In setting goals, we’re told to make them specific, realistic, measurable, achievable and personal. Wanting to be happy isn’t a goal but a wish. Trying to be a nicer person isn’t a goal but a desire. Wanting your husband to change anything isn’t a goal but a dream. I may want to be taller but that’s beyond my ability to make happen, no matter how much I might want it. A goal is to be something doable, with a plan to accomplish it, with some way to determine whether it’s been done or not.
If I set a goal to lose weight, I organize my life around making that happen. If I want to read through my Bible in a year, I’ll set up a schedule and carve out time each day to read. But the key word is doable. It is unrealistic for me to set a goal for something impossible.
But what if you’re asked to do the impossible or what seems impossible? Like providing for your family when you’ve lost your job. Like suffering through a treatment for an illness or condition that seems to be having no effect. Like healing the hole in our heart left from the loss of a loved one. Like forgiving someone who’s hurt us and shows no remorse. Or loving someone who is unlovable or simply hard to love. Or never letting the sun go down on our wrath. Or trusting the Lord with all our heart. Or interpreting a dream with no clue what the dream was about.
Dan 2:1 Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him.
Historical background: in 587 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, completed his assault on Jerusalem and captured the city and nation. He took captives back to Babylon. Those who showed great promise, he had them trained in the language and methods of that culture. Four young men rose to prominence: Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
Dan 1:19-20 The king talked with them, and out of them all not one was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king's personal service. As for every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers who were in all his realm.
These are the main characters in this story.
Dan 2:2-12 Then the king gave orders to call in the magicians, the conjurers, the sorcerers and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. The king said to them, "I had a dream and my spirit is anxious to understand the dream." Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic: "O king, live forever! Tell the dream to your servants, and we will declare the interpretation." The king replied to the Chaldeans, "The command from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you will be torn limb from limb and your houses will be made a rubbish heap. But if you declare the dream and its interpretation, you will receive from me gifts and a reward and great honor; therefore declare to me the dream and its interpretation." They answered a second time and said, "Let the king tell the dream to his servants, and we will declare the interpretation." The king replied, "I know for certain that you are bargaining for time, inasmuch as you have seen that the command from me is firm, that if you do not make the dream known to me, there is only one decree for you. For you have agreed together to speak lying and corrupt words before me until the situation is changed; therefore tell me the dream, that I may know that you can declare to me its interpretation." The Chaldeans answered the king and said, "There is not a man on earth who could declare the matter for the king, inasmuch as no great king or ruler has ever asked anything like this of any magician, conjurer or Chaldean. Moreover, the thing which the king demands is difficult, and there is no one else who could declare it to the king except gods, whose dwelling place is not with mortal flesh." Because of this the king became indignant and very furious and gave orders to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.
Who were the Chaldeans? If you remember Abraham’s story, he left Ur of the Chaldeans to travel to the Promised Land. The Chaldeans were the original people of Mesopotamia in which Babylon lies. Even in being conquered by other nations, they remained an influential and highly educated group of people. Some historians believe that, after Persia conquered Babylon, the term Chaldean was used more often to refer to a social class of highly educated people than to them as a nation which we find with Babylon. So, we simply merge them together and have them as a category of wise men within the nation of Babylon.
In the NT when the Magi came to Bethlehem to worship Jesus they were of this class of people. Which would now extend to Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
Dan 2:13-15 So the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they looked for Daniel and his friends to kill them. Then Daniel replied with discretion and discernment to Arioch, the captain of the king's bodyguard, who had gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon; he said to Arioch, the king's commander, "For what reason is the decree from the king so urgent?" Then Arioch informed Daniel about the matter.
Since the Chaldeans were the ones speaking to Nebuchadnezzar, they knew they were the targets of his rage. Daniel and the others were on the fringe, yet still in the same group.
Dan 2:16 So Daniel went in and requested of the king that he would give him time, in order that he might declare the interpretation to the king.
Why would Daniel do this in the first place? To step into an impossible situation and offer to help?
- Maybe to buy time hoping Nebuchadnezzar’s anger would settle down,
- Maybe to give the Chaldeans time to escape,
- Maybe he knew the history of God’s ability to do the impossible,
- Maybe he knew personally of God’s ability to do the impossible in his life.
- Bottom line: Daniel had faith and knew how to use it.
He had lost everything of his life in Jerusalem: his culture, his home, his family, his religion, but he didn’t lose his faith.
We may lose everything in our life, but we can never lose our ability to trust God. We may not want to trust Him, or may have forgotten how to trust Him, or may even refuse to trust Him, but we cannot lose the ability to trust Him. It stays right there, in the corner of our heart, waiting to be used or expressed.
You may have grown up like me, never questioning what God can do. We’ve read the stories and are confident God is all-powerful and limitless. But probably have a hard time connecting that God we believe in to our troubles. We may even ask: Do I have the right to expect God to step into my situation and do something miraculous? Why would He do that for me? Who am I that the God of the universe would care for me? But guess what:
Isa 64:3 When You did awesome things which we did not expect, You came down, the mountains quaked at Your presence. For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, nor has the eye seen a God besides You, Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him.
How often did the people see some visual expression of God’s power? Not often. But enough to build a strong faith that God has that power and can wield that power whenever and wherever He chooses. That’s why we need to read our Bible: 1Cor 10:11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
Once we’re convinced God is enough, we know there is no situation He cannot respond to. The Bible tells us that!
Daniel spoke with the assurance of Gabriel, who told Mary, Nothing is impossible with God. And, then, he stepped into an impossible situation that only God could handle.
Dan 2:17-18 Then Daniel went to his house and informed his friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, about the matter, so that they might request compassion from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his friends would not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.
What was his first step: prayer. After Daniel set the goal to declare the interpretation of the dream, he prayed. Prayer was the connection to the One who understood the mystery of what was going on and had the ability to answer. He was the only One in whom Nothing is Impossible.
When we’re asked to do the impossible, we have to start with Him. We never start with us to see what we can do. Our ability is inability in situations like this. When what we face requires the Almightiness of God, prayer is the only thing we can do.
But realize, Daniel didn’t just throw up a prayer, considering it the proper thing to do. This was his practice. We don’t wait until we face impossible situations to wake up a dormant prayer life. We start now, in the quietness of the moments before the storm, to practice resting in God’s ability.
Farmer hiring the worker who could sleep when the storm comes. If you’ve already done the work, there’s nothing to worry about when the storm comes.
In his prayer, Daniel requested compassion. Reaching out to the heart of God for the benefit of His love. Compassion is love with a purpose. It is directed love, love aimed toward someone or something that we can actually help resolve their conflict. This is far beyond feeling love or sympathy or even empathy. We rarely love with compassion love because we’re limited from doing what needs to be done.
- Someone has lost a loved one. We love them though we cannot remove their grief.
- Someone is sick. We love them though we cannot heal their illness.
- Someone is heartbroken. We love them though we cannot fix their broken heart.
Daniel was requesting God’s compassion because it came with God’s intention of doing something in his behalf. God, I rest in your compassion because it never fails.
Ps 77:9-10 Has God forgotten to be gracious, or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion? Then I said, "It is my grief, that the right hand of the Most High has changed."
I may doubt everything else in my life, but I can never doubt God’s loving purpose over me.
So, in extreme confidence, Daniel goes to bed. No answer yet. Only the threat that tomorrow he and the others will die with no interpretation. How can he go to sleep at a time like this? He gave the problem to the Lord.
If I am anxious, worried or fearful, I am not trusting. When I trust, I can sleep when the storm is coming.
Dan 2:19-23 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven; Daniel said, "Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him. It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding. It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him. To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, For You have given me wisdom and power; even now You have made known to me what we requested of You, for You have made known to us the king's matter."
The answer is given but the crisis isn’t over. What if God answers us and the crisis doesn’t stop? What if we believe what God has said but the threat still remains? We act according to the answer God gave us, not according to what we see or don’t see.
Dan 2:24-27 Therefore, Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon; he went and spoke to him as follows: "Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon! Take me into the king's presence, and I will declare the interpretation to the king." Then Arioch hurriedly brought Daniel into the king's presence and spoke to him as follows: "I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can make the interpretation known to the king!" The king said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, "Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen and its interpretation?" Daniel answered before the king and said, "As for the mystery about which the king has inquired, neither wise men, conjurers, magicians nor diviners are able to declare it to the king.
No, I’m not able to do this. No man is. This is an impossible situation. It is outside the realm of human energy, intelligence or creativity to fix.
Now, like Arioch taking credit for “finding” Daniel, this could have been a moment for Daniel to take some of God’s glory. “Yep, I figured it all out. I’m the best.” It’s human nature to claim responsibility for solving problems. But not when you know where the answer came from.
Years ago, Jan’s dad had a turning point in his life. At the time, he was a machine tool mechanic. In fact, he was the chief trouble-shooter for Hughes Tool Company. He was good. He admitted to me he was even a bit cocky because he believed he could fix anything, and honestly, he could. Except for one machine. He did everything he could think of but couldn’t get it running right. He finally broke down and said, “God, I can’t do this. I need help.” He said, almost as soon as he finished praying, he knew the answer. And in that one moment, he realized the reason he was so good wasn’t because he was so good. It was because God was making him good. That’s called getting perspective.
Listen to how Daniel placed everything into perspective:
Dan 2:28-30 "However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. This was your dream and the visions in your mind while on your bed. As for you, O king, while on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future; and He who reveals mysteries has made known to you what will take place. But as for me, this mystery has not been revealed to me for any wisdom residing in me more than in any other living man, but for the purpose of making the interpretation known to the king, and that you may understand the thoughts of your mind.
King, I want you to know of the power of my God. He does the impossible. He helps the helpless. He restores the broken. He finds the lost. He heals the diseased. He pardons sinners. He redeems lives from the pit. He crowns us with lovingkindness and compassion. He satisfies our years with good things. He performs righteous deeds and judgments for all who are oppressed. He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. He solves mysteries and resolves challenges we face.
So, King Nebuchadnezzar, you may delight in the terror you inflict on your people with the impossible challenges you throw their way, but there is a God you cannot compete with. He is above and beyond anything we face and does far more than we could ever think or ask. That is our God.
Dan 2:46-49 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and did homage to Daniel, and gave orders to present to him an offering and fragrant incense. The king answered Daniel and said, "Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery." Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts, and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. And Daniel made request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego over the administration of the province of Babylon, while Daniel was at the king's court.
Why do we face impossible situations? Primarily to prepare us for what God has planned. You can’t get there from here isn’t only in travel. Sometimes when God wants to move us to the next level of life, He has to take us down rough roads before we can get where He wants us to be. Why would He do that?
- To remind us how helpless we are to manage our lives on our own.
- To remind us that though we are helpless we are not hopeless.
- To remind us we belong to a God who accomplishes what concerns us.
- To clarify our perspective of where the source of our life comes from.
- To open up all we are going through to the only One who can get us through it.
- To provide answers we can never come up with on our own.
- To place us in a position that if it were not for God, we’d have no hope.
- To show us things about God we never would have known otherwise.
I can’t give you a prescription for your life as to how to make it good and meaningful. All I can do is connect you with the God who establishes your way. Loving Him, trusting Him, relying on Him, is the only criteria for facing the impossible and confidently knowing God’s got this. I can’t give Him your burdens. I can’t heal your disease. I can’t take away your suffering. I can’t do impossible things in your life, but He can. Ask Him to do so.
Samuel Adams: We have appealed to Heaven for the justice of our cause, and in Heaven we have placed our trust. Numerous have been the manifestation of God’s providence in sustaining us. We have been reduced to distress, and the arm of Omnipotence has raised us up.
When we face an impossible situation, (and be assured, if we’re not there now, we will be at some point) we will be reduced to distress. But that distress is designed to cause us to look to the arms of our God Who will raise us up.
- Life is full of impossible challenges.
- They may be our own personal challenges or ones we absorb because they affect those we love.
- We are not in charge of the impossible and are, in fact, incapable of resolving it.
- So, if faced with an impossible challenge, here is our doable goal: give the challenge to the Lord in whom nothing is impossible