Meet Daniel. A Transformed Man Who Transformed His World.
What does an ancient Jewish prophet have to do with modern America? What, if anything, can we learn from a man who lived 2,400 years ago as a captive in the land we now call Iraq? As it turns out, quite a bit.
David and Jason Benham are convinced the biblical example of Daniel holds the keys to contemporary Christians living victoriously in a world increasingly hostile to people of faith. Like Daniel, many believers today find themselves in an unfriendly environment, one opposed to the God they serve. Yet, like Daniel, they must learn how to take a stand while serving the people around them.
Living Among Lions is for Christian brothers and sisters who have the potential to transform their world but find themselves standing in the shadows wondering how to respond in an unfriendly environment. Divided into three sections, Living Among Lions covers three distinct characteristics that made Daniel strong: Conviction, Commitment, and Courage.
Daniel possessed all of these qualities and lived them out. As a result, God gave him unprecedented favor and supernatural power. A mere slave living in exile, Daniel emerged as one of the most powerful men in the known world. Daniel’s conviction, commitment, and courage empowered him not merely to survive in Babylon but to thrive. He did not conform to his world; he transformed his world.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
After retiring from professional baseball in 2002, David and Jason Benham, twin brothers and acclaimed entrepreneurs, began building their business empire, growing it to more than 10 companies spanning 35 states and around the globe. Their first venture, the Benham Real Estate Group, exploded to 100 locations and was named by Inc. as one of the fastest growing private companies in America. The brothers are happily married to Lori and Tori, with a combined 9 children, and live on the same street in Charlotte.
Read an Excerpt
Living Among Lions
How to Thrive Like Daniel in Today's Babylon
By David Benham, Jason Benham
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2016 David Benham and Jason Benham
All rights reserved.
This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
— John 17:3
Know Jesus, know courage. If you want to be courageous, you have to first know the Courageous One.
GOD GIVES US THE opportunity to become catalysts for bringing transformation to the world, but His offer comes with a choice. We can sit on the sidelines and watch, or we can get in the game, allowing Him to bring His transformational power to the world around us.
This transformation begins on the inside of us, and personal transformation always begins with a genuine, intimate relationship with God Himself. Nothing we do in this world will matter if we don't get this part right. So we begin with knowing God personally.
When we cultivate a heart-to-heart friendship with God, He changes us into powerful people who then have the resources to change our world.
And He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."
— Matthew 4:19
Daniel's power to transform his world came from the outflow of his relationship with God. But his surrender to God was not an eleventh-hour Hail Mary on the road to Babylon; instead, it was an intentional decision to be in an intimate relationship with Him — to know God — many years before the captivity and deportation of his country. A relationship this strong is not built overnight in the face of a crisis.
Prior to his time in Babylon, all we know about Daniel was that he came from the royal family and was a young stud — handsome, intelligent, wise, discerning, and knowledgeable. (David: I sense Jason's jealousy as we write this.) Yet the fruit of his life — even at such a young age — made this one thing abundantly clear: Daniel knew his God.
So when the crisis came down, Daniel rose above it. Even amid judgment and captivity, his conviction matched God's call to flourish in Babylon.
When our level of conviction matches God's call, courage can crush any crisis.
Daniel's faith was his own, not just relegated to Sunday morning church attendance or belonging to the "right" denomination. His faith was deeply personal. The Lord was his God. Check out the wording of the first commandment, quoted by Jesus in Matthew 22:37: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." Interesting that Jesus didn't just say, "love God," but rather "love ... your God." The greatest commandment is to love God as your own — to know Him personally and intimately — so you may say, regardless of what others choose, "I will serve the Lord."
But before you can know God in a deeply personal way, you have to meet Him. Fortunately for us, like Daniel, that day came at a young age.
A WHOLE NEW BALL GAME
The Christian school we attended in Garland, Texas, was part of an Independent Baptist church. The pastor and staff wore full suits, and the music minister parted his hair from one ear to the other. Red carpet, wooden pews, and old hymnals ... yeah, the whole nine yards. We were always afraid of getting cornered by the youth pastor who'd ask us to go door-to-door visiting on a Saturday afternoon.
At Garland Christian Academy, we gave our hearts to Jesus. We didn't know what this decision fully meant at the time — and there was a part of us that was more interested in "fire insurance" than knowing the Father — but we came to learn that God was the very thing our little hearts were searching for. This was the beginning of a relationship between the Creator and two of His human creations.
When I (Jason) was about sixteen years old, my relationship with the Lord kicked into another gear. One morning I woke up early and went outside to read my Bible and hit a quick workout before school. The air was crisp, and it was well before dawn. After reading, I lay down on the workout bench to do some lifting. Right away, I felt a gentle wind pick up that turned my attention away from exercise. I looked to the sky and saw the clouds rolling by. I just lay there, completely still and quiet. The sky looked enormous, filled with stars beaming down at me. Thoughts of God flooded my mind, and I tuned in to Him as the Creator. I was deeply impressed by what I saw — and realized. This was the first time I can remember sitting back and simply admiring God's massive handiwork.
But this thought became the gamechanger: The same God who created all of this knows me and loves me.
This was a defining moment — a watershed in the budding spiritual life of a teenage boy. I clearly remember that feeling of wanting to know and love God in return. I had already loved Him enough to give Him my heart. But now I got the sense that I really didn't know Him as deeply as I could — or should. I had experienced conviction of my sin, but I had not yet learned to live with conviction in an intimate relationship with God.
I knew I was His, but now I wanted Him to be mine.
The next three years, before David and I left home for Liberty University, proved to be a time of explosive growth in the Lord for us both. By the time we were college freshmen, we could say we truly knew the Lord. Like Daniel's, our faith was now our own and deeply personal.
After four years at Liberty, we entered the world of professional baseball. For the first time in our lives, we were in a totally foreign environment. People in our new world not only lacked interest in the things of God but also often mocked them. The friendly confines of our comfortable Christian environment had been replaced by a strange land. And our relationship with the Lord was put to the test.
We did the only thing we knew to do: stay faithful to God by drawing strength from our growing relationship with Him. We knew God, and He knew us. So we understood our role in this new environment and were able to remain secure in that identity. We didn't carry index cards around the clubhouse with how-to lists or reminders to say no to temptation and shine the light of Jesus. Instead, we simply focused on our relationship with Him. So even in a foreign situation often opposed to our faith, we kept up our pursuit to know God better. And the more we got to know Him, the more of Him we wanted to discover.
As we kept our focus simple and steady, we discovered that the very strain that could have weakened our resolve actually strengthened us. God used this to grow us, because we knew Him.
We realized that we were meant to grow through resistance. Strain breaks muscles down so they will grow. The same is true with our souls. God will use the world's resistance to our faith to strengthen us.
We grow much more through battling our burdens than banking our blessings.
Daniel had to feel something very similar in his exile. Not only did God's people have to endure a level of persecution by leaving their homeland for Babylon, but they also had to face the tempting allure of its godless pleasures. The Jews lived there for seventy years before getting the chance to return home. Many were born and raised in that pagan environment. During that time, some probably strayed from their faith and embraced the culture, while others stood strong and resisted.
So what carried Daniel and his friends through this moral maze, causing them to stand strong from beginning to end? They knew their God. They were His, and He was theirs. Their faithful lives and powerful exploits in Babylon were birthed out of their intimate knowledge of Him.
THIS IS PERSONAL
We're no theologians by any stretch, but we have discovered a simple truth: you can know about God in your head, intellectually, but not know Him in your heart, intimately. Intimate knowledge of God is what creates conviction — the type that will stand even in the face of lions.
When we take a stand for the Lord, we don't do it because we know all the stories in the Bible and can quote the Roman Road verses verbatim. Although we have an intellectual knowledge of the Scripture, we also have the courage of conviction because we have an intimate relationship with Jesus. We enjoy a firm resolve to remain faithful to Him because we love Him. Through this intimacy we also have experiences time and again when we see God move in power. Intimacy, coupled with experience, brings deeper commitment.
The more we came to know God intimately, the more we desired to understand Him intellectually. And the more we understood Him intellectually, the deeper we grew with Him intimately.
God illustrates this concept beautifully in the covenant of marriage. In fact, that is one of the reasons why we believe this institution is under attack today. Physical intimacy between a husband and wife is the outward manifestation of a much deeper spiritual truth: the covenant bond — the intimate knowledge — shared by Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:22–33). Our definition of intimacy is "to be fully known and fully accepted." In marriage, both partners reveal themselves completely to their spouses, and each spouse fully accepts the other unconditionally. The physical union between the two is a picture of this knowing — a two-way street of knowledge leading to intimacy and oneness.
For example, Matthew 1:25 says, Joseph did not "know" Mary until after Jesus was born (HCSB). They were not physically intimate prior to His birth. But clearly they did know each other in another sense — intellectually; they just did not yet know each other experientially. This distinction illustrates a spiritual truth. We can know God theoretically but not know Him experientially — on the level of intimacy, which creates conviction in our hearts. Notice what Jesus says to those who will stand before Him and claim their good works as keys to entering His kingdom: "I never knew you; depart from Me" (Matthew 7:23). These people, though they had an intellectual knowledge of God evidenced by good works, did not have an intimate knowledge of Him through total surrender.
Surrender was the way Daniel and his friends knew God. They carried that relationship from Jerusalem to the height of Babylon — then through the furnace, into the lions' den, and back to the top of the kingdom — all while remaining faithful to God. They knew Him, and all of their actions revealed that intimate knowledge of Him.
BECOMING AN ACTION HERO
Those who know God intimately will live faithfully when evil manifests itself. God showed this to Daniel in a vision: "By smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action" (Daniel 11:32). This verse, widely believed to be prophecy from Daniel, also describes what kind of people will flourish during that time of persecution: those, just like Daniel, who know their God and take action when the heat is turned up. They display supernatural strength, doing God's work on the earth.
That one little verse, buried in the midst of a chapter of prophecy, shows the key to how God's kingdom breaks into our world: through people of faith who thrive in the midst of godlessness. What's their secret? They know their God.
True love doesn't manifest itself merely in our words, but also in our deeds. How do those you love know you love them? Is it only because you tell them? No, it's because you show them. Love must be seen and experienced.
Let's look at this concept a little deeper. When evil rises up, those who know their God will do two very recognizable things.
1. Display Strength
Here are some qualities of visible spiritual strength:
* Resolve. People of resolve live with conviction, secure in firm decisions that are based on a proven biblical standard. This enables them to take a consistent stand against the pressures of persecution and temptation. People with this kind of inner strength petition God for boldness rather than position themselves for security. Why? Because they know the source of strength is not in them, but in God. The standard by which they live is based not on their own opinions or anyone else's, but on God.
* Readiness. People who live in readiness won't give in to fear but will press through it even in the face of death. The things that make most people flee the scene will cause these folks to run to the roar! Why? Their disciplined conviction has stored up the courage to be ready for the crisis. You cannot call on a reserve that is not available.
Readiness is realized before the roar is heard.
* Resolution. For those who know God, His Word is not "flexible" when it comes to absolutes — but solid and unyielding, grounded in firm and faithful determination. They know and teach that truth transforms people. You don't change truth. Truth changes you.
Those who know their God will be people of resolve, will live in readiness, and will be resolute in their beliefs and actions.
2. Take Action
Those who know their God will not be afraid to take action in the face of a dark culture. Here are a few words that describe these action-takers:
* Proactive. Simply grieving over a darkened culture is not enough. Complaining and criticizing won't change a thing. Those who know God must do something — take action. They are proactive about knowing their God and living a kingdom-centered life. They're God's agents in both the work of evangelism and in being salt and light in the culture. As we move forward, we will share plenty of practical ways to be proactive as Christians.
* Principled. Those who know God intimately and intellectually have an arsenal of truths to create an offense and defense for any situation. They have principles in place through daily discipline to read God's Word that help them make their choice prior to having to make the decision. Like Daniel and his friends, the decision is easy — "We're standing by our convictions!"
* Passionate. We won't press on if we don't fully believe in the reason why we must stand. Our passion for God is built in and through an intimate relationship with Him. You don't work through problems in a marriage when you aren't passionate about loving your spouse. You won't stand in the face of pressure or persecution unless you are passionate about the One you are living for. Whatever the cost, a heart of conviction will also be filled with passion.
Those who engage God by displaying strength and taking action will engage their culture — in exactly that order. Engage God, and then engage the culture.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
These questions are worth asking, and answering, with honesty: Do you know God? Are you displaying courage and strength or fear and weakness? Is your life characterized by kingdom activity or by lethargy and passivity?
If you do not know God, now is the time to start. Begin your journey by seeking Him through an intimate relationship with Jesus. Put this book down, and do business with God right where you are, right now. God says, "You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13). Do not focus on becoming strong or taking action. Focus on Him, knowing Him and pursuing Him. Then strength and action will follow through the relationship.
How do you begin? Bible teachers and counselors often define intimacy with the phrase "into me, see." While this is certainly a great principle for marriage and other close relationships, it is also vitally important for our relationship with God.
God already sees into us and knows us intimately: "O Lord, You have searched me and known me" (Psalm 139:1). So now our part is to open ourselves up to Him — to share our deepest desires, struggles, doubts, burdens, and victories. Our hearts' goal is to hide nothing from the God who knows us — to bear our hearts to the lover of our souls. The fruit of Daniel's life makes clear that he had this kind of friendship with God. To live a Daniel-life, we must be intimate with God. The constant prayer of our hearts should be "Father, 'into me, see.' I hide nothing from you."
MAJOR MINOR MINISTRY
When I (Jason) was with the Baltimore Orioles in the minor leagues, I soon became known as "the Christian dude from Texas." That wasn't my goal at all. I was just living the best I knew how among the guys. But as my reputation as a Christian grew, so did my concern for the souls of the men on my team. The guys became more than "projects" for my Christian witness; I saw them as people God loved and cared for. They weren't just ball players but people created and loved by God.
One of them was a pitcher who had also played college basketball. He was tall and lanky with a cannon for an arm. (David couldn't touch his fastball.) This guy was the life of the clubhouse. He always had the TV tuned to some music video channel, laughing and playing around all the time. The ladies loved him — and he knew it. His locker was filled with pictures of women — some dressed and some not so much.
Excerpted from Living Among Lions by David Benham, Jason Benham. Copyright © 2016 David Benham and Jason Benham. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction: God's People in a Very Different Country xi
Authors' Note 1: America: A Nation Changed xxv
Authors' Note 2: Babylon xxxv
Part I Conviction That Transforms My Heart
Chapter 1 Know God 3
Chapter 2 Know Your Identity 19
Chapter 3 Think Your Identity 33
Chapter 4 Build Your Worldview 47
Chapter 5 Choose Reverence 63
Part II Commitment That Transforms My Lifestyle
Chapter 6 Draw the Line 79
Chapter 7 Live with Excellence 93
Chapter 8 Read God's Word 107
Chapter 9 The Power of Prayer 123
Chapter 10 The Strength of Humility 139
Chapter 11 The Power of Purity 155
Part III Courage That Transforms My World
Chapter 12 A Hard Head and a Soft Heart 173
Chapter 13 Let It Be Known 187
Chapter 14 Keep the Windows Open 199
Chapter 15 "Keep Your Gifts" 213
Chapter 16 Seek the Welfare of the City 223
Chapter 17 Face the Lions 237
Appendix: Benbam Principles 249
About the Authors 269
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I highly recommend this book, written by two young men with a message every Christian needs to hear and take to heart. It’s an easy read and biblically accurate, showing how we’re to focus on serving the people in our culture rather than our own well-being, serving as light rather than cursing the darkness. I especially enjoyed the “Benham Principles” at the end, a list of their main points which we could use as guiding principles for life.