ONE TABLESPOON AT A TIME
Suppose you wanted to kill a person. Suppose you wanted to kill that person by
poisoning him or her. Would you use a fast acting poison or a slow acting poison?
That choice probably would depend on your options. What options? It would depend
on your opportunities to administer the poison.
Satan wants to kill you. Evil's objective in your life is quite simple--your
spiritual death. Under no circumstance will evil ever seek anything that is in your
eternal best interest. Evil does not bless. Evil does not seek your highest good.
Satan has an enormous arsenal to attack all kinds of people. People who rely
on God present Satan a special problem. He will attack them, but he cannot use the
same weapons that he uses on people who have not relationship with God.
One of Satan's favorite methods for spiritually killing people who have a
relationship with God is by poisoning them. Evil is very patient. If it is necessary for
evil to use a slow acting poison that takes a long time to produce spiritual death, that is
okay. If evil can separate us from God a little bit at a time over a long period of time,
that is fine. If this separation occurs so gradually that we do not realize what is
happening, that is excellent. If we gradually develop a taste for evil to the extent that
we do not distinguish evil from good, that is wonderful. If we reach the point that we
defend evil because of our conviction that evil is godly, that is wonderful.
One of Satan's favorite tactics among ethical people devoted to God's principles
is to poison our minds against God by blurring our distinction between godly influences
and ungodly influences. Then when difficult moments come into our lives, difficulties
will cause us to turn against God rather than to God.
The issue is not, "Will we have tough times in our lives?" Every single one of us
will (and do!). The issue is, "How will we react to the tough times that occur in our
lives?" Will our difficulties poison us against God? Or, will our difficulties cause us to
cling to God?
- This evening I want to use Daniel to challenge our thinking.
- The first incident in Daniel's life I ask you to consider is found in Daniel 1.
- When Jerusalem first fell to the Babylonians, the first group to enter
Babylonian captivity included sons of the royal family and sons of upper
- While that certainly was not unusual occurrence in warfare at that time, it
must have been a serious blow to those Israelites' faith in Jehovah God.
- Jerusalem contained the temple of the living God.
- Jerusalem's citizens were certain the city could not be taken because
God would protect it.
- God had warned them that He had withdrawn His protection because
of Israel's ungodly behavior, but they did not believe it.
- So Daniel and his friends found themselves captives in Babylon.
- God had not prevented their capture and deportation!
- They could have reasoned, "Why should we honor God when He allowed
this to happen to us?"
- But they did not.
- Instead they turned to God.
- The king wanted to prepare some Israelite captives from upper class families
to serve in his court. (From the text, it is obvious that many were in such
- The young men selected must be very intelligent.
- They must be perfect specimens--without blemish.
- They had to look very healthy, very prosperous.
- Their presence in the king's palace served several purposes.
- Such young men were visual reminders of the king's military
accomplishments--his servants were prisoners from some of the finest
families. Daily he was reminded of his "greatness" and
- Their wisdom and intelligence were available to the king when he made
- They looked healthy and robust--the king ruled over a prosperous people
who were fortunate to have him as their king! Their physical appearance
reinforced his royal ego!
- The preparation period for service in the king's court involved a period of three
- It involved intensive educational preparation.
- It also involved a diet that would "fatten" them so the king would be
surrounded by healthy, robust persons.
- Those in preparation ate and drank what the king ate and drank--the best!
- But therein was a problem for Israelite captives.
- A portion of the king's food and drink was offered to the king's gods.
- The diet included foods Israelites were forbidden to eat.
- Both situations were spiritually unacceptable for an Israelite who
- But they were captives; who were they to defy the king's orders?
- Daniel asked the overseer to let him and his friends eat vegetables and drink
- The commander liked Daniel, but he was afraid to go against His
- Daniel proposed a test.
- Feed them vegetables and let them drink water for ten days.
- Then compare them to everyone else who was eating food from the
- The test was conducted, and at the end of the ten days Daniel and his
friends were fatter than those eating foods from the king's table.
- So the commander continued allowing them to eat vegetables and drink
- Because in an extreme circumstance they turned to God, God blessed them with
knowledge and intelligence.
- These Israelites who relied on God were ten times more useful to the king
than anyone else in his court.
- Because they turned to God rather than away from Him, God made them very
useful to the king.
Years later Daniel served in a position of great prominence under King Darius
- King Darius' empire was huge; he needed reliable assistance in governing it.
- He divided the empire and placed it under 120 administrators.
- He placed the 120 administrators under three commissioners.
- Daniel was one of the commissioners.
- All of these men were to oversee everything in the king's best interest.
- Daniel was an extraordinary man who did only those things in the king's interest.
- The king was so impressed with Daniel that he was close to placing the
entire empire under Daniel's oversight.
- The other prominent men (administrators and commissioners) were jealous
- They were aware of the king's high regard for him, and they wanted to
destroy the king's respect for Daniel.
- They tried to find a incident when Daniel acted corruptly in his own
interest and not the king's, but they could not find such an instance.
- They concluded they could destroy Daniel only if they used the law of
Daniel's God to place him and the king in conflict.
- They went to the king declaring they all agreed the king should pass an
irrevocable injunction against making any petition (prayer) to anyone but
the king for 30 days--a lie, because Daniel knew nothing of the decision.
- In his arrogance, the king thoughtlessly agreed and made an irrevocable
injunction punishable by death in lions' den.
- Daniel, with knowledge that the injunction was a document in force, prayed to
his God three times daily from a window facing in the direction of Jerusalem.
- Spies witnessed Daniel's prayers.
- Some of these prominent men brought it to the king's attention.
- The king was distressed by the report and spent the rest of the day trying
to deliver Daniel from the injunction, but he could not.
- In the evening the king had Daniel arrested and placed in the lions' den as
the order decreed.
- The king told Daniel, "Your God you constantly serve will deliver you."
- Daniel was placed in the lions' den, and it was sealed (to make certain
Daniel was protected from his human enemies).
- The troubled king fasted the entire night.
- At daybreak, he hurried to the lions' den to find Daniel fine--protected
from the lions by an angel.
- Daniel was taken from the den, and his accusers and their families placed
in the den (they were killed immediately).
- Daniel could have reacted to the crisis by saying, "I have honored God all
these years. And what has it achieved for me? It has placed me in this
horrible dilemma that gives advantage to my enemies."
- But he did not.
- He continued to pray prayers of honor and thanks to his God.
- Some in our materialistic society are tempted to reason that God rewarded
Daniel so wonderfully through those years that Daniel had no choice to make.
- Do not forget he was a captive for all those years.
- Do not forget that he never went home.
- Do not forget that his loneliness in a place that did not serve God must have
This week created an opportunity to reinforce a truth I have long noted.
- If each of us wrote down the ungodly ways in which our society and culture has
changed in recent decades, we would be impressed by evil's slow poisons.
- One tablespoon at the time, evil poisons our minds.
- Matters that distressed us a few decades ago rarely cause us to blink.
- Sexual sin is a common place reality, an accepted means of recreation,
- Unmarried men and women live together without people considering it to
- Materialism is a powerful force that many accept as a good force.
- Pleasure is an important measurement of meaningful living.
- I am not speaking of those who are not Christians; I am speaking of those
who are Christians.
- One tablespoon at a time we became accustomed to ungodly influences.
- We can even consider them as "good," "understandable," and "desirable" in the
My challenge to each of us is quite simple. Increase your awareness of the
ways that evil slowly seeks to poison you in your life. Realize that troubles and
challenges will always be a part of physical existence. In your awareness of ungodly
influences in your life, build the kind of trust in God that causes you to turn to God in
times of trouble--not away from Him.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 19 May 2002
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