Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Marks of Godliness

What is godliness?  You don't find it mentioned much in the Bible, yet nearly all of the fifteen references where it is found challenge us to godly living, relating it to our knowledge of God and our devotion to Him.  The Apostle Paul, for instance, urges us to pray for all men "in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity" (1 Timothy 2.1-2).  Concluding that  "godliness with contentment is great gain" (1 Timothy 6.6, KJV), Paul instructs us, therefore, to  pursue godliness along with "righteousness..., faith, love, perseverance and gentleness" (1 Timothy 6.11).  Peter tells us God provides everything we need to live godly.   "His divine power," says Peter, "has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness through the true knowledge of Him" (2 Peter 1.3)  Then he lists godliness among the qualities of character we are supposed to develop diligently (verses 5-7).

Before long, you get the idea that godliness is a major quality of life.  What, then, does it mean?  How can we live a godly life?  To help answer that question, let's look at a man who lived such a life.  Daniel, when he was taken captive into Babylon, exemplifies godly character in an ungodly world.  Much like each of us, Daniel was a child of God in an alien environment--he a Jew in Babylon; we, Christians in the world.  Daniel began his life in that land with devotion to God.  When we first encounter him in chapter one, we learn that "Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king's choice food...." (Daniel 1.8).  As a result, "God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials" (Daniel 1.9).  Daniel continued his devotion to God through the reigns of four emperors.  Late in the statesman's life, Darius, the fourth of these emperors, appointed Daniel as one of three commissioners over 120 satraps, lesser government officials.  Before long, the emperor planned to promote him to a position of authority over the entire kingdom because Daniel continued to distinguish himself (Daniel 6.1-3).  When they heard about this, the satraps and the other commissioners decided to discredit him.  But the more they tried to destroy him, the more they uncovered marks of godliness in his life.

The first mark is a godly spirit: "this Daniel began distinguishing himself...because he possessed an extraordinary spirit"  (Daniel 6.3).  Daniel was winsome, positive, teachable.  What he had was something like school spirit only far better.  Perhaps we could best describe it as an excellent attitude, an attitude that radiated God-likeness.  He had a consistent spirit that reflected God's control of his life and God's character in his life.  Whether at home, or walking the street, or in the palace, or shopping in the market place, Daniel conducted himself in such a way that, without his saying a word, people could see his love for the Lord and devotion to Him.   Ever notice how people can identify a christian even when he doesn't say a word? Daniel shows how. He was committed to the Word of God and to the God of the Word.  Therefore, he lived his life with an enthusiasm and energy that radiated the Spirit of God within him.  In the gait of his walk, in the sparkle of his eyes, in the glow of his countenance, anyone could see that "extraordinary" spirit.  It was extraordinary because it was godly, or more precisely because it was the Spirit of God Himself living in Daniel.  The verse literally reads, "there was in him an extraordinary spirit."

The second mark of godliness Daniel possessed is faithfulness in his work.  Although Daniel was faithful in his religious duty as well, we need to see that this refers to secular work, what we do for our employers "between Sundays."   The satraps tried "to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs" (Daniel 6.4 ).  When they investigated his daily work, "they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful...." (emphasis mine).  Godliness applies to secular jobs as well as our sacred occupations and reveals itself in loyalty or faithfulness to God and to our employers.  The Bible teaches us that "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve" (Colossians 3.23-24).

I frequently think of Brother Lawrence, the seventeenth century priest who was able to turn even the most commonplace and menial task into a living hymn to the glory of God.  He once prayed, "Lord of all pots and pans and things...make me a saint by getting meals and washing up the plates."  In the palace of Babylon, Daniel had a more exalted responsibility than Brother Lawrence; but he carried it out in the same spirit and with the same devotion.  As if he were a member of the church at Smyrna, he was faithful unto death (cp. Revelation 2.10) or at least in the face of death on more than one occasion.  As a child of God, Daniel led a life of integrity, consistency, and faithfulness.  Although not particularly a tranquil life for him, it was a life of godliness and dignity.  Daniel had accepted the challenge of godly living.  Have you?

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