Pastoral Commentary: Having an excellent spirit
While reading through the book of Daniel, one can’t help but notice what a remarkable man he was. He’s described as possessing an excellent spirit (5:12; 6:3). This doesn’t refer to the gift of the Holy Spirit, but to his character and competence. He was a captive in Babylon, a foreigner and slave, yet he rose to a position of great prominence and authority. He served in the court of several Babylonian kings as an advisor and administrator, and his services were retained by Darius the Mede who conquered Babylon. One might think that since he was a part of the old regime—the fallen regime—he would be deposed, maybe even executed like the king he served. Instead, was given a high rank in the administration of the conqueror. This was probably done on the strength of his reputation for excellence.
Daniel’s experience proves the truth of Solomon’s words when he said, “Do you see a man who is skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men” (Prov. 22:29). The point of the proverb is that diligence and excellence are rewarded. They result in promotion.
The best way to succeed in life is to commit yourself to excellence in your calling. Be so diligent in your work and do such a good job of it that you make yourself indispensable to your employer. “The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor” (Prov. 12:24).
Jesus, too, spoke of this principle in his parable of the talents, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much (Matt. 25:21)
This was the case with the patriarch Joseph. He was faithful in his family, as a son. So much so, that his father placed him over his brothers, even though he was younger than they were. Later, when he been sold into slavery, he proved himself to be so trustworthy, that he quickly rose to prominence in his master’s household and “his master made him the overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had” (Gen. 39:4). Then he was falsely accused by his master’s wife and put in prison. But even there his gifts were obvious “and the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners” (Gen. 39:21). In every circumstance—in every environment—Joseph rose to the top. It was envy or malice that led to the downward trend from family, to slave, to prisoner; but it was his diligence and faithfulness that always led him to rise to prominence in each new circumstance until he was eventually called upon to serve at Pharaoh’s court, where he became the most powerful man in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself.
The same thing happened in Daniel’s case. He was a captive and slave in a foreign land. It’s hard to get any lower than that! But by continued demonstration of an excellent spirit, he rose to prominence and was given great power. “Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and the chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon” (2:48).
And when the kingdom has changed hands, when Babylon fell to the Persians, Daniel’s longstanding record of excellence spoke for him and he was entrusted with a high position in the new Persian government.
The chief means of success in life, is to work so diligently, so conscientiously, and so wisely that those around you come to see you as indispensable to their own success. So, whatever you do, do it with all your might. Do it well. And one more thing. Do it cheerfully, without grumbling and complaining.