Today we’re wrapping up our series with “Stand in the Fire” and we’re going to backup, because I don’t want you to miss this valuable story of authentic faith. I am believing that this account will help us to examine our own faith and determine whether we have the kind of faith that can be tested and bring glory to God as we are “Stand in the Fire.” You see, the reality is that right now, a lot of you, as you’re on your journey, you’re either heading into the fire, in the middle of the fire, or you’re coming out of the fire. It could be a financial fire, a health fire, or a relational fire, and you just can’t figure out why things won’t get better and you’re struggling, but the bottom line is that we all experience trials in different shapes and different forms.
Warren Wiersbe said, “The devil tempts us to destroy our faith, but God tests us to develop our faith, because a faith that can't be tested can't be trusted. False faith withers in times of trial, but true faith takes deeper root, grows, and brings glory to God.”
You see, most of us don’t want to believe that we should ever have to experience hardship, but Jesus himself said this in John 16, verse 33, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." The apostle Peter says this: “Though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:6-7). So these trials, whatever you’re going through, are opportunities to show that your faith is genuine and glorify God. As you endure these trials they will reveal your faith and this is important, because a faith that can’t be tested can’t be trusted. So what do you do when you’re in the middle of the fire? This morning we’re going look at a tested faith, we’re going to look at the fiery trial of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and the faith of these three teenage boys.
Now in the past weeks we’ve talked about King Nebuchadnezzar, we’ve seen how twisted, how prideful, and how evil he really was. We’ve seen this inner struggle that he faced, a struggle with exalting himself in one moment, or the next of drawing closer to the living God. And so at one point, he decides to make a giant statue of himself, commanding everyone in the kingdom, “To bow down and worship this 90 foot tall golden statue.” Let’s read about it together… Daniel 3:1-15…
Verse one, “King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, ninety feet high and nine feet wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it.
Then the herald loudly proclaimed, "This is what you are commanded to do, O peoples, nations and men of every language: As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace."
Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
At this time some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, "O king, live forever! You have issued a decree, O king, that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon… Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who pay no attention to you, O king. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up."
Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?" NIV
As we wrap up this series, we read what is most likely one of the greatest stories of faith in the whole Bible. Here in chapter 3, we see these three teenage boys experiencing a challenge to their faith and I believe that God is going to speak to you specifically as to why he would allow us to experience some of the challenges that we actually experience. And so, we’re going to look at three characteristics of genuine faith, three things that we can see illustrated here in this story as we see Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego standing in the fire.
The first thing we see is that genuine faith confronts the challenge. It obeys God instead of following man. It’s not frightened by threats, it’s not impressed by the actions of peers, or moved by superstition. Real genuine faith obeys the Lord and trusts him to work out the consequences. So in verse 12, when everybody else is bowing, these three teenagers are standing. You see, they knew the law of God, “You shall have no other gods before me… You shall not bow down to them or worship them” (Exodus 20:3, 5). And once the Lord had given the command, the matter was settled, there was no room for discussion, no need to compromise; they didn’t have to fast about it or pray about it, they didn’t have to ask their pastor, or take a poll on Facebook. They had one predetermined plan and that was obedience to God.
Verse 16, tells us they confronted the challenge and replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter” (Daniel 3:16). Now I’m sure they said this with the utmost respect, but they were like, “We don’t even have to give you an answer, because this is not between us and you, this is between us and our God.” They knew that to bow before the golden image, no matter what excuse they might have, would’ve destroyed their witness, and broken their fellowship with God.
They knew that it would’ve been easier just to compromise and rationalize away their obedience. But they didn’t do that, they’d predetermined just as they had about eating the king’s food that they would honor and obey God… they were not going to follow what everybody else was doing. And I assure you that today, Satan will give you ample opportunity to compromise what you know to be true, to derail you from God’s purposes for your life, and to keep you from his best for you. But like Peter and the other apostles when they were confronted about their faith, we can’t go there, because our faith remains focused on an audience of one. Like those apostles in Acts 5:29 our reply is, "We must obey God rather than men! And I promise you, as a follower of Christ, if you’re truly trying to follow after God’s call for your life, there are going to be seasons where God is going to call you to do things that will cause people to look at you and shake their heads. But genuine faith doesn’t listen to the world, genuine faith obeys God, we obey God and him alone. The second thing is that genuine faith confesses our Lord.
In verse 17, they speak to the king, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.”
Here’s what they’re saying, “No matter what I see, I believe that not only is my God able, but I believe that my God will rescue us.” And there’s a big difference between God being able to do something in my life and God doing something in my life. And no matter what the circumstances look like for you, we believe that. Maybe you’ve left the doctor’s office with a diagnosis that you didn’t want to hear, your employer said those words that you’ve been dreading, and whatever it was… it shakes your life to the core.
So, what do we do? We trust God. Your faith rises above those situations and you believe with everything in you that your God is not only able to heal, but you believe your God is willing to heal. Now of course, what He actually does that’s up to Him, but He’s called us to pray and believe great prayers of faith… to confess our God as Peter said… “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have…” (1 Peter 3:15).
Notice now that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were men of faith, but not men of presumption. They didn’t say that God would save them, they didn’t know what God was going to do, but instead they said that their God was able to save them, but even if he didn’t they still would not bow down to the golden image. They confessed as Isaiah confessed, “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation" (Isaiah 12:2).
So what do we do? What does genuine faith do? Our faith has to grow and say, “I believe that my God is willing and able to save me.”
You see, so often we find ourselves enslaved by things that we think, things that we allow ourselves to pray, and the circumstances around us that we allow to define us. But our God is not confined to the things that we see, he’s not confined by other people, he is the same, yesterday, today, and forever, and He is able to do exceedingly and abundantly more than you would ever dare ask or imagine. So our faith says that God is with us and our faith believes no matter what we see.
And that leads us to our third point… Genuine faith confirms the promises.
So Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego are confronting the king and they tell him, “We believe that our God is able. We believe that our God is willing.” And then in verse 18 they say, “But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (Daniel 3:18). “We’re going to do what’s right before our God and trust Him with the outcome.”
You see, this is key… our responsibility is just to be obedient, just to be faithful, and what God does is entirely up to him. The outcome is up to God and so we just confirm the promises. Now remember, Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego they don’t know the outcome. All they know is that they’re facing a really hot furnace. All they know is that there’s a chance that they could become cinders. You see, they don’t know what God is going to do, but their faith is unwavering, because they know the promises of their God.
And so then in verse 19 it tells us: “Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. The king's command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, "Weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?"
They replied, "Certainly, O king."
He said, "Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods” (Daniel 3:19-25).
Now remember, this is not the New Testament, this is the Old Testament book of Daniel, but “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). God can show you His power, in all kinds of different ways, through the course of your life, but you’ll know the reality of the presence of Christ best, when you’re in the fire. And I’m believing that some of you need to hear that today.
You see, in verse 24, they threw in these three young men and verse 25 says, “I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed.” Now this is amazing, because it’s often overlooked, you see, there was something that burned. The Bible says when they were thrown in the fire they were bound, but as they looked in, they were unbound and unharmed, and that fire had burned that very thing which had bound them. The fire burned the ropes that had bound them, but they were unharmed.
That’s important because some of you are facing a fire right now and whatever it is, you’re begging God to deliver you from the suffering. You’re begging God to bring an end to this season, to end the hurt, to end the trial, but as we saw in the story, it just may be the very thing you want God to remove is the very thing God wants to use to set you free? For Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego it was that blazing fire that set them free from the ropes that had bound them.
So sometimes that great trial in your life, the thing that hurts so much, the thing that you beg God to remove is the very thing that God uses to set you free. And so we can’t minimize what God is going to do, we can’t diminish the presence of God in our circumstances, but we can embrace what God will accomplish through that. You see, God uses all things. Remember, “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
And so, as we conclude in verse 26, “Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!"
So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.
Then Nebuchadnezzar said, "Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king's command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God” (Daniel 3:26-28).
These three teenagers were living miracles and King Nebuchadnezzar spoke out confirming the power of the God of Israel, the effectiveness of faith in him, and the remarkable faith of these three teenagers who submitted themselves to the one true God and not to the king’s false God. And so, today as we near the end of the age, we find that the opposition is getting hotter and the pressure to conform is becoming stronger and stronger. It will take a great deal of prayer, courage, and faith for God’s people to stand firm for Christ while others are bowing to the false gods of this world. So the book of Daniel is a great source of encouragement, because it reminds us that God cares for his people and says, “Those who honor me I will honor” (1 Samuel 2:30).
As we close, let’s pray, because so many of us are facing trials of some kind, maybe big or maybe not so big, but they all feel very significant to you and they all matter to God. I wonder how many of you would have the courage to say, “God I’m not asking you to take this trial from me. I’m asking you to bring me through it. I’m asking you to be with me during the pain. I’m asking you to form the character within me that you want formed. And as I walk through it, may I rejoice in the sufferings, because I know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). You see, when God shows up in your hurt, the world watches in amazement, and God is glorified. When you stand in the fire, the world is watching, they will see you, but they will honor God.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
August 16, 2015