The man with the triple barrel name Nebuchadnezzar had just ascended to the most powerful throne in the world.

To show his mettle he embarked on conquests. He declared war on Jerusalem and besieged the city. On the opposing side was the hapless King of Judah – King Jehoiakim. He was barely three years on the throne. (Israel had become divided into two kingdoms at this time in fulfillment of God’s judgment on Solomon). Well, King Nebuchadnezzar conquered the prize jewel Jerusalem, ransacked the city. Its famed temple was a tempting offering. It’s a jewel encrusted piece of architecture. It had gold treasures. Not only did Nebu (if we can call him that) seize the king, he took the temple furnishing as well, including the treasures.

Now here’s what’s interesting. Nebuchadnezzar recognised that the strength of his kingdom lies in its intellectual capacity. To capacitate his dominion he gave instructions to his chief of staff to identify intelligent young men from Judah. These were his specs: Healthy, handsome, intelligent, well-educated, good prospects for leadership position in government! He called them “perfect specimens”. This specification is a lesson in how to curate the leadership in a nation.

The leadership stock of a nation must be healthy, intelligent, well educated, possess leadership capacity. And they must be noble. The nobility ensures character and cultural exposure. (If handsome, that’s a bonus!).

King Nebu instituted a leadership training course. Three years of training in a school of government.  It is only after this training that these young men could serve in government. Leadership must be groomed and prepared to take on the responsibility of governance. And this applies to any institution – corporate, family, faith based or non-governmental.

Among those identified was a group of four young men. They were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. Very smart and intelligent, supremely confident. Let’s call them the Intelligence Quartet (IQ). But Nebuchadnezzar’s chief of palace staff renamed them – gave them Babylonian names: Daniel was named Belteshazzar, Hananiah, Shadrach; Mishael, Meshach; Azariah, Abednego. And that’s how they came to be known as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. History retained Daniel’s name. The whole idea was to convert these young men to Babylonians. So they were taught Babylonian language; even magic lore and fortune telling. It was a policy of assimilation.  The French would later adopt this policy in their colonisation programme for Africa. They wanted to turn Africans into French men and women. The British adopted a policy of indirect rule.

The four young men were at the top of their class – made Dean’s list. They graduated summa cum laude. “God gave these four young men knowledge and skill in both books and life. In addition, Daniel was gifted in understanding all sorts of visions and dreams.” You can ask God for knowledge and skill in both books and life too; you can ask God for spiritual insight. James 1:5 NLT: “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”

And so we see God’s giftedness to these lads in three spheres of existence: they had knowledge and skill in both books and life; and they were sound spiritually. Academics, life, spirituality.  If you’re a student, Daniel and associates provide a perfect study in aspiration. They came tops in class! It’s not a good testimonial for a professing Christian to be a laggard in his academic studies. You shall be the head and not the tail. You shall be above only and not beneath. That’s the operational word.

The notion of high level spirituality but poor standards in academic performance is not God’s ideal. If you know how to pray fire from heaven but can’t make your grades hot, your testimony will be impaired. What impressed King Nebuchadnezzar about Daniel and Co. was their sheer brilliance. It is written: “Whenever the king consulted them on anything, on books or on life, he found them ten times better” than his advisers put together. Academic excellence is a literal mark of distinction. It brings glory to God. And you’re supposed to learn the competitive instinct in school – the desire to excel, to be tops. If you’re struggling with your grades in school, you need to refocus and re-prioritise. Sometimes, all it takes is preparing ahead of class and reviewing after class. Rigour. Consistency.

One of the secrets of Daniel was consistency. The guy even set specific time for prayer. It takes discipline. You will need the discipline of Daniel and his friends. You MUST apply yourself to your studies. Make friends with those who are interested in academic excellence. Follow their discipline. Read and summarise. You will need your summary notes for final reviews towards exams. The primary reason you’re in school is academic, not extracurricular activities by whatever nomenclature. Don’t forget that.

Like Daniel you must be able to balance three things – academics, life, spiritual obligations. And the issue of balance has often been a challenge for Christians. You must be spiritual but you need life skill. Life skill will determine your financial, professional, entrepreneurial and social success. And some have skill but pay no attention to spirituality. Yet existence is on two levels – the natural and the supernatural. The supernatural controls the natural. Whatever you bind on earth must have been bound in Heaven scriptures declare. The things that are unseen are more real than the things that are seen Paul wrote. You can’t neglect the spiritual. Seek balance.

Excel in whatever competitive sphere you find yourself. Apply skill to your career and social life. Be spiritually proficient. That’s what those three young men had. It’s called all round success!

I wish you a very wonderful and pleasant week ahead.

© Leke Alder |