The OT Challenge: Faith in the Fire

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, "Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn't, it wouldn't make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn't serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up."  Daniel 3:16-18 NLT

But even if He doesn’t . . .

Can you and I say those words with confidence and an unwavering faith? Can we sing with songwriter Ed Mote: “When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my Hope and Stay.” 

There is something about being so confident in our faith that no matter what life throws at us our faith will not be shaken. Today we hear the story of three young men taken to Babylon as prisoners of war. They were given new names and challenged in about every way you can think of to give up the God and faith of their people yet they remained strong through it all. 

There are five applications about faith that we can draw out of this story. There are five things that you can be sure of in your life if you are trusting God and in a relationship with Him. 

1. Your faith is going to be challenged

 1 King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue ninety feet tall and nine feet wide[a] and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 Then he sent messages to the high officers, officials, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the provincial officials to come to the dedication of the statue he had set up. 3 So all these officials[b] came and stood before the statue King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 

 4 Then a herald shouted out, “People of all races and nations and languages, listen to the king’s command! 5 When you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other musical instruments,[c] bow to the ground to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue. 6 Anyone who refuses to obey will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”
Daniel 3:1-6 NLT

These young men had been appointed to very high positions in the kingdom. They were outsiders to be sure but they had proven themselves to the King by their faith in God when they first arrived. He had promoted them and now they were being asked to bow down to another God. The first law given to Moses was that you should have no other Gods before the God that Jews served. They were being challenged. Another one of the commands that God gave us simply says that we are to worship no graven images.

You and I will face challenges to our faith. I am reminded of what it is like to work in the secular work place. Many of you face challenges to your faith on a daily basis. Some of you face challenges in your home with a spouse who is not a Christ follower; some of you face things at school. We often talk about the challenges face in the public school system but I went to both public and private schools growing up and I can tell you there are challenges to your faith. Every one of the college students that are here can tell you that not everyone who goes to a Christian college is a Christian. You have to determine in your heart that you are going to trust God and follow Him no matter where you find yourself. 

2. You will face opportunities to compromise your faith

7 So at the sound of the musical instruments, all the people, whatever their race or nation or language, bowed to the ground and worshiped the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

 8 But some of the astrologers went to the king and informed on the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “Long live the king! 10 You issued a decree requiring all the people to bow down and worship the gold statue when they hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other musical instruments. 11 That decree also states that those who refuse to obey must be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12 But there are some Jews—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—whom you have put in charge of the province of Babylon. They pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They refuse to serve your gods and do not worship the gold statue you have set up.”
Daniel 3:7-12 NLT 

It would have been very easy to give in to the pressure of the crowd when no one else was left standing. We all will face moments where we are called to stand up and with God.

Can you imagine that scene? Thousands of people get on their knees and right in the middle are three young men who are standing. Can you here the thoughts that must have been going on in their head? “Just do this one thing. . . Nobody will see you from home. . . Do it to please the King. . .It won’t hurt you. . . It will soon be over. . .” The Bible says they steadfastly refused. They refused to save their lives by doing something they knew was wrong.

All of us are face challenges to our faith on a regular basis. There are opportunities to compromise what we know to be right.

This is very important. You cannot separate your faith from the choices you make in your everyday life. Ones faith is not to be reserved for Sunday’s only. Trusting God will make you a different person seven days a week, twenty four hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days a year.

All through the Bible you can read of people who were challenged in the area of compromising their faith. From Joseph to Jesus you can read of temptation and how to overcome it.

In Matthew 26, Jesus declared a day of Judgment is coming when his sheep will be separated from the goats. Strangely enough, some scientists at the Institute of Animal Physiology in Cambridge, England, have added a new twist to Jesus’ classification of sheep and goats. These lab-coat intellects have crossed a sheep with a goat in test-tube experiments and they call their new hybrid a “geep.”

Although it’s a new reality in the laboratory, it’s nothing new in the church. For centuries people have been trying to walk the barnyard fence and enjoy the benefits of being a sheep while maintaining the unruly liberty of roaming like a goat. Unfortunately for such compromising individuals, Jesus did not reserve a spot for “geep.” You’re either following the Shepherd as one of his sheep, or you’re part of the goat herd.

We are promised in I Cor. 10:13, “No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.” (The Message) 

3. You can find confidence to submit to God’s will

Then Nebuchadnezzar flew into a rage and ordered that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought before him. When they were brought in, 14 Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up? 15 I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments.[f] But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?” 

 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. 18 But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”
Daniel 3:13-18 NLT

In spite of the consequences and the dreadful alternative facing them Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to worship the golden image of the King.

In Job 13:15 he expresses this kind of confidence that comes from trusting God. Job’s life had fallen apart yet he says with confidence, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”

The writer of Romans had this same confidence in Rom. 14:8, “For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

The refusal of these three young men made the king furious. They were thrown into the fire. What a terrible experience. Trusting God will allow us to be confident in submitting to His will.

Not long before his death, Henri Nouwen wrote a book called Sabbatical Journeys. He writes about some friends of his who were trapeze artists, called the Flying Roudellas. They told Nouwen there's a special relationship between flyer and catcher on the trapeze. The flyer is the one that lets go, and the catcher is the one that catches. As the flyer swings high above the crowd on the trapeze, the moment comes when he must let go. He arcs out into the air. His job is to remain as still as possible and wait for the strong hands of the catcher to pluck him from the air.

One of the Flying Roudellas told Nouwen, "The flyer must never try to catch the catcher." The flyer must wait in absolute trust. The catcher will catch him, but he must wait. John Ortberg, from sermon "Waiting on God," Preaching Today #199

4. Your faithfulness means God will always be in community with you

Nebuchadnezzar was so furious with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face became distorted with rage. He commanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual. 20 Then he ordered some of the strongest men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So they tied them up and threw them into the furnace, fully dressed in their pants, turbans, robes, and other garments. 22 And because the king, in his anger, had demanded such a hot fire in the furnace, the flames killed the soldiers as they threw the three men in. 23 So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, securely tied, fell into the roaring flames. 

 24 But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?” “Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,” they replied.  25 “Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!”
Daniel 3:19-25 NLT

They were in the fire but they were never alone. All of us are going to walk through the fire in our lives. Some of you could testify to that even in the last few weeks or year.

I have listened to some of you very carefully as you walked through the fire and the testimony is consistent. While you didn’t like it and some days you didn’t feel very spiritual about your experience, the word is that you were closer to God in the fire than you are on a normal day when everything is going fine. We believe strongly in the community has a church. Over the next few weeks we will be reviving and once again promoting small groups as a viable and necessary option for all Christfollowers. Community is the middle “c” of our 3c’s. While community with each other is critical and important being in community with God is the ultimate community that you cannot survive without. 

Others may leave you but God will not leave you alone if you are in community with Him.

Isaiah 43:2, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.”

I Peter 1:6-7, “In this you greatly rejoice though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it be tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 

5. Your freedom will be compelling to others around you

So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire. 27 Then the high officers, officials, governors, and advisers crowded around them and saw that the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched. They didn’t even smell of smoke! 

 28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore, I make this decree: If any people, whatever their race or nation or language, speak a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they will be torn limb from limb, and their houses will be turned into heaps of rubble. There is no other god who can rescue like this!”
 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to even higher positions in the province of Babylon.”
Daniel 3:26-30 NLT 

A good reason not to give up when the heat is on is that God sometimes uses our circumstances to show others His strength.

If these three young men had compromised how different the outcome would have been. Often we are placed in a situation of difficulty where it means that if we trust God and seek His grace to endure the trial, others will be blessed and touched by our testimony.

The testimony of these young men can be summed up by the words of Psalm 66:10-12, “For You O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; you laid affliction on our backs. You have caused men to ride over our heads; we went through the fire and through water; but You brought us out to rich fulfillment.”

Now I want you to watch a testimony from someone who is a part of our church body who walked through the fire or affliction but hasn’t given up on God.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 

 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[o] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39 NLT

Responsive Reading:

I will go out today resting in the knowledge that God will provide all I need . . .

         But even if He doesn’t, He alone is enough for me.

I will pray daily for God’s protection on my home and family . . .

         But even if He doesn’t protect them the way I would, I will trust that He has
         a bigger plan.

I will ask God daily for clear direction in all I plan . . .

          But even if He doesn’t show me each step, I will rest in the knowledge that
          He is good.

I will share God’s way with the people I meet along my journey, believing He will show them that His way is the only way to live . . .

          But even if He doesn’t, I will continue to make my life a witness.

I know that God will always be on my side and fight for me . . .

          But even if He doesn’t, I will take up my cross and follow Him.

We acknowledge, Lord, that your ways are higher than ours. If we could understand everything about you and why you do things the way you do, we would not need you. So even when it feels like our life is one big “even if He doesn’t,” we will trust you. You are good and You are worthy of every glory and honor and praise. Amen.

Benediction: “In His kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. All power to him forever, Amen.” 1 Peter 5:10-11 NLT