Are we constantly being shaped by the forces of our own society? I mean, how many times are we enticed or pushed by the masses to compromise on our principles or beliefs to protect our status or popularity?
Last week we read about three men who stood strong in the face of a much greater threat than just social acceptance. Their names were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, three Hebrew young men who were threatened with losing their lives if they didn’t bow down to an idol. However, they never abandoned their convictions and obedience to God. They refused to bend their knee to none other than Him alone. Their story is found in Daniel 3:1-30, and we’ll continue to the conclusion today.
You may recall that King Nebuchadnezzar ordered everyone in Babylon to bow down to an idol he made of himself or be thrown into a furnace. Everyone in his kingdom were all willing to do whatever they had to do to be in favor of the king, (and keep their lives), except these three. When it came time for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to bow, I don’t believe that their courageous decision was made in a vacuum. Character like that just doesn’t happen overnight. I believe it was a result of an already ingrained commitment to uncompromising principle. If you look at the opening chapter of Daniel, (Daniel 1:8-21), we see them already living out a life of discipline and honor in terms of their diet, refusing to eat food that was offered to idols. So by the time their feet were at the edge of the furnace, their minds and hearts were already made up. A question I ask myself and propose to you today is the same: If we are found in a similar situation, can you and I say that we have built a level of authenticity, love, and devotion to our Lord that we, too, would stand strong in our faith?
Are we alert enough to see the subtle (at least for now) distractions and sin that chips away at our faith on a daily basis?
Do we hold on loosely to this world or is it with a clinched fist?
Are we aware or oblivious to the persecution of brothers and sisters that experience physical threats every day?
As the story goes, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were indeed tied up and thrown into the fire (Daniel 3:21). When the furnace door closes behind them, King Nebuchadnezzar sees not three, but what appeared to be four men within the flames.
“Then Nebuchadnezzar, the king, was astounded and rose up in a hurry and spoke and said unto his counselors, did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men, not bound but loose, walking around in the midst of the fire and they have no hurt. And the form of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” (Daniel 3:25).
None of them were bound; none of them seemed afraid or looking for the exit. They were all just walking around, unscathed. Many believe that fourth man was Christ Himself, in a pre-incarnate appearance. Others believe it was an angelic being. Either way, they were comforted and protected.
“How wonderful to know that we go through no experiences where God is not there in divine companionship and the hotter the fire the sweeter the fellowship. I can tell you…in my own experience, that whenever I get into a situation where I decide to take a stand for something and it’s the unpopular thing to do and you start getting flack, you have this tremendous sense of divine companionship. It’s what Peter talked about when he talked about the fact that when we go through persecution, the spirit of grace and glory rests on us.”
He articulates a thought I’ve had often, and that is that I have to believe that God gives a special strength, a greater sense of His peace and presence to those who suffer these unimaginable assaults. It is the peace that passes understanding that He has promised (Philippians 4:7).
They are taken out of the fire not even smelling of smoke! (Daniel 3:27). They went into the fire resolved of one thing: God could deliver them if it was His will, and they would praise Him whether they got a miracle or not. I love that. They were confident in God’s sovereignty. They didn’t think that if they just prayed hard enough and believed enough that God would have to do their bidding. He was still God no matter what happened… and it was God who got the glory that day, not them or the strength of their faith. After witnessing this miraculous deliverance, the King himself said,
“Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.” Then the king caused Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego to prosper in the province of Babylon. (Daniel 3:28-30)
We may never have to choose between life or death, but we can take a lesson from Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, right where we are today.
Are there any ways we can demonstrate uncompromising principle in our lives, in our workplace or homes?
Is there an area of compromise right now that the Lord has been nudging you to change?
How can we prepare for opportunities to express our faith in a loving yet confident manner?