- The Washington Times - Monday, June 10, 2002

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Heath Cheek at Varick Memorial AME Zion Church in the District.

We feel protected when we see somebody from our neighborhood. Isn't that right?
Once, I went to hear the reggae group Third World at the Boathouse in Norfolk, and during the concert I noticed some guys staring at me a little bit too long. The stare made me think, "Maybe they'll try something." So I scanned the room. Was there somebody I knew, some "homeboy." And sure enough, there he was.
I found the protection because I sought it out. Do you seek out God? His presence brings us protection in the midst of danger or uncertainty. He has a way of providing peace. It is beyond our comprehension, but God helps us look beyond a circumstance to a solution.
We see this most in people on their deathbeds. The body will no longer heal. So once they hold on to God, they are willing to let go. But God does not come to those who do not seek his presence. Prayer is the vehicle to bring his presence. When you tap into prayer, you travel beyond where you started. You begin praying for others and things you had not planned to care about. That is why some of us pray, "I don't know what to pray, Lord. Lead me."
By our prayer, God protects us from internal dangers first. Sometimes our evil thoughts or critical attitudes invite a "walk in." A spirit walks into us, and you find yourself laughing at someone's misfortune. We need protection against what comes knocking at this door, and God will keep that door shut. We have to be careful about what we open ourselves to, who we spend time with, what we watch on TV and what we read in books and magazines.
Now in our text today [Daniel 6], Daniel was thrown into the lions' den. King Darius loved Daniel, but he was forced by circumstance. He said, "May the God you worship continually rescue you."
How did God protect Daniel? His first protection of Daniel was from the spirit of pride. Daniel had faith and an excellent spirit. He was not full of himself. We must be careful about being favored, for our pride grows. Mike Tyson got his hind parts whipped last night. During his undefeated prime, I can remember him arrogantly saying, "Nobody can beat me, not even God." You know something: God's favor is a privilege. He doesn't have to shower blessings on you. Blessing should bring modesty in us.
So, if Daniel had pride, his accusers would have found some flaw in his character, but they could not. With Daniel, everyone was equal. If pride is inside, God will expose you.
Now, Daniel was also protected from a spirit of fear. The princes who were against him said, "Maybe we can trap him." They drew up a statute saying no one could pray to any God. Darius was a good king, but for some reason he signed this decree. He was impulsive. Anything that people come to you about, first say, "Let me pray about it." I have to consult my supervisor. When Daniel heard of the decree, he was not afraid. He kept on praying. He did not stop serving God when trouble came, and neither should we.
God has a way of turning our fear into faith. Daniel did not turn against the conspirators. We should pray, "Bless those who curse me." The Bible says that the more that comes at you, the more God will bless. So finally, Daniel was protected from a spirit of abandonment. It was strange what happened with Darius, who worried about Daniel and could not sleep that night. He came in the morning to say, "Daniel, did your God rescue you from the lions?"
Our faith in God can influence others who don't know Christ. When we are in trouble, we find people are praying for us. And they don't know why. The spirit of God was so strong with Daniel, the lions just relaxed. There is something about God's presence.

Next week: a sermon by the Rev. John Mack at First Congregational Church in the District

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