EXCELLENCE IN SERVICE: LESSONS FROM DANIEL
I really love reading the book of Daniel! It sets out the remarkable story of four Hebrew young men whose excellence was undeniable even in a strange land. And the best part is that this same principle adopted by the young Hebrew men can be applied in business or career today by Christians. In today’s article, I will be focusing on the life of Daniel, one of the four Hebrew young men.
Lesson 1: When we are determined to put God first in our business and careers, God will bless the work of our hands and supply all we need to excel.
We were first introduced to Daniel in Daniel 1. King Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon had just captured Jerusalem. He ordered his chief of staff to select the finest young men from Judah’s royal family – men who were well-versed in every branch of learning, gifted with knowledge and good judgment and suited to serve in the royal palace. He wanted the best of the best. These young men, born into prominent royal families were then taught the language and literature of their captors, Babylon. Their training was for 3 years after which they would serve the king.
Let’s pause and reflect on this for a minute…. Imagine the resentment that these young men were entitled to share, they lost their prestige, riches and position only to become servants, at the beck and call of their captor king. Not only that, they had to learn a new language and culture by force. And to make things worse, they even got a name change!! Babylonian names for that matter. They were stripped of their identity – language, culture and names. They should have been angry at God for failing them and letting them down.
“But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods.” Daniel 1:8
In the midst of all this events, Daniel and his friends did not forget their God. In verse 17, we see how God rewarded their faithfulness, “God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom, and God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams.”
Growing up, I recall taking the common entrance exams and getting a very high score, I was informed by my principal that I was qualified to attend the Suleja Academy, a National Centre for nurturing gifted and talented children. I ended up going to another school, but I can imagine how competitive the Babylonian training school was for Daniel and his friends. Yet, God made them stand out in excellence because they honoured him.
Later on, Daniel and his friends graduated from the training school and attended an interview with the king. And they wowed the king with their intelligence so much that the king found them to be ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom.
Lesson 2: Only God can make us stand out from the pack. Not the work of our hands alone.
My first year at the university was really bad! The first semester, I was barely settled into a routine when it was time for tests and exams. Needless to say, my results weren’t great. Second semester was even worse. I sometimes joke about it now that I got all classes of grades except F in my first year. And I wasn’t lazy. I studied but it just was not translating into results. One day, I decided enough was enough. I told God that I was tired of working like an elephant and eating like an ant. I told him I needed his help, I could not make it without him. My life, in its entirety, was nothing without him. I prayed and cried that day from the depth of my heart. And God heard. That marked the turning point for me at OAU. And I learnt a valuable lesson…. Not by power nor by might… but by the Spirit of God. If we want excellence, we need the Spirit. Without the Spirit, we are nothing.
Lesson 3: Guard your reputation zealously, in career or business. Be purposeful about the kind of reputation your colleagues and clients take away when they come in contact with you.
Daniel served King Nebuchadnezzar, then his successor King Belshazzar. Once again, Daniel’s reputation preceded him.
“But when the queen mother heard what was happening, she hurried to the banquet hall. She said to Belshazzar, “Long live the king! Don’t be so pale and frightened. There is a man in your kingdom who has within him the spirit of the holy gods. During Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, this man was found to have insight, understanding and wisdom like that of the gods… This man Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar, has exceptional ability and is filled with divine knowledge and understanding. He can interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means.” (Daniel 5:10-12)
Wow! What a resume! What a character reference! What a reputation!
Word travels fast…. Especially bad news. Your reputation is your market value. If you were to take stock today, what value do you think your reputation has in your industry? Are you known for doing good work? Or are you known for tardiness, gossiping and a general lackadaisical attitude to work? Do you go to work each day determined to do an excellent job or do you just go in to fulfil all righteousness and get paid?
Lesson 4: When you are excellent at what you do, you will break glass ceilings and make strides in your business and career.
After King Belshazzar, came King Darius. And yet again, Daniel was chosen as an administrator to supervise the high officers and protect the king’s interest. Yet again, Daniel proved himself more capable than the other administrators and high officers, his peers. As a result of his exceptional ability, the king planned to place him over the entire empire.
Daniel, a foreigner, was going to be placed over the entire Babylonian empire. He was about to be put in charge of his own captors. How amazing is that? This reminds me of the story of Joseph, the slave boy who was made Prime Minister in Egypt. The common trend in both men’s lives was their excellence and total commitment to God.
“Then the other administrators and high officers began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling government affairs, but they couldn’t find anything to criticize or condemn. He was faithful, always responsible and completely trustworthy. Therefore, they concluded, “Our only chance of finding grounds for accusing Daniel will be in connection with the rules of his religion.” (Daniel 6:4-5)
They could not find any fault whatsoever with the way Daniel handled government affairs. Can this be said about you? If your work was audited today, will it be found blameless? Will you be found faithful, always responsible and completely trustworthy?
Lesson 5: Again, back to lesson 1 – Put God first. Pray incessantly. Prayer changes everything. Prayer changes you.
After Daniel’s enemies realized they could only attack him through his religion, they went to the king and asked him to pass a law to ensure that if anyone prays to any other person (divine or human) except for the king, that person would be thrown into the lion’s den. The king passed the law.
“But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.” Daniel 6:10
What would you have done if you were in Daniel’s shoes? How many times have you been faced with decisions either in your business or in your career, which threatened your faith in God? How did you respond? Did you put God first or chose ‘self-preservation” first?
Daniel’s faith was no secret. Even the king knew about it. Daniel did not hide it. He prayed in the open window of his house three times daily. Everybody knew that yet the king still found him worthy to lead the Babylonian empire. After Daniel’s enemies came to the king to tell him they had caught Daniel praying, the king tried to save him unsuccessfully. After giving orders for Daniel to be thrown into the Daniel’s den, the king prayed that Daniel’s God whom he served faithfully will rescue him. He spent the night fasting and could not sleep all night. Very early the next morning, the king was at the lion’s den calling out to his beloved Daniel. Lo and behold, there was Daniel, untouched and unscathed. For he had trusted in his God.
Daniel was not just excellent in business, he was excellent in his service to God. Praying incessantly three times daily is no mean feat. Many of us lack the willpower and consistency to even pray once a day. If we want to enjoy excellence in all we do, we need to be excellent in our relationship with the Father. There are so many lessons to be learnt from the story of Daniel. I hope that this article encourages you to spend some time reflecting on his life and applying some of the principles to your own life.
Writer: Tomilola Adebiyi