The Blessings of Being Common

South American Division

The Blessings of Being Common

To live extraordinary moments requires discipline and effort during the most regular moments.

Commentary | Brazil | Josanan Alves

One of the books that helped me the most in my Christian walk was the Bible book of Daniel. At various times in my life, I have been instructed, reprimanded, encouraged, and strengthened by the writings of this book. A few months ago, I had the opportunity to launch a book entitled Herdeiros do Reino, produced by Casa Publishadora Brasileira (CPB), in which I present these lessons I have learned over the years. Each month, I will share with you an abridged version of each of the chapters in this work. I hope it will be a blessing to your spiritual life. 

Ordinary vs. Extraordinary

In all languages ​​of the world, an interesting phenomenon occurs: Words are born, change meaning, and die. I imagine you know expressions that were used by your grandparents yet are no longer used today, or others that we use in everyday life with a current meaning but originally had a completely different meaning.

A good example of this phenomenon is “ordinary,” a word that comes from the Latin ordinarius and means “common,” in the sense of something regular or organized. It is something that is not at all admirable. The word comes from the root ordo, which means “order.” Originally, ordo meant “a set of threads arranged on a loom.” These threads had a specific order for weaving cloths. Because of this, ordo became associated with order and organization. Over time, the word “ordinary” took on a negative connotation. Words that mean “normal” or “common” often evolve to mean “poor quality.” “Ordinary” is rarely used in the sense of “regular” or “normal.”

In practice, even in the original sense of the word, no one likes to be ordinary or common. We want to be extraordinary. Every day, we are bombarded by messages that encourage us to do, live, and experience extraordinary things. Hundreds of books are sold with titles that have slogans, such as “win,” “conquer,” “achieve,” “achieve success,” “be amazing,” “have power,” etc. However, I've always found this very tiring, as most of my days, I am not and do not do extraordinary things; I don't have great accomplishments; and I don't achieve incredible successes. For the most part, my days can be described as “normal” and “ordinary.”

A Life Not Always Extraordinary

When I started my ministry 20 years ago, I imagined myself doing great things for God every day, having incredible experiences as a pastor and experiencing powerful miracles each week. The days passed, and I realized this would not be the constant reality. Initially, I was frustrated, but understanding an aspect of the life of the prophet Daniel helped me along the way. I began to see how his life was more ordinary than extraordinary.

You might be thinking, “But Daniel's life was extraordinary. He defied death by not eating the king's banquet, interpreted Nebuchadnezzar's dream, deciphered the words on the wall that had been written by God, and was thrown into the lions' den yet not devoured." I have to agree with you. All of this happened in Daniel's life, but what we often don't realize is the extent of his lifespan and the time between these events.

Ellen White states that Daniel was under 18 years old when he was taken to a heathen court in the service of the king of Babylon. At that moment, he defied death and decided to be faithful to God by not contaminating himself with the king's fine delicacies. This is reported in the first chapter of his book. In chapter 2, he is brought before Nebuchadnezzar to interpret the monarch's dream, but despite the two chapters being together in the Bible, the arrival in Babylon and the interpretation of the dream took place three years apart. Daniel and his friends “were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king” (1:5, ESV).

The other extraordinary thing reported in the story of Daniel is recorded in chapter 5, when he was brought before Belshazzar to interpret the mysterious words written on the wall. Belshazzar was not Nebuchadnezzar's immediate successor. Four other emperors preceded him. There is a 40-year difference between chapter 4, when Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar's second dream, and chapter 5, when he reads the inscription on the wall of Belshazzar's palace. Soon after, in chapter 6, Daniel was thrown into the lions' den during the reign of Darius the Mede, around 538 BC.

The big question is, Who was Daniel in the long spans of time between these extraordinary events? The answer is simple. He was an ordinary, regular servant of the Lord. These extraordinary life points he experienced happened as a result of the way he lived between the time intervals. In other words, he lived the extraordinary because he didn't run from the ordinary.

Daily Construction

Unfortunately, we have to admit we are running away from the ordinary in the Christian life. That is why we are not experiencing the extraordinariness of God in our history. For me, the most significant evidence of how regular Daniel's life was in the habit of walking with God is the following: “When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously” (6:10).

This is one of the most extraordinary moments in Daniel's life! He was about to face the hungry lions of the king, but the biblical text makes a point of highlighting that this man, over 80 years old, got down on his knees three times a day, prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom. This is the ordinary at an extraordinary time.

This is where many of us fail. We want to go into the lions' den, but we don't want to pray three times a day. We want the fullness of the latter rain, but we don't want to wake up at dawn every day, go into God's presence, and cry out for the Holy Spirit. We want to part the Red Sea, but we don't want to spend 40 years in the wilderness being transformed by God. We want to succeed in the Christian life, but we don't want to exercise for it.

May God help us live constantly in His presence so we are ready to experience His extraordinary power in our lives.

This article was originally published on the South American Division’s news site