Life is a series of problems. You’ve either just been through a problem, and you’re coming out on the other side of the problem, or you’re in the middle of a problem right now, or you’d better brace yourself for the one that’s coming on the horizon. But here’s what I know about problems.
These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. 1 Peter 1:7
The problems that you go through are like FIRE. What does fire do? It burns! It heats. it cooks! It warms! It brings light! Yes, but it also is a test and it is a process for purification. So, if you’re going through problems, Peter says, you can actually be happy about that because it means your faith is growing. Your faith is actually stronger when it is tested by going through problems.
A tested faith is a trusted faith.
If your faith hasn’t been tested, I’m not sure that you can call that true strong faith. But when it’s tested through trials and temptations, and problems, it is forged in the fire.
In Daniel Chapter 3, we meet a trio of heroes named Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. These young Jewish teenagers had been captured from Jerusalem when it was taken by Babylon. They’re in training to become leaders in their new country. They showed this incredible faith.
In Hebrews 11 in the New Testament, this chapter is called the Hall of Faith, that lists all of these regular, ordinary, average people, who became heroes because of one secret ingredient, their faith. And in Hebrews 11:34, it says that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: “quenched the fury of the flames,” through their faith. And if you’re going to be a counter-cultural Christian, you can have the same kind of faith that they had.
So back in Daniel 3, there’s an out of control king of Babylon named Nebuchadnezzar with an out of control ego. One day, the king had this idea to build a gigantic ninety-foot statue of himself. Then he made a law that said that everyone in the country would bow down and worship that idol to show their loyalty to the king. Anyone who refused to bow down would be immediately put to death.
There’s this huge temptation we all face in life to just go along with the things that our culture worships. After all, everybody’s doing it! We all want to be accepted and to fit in.
I used to struggle with this a lot as a teenager. I didn’t want to be different from everybody else. So, I would make sure I got the right clothes and did all the things everybody else did. Until I realized that all of the normal people around me who were doing normal things really weren’t very happy. They weren’t satisfied.
And then I realized that in the Bible, there were these people like the guys we are looking at today who had the courage and the conviction to stand up for God in the face of their culture. And I thought, that’s the way I want to live my life. And I don’t mind standing out from the crowd if I’m standing up for the truth and for God!
And everyone of us today has to come to the point where you choose who has first place in your life. There can only be one true King of your life.
Do you like Burger King? A few years ago, in 2017, Burger King came under fire from another king, King Phillipe of Belgium. Burger King was opening their first location in Belgium and they had an ad campaign that asked “Who’s the King?” where people could vote for who they wanted to be their king: a cartoon version of the real Belgian King Phillipe or Burger King. They asked, “Two kings, one single crown, who shall reign?” Unfortunately, the Belgian royal family found out about the campaign and they weren’t very happy about it. The royal family agreed with Burger King on one thing-there can only one true king! And it’s not any earthly political leader, and it’s sure not Burger King! It’s the one true King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And He has to have first place and first loyalty in our hearts and lives.
It’s really easy to let our hearts and minds be under the rule of lots of “kings” instead of the one true King. But the Bible tells us that as followers of Jesus, we will serve no other “kings” before Him!
That means that we are required to take a stand about who to stand for and what we will stand for. And the things that we will refuse to bow down for. Without a doubt, just like then, when you choose to stand, you will draw some people in and push some people away.
But here are three principles we learn about what real Stand-Up Faith looks like in Daniel 3.
Faith Stands when Everyone Else Bows.
You’ve heard it said, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything!” Here’s how Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego responded to the King when he asked them if they would bow:
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. Daniel 3:16
They said, that’s between us and God, and I don’t have to defend myself to anybody else. You don’t even have to get defensive about it. God will defend you!
They didn’t have to pray about their decision. They didn’t have to post about it. Or take a poll to see what everybody else thinks. They just knew they had to obey God instead of people. They had to obey God instead of bowing down to the gods of the culture around them.
We have chances to bow down to the gods of culture every day. But we will choose to obey God instead of people.
As God’s people, we live for an audience of One!!
There will be times when well-meaning people will tell you you’re crazy for not just going along, for taking a stand, but you know that you can’t compromise and you can’t disobey God no matter what it costs you.
You have to know that it takes courage and conviction to go against the crowd. To make a loud statement about his faith in Jesus! As a church, we believe, and we know and we stand for the truth that the only answer for what’s wrong with our world today is the Gospel of Jesus Christ!!!
Do you ever wonder, in the face of that kind of challenge to either bow down or stand up for Jesus, what would you do? And most of us think, well I know me, I would be one of those standing. How do you know if you’re one of those faith-filled believers who will stand? If you don’t exercise your courage in the small things, what makes you think you will stand when your life is on the line? If you want to know if you would stand or bow, ask yourself, is what I’m standing for the same thing that’s popular, because if it is, that means you probably won’t be able to stand for an unpopular opinion. So you have to exercise your faith muscle in the small things so you will grow your faith for the big things. That’s first: Faith stands when everyone else bows. And then second:
Faith Believes when it can’t see.
That’s what faith is all about. We see this back in the Hall of Faith chapter in Hebrews 11:
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1
You are confident even when you can’t see it:
Don’t doubt in the dark what God showed you in the light.
So look at what they said to the king in Daniel 3:17:
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. Daniel 3:17
That’s some confidence! There’s a big difference between believing that God can and God will! We know God can. God can do anything! But the question is, will He? You can Believe it! I always think, Why not believe God will do something great in your life? You know God can, so you might as well believe God will! The Bible says there is a difference between believing God and believing “in” God!
“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” James 2:19
Don’t just believe God exists, believe “in” His power and His goodness.
If you are experiencing Health problems right now, then pray for God’s healing power to be at work in your life. If you have money problems, then sell some stuff, and start cutting back on your expenses, and look for a job, and TRUST GOD with your finances and believe that God is going to bless your finances.
Maybe it’s a relationship problem that you are feeling hopeless in right now, but instead you’re going to believe that God is going to bring reconciliation and healing in that relationship.
Faith isn’t that you are going to see it before you will believe it. Faith is believing it and trusting that you will see it. That God can do anything! That nothing is impossible for God. You can believe that, because it’s true.
But… what if, what if it doesn’t happen?
Faith Obeys and Leaves the Results Up to God.
Faith is not a magic wand that you can wave around and just get whatever you want. It doesn’t work that way, and it was never meant to. Look at the rest of the way these guys responded to the king in Daniel 3:18:
But even if He does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:18
“But even if He does not” Those 6 words might be the strongest words of faith!!!
See, when we look back on this story, we have the benefit of hindsight. We know how it’s going to work out. But they had no idea! All they knew was that that fire was hot!
Now we hear what they said, “But even if,” and we want to set them straight and say, “What do you mean if? Why are you doubting? Have a little faith!” But, here’s the deal: They weren’t doubting. They were believing. They were trusting. But they weren’t trusting in how it was going to all turn out. That everything was going to go their way. They were trusting in God!!! You don’t have faith in the size of your faith, you have faith in your God!!!
They didn’t know what God was going to do, but they do KNOW GOD!
So the king turned the fire up 7 times hotter than usual! In fact, it was so hot that even the soldiers that were taking them to the furnace were burned alive! And then the boys were thrown into the fire! And look at what happens in Daniel 3:24:
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, Your Majesty.” 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 3:24-25
Like a Son of the Gods! Who could that be? I thought this was Old Testament? Yes! Jesus was there too!
Jesus is with them in the fire! That’s what the name of Jesus, “Emmanuel” means. It means “God with us!” He was with them through their fire. Through their struggle. Through the pain. And Jesus is with you too!!!
They were bound when they were thrown in, and God used the fire to free them. The thing you want God to take away from and free you from is what God wants to use to free you.
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 3:28
The king’s heart was changed! The one who seemed to be their enemy was the one who saw the power of God at work in their lives! They couldn’t see Jesus until the fire was turned up! You see Jesus is seen most clearly in your life when you are going through the fire!
A watching world is going to look at how God works in your life through the fire you’re going through and they will say: Praise be the God of Johnny who God freed from years of substance abuse and addiction! Praise be to the God of Maria, who God freed from the bondage of doubt and fear! Praise be to the God of William who God freed from the bondage of debt!
When you come out of the fire on the other side, you won’t be the same as you were when you walked into the fire. That’s what the fire is for!
You will see that a tested faith is a trusted faith. And you can know that in the end, you will be left standing strong in your faith and your trust in the goodness of God who is first place in your life! The God who is with you through the fire and will bring you through the fire!