Every obstacle is an opportunity – to compromise, or to build character. The easiest route is always compromise… But God has a different path in mind. Learn from the example of one incredible story.

Sermon Helps

Daniel 1:8–14 (NIV) 8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.” 11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) 23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Exodus 18:19–27 (NIV) 19 Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. 20 Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. 21 But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22 Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. 23 If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.” 24 Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. 25 He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 26 They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves. 27 Then Moses sent his father-in-law on his way, and Jethro returned to his own country.

Genesis 39:6–18 (NIV) 6 So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate. Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, 7 and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” 8 But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. 9 No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” 10 And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. 11 One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 12 She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house. 13 When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, 14 she called her household servants. “Look,” she said to them, “this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. 15 When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.” 16 She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. 17 Then she told him this story: “That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. 18 But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”

How can we become wise so that we make good decisions? The Bible teaches that wisdom accumulates from several sources. First, we must not merely believe in God, but know him personally. When God’s gracious love becomes not an abstract doctrine but a living reality, it means our heart is less controlled by anxiety and pride, two powerful forces that constantly lead us to unwisely over- or under-react to situations. Second, we must know ourselves. Many bad decisions stem from an inability to know what we are and are not capable of accomplishing. The gospel keeps us from over- or underestimating our own abilities, because it shows us both our sin and God’s love for us in Christ. Third, we learn wisdom through experience. The foolish heart—blinded from reality because of its idols—does not learn from experience. In fact, the ups and downs of life can lead us to many false inferences. The proud person blames all failures on others, while the self-hater takes full blame for them even when others are responsible. Without the knowledge of God and self that the gospel brings, experience may teach us precious little; but if we know God and self, then time deepens our understanding of human nature, of the times we live in, of the power and use of words, of how human relationships work. All this leads to wisdom in decision-making. -Tim Keller