Survival Principles #23

Being Ten Times Better than the Competition

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Lion’s Den Survival Principles is a series designed to help Christians thrive in the often hostile world of media and entertainment. The principles from Scripture, however, can apply to every situation where you find yourself in the midst of lions!


Dr. Larry Poland Twitter

Being Ten Times Better than the Competition

“At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, so they entered the king’s service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.”
— Daniel 1:18-20 (NIV)

It was a corporate climate in which “downsizing” was the dominant objective, and top executives of studios and networks were being dumped into the streets of Hollywood and New York by the hundreds. Still other execs were given “early retirement” or were having their contracts bought out in their fifties. In this environment, a Christian exec at a major TV network was given a three-year contract at age 70! How did this happen? Everybody inside and outside the network knew how valuable he was to the company—he was outstanding!

When Nebuchadnezzar looked over his new crop of graduates from Babylon’s Officer Candidate School, four men stood above the rest. He perceived them as ten times better than the rest of the candidates. In view of their excellence, he overlooked the fact that they were Jewish aliens, slaves from Judah. He overlooked the fact that they had strange notions about everything from diet to deity. He could see what they could do for his kingdom.

All employers, like kings, want to recruit and keep really outstanding people. Many Christians in the often-hostile environment of media still have their jobs because there’s nobody better to hire!

Survival Principle: There is no substitute for excellence; it is the path to success and high praise.

Proverbs 22:29 observes, “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before Kings. He will not serve before obscure men.” You’ll be passed over for more jobs—even in media—because you are mediocre than because you are a Christian.
“Well, yeah,” you say, “But Daniel and the boys must have been blessed with exceptional talent. I’m not that gifted.” It wasn’t their talent that Nebuchadnezzar lauded. He was dazzled by their excellence in “every matter of wisdom and understanding.” While their achievement no doubt required at least normal intelligence and some talent, wisdom and understanding are attributes largely distinct from both. My godly father grew up on a farm and never had a college course, but his wisdom and understanding were awesome. Wisdom and understanding can be acquired. [See the book of Proverbs.] Even those with modest gifts can share in them.

Survival Principle: Character and wisdom are acquired, not innate, and—in the long run—will overpower talent and charisma.

Finally, there is a powerful reminder in this passage about the insignificance of labels and titles. Did you note that in the list above the four are referred to by their Hebrew names, not their Babylonian ones! Nebuchadnezzar couldn’t stand their Hebrew names, because they all glorified a god he didn’t worship. So, he gave Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah names honoring pagan deities—Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. After their God had shown His superior power through them, it didn’t matter what they were called. They had the right stuff.

Powerful point. Bestowing titles or calling names doesn’t change anybody’s true character. Calling a person a “reverend” doesn’t make him worthy of reverence—only character does that! Likewise, calling a person “self-righteous” shouldn’t hinder his commitment to true righteousness.

Survival Principle: Don’t be preoccupied with either titles or labels. It’s better to be known by your character than your nomenclature.