I don’t know how it happened, but our culture is becoming more and more prideful than ever before. I guess it’s because of all the self-esteem teaching we’ve done to make us feel better about ourselves until we really can’t see ourselves the way we should anymore.
We have incredible confidence in ourselves today. If you go back 70 years ago, Gallup did a survey where they asked high school seniors, “Are you a very important person?” And 12 percent of them said yes. They asked the same question to seniors 55 years later and 80 percent said, “Yes, I am a very important person.” Americans score 25th in the world in math, but if you ask Americans, “Are you really good in math?”, it turns out, we’re number one in the world at thinking we’re really good at math.
Where does this pride come from? Well, it comes naturally. It’s been a problem for a very long time. In fact, if you look back at the book of Daniel, you see this evil king named Nebuchadnezzar. It’s impossible to overstate how oppressive he treated his people.
You may remember Saddam Hussein, who was the leader of Iraq, which is in the same place as Babylon in the Bible, from 1979 until he was captured in 2003. King Nebuchadnezzar was Saddam Hussein’s ultimate hero. In fact, he thought he was actually King Nebuchadnezzar, reincarnated. Newsweek provided this description of the dethroned Saddam Hussein:
In a part of the world where pride and dignity mean everything, the images were clearly intended to shame. A nameless doctor or medical technician, wearing rubber gloves, was seen closely examining the man’s hair, perhaps looking for vermin. Prodded with a tongue depressor, the man opened his mouth; the doctor peered at the pink flesh of his throat and scraped off a few cells for DNA identification.
Then the world saw the man’s face. Haggard, defeated, meek and weak. The Glorious Leader, Direct Descendant of the Prophet, the Lion of Babylon, the Father of the Two Lion Cubs, the Anointed One, the Successor of Nebuchadnezzar, the Modern Saladin of Islam had been brought low, forced to bow down to contemplate his fate while waiting to stand trial.
We’re going to see the something like that happen to Nebuchadnezzar in this chapter.
But what’s interesting about Nebuchadnezzar is, he actually saw God move enough to get his attention, and he would even take steps toward God, and then, his pride would kick in, and he’d pull back and say, “Forget that.” And maybe that’s your story, where you’ve had that ongoing spiritual tension, where you’re going for God, and then you pull back and do your own thing.
That’s what was going on with King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4.
1 King Nebuchadnezzar sent this message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world: “Peace and prosperity to you! 2 “I want you all to know about the miraculous signs and wonders the Most High God has performed for me. 3 How great are his signs, how powerful his wonders! His kingdom will last forever, his rule through all generations. Daniel 4:1-3 NLT
Nebuchadnezzar sounds kind of like Chris Tomlin there, leading people in worship, “How Great Is Our God, sing with me!” But, check out where he found himself in verse 4.
4 “I, Nebuchadnezzar, was living in my palace in comfort and prosperity. 5 But one night I had a dream that frightened me; I saw visions that terrified me as I lay in my bed. 6 So I issued an order calling in all the wise men of Babylon, so they could tell me what my dream meant. 7 When all the magicians, enchanters, astrologers, and fortune-tellers came in, I told them the dream, but they could not tell me what it meant. 8 At last Daniel came in before me, and I told him the dream. (He was named Belteshazzar after my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him.) 9 “I said to him, ‘Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too great for you to solve. Now tell me what my dream means. Daniel 4:4-9 NLT
How often do we talk about ourselves? I love pop music, but did you know that even in our music, we’ve gotten more self-centered over the years?
In a study looking at the lyrics of the top 100 songs from 1990, 2000, and 2010, they found, Compared with earlier years, songs in 2010 were more likely to include the singer referring to the self by name, general self-promotion, and bragging about wealth, their partner’s appearance, or sexual abilities.
Remember this country song? “I wanna talk about me, Wanna talk about I, Wanna talk about number one, Oh my me my, What I think, what I like, what I know, what I want, what I see, I like talking about you, you, you, usually, but occasionally, I wanna talk about me” -Toby Keith.
The researchers warned: Music reflects and influences the values of the culture. The hit songs we listen to “both represent the increasing individualistic/narcissistic tendencies in our culture, but also further express that promoting yourself through bragging, demanding respect, and self-focus is normal. They say as leaders and parents, we need to help people see that it’s not just about us.
There are so many compounding problems when I start to believe life is all about me. I want us to look at the two problems and the one solution that we find in this chapter.
Look at the word ANXIETY. Do you see the middle letter of the word? It’s the letter “I.” We get worried and afraid when I am at the center of my life. I experience High Anxiety.
We live in a culture where anxiety is on the rise! Our anxiety level is at Pandemic Proportions today!
Jennifer Lawrence, famous for being Katniss in The Hunger Games, has had a long battle with anxiety and insecurity. She said:
“[In middle school] there are all these peers judging you, and you’re never good enough, never wearing the right outfit, saying the right thing. I want everyone to like me. Who doesn’t? Then you grow up and become famous, and it’s the same thing multiplied by a billion.”
The drive to become famous is becoming a high value for many people in our culture. That’s the conclusion of two social observers. In a recent speech, New York Times columnist David Brooks says, “Fame used to be a low value. Now fame is the second-most desired thing in young people. They did a study and asked, “Would you rather be president of Harvard or Justin Bieber’s personal assistant?’ And of course, by three to one people would rather be Bieber’s personal assistant.
Brian Robbins, whose company creates YouTube channels for teens and tweens, told The New Yorker, “When you speak to kids, the number one thing they want is to be famous. They don’t even know what for.”
Power and fame do not cure anxiety. It magnifies it! It’s all about me!!!! That’s what was happening with King Nebuchadnezzar. He is anxious, afraid, and even terrified! You can hear it in verse 5.
But one night I had a dream that frightened me; I saw visions that terrified me as I lay in my bed. Daniel 4:5 NLT
King Nebuchadnezzar is so full of himself. After all, he was the most powerful ruler with the longest reign for 43 years of any of the kings of that period. He brought Babylon to the pinnacle of their power and prosperity. He was something!
And today’s self-focused culture is the same as it was then. I want to be in control of my own life, and my own future, but the truth is, we don’t have that much power. That’s right is not ours. It is God’s!
So finally, Nebuchadnezzar calls Daniel to come in and help him in verse 8.
At last Daniel came in before me, and I told him the dream. Daniel 4:8 NLT
There were 20 years between Daniel chapter 3 with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and the huge statue and the fiery furnace and chapter 4. And in that time, God had shown Nebuchadnezzar that he was the true God and He could do anything, so you’d think Nebby would go to God first, but no, “At last,” He goes to every other source first, and God last when there’s no one else to turn to. Well, I guess I’ll pray now, I’ve done everything else. No! Why not go to God first!
Are you anxious? Are you afraid? Where do you turn? Turn it over to God!
Cast all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully]. 1 Peter 5:7 AMP
If you cast your anxiety on God, whatever you may be worried about, God will take it from you. He will help you through it.
The root of anxiety is right there in the middle of the word. The same thing is true with another word:
Pride Puffs Up.
What is the middle letter of Pride? Again, it’s an “I.”
There’s nothing wrong with thinking that you’re smart. You probably are pretty smart, and it’s good that you have healthy esteem and belief in yourself. But a couple years ago, when dating website OKCupid revealed how thousands of its users answered one question in a survey to measure compatibility, they showed that we can take it too far. The question was: Are you a genius?
Amazingly, two in five people (and nearly half of all men!) said yes to that question. “2 out of 5 people think they are one in a thousand.” Have you met people? Now, there’s not just one scientific definition of “genius,” But to qualify for a genius club such as MENSA—you usually need to have an IQ in the 98th to 99th percentile. That’s about one in a hundred. But, there’s something wrong when 50 percent of men think they are geniuses.
Proud people are full of themselves. Humble people are full of God.
Jesus will never send you away empty when you come to Him, unless you are full of yourself!
Leonardo DiCaprio said, “As soon as enough people give you enough compliments and you’re wielding more power than you’ve ever had in your life, it’s not that you become … arrogant … or become rude to people, but you get a false sense of your own importance and what you’ve accomplished. You actually think you’ve altered the course of history.”
That’s what Nebuchadnezzar thought in Daniel 4:29:
29 Twelve months later he was taking a walk on the flat roof of the royal palace in Babylon. 30 As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’ 31 “While these words were still in his mouth, a voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. Daniel 4:29-31 NLT
We think it’s, “Mo money, mo problems.” No, it’s “More pride, more problems.” We get ourselves into more trouble because of our foolish pride. Because pride refuses to let God’s power into your problem.
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. 1 Peter 5:5-6 NLT
If you humble yourself, God will raise you up. If you are experiencing anxiety, that’s not the root of your issue. It’s an “I” issue. Anxiety is just the fruit of my PRIDE.
If you’re proud, God doesn’t oppose you, but He does oppose your pride that is keeping Him from His rightful place at the center of your life.
God, who is the true King sends away this little king from his kingdom to the animal kingdom to humble him in the fields for 7 years. Anxiety Attacks, Pride Puffs Up, but then…
The word trust has a middle letter too. It’s the letter “U.” That I move from trusting in “I” to “U” and that You is with a capital Y, God.
34 “After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever. His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal. 35 All the people of the earth are nothing compared to him. He does as he pleases among the angels of heaven and among the people of the earth. No one can stop him or say to him, ‘What do you mean by doing these things?’ 36 “When my sanity returned to me, so did my honor and glory and kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored as head of my kingdom, with even greater honor than before. 37 “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud.” Daniel 4:34-37 NLT
How was Nebuchadnezzar restored from his insanity? He surrendered to the true King! God is the one who is control of kings and rulers and authorities and nations, and governments. Any politician who thinks they are in control is under the illusion of a delusion.
We hear this all the time today, this phrase, we want to be “on the right side of history.” The progressive politicians, pundits, and even theologians use that phrase to try and silence Biblically faithful Christians. You need to be on the right side of history. But they are assuming something that isn’t true. They have no idea where history is heading, apart from God’s purpose and plan. Most non-Christians think that history is cyclical, that it just goes round and round like a carousel. If history is headed somewhere, it’s because God has a plan and purpose. When they say, “on the right side of history” they are assuming that they have the same understanding of what’s right and wrong as the One who is in control of the story of history.
If there is no personal God, history is headed nowhere, or it’s all just random. But if, as we believe and we know, history is really HIS Story, the story of God creating a forever family where God Himself rulers and reigns, then we have to make sure that, to be on the right side of history, we are on the Lord’s side. The key verse in this chapter is in verse 25:
The Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.
So it all comes down to you moving from “I” to I need you, I put my trust in you.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 NIV
When Jesus was on the cross, He took my “I.” There’s another little word, the word SIN. And I is at the very center of that word. Jesus hung on the cross to pay the price for my sin. And for yours.
To move I from the center of my life and put Jesus where he belongs. In the driver’s seat. In complete control of my life.
That I come to a point where I say, “I can’t live without you, breath without you, no peace without you, no joy without you, no purpose without you, no hope without you.
Let me ask you a question, who are you trusting in? Who is at the center of it all in your life?