- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2002

Excerpts from a sermon given on Saturday by Rear Adm. Barry C. Black, Navy chief of chaplains, at Atholton Seventh-day Adventist Church in Columbia.

When I was young, I had a crush on my 11th-grade English teacher. Confession is good for the soul. Well, I memorized any poem, any bit of Shakespeare, that she used. I got an A, but that was all I got. One lasting impression, however, was Longfellow's poem "A Song of Life." It said of great men: "All remind us we can live our lives sublime, and depart it leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time."
I believe our loving heavenly Father desires for each of us to leave our footprints in history. He gives each of us a talent. Matthew 25 says, to some He gave five, to some two or one. But each has received something. Your challenge in life is not to die with the great music God has placed inside of you still in you, but to invest your gifts and bless the world.
The problem is, most of us want to go along with the crowd. God wants His children to live above the crowd. And I believe [Adventist founder] Ellen G. White explained this as "God's ideal" in her book "Education." Godliness is the goal. Let me introduce you to a young man named Daniel, who was probably around 15, and who "purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself" [Daniel 1:8-15]. Daniel decided to live above the crowd.
My burden for our young people is that they would dare to be a Daniel. When Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem, he carried away the young men. It was an ingenious strategy. By holding the youth, and changing their names and making them learn his language, Nebuchadnezzar could control the puppet ruler he left behind. As they grew older, he would use them to govern his provinces Israelites who went along with the crowd.
God always has someone to stand up for Him. Most of the young men who returned with Daniel said, "We might as well go along with this ruler. He is more powerful than our king. Their god is more powerful than ours."
But the Bible said Daniel, according to the Hebrew word, "made his mind up in advance." He knew how he wanted to live. He would not defile himself. From Daniel, we can learn about the target to aim for in life. The first is purpose. You say, "This is my goal." If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time. And what is the purpose of every Christian? Matthew 6:33 says, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness." What will happen? "All these things will be added unto you." This means seeking the will of God for your life.
When I struggled with a decision to be a preacher, the thing I noticed most was this: preachers are poor. So when I joined the Navy, my wife, Brenda, said, "What rank can you reach," and I said, "There should be no limit, since we chose God first." There is no sanctification in abject poverty.
Now, a second target is to be positive. When I grew up in the church, the older people always told us 200,000 things not to do. "Thou shalt not" was the mantra. But the Lord tells us to overcome evil with good, and we need to be positive in every way to draw people to our cause. Daniel was positive. He did not walk around with a chip on his shoulder. He changed his name and learned the language. He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Babylon.
Daniel was dedicated, in his difficult situation, to saying, "Let's work out a win-win situation." It is more difficult to live for Jesus than to die for Him. Another such hero is Joseph, who was imprisoned by Pharoah. He remained positive, and became the second most powerful man in Egypt. "Two men looked out from behind prison bars, one saw the mud, the other saw the stars." Even our Lord on the cross ended with a positive word on his lips, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Next week: A sermon by the Rev. Roger Gench and New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in the District.

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