A few weeks ago I preached from the first Chapter of Daniel. This first chapter tells a story that is both tragic and triumphant.

It is tragic because the nation of Israel had completely fallen. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered Jerusalem. The Babylonians had an effective strategy for controlling conquered nations. They captured all people of royalty and took them into exile. “Unimportant” people were left behind and given important positions in their own land.

This story is triumphant in that we see how some of God’s people responded to this crisis. Four “heroes” emerge from the Book of Daniel: Daniel himself, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (we commonly refer to these three by their Babylonian names: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego). These men decided to be faithful to God despite adversity.

Daniel and his friends began with a period of three year training (Daniel 1:4-5). Before they could experience success, they had to prepare themselves by studying. When I preached this message, I reminded the students that God is honored by excellence.

Let’s see what happened after their training was complete:

When the training period ordered by the king was completed, the chief of staff brought all the young men to King Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and no one impressed him as much as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they entered the royal service. Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom.
-Daniel 1:18-20

These young men brought glory to God. They surpassed all of the pagan sorcerers in wisdom and understanding.

I know that many of you are preparing for final exams and finishing your projects. Do your best as you study and prepare. Be excellent! In doing this you will bring honor and glory to God.