stop divisiveness?
There is more to the FB Meyer story that I shared a few moments ago, and it gives us some hints as to how we do battle and root out jealousy and thus divisiveness in our lives and church.
Meyer went on to say that his church gave G Campbell Morgan a reception, and “I acknowledged that if it was not necessary for me to preach Sunday evenings I would dearly love to go and hear him myself. Well, that made me feel right toward him. But just see how the dear Lord helped me out of my difficulty. There was Charles Spurgeon preaching wonderfully on the other side of me. He and Mr. Morgan were so popular, and drew such crowds, that our church caught the overflow, and we had all we could accommodate.”
1. Meyer admitted to his feelings of jealousy and made the choice to not let them take root in his soul. He had to do that at least twice in this story. Once when he first heard the news of Morgan’s return and the second time during the reception. Admission of being jealous is really the first step in not letting it take root. Then surrendering the jealousy again and again and again is the next step. Jealousy will come back like a hungry lion does when stalking a wounded animal. And we need to be aware of that.
2. Meyer closed ranks with Morgan. Jealousy begins to lose its power when we draw close to the persons we are jealous of. Bette Midler’s song of a decade ago, From A Distance, reminds us that when we draw close to those we fear or consider enemies, it forces us to see the commonalities between us and the differences begin to fade. By closing the gap and welcoming Morgan to his new position, Meyer chose love and respect in place of jealousy and fear.
3. Meyer affirmed his own place in the scheme of things. Charles Spurgeon was, and still is, considered to be one of the greatest preachers of the modern age. Meyer recognized that and still affirmed and accepted his own place in the scheme of things. Doing so, allowed him to celebrate God’s work amongst the three congregations and therefore unity not competition became a reality. Meyer could affirm himself because of his position and place in Christ. Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” That is the basis of our identity in the church not our position or place. Meyer knew that and made his choices on the basis of that decision.
4. Finally, Meyer allows God to work in his life and the lives of his colleagues by seeking God’s help. Jealousy, as I just said, is like a hungry lion stalking a wounded animal. It does not go away very easily.
Meyer recognized the roar of the Lion called jealousy and knew that he needed God’s help in keeping it from devouring him.
All of us want to be make a difference. We want our lives to count for something. We want to be respected and we want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.
Satan knows this. And what he will do is send jealousy the lion to get us to try and fulfill all of these important needs by using jealousy as a motivation. And when we let jealousy devour us, there is a great big mess.
And one of the side effects of jealousy is that it hurts and affects others like King Darius who had the rug pulled out from underneath him as well.
We count. We matter to God. We matter to others. We need to help others know and experience the truth that they matter to God, too. And when we begin to affirm one another unity begins to be built. Trust becomes easier to give and keep. Growth takes place. Love flows. Joy is experienced. We can begin to see God at work all because we operate on the power of the Holy Spirit and not our own jealous ways and others begin to take notice.
Once again my prayer this day is that the Holy Spirit will help us to let go of jealousy and pride and allow Him spirit and grace to flow freely in our lives and our relationships so that God will be clearly seen and sought by others who are seeking what we have. Amen.