Tonight I am teaching on Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. You know the famous story of the three young men who would not bow to King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image. This story in Daniel 3 along with the other narratives in Daniel tend to get mashed together in a “Dare to be…” series. It is true that Daniel and his friends had great resolve and great faith. But, when we focus on them alone we miss what the Bible is teaching us about God. In Daniel 3:1-30 we see that God is able and God is good.
In verse 15, Nebuchadnezzar makes a statement and asks a question. He says, “If you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” At the end of the story, we know that God proves himself able to deliver the three young men out of the hands of the king and out of the fiery furnace. He is God who is able to deliver in a way that the gods of the Babylonians cannot deliver. He is a living and active God who meets his people in the midst of trial – in the midst of a furnace. This is great news for those who follow him. No matter what trial you are going through, no matter what you are suffering, no matter what uncertainty you are facing – our God is able to deliver you.
However, if you are like me, questions begin to creep into your mind in the midst of trial, suffering, and uncertainty: “Will he deliver me?” “Will I make it through this okay?” “Is everything going to work out?”
I ask these questions and then I immediately regret it. I never want anyone to know that those thoughts even crossed my mind. It is not good to doubt, right? If I even think of asking these questions then that must be a sign that my faith is weak. If my faith is weak, then the Lord will not do what I ask. The Lord will not deliver me because I do not have enough faith.
How prideful and selfish is this kind of thinking?
Should I doubt the fact that God can deliver us? Absolutely not. Should I doubt that God will work things out exactly to my guidelines and specifications? Absolutely.
When I pray for certain outcomes to situations, is it my lack of faith that causes them to turn out differently? It can’t be. That would imply that the strength of my faith determines God’s actions. The God of the Bible is the God who, “changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him (Daniel 2:21-22).” He alone is in control.
What is true faith then? Is true faith believing that God will make pleasurable outcomes for me? Or, is true faith believing that God will make things work out for my good? I believe that it is the latter.
Surely Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not want to go into the fire. They probably even prayed that God would deliver them from the fire. God could have arranged it so they would not have to go into the fire. Then the deliverance from the fire could have easily been passed off as a coincidence. By meeting them in the fire, God shows everyone that he is the answer to Nebuchadnezzar’s question. He is the God who is able to deliver the three young men out of the king’s hand.
Similarly, Jesus did not want to go to the cross. He prayed for God to remove the cup from him if there was another way. He prayed for God’s will to be done and not his (Luke 22:42). Jesus, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, trusted in the goodness of God though it meant his suffering. Praise God for that suffering!
Even though God is able, sometimes he does not give us what we ask for. He sometimes sends us into the fire to be tested (1 Peter 1:6-7). Therefore, the measure of our faith cannot be determined by the outcomes in our life. Our faith must be settled in knowing that the God who is able is the God who is working things for our good. I believe this is the reason that we see no struggle from the three Hebrews. They did not want to go into the fire, but they knew that God was working things out for his glory and their good. They knew that he was worth the sacrifice.
We trust in God who is sovereign. He is in control. In your life you will have trials. You will have sufferings. You will walk through flames. At times, he may rescue you from the flames. Praise Him greatly for that. However, if he does not rescue you from the flames, you can rest assured that he will meet you in the midst of them.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. (Isaiah 43:2 ESV)