Faith under fire – Daniel 3
Learn this one lesson and your faith won’t let you down in a crisis.
Our faith can often feel very fragile and shaky, we feel helpless and hopeless.
How did the great men and women of old do such amazing feats which the Bible attributes to their faith? Where did they get such hardcore faith? How were they able to stand up for God in the face of death? Were they better people, stronger people, did they have some secret knowledge? No!
Faith, Christian faith, is always strongest in weakness and human frailty. True faith is not about being strong but rather, in our weakness, leaning into the one who is. Faith boiled down to its essence can be summed up in the willingness to let God’s will be done in your life, your family, this country and in the world – no matter what.
That might be frightening but it is also the only truth which can give rock solid peace amidst any storm.
Let’s briefly consider the faith of three such giants: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – men of remarkable faith in the book of Daniel. Were they amazing or were they just resting in the God who was?
They were exiles in Babylon, they had been defeated, had lost loved ones as they were forcibly removed from their homeland to serve the enemy king. Their lives were not easy, comfortable or without pain.
Before we get to the exciting part of the story where they stand up to the king in the face of death, what led them to stand before the king? One word, devotion. When they were asked to bow down to an impressive idol the king had made, they needed to count the cost: obey the king and live, disobey the king and be burned alive.
At that point they, like us, needed to assess what they loved most, what they valued more and where their hope resides. Trials, like the one we are facing now, expose our foundational beliefs and our true idols. What will we give up, what will we cling to?
Many, in the fear of death, would have bowed to the idol because they put something else before God. Bowing because they love life most, family most, possessions most, comfort most. What holds first place in your and my heart?
These three men saw God as way more valuable than even their own lives. The crisis created an opportunity to assess things. Faith gave them eyes to see the true value of God.
When they are brought before the king in v. 13 and his fury’s unleashed and the ultimatum is given, they have already done the hard work. They know where they stand. When offered a way out or certain death – they see another way.
They do not see themselves as pawns in Nebuchadnezzar’s hands but pawns in God’s hands. They are not driven by circumstance or emotion but by the Lord who rules the world of men. They will not go against God’s revealed word that he is the only one worthy of worship.
When the king says in verse 15 ‘then what god will be able to deliver you from my hand’, look at their answer. “…the God we serve is able to save us from it and he will rescue us from your hand, oh king. But even if he does not…”
They have faith in God but they also let God be the God of the outcome. An unwavering faith in God, knows he can rescue us but might not in the way we desire. We need to make peace with God’s will.
God is the prize, his glory is what matters most. In this situation Nebuchadnezzar sees himself as above God. These men know God is able to save and they believe he will. Yet they allow for the possibility of God choosing not to. Whether they believed in physical or spiritual salvation at this point matters not. They choose God over safety, over fear, over the situation. They, in their helplessness, do what God has said in his word. They do not bow down to idols but rather entrust themselves to God. Their faith gets them thrown in the blazing furnace. Faith does not always save us from pain or death. Look at Hebrews 11.
God does act – they are rescued. The miracle of the flames not harming them or even the smell of fire being on their clothes while the guards throwing them in die of the heat is remarkable. But what is astounding is the fact that God is with them in the fire.
God met them in the flames and protected them – what a glorious salvation. Yet God doesn’t always protect us physically. God allowed his perfect, faithful son to face the flames of hell alone. Here the full fury of the King’s anger at our sin was meted out. He did that so that real eternal rescue might be given to us all. It is in the cross of Jesus that we see, meet, and fellowship with the God who suffers with us, for us.
Friends there are many if’s in our world at the moment. Some of them might be keeping you up at night. These ifs could drive us mad – rather use the time to assess the value of God. Does he have primary place in your heart? Will you be happy for his will to happen even if the part you are given to play in his story is shorter or less glamorous than you had hoped?
We need to learn to say Habakkuk 3:17-19 with conviction because it is true. 17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. 19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.
When we can say this and mean it then we have learned the lesson. It’s then we have seen God’s true value and the privilege of having him as our God. Then we will have faith under fire. We will put God and his word before our comfort, and before all things.