Ten Times Better

This morning I noted something special as I began the book of Daniel. By the way, I love the book of Daniel because he seems like a graduate student in many ways, and I related to him deeply when I studied this book as a student.

Daniel was, after all, brought in to learn “the language and literature” of the Babylonians. I always chuckled when I read that as a PhD candidate in English literature. I also took seriously this book as a model for how to live and trust God in what felt like a dark valley of graduate school. I felt like Daniel.

As we quickly learn, God gives Daniel and his three friends the “knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning.” This I wanted. This I needed. I didn’t care about understanding visions and dreams, but I noted that God indeed gave this kind of gift to people. Why not me?

I noticed how, with God’s gift of wisdom and understanding, Daniel and his friends were “ten times better” than those considered wisest in the whole kingdom. I wanted this! Who wouldn’t? I can see my ambition and need to succeed back then.

But what is the ten times better for? What could it mean to live in the power of God who makes things ten times better?

Reading Daniel afresh this morning, I wrote in my journal that idea of being “ten times better” because of God’s presence and gifting into any situation. But I remembered it is never about my self-advancement. It’s about Jesus and what He wants to do. So I wondered: Could God make my marriage, parenting, friendships, and work ten times better? Could God make my humble intervention into the darkest parts of culture ten times better because of the knowledge and wisdom He alone gives? Could I serve ten times better? Love ten times better? Sacrifice ten times better?

And in case you’re wondering about pride, comparison, or even narcissism, Daniel was a man of wisdom and tact (2:14), of persevering prayer (2:18), and of pointing all credit to the Lord. In fact, Daniel reiterates that “no man” can do what only God was doing in the situation into which God called him. He even tells the king that God’s work in Daniel’s life is more about what the king needs than about displaying Daniel’s great wisdom (2:30).

Daniel lives a ten times better kind of life–not for his only glory, but for the Lord’s.

I think of how my youngest daughter often prayed that the day would be “better than expected” since her expectations of school were always so low. What if we thought of the best something could be and then asked God to make it ten times better? What if it’s a situation that’s so despondent that we would have to give glory to God alone?

Let’s ask for ten times better.

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