Hi, this is pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…Fire Tested Faith. I was reading in Daniel today and came across one of the accounts that I loved to hear about as a child in Sunday School. In Chapter three you can read the account of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and their refusal to worship the golden idol built by King Nebuchadnezzar. I would suggest reading the entire story soon, it is a real faith builder.
As you will recall, King Nebuchadnezzar had erected a statue that was nine feet wide, ninety feet tall and clad in pure gold. He then sent out a decree across the land that everyone was to come out and see this amazing thing that he had built. The king then commanded that whenever certain music was played, everyone was to stop what they were doing, bow down to the statue and worship it. If they did not do this the King warned, they would be thrown into what was likely the furnace designed to melt all of the metals used in the construction of the idol. Soon after, some men reported that several of the King’s officials who were Hebrew were not bowing down to the golden image when they were required to do so. Enraged, King Nebuchadnezzar called for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to be brought before him. Because of his fondness and trust in the three men, he gave them another chance to bow down and worship the statue or be thrown into the furnace. Daniel 3:16-18 records their answer, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
We know how the rest of the story goes. In a fit of anger, the king had the furnace heated up seven times hotter than usual. If this was indeed the furnace used to construct the image and it had been used to melt the gold it would need to be able to reach temperatures in excess of 1,945 degrees Fahrenheit. Seven times this temperature would have meant the furnace had been heated to nearly 14,000 degrees. Whatever the actual temperature…it was hot! So hot in fact that it consumed the lives of the men who were chosen to throw the three young men bound hand and foot into the fire. As you will recall, when this was done King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished to see not three but four men in the furnace walking around as if on a leisurely stroll. When the three men who were thrown into the fire were called out the Bible tells us they did not have so much as a blister on their skin, there was not a single hair singed, their clothes were not burnt, and they didn’t even smell like smoke! What an amazing story! Not only were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego saved, but the king made a new decree that no one was allowed to speak a single word against their God…our God…from then on. Oh yeah…and they got a promotion.
Sometimes when we read accounts such as this, and there are many because we serve a mighty God, we look at the outcomes and then speak of the faith that brought such things to pass. That is fine except that I believe it inadvertently teaches an incorrect lesson about faith. Did Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego have faith that God would have them walk back out of the furnace with no signs of having ever been in it? I’m not sure they did. Let’s review their answer to the king when faced with the ungodly command to bow and worship anything other than God. “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. I believe that they did not offer the king an answer because they didn’t know definitively what the answer was going to be. We don’t read that they held a prayer meeting and prayed that God would send His Angel (I believe the pre-incarnate Jesus) to walk with them in the fiery furnace and keep them from experiencing any of the results of the immense heat, and then be called out of the furnace unharmed…oh and also that they would get promotions at work. No, they just told the king that If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. I imagine that they understood that they were making it known to Nebuchadnezzar that it was their God, not he who had the final say as to the end of their story. The completion of their answer said as much. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
I don’t think these three men were at all knowledgeable of what the outcome would look like. I don’t imagine that as they were in all likelihood praying internally, they were asking for the ultimate outcome to be exactly what it was. I think they were praying that God would have His way whatever that might be and that they were confident in whatever He chose to do. Sure there are times when we think we might know what God wants to do, there are times when we know from His written word what his will is and that we can pray specifically to that end. But most times I think we need to get a lot more comfortable praying just what Jesus taught us to pray…”May Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”.
As I said last week as I shared my thoughts with you, God is always being so, so, very good to us. We can trust that His will is better than our will. If we always are asking God to do this or that, just the way we want it to happen, whose will are we asking to be done? God is God…we are not. We need to stop reducing Him to a celestial grandpa in the sky of whom we ask that he make our wishes come true. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Psalm 100:3 (NKJV) He is our God and just like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we can trust Him in total faith and confidence to do what is best for us.
Faith is not believing God will do what you ask Him to…Faith is believing that whatever He does is best for you.
So now, in real faith, even as it is becoming fire tested…go be awesome!