November 13, 2020
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 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.”
God is able to deliver us. I don’t think I’ve ever doubted that statement. Even in my times of greatest distress and sorrow, I’ve always remained confident in God’s power and ability. For me, the rub always comes in the next phrase uttered by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
“He will deliver us . . .”
My doubts, when they come, are most often around God’s willingness to intervene. I regularly confess how much greater God is than I. If I’m honest, however, I don’t always believe that he is willing. If you read Wednesday’s reflection, you will remember that my (Nate’s) personal story contained a leap of faith following a personal tragedy. But there’s a critical difference between that story and the story in Daniel. I took a leap of faith only when I had come to the end of myself and my life was in shambles. I essentially had no other choice but to take an immense risk.
In contrast, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego chose their crisis out of conviction and belief. Where did their ability to embrace danger come from? I’ll suggest two critical factors. First, we can be sure that this was not the first time they had to choose between conviction and compromise. They were living in a foreign country, in a culture opposed to almost everything they held dear – from diet to worship. It’s even unlikely that their attempts to honor the Sabbath were understood or condoned on a weekly basis. So they had regularly chosen the harder path of conviction in small ways. They had undoubtedly seen God’s willingness to protect and guide them in many circumstances. What looks like a huge leap from the outside was probably a much smaller step for them than it appears. They had built a bridge of faith through years of choices. How about you? Are you regularly inviting God into small choices in order to learn of His faithfulness? If not, it’s possible that, like me, a crisis will be the only way to get your attention.
The second part of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s faith comes from perspective. Unlike many of us, they saw themselves as a part of God’s story, instead of seeing God as a part of their story. If you consider every choice is yours to make – your prayers will be for God to make your will come to fruition. That isn’t a prayer that God has promised to answer. But our three heroes communicate a different perspective. In saying, “Even if God does not deliver us, we will not bow or worship. . .” they are actually saying, “We are just bit players in God’s master plan. We know what we need to do. How God chooses to use that is his right and privilege.” Can you say that, when faced with a choice or crisis? Can you determine a course of action in an attempt to place yourself in God’s story?
Despite my painful and circuitous journey to get there, I did choose to place myself at the center of God’s story. He took me in a completely different direction. I went from wearing a suit and tie everyday, working 80 hours a week, to working at a church, and driving home to our multi-generational farm every evening. Even after my hardest days, I wake up almost every morning, look at the sunrise out my bedroom window, and say to my wife, “I think we’re the luckiest people alive.” While I do love my circumstances, the truer peace I feel comes from knowing that I am where God wants me to be. He proved not only his ability, but his willingness to carry me through difficult times. If you choose to shift your perspective, he will do the same for you.